This article originally featured in issue 6 of Digital Parenting magazine.
Social media can be a positive tool to help young people learn and develop. But constantly chasing ‘likes’ can make them feel insecure. Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos is here to help you find the right balance.
78% of 10-to-12-year-olds in the UK have social media accounts
49% of under-13s have a Facebook account
41% are on Instagram
40% aged 8-17 years said they have received negative comments on a photo they’ve posted
35% of boys and 51% of girls aged 8-17 worry about how attractive they look when they share photos online
Many social media platforms offer brilliant and exciting services. They remove the physical barriers to social connections and allow us to share things that matter to us. They help young people explore new ideas and have the power to motivate people and action social change. We want our children to tap into these positives.
However, social media now acts as an outlet for defining who we are, and as a tool for comparing our lives with others’ – which can have a direct effect on self-worth and self-esteem. Selfie culture means young people are ‘fixing themselves’ by editing and re-editing their images to get maximum approval. But, more often than not, they cannot live up to their own creations, and their images are often driven by achieving unrealistic social media hashtags, such as #bikinibridge or #thighgap.
It’s not a new phenomenon to be concerned about how others see us, but the ability to ask for opinions and call on our peers for constant feedback is. This preoccupation with how other people react to what we post can lead young people to feel unsure about their value. Constant posting may also open them up to receiving more negative comments online than compliments. They are also performing to an audience they don’t necessarily know, which leaves them vulnerable.
So, while there are many benefits to social media, it’s important that we discuss with our kids the importance of using it in a healthy way.
What you can do
We need to talk to our children about the impact of seeking approval from the online world and comparing their lives to the edited versions of other people’s lives. We must help them mentally disconnect from the constructed identities they’ve created online and allow them to gain the freedom to know who they really are.
As parents, we can help remind them not to put all their self-esteem eggs in one basket, and to focus on other attributes other than their appearance. We also need to stress the potential effects that constant communication can have on their sleep and their health and help them make more informed choices about physically disconnecting by switching off at night. We must value their mental health as much as their physical wellbeing and help them learn to use social media as a tool for growth.
Never too young to boost body confidence
Minnie and Max Are OK! is a lovely book aimed at promoting self-esteem in children aged between three and seven. “Celebrity culture, social networking and the rise of the filtered selfie is impacting on our young people,” says co-author Nicky Hutchinson. “We need to start building body confidence from as young an age as possible.”
This article was originally written in partnership with Parent Zone.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2016/newsround-survey-social-media The Power of the Image Report for Safer Internet Day 2017, UKCCIS