Helping Hand

Social media sites should help prevent teen suicides, negative behaviors

Mikaela Alvarez, Reporter

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“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words can break my heart,” wrote comedian Bo Burnham, who writes about major world issues. He wrote this particular song about suicide, a rampaging epidemic in today’s society. With teens being so active on social media in the modern age, speaking out about suicide on the internet has become commonplace.

Social media is a brilliant innovation to let others reach out to the entire world without great effort. It allows for a multitude of things; from communication to sharing photos, videos or text updates about what’s going on in life or what people want the world to know.

Instagram, for example, actually adopted a feature from parent company Facebook who rolled out this new feature back in February 2015. The platform is taking a more hands-on approach to concerns of suicide. Other media giants should be doing the same, such as Snapchat, who passed 60 million daily users back in September, according to their latest releases. That’s 60 million people who can access help from wherever if needed and if it seems appropriate based on their behavior.

Society needs to make a change and regain its humanity, to stop looking at others as just usernames on a screen, and to look past and see them as the people they truly are.”

— Mikaela Alvarez

According to UK based newspaper Telegraph, people spend around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing everyday. They also found that the average person has five social media accounts. With all this time spent on social media and the availability of so many platforms, young adults would have a much easier time going through them for help than they would reaching out to other sources, which is why a suicide prevention program on all platforms would make it easier to reach out to those in need.

However, Steve Dent, associate editor at Engadget, pointed out Instagram is not tackling the real problem, claiming that the social media site still does not properly deal with bullying and harassment at the root of many problems, but Instagram provides a feature to counteract the problems that social media causes in general. Health experts say that these platforms cause social pressure, more so in teens who might experience lack of sleep, anxiety and depression. This is not a problem that social media can change unless they shut down the entire platform, which isn’t a viable option.

Other social media platforms, at the very least, need to organize events and share information about what bullying does to others and teach people that what they say and what they do have consequences. People still have the mindset that they’re not doing any real harm to others when, in fact, they can damage others and lead them to negative behaviors.

It’s up to leaders of communities who can really make a difference. Parents, teachers counselors and anyone involved with young minds on an daily basis should teach teens how to handle suicidal thoughts or feelings in a healthy and constructive manner, and to be there when at-risk minds need a helping hand or just someone to talk to when going through a hard time. Creating lessons on how to handle stress, reminding students that the doors are always open and explaining, if needed, how to make an appointment to come in are other ways authoritative figures can help teens who may be at risk.

While Instagram is taking steps to deal with the rise of suicide, they can’t be the only ones to make a change. Other giants need to implement programs to help combat it. Society needs to make a change and regain its humanity, to stop looking at others as just usernames on a screen, and to look past and see them as the people they truly are.

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