Text messaging and social media sites such as Bebo contributed to the spread of suicide in a spate of teen deaths, a New Zealand study has found.
Otago University researchers found that communication via text message and Bebo were likely to have helped the spread of suicide in an area where eight teenagers killed themselves within a short time span.
The spread of inaccurate information and rumour, the “glorifying” of dead young people through online tribute pages, and the heightened anxiety felt in the community may have all contributed towards copycat suicides, the authors found.
They said suicide prevention guidelines needed to be reviewed to help prevent suicide contagion through social media.
Other suggestions included monitoring social network sites and removing Bebo and Facebook pages.
In the study Adolescent Suicide Cluster and Electronic Communications Technology published in international journal Crisis 2012, Dr Keren Skegg and fellow researchers investigated eight teenage suicides in an unnamed New Zealand city within a relatively large rural district in 2006.
Six of the suicides happened within a six-month period, while the two other suicides – one in a neighbouring district, and the other several months before – were included after the researchers found links.
They found while mainstream media was responsible in its coverage, rumour spread quickly on social networking sites. Inaccurate information about suicide, including the method, spread through Bebo and text messaging – sometimes only hours after the deaths. Fear and anxiety were heightened.
Online tribute pages became shrines to the dead, with overwhelmingly positive messages posted.
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Sourced from The Dominion Post, 12 May, 2012. p. A11.