Understanding Digital Self-Harm

Digital self harm must always be ruled out as a possibility when investigating anonymous cyberbullying.

By now, the behavior of self-harm is well-known.  Self-harm or self-injury occurs when a person purposely harms himself.  But there is also another form of self-harming behavior in which a person might engage: Digital self-harm.

Digital self-harm is behavior in which a person anonymously sends himself/herself instructions to self-harm – through online postings or messages.

What are the reasons a person might threaten or harass himself/herself?

The reasons why a person might send himself/herself harassing or threatening digital messages vary.  But a person might engage in digital self-harm for the following reasons:

  • to be funny/get attention
  • to test their friends, or
  • out of self-hate or low self-esteem

Risk Factors for Digital Self Harm

Certain risk factors are associated with digital self-harm.  For instance, LGBTQ, victims of bullying, drug use, or physical self-harming behavior.  All of these make it more likely a person might engage in digital self-harming.

Given the severe negative effects of cyberbullying investigators must be careful to carefully avoid victim-blaming.  In early stages, however, they should remain open to the possibility that one person may be both – the victim and the cyberbully.

An experienced cyberbullying lawyer can help you look into reports of cyberbullying and help you explore legal options.