In my travels promoting Totally Wired, I have heard a few stories of teens intervening on behalf of another teen in trouble, i.e. posting about suicidal thoughts. Whether teens tell a parent or the school guidance counselor or even just send that person a hotline link, they are looking out for each other. I wish there was a way to encourage this even more on sites like MySpace and YouTube, especially after this week’s news about the Finnish teen who uploaded his murderous message on YouTube before going on a killing rampage. I don’t know that anyone could have stopped him, but I think we can encourage teens online to be aware of what friends in their networks are posting as well as other teens who are not necessarily friends. We should encourage teenagers as internet citizens to look for red flags, and if they see them, try to help in some way. I would ask teens to watch for posts that talk about:
– Being depressed
– Having suicidal thoughts
– Having homicidal thoughts
– Eating issues (throwing up or not eating)
– Self harm (cutting)
– Addiction issues (not being able to stop drinking or using drugs)
– Sexual abuse or assault (either at home, by a peer or stranger)
You could encourage teens to reach out to the teen posting and just say they read their post and want to make sure they’re ok. If a teen is still concerned, they could tell the school guidance counselor anonymously or talk to their parents about it.
If a teen is posting about killing themselves or others, teens should definitely report this to their school (if it’s another student), and if they don’t know the teen, to the local police where that teen is posting from, or if they don’t have that information to the site’s administrators immediately. Here’s a great list of hotlines teens can keep handy to send to a friend or other teen in need.