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First-of-its-kind study looks at online behaviors linked to suicide risk in youth

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 21, 2021

The suicide risk among young people is a hard topic to talk about.

Intentional self-harm or suicide is the second leading cause of death among children between 10 and 14 years old, according to National Vital Statistics data.

Now, researchers are finding new ways to prevent suicides among young people.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Bark found that certain online behaviors are linked to suicide risk. That includes online bullying, drug-related content, depression, and self-harm content.

This is the first study that looks at actual behavior rather than screen time.

“One of the most important things of this is that more of these risk factors that a young person has going on at any point in time, the more that their risk of suicide was really compounded,” said Steven Sumner, Senior Advisor for Data Science and Innovation at the CDC.

Young people who displayed several types of this online behavior were more likely to be at risk for suicide.

In addition to behavior, the study also found that safety monitoring programs can do a good job of alerting people about the imminent risk.

“So, now we have concrete evidence that signals can be found in their digital communication much earlier. It gives us hope that we can get children the help they need before a tragedy ensues,” said Titania Jordan, Chief Parenting Officer at Bark.us.

When it comes to privacy, experts at Bark say parents should always weigh the risk of third-party programs that detect this online behavior.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day.