Updated: Jun 6, 2022
To maximise the benefits of the digital age, we need to be aware of the dark side of the online world. This article explores body image issues.
If you’re anything like me, you probably think today’s teens are too obsessed with their body image. I certainly worry about my teenage daughter and the amount of time she spends comparing herself to what she perceives as normal. She strives to be as pretty and popular as her peers. My teen compares herself not just to her class and schoolmates but also to those she sees on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. And what do people post on all these sites? With just a click, they can make the selfie look better with filters. The influencers our children see on our screens have always applied filters or used other editing apps. A significant change from our generation, where there was no means to improve our photos, and we mainly compared ourselves to pretty classmates, actors, and pop stars.
9 in 10 girls say they follow at least one social media account that makes them feel less beautiful.
Have you seen the Dove ad where a beautiful young lady turns off her filters, strips off her makeup, and reverts to the pretty young teenager? I see this scenario playing out all over the world. How sad that even pretty girls feel they need to look better. Not just teenage girls are affected. Boys, adults and even primary age students also feel the pressure to look good.
Look out for these types of “influencers”
#fitspo - promotes perfect body achieved through diet, diet pills and exercise
#thinspo - promotes extremely thin bodies that encourage little eating and tips on how to eat less. There are videos and groups on all the major platforms
promotes the normalisation of unregulated and potentially dangerous cosmetic procedures
In many cases, “friends” are not helping. In my day, it might have been sniggering behind my back. Today the sniggering is done behind the (computer and phone) screens directly to the victim or indirectly within chat groups likely viewed by the victim. It’s easy to tell them just ignore it, block them, etc. But my daughter and her friends are at the age where fitting in amongst their peers is essential and mum no longer knows everything. So they will spend another half hour in the bathroom tomorrow morning getting ready for school.
I have seen some research and statistics on the effects of body image on our preteens, teens and young women and, yes, even men. The results are depression, isolation, loneliness, FOMO and those horrid eating disorders. These are real problems happening here in our community due to the obsession to look “normal”.
How do we teach our children (or friends, other family members) to embrace their uniqueness? How do we teach them the value of being themselves?
We can remind them that they're unique and awesome, that it's okay to feel the way they feel. We can encourage them to talk about their feelings with friends and others in their support network. We want them to know they're not alone.
Empower your child
STOP - Encourage your child (and you!) to take a break from social media if they feel worse after scrolling. Have them put the phone down and reflect on how they feel after disengaging for a while.
BLOCK - Encourage your child to block themselves from viewing accounts that make them feel worse about themselves. Unfollow and remove links. Have them choose to follow accounts that make them feel empowered and feel better about themselves when they scroll through.
TALK - Encourage them to recognise and talk about their feelings. Let them know it's okay to feel the way they do. Encourage them to find their community and only follow accounts that promote body positivity. Talk to them about your experiences and let them know they are not alone.
Detox your feed
Here are step-by-step instructions to promote open and effective communication with your children to detox your feed. Dove campaign
Promote body positivity
Need to talk about it?
Don't hesitate to reach out or encourage your children to reach out if they need to talk through their feelings.
1737 - Free call or free text 1737 for 24/7 support
Youthline free call 0800 376 633 | Free text 234 | webchat youthline.co.nz.