Merissa Forsyth is the founder of Pretty Foundation, a non-profit focused on building body resilience in girls aged 2-6. Here she shares her insights into how social media and how we can best navigate it as parents...
Today, teenagers and children are faced with growing up in a tech-obsessed world, where iPhones, tablets and televisions are just part of the normal daily routine. But with this comes the infiltration of social media, and the potential effect it can have on an individual’s social and emotional wellbeing. As the use of social media increases, it is no surprise that research has found that social platforms play a huge role in shaping self-esteem, with potential impacts being both positive and negative. The amount of screen time allowed and the increased exposure to unrealistic beauty standards through social media is becoming a worrying flow-on effect that all parents should be mindful of. The Australian Psychology Society (APS) survey found that two in three young people feel pressure to look good due to the content they are interacting with. Although these statistics could be worrying for any parent, the negative outcomes from social media can be significantly reduced and instead manoeuvred into a more positive experience. Here are some tips for managing your child’s use of social media and trying to mitigate the potential risk of negative body image issues forming.
Technology is an important aspect of everyday life whether it is for social, educational or recreational purposes. Instead of setting obsessive limits and positioning social media as something to fear, shift your focus to creating healthy technology habits where your child feels empowered and encouraged not to base their personality and self-worth on social media. An example of this is discussing with your children an appropriate length of time per day that should be spent on social media and why the different age restrictions for each platform are in place.
Teach your kids self-confidence
Self-confidence is important for children and can be fostered from an early age. Make sure you lead by example and speak positively about your body in front of your child. If they see how happy you are in your own body, they will likely follow your lead and become aware of what a healthy self-perception looks like offline, which can be carried across to their online interactions.
Critique images found online
Teach your child that what is being portrayed online and on social media isn’t always an accurate representation of real life. Find some positive body image role models to expose your children to online, and get them to engage with their social posts. Examples of this include platform @any.body_co, who promote body positivity for girls of all shapes and sizes.
Discuss digital decision making
In the digital realm, it is so easy to access content that can negatively affect body perceptions. Have conversations with your children regarding how to identify platforms and/or influencers that make them feel bad about themselves, and what to do in that circumstance. Discuss the power of unfollowing, deleting or blocking toxic triggers.
Seek advice from professionals
Finally, if you notice any negative patterns of behaviour or thoughts forming in relation to the body, it is best to seek advice from a GP, psychologist or counsellor. Everyone deals with exposure to social media and its ‘beauty standards’ differently, and professionals will help you tailor the best way to mitigate its unhealthy risks. Social media is only going to become more prevalent in our children’s lives so we must be able to adjust to the digital age and accommodate for its potential negative impacts. If you have open discussions with your child about body image and its correlation with social media, you and your child are in a better position to confront any of the challenges associated with it. Go to www.prettyfoundation.org Image: Julie Adams