How many times have you stopped yourself from posting a picture because you didn’t like how you looked? Your smile wasn’t right, too many teeth were showing, your hair was a mess from just walking in the wind, the picture wasn’t taken from just the right angle so your arms look big? As adults, we have the maturity to handle any negative feedback and comments we may receive, but unfortunately our kids do not. The world of technology encourages us to be ‘bikini ready’ 24/7 and it’s changing how we feel about ourselves and our bodies, online and offline. There is an unspoken pressure to only share images that you look good in or have touched up with any of the numerous apps that allow us to do this.
Never before have we known so much about our friends and family, from how they look daily to what they eat throughout the day, how, when and where they workout, and what they are doing all day long. We live in a digital era and we all post about our lives in the here and now. Millions of images are shared online daily on social platforms as well as through texting apps ~ it’s the world we live in and it’s how we communicate.
Now put yourself in your child’s shoes. Teens and tweens may have thousands of friends online, thus putting themselves at risk and exposure to so much potential negative feedback. They’re left comparing themselves to others and feeling bad about the way they look. The teens and older tweens understand how easy it is to alter photos using free apps on their phones. Smartphones have made it even easier to alter photos by adding image filters right into the phone – you don’t even have to download anything. The kids are doing this daily. They watch and relate to campaigns in the media like Dove’s self-esteem and they’ve watched the YouTube videos transforming the models back to what she looks like without all the make~up and photo editing done to them making them red carpet ready. But does it change how they see themselves or feel about their online image? No.
There are social platforms and apps that encourage youth to post images and ask questions about themselves..… Am I fat? Do I look ugly? Do you like my hair? And wait for the response. Not only do these apps encourage them to post questions about themselves, they also encourage users to post about other people and critique them. When they post on these platforms, how are they left feeling about themselves? They feel great if the responses are positive and what they want to hear. But what if they hear something negative – then how are then left feeling?
There are apps and games that don’t let you change the size of the people/characters. Everyone tends to be straight and skinny. But reality shows us when they walk through the halls at school or we go to work or the malls this is not the case. Everyone comes in different shapes, sizes and colours and that’s what makes us all unique and beautiful!
Before kids upload that selfie they’ve got a ‘magic’ number in mind for how many likes, shares or comments they want on that particular image. If they don’t reach that number, they will delete the image feeling bad about themselves and left wondering why no one liked that picture. Their mind goes wild with what’s wrong with them, that no one shared or commented on their picture.
Body image and self-esteem is not just an issue for girls, boys have it too. They feel the same pressure, they have their magic numbers and they want the same reaction to their posts and images that the girls do. Both males and females feel the pressure of their online presence, they want the feedback from their peers, so they post pictures about things that will help to raise their popularity and make them seem ‘cool’. A survey conducted by Common Sense Media shows that not only are the kids concerned about what they are posting, they are concerned about what others are also posting about them and posts they are tagged in:
- 35% reported having worried about people tagging them in unattractive photos
- 27% reported feeling stressed out about how they look when they post pictures
- 22% reported feeling bad about themselves when nobody comments on or “likes” the photos they post
Though girls and boys alike reported having these feelings, they were more common among girls (Common Sense Media, 2012).
Kids today are taking hundreds of photos of themselves before deciding on just the perfect one to post — think about the pressure they are putting on themselves! The pressure for the kids to appear perfect online is overwhelming. They know that images will be screen shot and shared amongst others, or uploaded to other platforms. What one person thinks is a funny, harmless prank can leave another person feeling terrible about themselves. We need to start having the conversation about not only what we see online and stranger danger but about reality and what people are doing to themselves to make themselves seem picture perfect, beach ready 24/7.
We encourage you to chat with your children about the comments they share with their friends, and remind them to choose their words wisely. Point out that they can still be on social platforms or texting amongst friends but to open their eyes to some of the pitfalls and to make sure that the decisions they are making won’t have any long term lasting effects to their self-esteem or their peers. Right or wrong, when we put ourselves out there we leave ourselves open to being critiqued. Be aware of what platforms your kids are on, and have an understanding of how the platforms work. Even if you have no intention of posting on Snapchat or ask.fm, you need to understand how they work.
Just because our kids are on social media it does not mean that they will be guaranteed to have low self-esteem. Social media can be used for good in so many cases. It’s like everything we do with ourselves and our children, it’s a matter of finding a healthy balance and what works for your child and your family. Social media can be a great way to learn and connect and we need to guide our children on how to do this safely and help them understand that not everything they see or read online is the truth. We need to help them to be #SociallySafe.
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About Socially Safe
Stacy Maynard & Kerry Hills are moms with successful social media businesses. We have a passion for helping children understand how to use social media safely. We have joined together to implement into classrooms and the community our Socially Safe, Socially Fun, Social Media programs. We are Moms of kids between the ages of 8 to 15, so we understand the need to help our kids stay safe and create a positive digital footprint. Social Media is not going away and we are passionate about teaching our kids how to use it, have fun and stay Socially Safe.