RIS ID

101441

Publication Details

Carlson, B. (2014). Well-connected Indigenous kids keen to tap new ways to save lives. The Conversation, (16 September),

Abstract

Tony Abbott is spending this week in North-East Arnhem Land, part of his long-held hope “to be not just the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”. We asked our experts: what stories does the PM need to hear while he’s in the Top End?

Two things are part of the everyday reality of life for many Australian kids, teens and 20-somethings. One is their avid use of social media to connect with friends and share their feelings via status updates, spending hours glued to their mobile phones. But, sadly, too often the other everyday reality is self-harm and suicide.

More than anyone else, that’s particularly true for Indigenous Australians. Young Indigenous Australians are enthusiastic users of social media, spending about 20% more time on social media than other Australians their age. Tragically, they also live with a far higher risk of youth suicide.

Suicide rates in Indigenous communities have been increasing over the past few decades. In some communities the suicide rates are among the highest in the world – with most of those deaths being young people under 29.

While there can be downsides to social media, such as the potential for kids to be bullied or subject to racist abuse, my research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Identity and Community Online highlights the potential for social media to provide a strong sense of community and support for young people. As one participant in my research says: “We can’t undervalue these sorts of virtual communities that we set up.” Through posting their thoughts and feelings, or directly reaching out to others, participants said they felt supported by their online network.

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The Conversation

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