Young people who access harm-advocating online content: A four-country survey


This study examined the commonality of exposure to sites that advocate eating disorders, self-injury and suicide among American, British, German and Finnish respondents (N = 3565) aged 15–30 (age M = 23.06, 50.15% male). The analysis focused on both cross-national and socio-demographic differences and on user characteristic including happiness, previous online and offline victimization and online user activity. German respondents had significantly lower levels of exposure to harm-advocating online content than respondents in the three other countries. Females were more likely to be exposed to eating disorder content, while males witnessed more self-injury and suicide content across all four countries. Younger respondents were more likely to be exposed to such material. In addition, other socio-demographic background variables (not living with parents, immigrant background, city residence, online activity) and personal characteristics associated with negative self-schemata were significant predictors of exposure to such content. The findings indicate that those facing difficulties in their everyday life are at higher risk of accessing online sites that may foster unhealthy behavior.

Internet; social media; eating disorders; suicide; self-injury; youth; victimization
Author biographies

Atte Oksanen

Atte Oksanen, Dr. Soc. Sci., is professor of social psychology at the University of Tampere, Finland. His research focuses on emerging technologies and social interaction. He has published in a variety of areas including youth studies, drug and alcohol research and criminology.

Matti Näsi

Matti Näsi, Dr. Soc. Sc., is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy at University of Helsinki, Finland. His research focuses on the impacts of information and communication technologies on society and social life, with current emphasis on implications concerning harmful online content.

Jaana Minkkinen

Jaana Minkkinen, Dr.Soc.Sc., is a Postdoctoral researcher in Health Sciences at University of Tampere, Finland. Her research interests contain well-being of children and young people, especially intertwined relationships between mental health and social relationships.

Teo Keipi

Teo Keipi, Dr. Soc.Sc., is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Social Research at Turku University in Turku, Finland. His current research focuses on online hate content production and exposure, including the structural dynamics of social media that affect interaction and victimisation.

Markus Kaakinen

Markus Kaakinen, M.Soc.Sc., is a doctoral researcher at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tampere, Finland. His research focuses on social psychology of education and online interaction.

Pekka Räsänen

Pekka Räsänen, Dr. Soc.Sc., is professor of economic sociology at the University of Turku, Finland. He has published widely on research methods, mass violence, culture, and consumer behavior. His current research focuses on the new information and communication technologies.

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