Cutting Challenge: Dangerous New Social Media Trend — Or Just Another Scare For Parents?

The latest social media challenge for teens may be the most disturbing yet. The “cutting challenge,” according to a news report out of Washington state, encourages kids to mutilate themselves — then display the results in photos posted to Facebook and other social platforms on the internet.

But is the cutting challenge a real trend, or just another over-hyped news story designed to scare parents. The report of the alarming new social media challenge comes just a month after news of a challenge known as The Game of 72, in which teens would challenge each other to go missing for 72 hours without contacting family or friends.

Which challenge is worse would be a matter of debate. But whether either one is an actual trend or just a few isolated cases that received wider publicity is also unclear.

What is clear is that at least one teen claims that the cutting challenge is very real, and experts say that parents should take kids aside and alert them to the dangers of cutting one’s own arm, leg or other body part with a razor blade or knife.

“They cut themselves, take pictures, show their friends, post it on Facebook,” 17-year-old Jessika Phillips of Bellingham, Washington, told the Q13 Fox News station in Tacoma. “When I cut myself, it hurt really bad. And since I was using safety scissors it took a while to do it.”

But why commit such a painful and seemingly pointless act of self-harm?

The problem of cutting or self-mutilation has been a known phenomenon for many years, generally believed to be a perverse form of self-expression for troubled teens, who generally take measures to conceal the scars and cuts that result from the acts of self-mutilation — which generally involve making short, shallow but painful cuts.

“They may have a history of sexual, physical, or verbal abuse,” psychologist Wendy Lader, told the medical site WebMD. “Many are sensitive, perfectionists, overachievers. The self-injury begins as a defense against what’s going on in their family, in their lives. They have failed in one area of their lives, so this is a way to get control.”

But that description does not necessarily apply to the cutting challenge, which experts say is more about achieving social acceptance among other teens engaged in the same behavior.

Rather than hide their cuts, teens taking the cutting challenge display them proudly online.

“It also is a symbol of belonging. A cutter usually knows other kids who are cutters and they belong in this group. So there’s a sense of identity with that as well,” said psychologist Gregory Jantz, who said that the last five years have seen an increase in teen cutting behavior.

But Jessika Phillips takes a more straightforward view of the social media cutting challenge, saying, “I just think it’s a stupid new trend that middle schoolers are doing.”

[Image: Q13 Fox Screen Grab]

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