The Troubling Reality of Self-Bullying

January 8, 2018

“Sam’s new haircut looks like sh!t”

“Fat and queer? You don’t have a chance @MichaelS.”

“Benji, drinking bleach wouldn’t be the worst thing for you, idiot.”

Posts like these are found on social networks every day. They are harsh, mean, and often met with criticism and even punishment. The criticism may appear warranted, but what if the author and target of the post are the same person?

This is self-bullying, which is defined as “being overly self-critical and hard on yourself.” When “self-bullying” happens online, this is what calls “digital self-harm,” and defines as “anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself.”

This is a relatively new area of focus for cyberbullying prevention experts, many of whom are studying the issue carefully in order to learn more about causes and potential solutions. At After School, we are also paying close attention to this issue, monitoring the results of academic research and views of experts analyzing the issue.

In October 2017, Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center released the results of the first recorded study of digital self-harm among middle and high school students. The study surveyed over 5,700 students across the United States, and found that approximately 6.2% admitted to bullying themselves online, meaning hundreds of thousands of teens self-bully online.

Researchers stress that we should not underestimate the seriousness of self-bullying.  According to Patchin, “Whether a child is being bullied online by a peer or if they’re posting hurtful comments or threats online about themselves, there’s an issue there that needs to be resolved.” Patchin recommends that youth find an adult whom “they can trust to guide them through.” Unfortunately, not all young people have that option or are willing to consider it. After School strives to help fill this gap by providing authors of potentially harmful posts the opportunity to chat anonymously with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line. Other live resources available to teens experiencing bullying or self-bullying include:

After School’s Experience

After School is a moderated, anonymous network, meaning users can make posts without revealing their names. This allows them to post freely and share things that they typically would not on other networks, like their sexuality, difficult relationships, or when they’re in need of help.

Potential instances of self-bullying on After School are handled with care and treated as calls for help, whether they are coming from a curious teen who wants to see how peers will respond, or someone who is in need of help due to the sensitive nature and importance in properly handling online self-bullying.

Keep up with’s research here and for more information about keeping teens safe online, follow @SafetyonSocial on Twitter.

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