My daughter the self-harmer: “She is addicted to social media”

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It is estimated that more than one in five girls self-harm in the UK. One parent details the journey from the realisation that her teen was self-harming, through the maze of bureaucracy to try and get help. 

Links to organisations that can offer help and support are listed at the bottom of this post.

Chapter five: “She is addicted to social media”

Can I say what caused my daughter’s self-harming? No. Do I think social media and her mobile phone have had a major role in her self-harming? Most definitely.

My daughter is addicted to her phone and social media. I have an app that sets time limits on her phone and I can remotely block apps. She is obviously not keen on this, but it means we don’t have to get into an altercation with me physically trying to remove the phone every night. Some people say you should trust your child and let them monitor their own usage, and that these apps don’t help teach your child responsibility. I may have once agreed, but I think every child is different and therefore every approach needs to be different.

I take her phone away at nights and am amazed and appalled at how many notifications from her friends come through late on into the night. Have these kids’ parents not seen any of the research about screens and sleep and mental health? If I take her phone away during the day, she has a meltdown. I ask her to empty the dishwasher, and she’ll say she needs her phone to listen to music, when there is a radio right next to her. Ask her to do any chore, including homework and she will argue that she NEEDS her phone. She simply feels she cannot cope without it.

My daughter is obsessed with Instagram and Snapchat. She follows people like the Kardashians (seriously don’t get me started on that family and the damage they do to girls’ mental health!!!). Basically, she follows young women, and some men who filter their images so much it hardly bears any resemblance to them in reality. The photos are taken in stunning locations, and they’re either on a beach or at some fabulous party having loads of fun. This is not reality! They do not look like this and they do not have this lifestyle. It is not glamorous. I don’t think that they are with real friends. I think these skinny, overly made-up people are likely to be suffering from eating disorders, are very lonely and have their own mental health issues.

My daughter obviously also follows her friends. She will moan to me that her life is miserable compared to everyone else. She thinks they have the perfect life and she has a rubbish one. I tell her not to compare the inside of her life with the outside of everyone else’s, that people are showing her what they want her to see, not reality.

How often have you looked on Facebook and got a bit sick with jealousy when a ‘friend’ who you’ve not seen for ages posts photos of their gorgeous children having won some award or other, or pictures of their amazing happy family from some fabulous location? How often do people post photos of themselves looking knackered after a hard day or work, or during a family argument? If it affects adults in this way, just imagine how it is affecting a teenager who is still developing their personality and trying to work out who they are. Are they behaving how they think people expect them to be rather than being themselves? Trying to look and feel fabulous all the time is bound to have a detrimental impact on their mental health. It is impossible to meet the ideals of the world we currently live in. It is impossible to keep up with the Kardashians.

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Where to get help and advice

About the author

Tayler

Parent of one teen and one grown-up!
Co-founder and Editorial Director of social media agency Liberty842 and Make (Good) Trouble - the production company behind Brighton5. Tayler has over a decade's experience working in social media for Media & Entertainment clients. First class degree in Communications from Goldsmiths University where she majored in Journalism and TV Audience Studies.

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