We Analyzed Thousands of Student Web Searches About Suicide. Here’s What We Learned

Laptop open with close up hands of users pointing to the screen during remote learning

In our day-to-day work at Lightspeed Systems, we’ve seen how a deeper understanding of user behavior can lead to life-saving interventions, particularly for students dealing with mental health challenges.

We recently released a detailed report on cyberbullying trends based on a survey of parents and IT professionals in the K-12 community. We learned that cyberbullying is on the rise, and many agreed that an increase in young people’s access to technology has played a key role in the problem.

Thankfully, the growth in access to technology has given us better insight into how students behave online, what schools can do to monitor student activity, and how they can address safety threats.

One of the biggest threats to student safety is suicide. It’s our mission at Lightspeed Systems to provide tools that not only improve student learning outcomes, but also identify and remediate dangerous online behavior. Those tools include robust activity reports and alerts to keep students safe at all times, no matter where they use school devices.

We drilled into a month’s worth of student search data related to suicide to help you better understand what students are searching for online. 
*Please note our data collection and findings are generalized and anonymized to protect student data privacy. You can read more about our commitment to privacy here.

1. The volume of searches related to suicide is low.
For the purposes of this research, we analyzed search queries from September 2017 in our Relay customer database. Of the more than 107 million search queries, only 0.05% of those pertained to suicide.

It’s important to note that many searches containing the word “suicide” were related to pop culture references, such as the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad.”

Here’s a list of the most common, suicide-related terms.

Top Search Terms or Phrases Containing the Word “Suicide”
(in order from highest frequency to lowest)

  • suicide squad
  • suicide
  • suicide boys
  • suicide quotes
  • suicide forest
  • suicide squad gif
  • suicide memes
  • suicide notes
  • suicide prevention
  • suicide quotes tumblr
  • suicide prevention
  • slogans for teens
  • suicide squad sexualized harley quinn
  • native american suicide
  • suicide prevention posters
  • suicideboys
  • suicide hotline
  • suicide meme
  • suicide prevention drawings
  • suicide prevention slogans
  • edgy suicide memes

2. Suicide prevention is a popular student search.
When we did a deep dive into searches related to suicide, we found that 10% of them were for terms and phrases relating to suicide prevention (such as “suicide prevention” and “suicide prevention posters”).

A smaller percentage of searches (about 2%) was related to students searching for “suicide hotline.”

Top Search Phrases Relating to Suicide Prevention
(in order from highest frequency to lowest)

  • suicide prevention how to help someone
  • how to prevent suicide
  • how to help prevent someone committing suicide
  • how to help someone contemplating suicide
  • how to support someone that is thinking about suicide

3. Searches relating to suicidal ideation were low, but important to study.
Compared to all suicide-related search data, “how to” searches were relatively low: 0.6%.

That said, data shows there were hundreds of students who searched these troubling terms, and IT departments should be immediately alerted in those instances.

According to our data, this is the most common “how to commit suicide” is the most common “how to” query containing “suicide.”

Notably, we also observed students searching how-to’s about suicide prevention. “How to help someone contemplating suicide” and “suicide prevention how to help someone” are some examples of queries that indicate students may perceive safety threats to their loved ones.

4. Information is essential to identifying threats.
Although an increase in access to technology has led to a rise in cyberbullying, we also believe technology is helping students better understand complicated issues like suicide, and seek out resources to learn and potentially help others.

To gain maximum insight, IT pros should keep an eye on filter reports and enable solutions like Safety Check in Relay Filter.

Furthermore, having more context about suicide-prevention searches may also lead to positive outcomes. For instance, school administrations may be able to provide support to students who are fearful of suicide threats to fellow students, friends or family members.

Keeping kids safe is our passion at Lightspeed Systems, and with powerful features in Relay, our customers have the tools to curb safety threats in K-12. That’s why we include Safety Check, real-time AI-based monitoring and alerts across platforms and sites, with Relay Filter.

“If you are serious about the safety of students’ online activities, especially with Chromebooks, you can’t afford to cut corners,” said Andrew Moore, IT director at Glenns Ferry School District. “Relay is a great tool for monitoring and reporting on Chromebook use. It’s simple, sleek and works well!”

If you’d like to share your own best practices for monitoring student device usage, please leave your tips in the comments section.

Keeping Students Safe is The Most Important Thing We Do.

Request a demo of Relay with Safety Check

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