Why Teens Use the Internet to Promote Negative Behaviors

As a parent, it may be difficult to understand why your teen would join an online hate group, chat with those who suffer from eating disorders, or spend hours in a forum discussing suicide. You may be baffled at their behavior, while wondering what you can do to help. If your teenager has mental health issues, this article will help you to understand why they are taking their problems online.
First, your teenager doesn’t want to feel alone. Being a member of an online group helps her to feel as if her opinions matter. She can share the way she’s feeling with other teens who are experiencing similar problems, without worries of being shunned.
Your teenager also wants to read stories from people who are going through similar issues. Through chat rooms, blogs, and forums, he or she can read about people who are experiencing the same pain and symptoms. This can be beneficial, as they see that they are not alone. However, it can also be a slippery slope. Often these sites are not pro-recovery, and your teenager may learn new information that helps to make their condition worse.
Another reason that teenagers go online with their problems is to have their feelings and behaviors validated. For example, an anorexic teen may be undergoing treatment in real life. She hears about her condition, how she needs to gain weight, etc. Online, her anorexic friends can lament with her about how she’s perfectly normal and everyone is persecuting her. This sets up a dangerous pattern, and is one good reason to carefully monitor Internet usage.
Teenagers also use the Internet to find more ways to engage in harmful behaviors. Cutters may learn new ways to hide their wounds. Anorexics learn new ways to purge. They also learn new tips and tricks to hide these behaviors from their parents and other adults. Other sufferers are the best source of information, and this information can be highly dangerous to your teenagers mental health.
If you feel that your teen is using the Internet in a harmful manner, you may have to limit or ban Internet time in your home. Speak to their therapist or counselor and work together to develop clear guidelines. If necessary, install software that will block out certain websites entirely, or filter search results for certain terms. With careful monitoring, you can help your teen to use the Internet safely, but you’ll have to constantly stay on your toes.
Have a great day!