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Online self-injury videos prompt alarm

Thousands of videos posted online by troubled teens and young adults display images of bodies burned or slashed with razor blades, glass and other objects. Some flash poetic text and photos juxtaposed with images of blood-streaked hands, arms and legs. In one video, a young woman describes how to hide self-injury from loved ones. In another, a woman exposes arms mutilated by years of cutting. Many in the videos seek understanding by trying to explain self-injury and the reasons behind it. A new study in the March issue of Pediatrics explores the accessibility and scope of self-harm videos on the video-sharing website YouTube. Such online communication could reinforce or provoke similar behavior in others, said Stephen P. Lewis, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Going online allows self-injurers a forum for anonymous communication about something for which they face much stigma, he said. The 14% to 24% of adolescents and young adults who inflict self-injury are at increased risk for relationship troubles, psychiatric problems and in some cases suicidal tendencies, the study said ( It's important for parents and professionals who work with self-injurers to know what's out there, Lewis said. "We hope that [the research] promotes some awareness about the types of information that could be presented online." As of July 2010, more than 5,000 videos of nonsuicidal self-injury were posted on YouTube. Researchers studied the 50 most-viewed videos featuring an identifiable individual and the 50 most-viewed, noncharacter videos. Those 100 videos were viewed a combined 2.38 million times by the public and had mostly favorable ratings. Forty-two percent of the videos warned that the content could prompt harmful behavior, and 80% were available to a general audience, the study said. "The amount of viewing that these videos received, as well as the favorable ratings, was concerning," Lewis said. YouTube officials said the site has policies against graphic content or content that encourages dangerous or harmful behavior. "We count on our users to flag videos they believe violate our policies, which we review quickly and remove if they do," a company statement said. "We also age-restrict flagged material that, while not violating our guidelines, contains acts capable of being copied by minors that are not suitable for younger users." Many of the videos from the study have been removed or had warnings added, Lewis said. The full and original article can be found at:
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