Teen Cutting and Self-Injury Prank: What Adults Need To Know

By Greg Howard – January 9, 2013

Internet photo of teen singer Justin Bieber.

Teen singer Justin Bieber.

As a subject of discussion, teen cutting and self-injury is no laughing matter. That’s why a recent internet prank was so appalling, and why school counselors and administrators should take note of it.

The bizarre story began with the recent release of pictures showing teen singer Justin Bieber apparently smoking marijuana. In response, someone left an anonymous posting on an infamous message board website that put the aforementioned prank into motion.

“Lets start a cut yourself for bieber campaign,” the person wrote. “Tweet a bunch of pics of people cutting themselves and claim we did it because bieber was smoking weed. See if we can get some little girls to cut themselves.”

Apparently, the idea was to encourage Bieber fans to self-injure as a means of showing the singer how disappointed they were about his alleged marijuana use.

The posting was eventually deleted, but not before pranksters took to Twitter and started posting graphic images depicting cut flesh. Many photos were thought to be fake, but some are feared to be real images from young Bieber fans responding to the prank. Furthermore, because of the prank, the Twitter hashtag #cut4bieber became the top trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. According to social analytics site Topsy, the hashtag was used almost 30,000 times in the span of twelve hours.

Cutting and self-injury behaviors are common among teens who are struggling with emotional or mental distress. Such behaviors are often not life-threatening, as most teens do not intend to take their lives when they self-injure; many teens use cutting and other forms of self-harm as a means of dealing with anxiety or bad feelings. However, if taken too far, self-injury can result in hospitalization or death.

With this in mind, school administrators and counselors should reflect on their own efforts to prevent incidents of self-harm. As this prank demonstrates, you can’t possibly predict the events that may trigger a teen to self-injure. Moreover, since self-injury can take place on campus, it’s an issue that school leaders must be comfortable addressing.

Our upcoming webinar on teen cutting and self-injury behaviors will help school leaders understand the phenomenon of self-harm among young people. We encourage all school administrators who need the latest information on cutting and self-injury to attend.

Click here to sign up for the webinar.

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