What Parents Should Know About Self-Harm in Teens 2024

Parents need to know about issues their teens might be facing. Teens self-harm is something that parents need to watch out for and take action to deal with. We will discuss self-harm in teens and how parents can help their teenagers in this article.

Studies suggest that around 15% to 20% of adolescents have engaged in some form of self-harm at least once. However, this number may vary depending on factors such as age, gender, and geographical location.

Understanding Self-Harm in Teens

Self-harm in teenagers is a term used to describe the deliberate act of causing harm to oneself. This act can be in different forms, including cutting, burning, hitting oneself, or even pulling out hair. Teenagers who engage in self-harm do so as a way of coping with emotional pain or distress. Self-harm is a form of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) that is often used to relieve emotional pain temporarily.

Self-harm in teenagers is a serious issue that requires attention. While self-harm is a coping mechanism, it can be very harmful physically and mentally. It is essential to note that self-harm is not a suicide attempt, but it can still be dangerous and life-threatening if left unaddressed.

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Why Do Teens Self-Harm?

Teens may engage in self-harm for a variety of complex reasons, and it’s often a manifestation of underlying emotional distress or psychological issues. Here are some common reasons why teens may self-harm:

  • Emotional Regulation

    Teens may use self-harm as a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety, or numbness. Inflicting physical pain may provide temporary relief or serve as a way to distract themselves from emotional pain.
  • Expression of Distress

    For some teens, self-harm serves as a means of expressing deep-seated emotional pain or inner turmoil that they may struggle to articulate verbally.
  • Self-Punishment

    Feelings of guilt, shame, or self-loathing can drive teens to self-harm as a form of punishment for perceived inadequacies, mistakes, or perceived failures.
  • Coping with Trauma

    Teens who have experienced trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, bullying, or loss, may turn to self-harm as a way to cope with unresolved trauma or to regain a sense of control over their bodies in the aftermath of victimization.
  • Mental Health Issues

    Underlying mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely linked to self-harm behaviors. Teens may use self-harm as a maladaptive coping strategy to alleviate symptoms of mental illness or to regulate their emotions.

Different Types of Self-Harm in Teens

Teenagers may engage in various forms of self-harm depending on their individual preferences, access to means, and psychological makeup. Here are some common types of self-harm seen in teens:

  • Cutting

    Cutting is one of the most well-known forms of self-harm among adolescents. It involves using sharp objects such as knives, razor blades, or scissors to make cuts or scratches on the skin, typically on areas of the body that are easily concealed, such as the arms, thighs, or stomach.
  • Burning

    Burning oneself with cigarettes, lighters, matches, or hot objects is another common form of self-harm. Teens may intentionally apply heat to their skin, causing burns of varying degrees. 
  • Bruising or Hitting

    Some teens engage in self-harm by deliberately hitting or bruising themselves. They may punch walls, hit themselves with objects, or strike their bodies with their fists or other body parts to cause pain and physical injury.
  • Scratching or Scraping

    Scratching or scraping the skin with fingernails or other sharp objects is another form of self-harm. This behavior can result in superficial wounds, abrasions, or broken skin and may leave behind scars over time.
  • Hair Pulling

    Trichotillomania is a type of self-harm characterized by the repetitive pulling out of one’s hair, often resulting in bald patches or thinning hair. OCD and anxiety are commonly associated with this behavior, as well as feelings of tension or relief. Sociated with underlying anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Interfering with Wound Healing

    Some teens may engage in behaviors that interfere with the healing process of existing wounds, such as picking at scabs, reopening cuts, or preventing wounds from closing correctly.
  • Ingesting Harmful Substances

    Ingesting toxic substances or overdosing on medications as a form of self-harm is also a concern among adolescents. Behavior like this can be dangerous to your health, and it could be a sign of underlying mental health problems.
  • Other Forms of Self-Injury

    Other less common forms of self-harm may include biting oneself, pulling out fingernails or toenails, inserting objects under the skin, or engaging in risky behaviors that pose a threat to one’s physical well-being.

Warning Signs of Self-Harm in Teens

It is crucial for us to recognize the warning signs of self-harm in teens in order to intervene and support them as early as possible. While some signs may be subtle or easily overlooked, being attentive to changes in behavior, mood, and appearance can help identify those who may be engaging in self-harm. Here are some common warning signs to watch for:

  • Unexplained Injuries

    Noticeable cuts, bruises, burns, scratches, or other injuries, particularly in areas of the body that are typically hidden, such as the inner thighs, abdomen, or upper arms.
  • Wearing Covering Clothing

    Consistently wearing long sleeves, pants, or other covering clothing, even in warm weather, to conceal marks or scars on the body.
  • Isolation and Withdrawal

    Withdrawing from social activities, spending more time alone, or avoiding situations where others may see their body, such as swimming or changing clothes in front of others.
  • Changes in Mood or Behavior

    Sudden changes in mood, behavior, or personality, such as increased irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, or expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness.
  • Preoccupation with Self-Harm

    Obsessive thoughts or conversations about self-harm, suicide, or injuring oneself. Increased interest in websites, forums, or social media related to self-harm or suicide.
  • Changes in Eating or Sleeping Patterns

    Significant changes in eating habits, such as sudden weight loss or gain, skipping meals, or secretive eating behaviors. Similarly, disruptions in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping, may be present.
  • Loss of Interest in Hobbies or Activities

    Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities, hobbies, or social relationships. Withdrawing from extracurricular activities, sports, or hobbies they once found pleasurable.
  • Expressions of Low Self-Worth

    Negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness, or expressing a belief that they are a burden to others.
  • Presence of Sharp Objects or Tools

    Discovering sharp objects such as razors, scissors, knives, or lighters hidden in their belongings or personal space.
  • Changes in Academic Performance

    A decline in academic performance, absenteeism from school, or difficulty concentrating in class may indicate underlying emotional distress.

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The Effective Ways to Help Teens Prevent Self-Harm

Self-harm is a serious concern that affects many teens. It’s important for parents, caregivers, and loved ones to provide support and help teens find healthy ways to cope with their emotions. Here are some effective ways to stop self-harm in teenagers:

Open communication

It’s important to create an open and non-judgmental communication environment where teens can express their feelings. Let them know you are available and willing to listen and that their feelings are valid.

Seek professional help

Sometimes, it is necessary to seek professional help to deal with self-harm. Seek a mental healthcare specialist or a therapist who is specially trained to deal with self-harm.

Encourage healthy coping mechanisms

Help your teen find healthy ways to manage their stress like exercise, meditation, or journaling. Be sure to encourage them to express themselves creatively, participate in activities they enjoy, and spend time with positive support systems such as family and friends.

Minimize access to harmful items

Limit access to sharp objects or any other items that can be used for self-harm. This includes any medication that can be misused by your teenager.

Be patient and supportive

Recovery from self-harm takes time; be patient with your teen and celebrate progress, no matter how small. Encourage them to get the help they need to overcome self-harm and be supportive of their life.

Monitor teens’ online activities.

Monitoring teens’ online activities can be an effective way to prevent self-harm, as it can help parents or guardians identify warning signs and take appropriate action.

Remember, talking to your teenager about self-harm can be difficult and emotional. Open and honest communication can be achieved with patience, empathy, and understanding.

Monitor Teens’ Online Activities with iKeyMonitor

iKeyMonitor is a parental control app that can help you monitor your teen’s online activity and provide alerts whenever the application detects inappropriate or dangerous behavior. iKeyMonitor can detect self-harming behaviors based on the keywords and phrases used in the user’s text messages, social media posts, and internet browsing history. Additionally, iKeyMonitor can detect keywords related to suicide or self-harm in real-time and alert you immediately.

Record Keystrokes on Android Phones and iPhones

iKeyMonitor allows parents to record keystrokes on both Android phones and iPhones, providing insight into their teens’ digital communications. By monitoring keystrokes, parents can detect any concerning language or expressions indicative of self-harming thoughts or behaviors.

Track the History of Any Web Browsing

With iKeyMonitor, parents can track the web browsing history of their teens’ devices, including visits to websites related to self-harm or suicide. By monitoring the web browsing logs, parents can identify patterns or trends indicative of self-harming behaviors and take appropriate actions to protect teen’s from harm. Additionally, tracking web browsing history allows parents to block access to harmful websites.

Related: Why Do You Need to Block Websites on Android to Protect Children Safe Online?

Monitor Chat Messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, and More

Parents can monitor all chat messages sent and received via many chat applications, including WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, and many others, with iKeyMonitor. By continuously monitoring the chat messages, parents can identify discussions in the chat messages related to self-harm or suicidal ideation.

Related: Social Media Safety For Kids: Top 3 Tips for Parents

Watch the Live Screens in Real Time

iKeyMonitor’s most valuable feature is the ability to monitor live screens remotely. Parents can use this feature to remotely view their teens’ device screens as they navigate through apps, websites, and messages. By observing their teens’ online activities in real-time, parents can identify any signs of self-harm or distress and intervene immediately to provide assistance and support.

How to Talk to Your Teens About Self-Harm

Talking to your teen about self-harm can be a challenging conversation. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Start the conversation: Initiate a conversation in a non-judgmental and gentle way. Select a time and place where both of you can talk comfortably without distractions. 
  • Show Empathy and Understanding: Listen to their story and do not dismiss their feelings. Show empathy and understanding for their mental health struggles. 
  • Avoid Blaming and Shaming: Do not blame, shame or judge your teenager for their self-harm behavior. Instead, focus on understanding and supporting them. 
  • Educate yourself: It’s important to educate yourself about self-harm and the reasons behind this behavior. This will help you communicate with your teenager better. 
  • Seek help: If you feel that your teenager needs professional help, then do not hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional. 


Self-harm in teenagers is a concerning issue that requires attention and action from parents. Understanding the different types of self-harm, warning signs, and talking to your teen about self-harm can be effective in preventing and addressing self-harm behavior.

It is essential to seek professional help and guidance when dealing with self-harm in teenagers. Parents can also use tools such as iKeyMonitor to monitor their teen’s online activity and prevent concerning behavior. By taking proactive measures, parents can help their teens overcome self-harm and lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

Download iKeyMonitor for free to protect your children from self-harm!


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Category: Parental Control Tips

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About the Author: iKeyMonitor Team

iKeyMonitor Team is a team of parental control experts with over 16 years of experience in parental control apps and phone tracking tools. Started in 2009, iKeyMonitor is now the most powerful monitoring and control application for parents.

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