When social media affects self-esteem: how to help your child cope



Social media can be a positive tool to help young people communicate, be creative and develop their digital skills. But the constant quest for ‘likes’ can affect your child’s self-esteem. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do to help.

Filtered images

Social media platforms can be exciting digital spaces where young people can explore new ideas, experience different points of view, and even feel motivated to action social changes. 

However, it can be all too easy for young people using social media to start making comparisons with other people. Many young people may look at the carefully curated, filtered images that others post and although they are not an accurate depiction of someone’s real life, a young person may feel as though they are.  

Selfie culture

A selfie culture also means that more young people are using apps to edit, retouch and change the way they look before posting a photo of themselves online, often in an attempt to achieve validation through ‘likes’. And, if a child is not happy with the number of likes they receive, it can leave them feeling inadequate and affect their self-esteem. 

More often than not, children are trying to live up to totally unrealistic expectations, and their images are often driven by social media hashtags, such as #bodygoals or #thighgap. 


If your child has a public social media account, this can also leave them vulnerable and open them up to criticism online. Strangers will be able to send them messages and comment on their photos - some of these may be offensive ones by internet ‘trolls’ who are trying to provoke a reaction. 

This can be upsetting for a young person who may already be feeling vulnerable and going through changes as they grow older and can affect the way they feel about their appearance.

What can you do?

Three ways to help your child be happy on social media:

1. Strong privacy settings                                                                                   

Help your child adjust their privacy settings on the social media platforms they use. If posts are set to private, then strangers can’t comment on them. This will mean that at least the comments they do receive will be from their trusted friends. 

2. Think critically  

Talk to your child about the images they come across on social media. Do they think the images are real? Encourage them to think critically about who’s posting what and to question what they see. This can help your child realise that not everything is as it seems online. Once they know how much time, effort and editing goes into many photos, they can learn to stop comparing their own images to unrealistic ones. 

3. Seek inspiration 

Encourage your child to follow people on social media that inspire them or about causes that they are passionate about. These social media accounts are more likely to post messages that can help boost your child’s self-esteem rather than make them feel inadequate. Help them curate their own feed so they are looking at inspiring content rather than something that will make them feel bad about themselves.

For more about what you can do to help raise your child’s self-esteem, read this Parent Info article.


This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.