It is said that when someone looks at pictures or videos of someone hurting themselves, it will increase their chances of trying that themselves. Because of a similar incident that occurred in the United Kingdom, Instagram is taking extra measures in regards to photos of self-harm that appear on their app. With more measures taken to ensure that images or videos of self-harm are not shown or glorified, it will decrease the chances of someone taking their own life.
In 2017, British teenager Molly Russell committed suicide after viewing graphic photos of self-harm and suicide on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing app. This tragic incident caused her parents to blame the app themselves. In response, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote to Facebook, which owns Instagram, and other technology companies to shield youth from viewing self-harm images. Instagram responded by telling NBC News that they plan on globalizing sensitivity screens which will blur self-harm images when first seen. Posts that are relating to cutting and other self-harm methods are not searchable and there are no suggestions of self-harm images for users to see on Instagram.
While Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, says that Instagram will not allow posts that glorify or promote self-harm, they cannot ban that content just like that as there are people on the app that use images to talk about their struggles with self-harm. Dr. Joanna Stern of the Child Mind Institute says children who have never thought about self-harm most likely will not be affected by these images. Children who have thought about self-harm, on the other hand, will feel more triggered to imitate what they see. Kids may have had thoughts about self-harm but they have no plan or idea of how to do it, causing these photos to give children inspiration on how to harm themselves.
Social media has a tendency to make children more private people through their social media accounts. They are looking at posts that their parents do not know about which gives them a secret world. If parents notice that their child has symptoms of depression or see marks on themselves, they should take their kids to see a physician to talk about their issues. While more needs to be done to prevent the glorification of self-harm images, Instagram is taking the first step to ensure that the message of the image is heard louder than the image itself.
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