The Role of Online Social Networking on Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidality in Adolescents: A Systematized Review of Literature

Aksha M Memon, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In the past ten years the use of social media by minors has significantly increased. Social media use has been linked to depression, which is a major risk factor for suicidality. Social media also provides a platform for cyberbullying, which leads to depression and suicidal behavior in both the victim and perpetrator of bullying. As per CDC statistics, age-adjusted suicide rates have steadily increased over the past ten years in the United States with suicide being the second most common cause of death in the adolescent age group. Hence, the increase in suicide rate parallels the increase in social media use. Additionally, non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is prevalent with rates ranging between 14–21% among youth and young adults. Research findings suggest that self-injuring youth are more active on online social networks than their peers who do not engage in self-injurious behavior. NSSI are also a risk factor for suicide attempts and suicidal deaths. Thus, it was decided to further investigate the role of online social networking on deliberate self-harm and suicidality in adolescents with a focus on negative influence by conducting a systematized review of empirical literature. A detailed literature search on 'PubMed' yielded 8 articles satisfying the predefined inclusion/exclusion criteria out of total 1364 articles generated using a combination of MeSH search terms. Data extraction was subsequently performed on these 8 research articles. It was found that social networking websites are utilized by suicidal and self-harming youth as a medium to communicate with and seek social support from other social media users facing similar mental health challenges. Overall, online social networking leads to an increased exposure to and engagement in self-harm behavior due to users receiving negative messages promoting such behavior, emulating self-injurious behavior of others, and adopting self-harm practices from self-harm videos shared online. Moreover, youth who spend greater time on online social networks experienced higher psychological distress, unmet need for mental health support, poor self-rated mental health, and increased suicidal ideation. In conclusion, greater time spent on online social networking promotes self-harm behavior and suicidal ideation in a vulnerable adolescent population.

Subject Area

Mental health|Social psychology|Web Studies|Mass communications

Recommended Citation

Memon, Aksha M, "The Role of Online Social Networking on Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidality in Adolescents: A Systematized Review of Literature" (2017). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10640641.