It’s Turtle Tuesday, my day to write about parenting issues or fun things I’ve done with my children. Today’s topic, however is anything but fun. In fact, it’s pretty grim. It’s about Facebook and suicide contagion among youth.
Lately, I’ve been growing more and more concerned about an increasing awareness of specific youth suicides in Oklahoma among younger members of Generation Y (the birth years are 1982 to 1996) and older members of Generation Z (born 1997/2000 to present). This heightened awareness is fueled by Facebook. In Oklahoma, the population is 3.5 million and nearly 1.8 million of us are on Facebook. It’s like we’re all once-removed.
Generations Y and Z
Though growing prosperity has tamed Russia’s high rate of adult suicides, the rate of teenage suicides remains three times the world average. Experts blame alcoholism, family dysfunction and other fallout from the Soviet Union’s collapse, as well as the absence of social support networks to help young people.
They also agree with Mr Medvedev that publicity surrounding the suicides could encourage copycat acts.
Facebook Online Mourning
When I worked as the Public Information Officer for EMSA, an ambulance service in Oklahoma City, I was surprised by the number of suicides medics responded to on a regular basis. I had no idea the problem was so widespread. I didn’t know people actually laid down on train tracks, jumped off buildings or drowned themselves, but it happens. I really don’t think much good can come from heightened awareness about these specific events. We all have enough grief to bear with the people we know in real life, right?
I dreaded reading over the computer aided dispatch that provided me with information for media queries things like, “GUNSHOT WOUND. SELF INFLICTED.” I didn’t even know these people and it bothered me. I can’t imagine having to see their pictures with family and friends — their lives as they once were in happier times — or hear their mourners on Facebook. But, my 14-year-old has already been exposed to the suicides of three youth she never met and the subsequent onslaught of virtual mourning played out on the Facebook pages of friends and acquaintances. It’s too much and I don’t think it’s wise to let this overexposure continue.That’s why we’ve decided to significantly limit Facebook time over the next few years.
According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 73 percent of teenagers between 12 and 17 years of age have profiles on social networking sites. This number will only increase bringing it with it a greater awareness of specific youth suicides among individual communities nationwide. Whether there will be a documented correlation between Facebook mourning and copycat suicides remains to be seen.
Have you ever witnessed the Werther effect?