As if the parents of teens already didn’t have enough on their plate, another problem has drawn their attention. It is called ‘sadfishing’.

Origin of Sadfishing

This term was coined by Rebecca Reid in her article for Metro, a UK newspaper. She explained, “Sadfishing is when someone uses their emotional problems to hook an audience on the internet”.

While celebrities use sadfishing to garner attention and sympathy on social media, an increasing number of teens are following in their footsteps. And, parents can’t help but worry because it adversely impacts their children’s mental and physical health.

Teens can engage in sadfishing by posting online content about their struggles related to academics, body, family life, heartbreaks or any other situation.

Reasons for Sadfishing

Before you talk to your teens about sadfishing, it is important to understand why they do it. A few reasons are:

  • Loneliness: Your teen may feel aloof or isolated due to a lack of social interactions or despite the social interactions.
  • Family Issues: Your teen may not be getting enough attention or love at home due to family conflicts or lack of support from parents.
  • Acceptance: Your teen may want to feel accepted by the online community for the way they are.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Your teen may have low self-esteem or confidence and do sadfishing to feel good about themselves.
  • Social Media Pressure: If your teen is a social media celebrity, they may engage in sadfishing to get more likes, comments and shares on their posts.

Risks of Sadfishing

Sadfishing can make your teens seek external validation and rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions. They may become vulnerable to trolling, cyberbullying and other internet hazards. They may fall prey to anxiety or depression. Hence, it could turn into a mental health crisis in the long run.

Preventing or Handling Sadfishing

The first thing you should do is to look for signs of sadfishing in your children. Keep a tab on their social media content for a few days. Check for excessively emotional or dramatic posts.

Teens with sadfishing habits can begin to display a change in their actions and behaviour. Observe whether you feel something off in their routine. Are they becoming moodless, upset or angry for even the most trivial things?

You can gently talk to your teens about their social media posts and encourage them to open up about their issues. Ask them if there is any particular reason why they are making themselves vulnerable online instead of approaching their parents.

If you realise that they genuinely have some problems, then help them deal with it positively and healthily. They can confide in you, write a journal or talk to someone they feel comfortable with. Give them a safe outlet to vent their feelings. Educate them about the negative effects of taking their personal problems online or making up issues for public attention.

Continue to monitor their social media activity at regular intervals. Restrict their phone usage and screen time.


Teens need unconditional love and support from their parents. Make sure you hold their hands to help them deal with any situation.

About Rekha Menon

Rekha Menon is a primary teacher by profession, now engaged in various hobby & craft classes for kids, and occasionally writes about topics which interest her. With two teenage kids, she is usually grappling with issues that most parents deal with, and shares her views to stimulate discussion on these.


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