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Axe the 'chat'?

4 November 2013

A recent research article reports that whilst online chatrooms can support and connect young people who are isolated in society, there remains a strong link between internet forums and an increased risk of suicide.

The problem is that the balance between the positive and negative impact of chatrooms is off-kilter. Every positive example of the internet encouraging people to seek help is overshadowed by examples of cyber-bullying and the exchange of suicide content, violent imagery and methods of self-harm. Young, isolated and vulnerable people are of course more susceptible to these negative influences.

Cyberbullying led to highly publicised suicides this year putting pressure on site owners to take more responsibility for posted content. Schools have an important role to play in applying robust anti-bullying policies and voicing any safeguarding concerns; educating young people and encouraging them to speak out can only go so far. Monitoring young people’s use of chatrooms is key, but is no easy task.

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