The latest trend on YouTube involves videos of kids who are cutters, slashing themselves with everything from box cutters to scalpels to scissors. Not all of them are deliberately exploitative; some are homemade documentaries meant to shed light on a growing epidemic. EIther way, as a mom, this breaks my heart on about a million different levels.
But more than that, it scares the hell out of me, and I think what scares me the most is that these kids were suffering enough to harm themselves and somehow, their parents missed the signals.
Just this morning on the Today Show, the mothers of Minnesota 14-year-olds Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz spoke about their daughters suicide pact where the girls tragically hanged themselves at a sleepover. Matt Lauer (very delicately, to his credit) asked the women if the girls were acting any differently in the days before they died ... were there any red flags at all?
Despite mentally replaying their daughters' final days over and over again, neither mom could recall examples of disturbing behavior. Other relatives, however -- Haylee's cousin and Paige's uncle -- admitted that, looking back, there were clues to be found in Facebook posts and status updates. Mentions of bullying, sadness over Haylee's parents' recent divorce. But what teen doesn't have multiple crises going at any given time? The teen years, historically, have been defined by trauma. So I understand how the parents of these girls and the kids cutting themselves on YouTube and countless other teens stuck in a downward spiral could miss the warning signs.
My initial reaction to hearing about the cutting videos was to say, "How can YouTube allow this content to stay online?" But that's a bit like blaming fast food restaurants for our country's obesity epidemic: Sure, Burger King isn't helping, but nobody's being force-fed Whoppers.
I guess -- and it absolutely terrifies me to come to this conclusion -- we, as parents, just can't be diligent enough when it come to keeping tabs on our kids' behavior and activities. Easier said than done, unfortunately, especially now, when most parents have to work more than ever just to put food on the table. But what else can we do?
What do you think we can do to prevent teens from self-harming?
Image via D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr