Teen Selfies Vs Self-worth: How to Help Teens Navigate the Downside of Social Media

Taking teen selfies doesn’t mean that your teen is a narcissist, in fact, social sharing can be a positive means of self- expression and development of self-identity for many young people.

The latest research suggests that moderate use of social media can be beneficial to many tweens and teens in areas such as developing social skills, feeling connected to their peers and accessing help if needed.

But there is a negative and potentially dangerous side to image sharing that we need to help our teens navigate.

Failure to support our tweens and teens in the use of this kind of social media can lead to serious issues such as appearance anxiety, body shame, lower self- esteem, mood swings and various forms of eating disorders.

In this article, we will help you to better understand the connection between image sharing and self- worth and give you 8 practical tips on how to deliver positive messages to your child.

Psychologist and Parenting Expert Colleen Smart, has researched this subject in detail and offers the following insights;

When Selfies Become Part of Self- Objectification

One of the downsides of selfies is that teens feel the pressure to display perfectly curated photos, often modelled on photoshopped, posed and objectified celebrity feeds.

Because apps like Instagram provide instantaneous feedback and measurable rewards in the form of comments and likes, teens then evaluate their worth based on the volume of messages they receive on a photo.

This is when posting selfies move away from the more positive aspects of social sharing and become more of an avenue of self-objectification or where people treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated.

Many girls start posting selfies to help improve their body confidence only to find that posting images of themselves isn’t really a solution to fighting self-doubt and body shame.

If we want to fight body shame and promote body positivity, we need to fight the lie that girls’ bodies are the most important thing they have to offer.

When Body Focus Becomes Unhealthy

Today’s children are constantly bombarded with messages that include unrealistic, narrow body types, often known as the ‘thin ideal’ for girls or the V-shaped body with six pack for boys.

Teeth are unnaturally whitened and skin flawlessly polished and brightened.

By constantly comparing and judging themselves against such unrealistic modelling, it’s no wonder that confusion, anxiety and insecurity become magnified amongst teens.

If you suspect your child is developing or has developed an unhealthy obsession with their weight, body or exercise routine, then it’s important that you have a gentle conversation with them about the patterns you have noticed.

Body Image and Boys’ Health

Body insecurity is not the sole domain of girls. Boys are more body conscious then we realize and body image issues for them are very real.

Boys are far more likely to struggle with their body issues alone and laugh off any criticism they may receive, whilst secretly internalizing their pain.

Boys tend to associate muscles with being masculine and believe that hard workouts will help them achieve their ideal body shape and mass.

A recent UK study discovered a general naivety amongst boys being advertised to through non-traditional media such as social media. The boys interviewed generally believed that the media changed female images more than male images.

They were shocked when it was pointed out just how much male images were changed.

How Can We Counter Self Objectification and Poor Body Image?

As parents, it may well be time to ask ourselves the following;