Dr. Megan Moreno found that teens posting about self-harm, which includes behavior such as intentional cuts or burns on the wrists, arms, legs or belly, were able to outmaneuver Instagram warning labels.

Teens on social media post about their comings and goings—pictures, videos, music and news. But according to a new study from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, some teens are using stealthy hashtags and secret languages on Instagram, a popular picture-sharing app, to create online self-harm communities and trends that encourage dangerous behavior. By doing so, they circumvent Instagram safeguards for self-harm and other dangerous material.

The new research illustrates what content is present on Instagram and details how parents or concerned adults can decipher the meaning of unclear terms they see on their teens’ profiles.

Dr. Megan Moreno, an adolescent medicine physician who studies social media and adolescent health at the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, found that teens posting about self-harm, which includes behavior such as intentional cuts or burns on the wrists, arms, legs or belly, were able to outmaneuver Instagram warning labels. Despite the social media app’s attempts to discourage the posts by providing warnings and blocking certain hashtags, adolescent users continued the conversations by developing new hashtags.

“We found that only one third of self-harm hashtags on Instagram generated warning labels,” Moreno said. “Adolescents’ use of unusual terms, such as ‘blithe’ and odd spellings such as ‘self-harmmm,’ allowed them to subvert detection and warning labels.” Read full post »