Selfie culture is damaging our children’s self-esteem, thanks to celebrities and influencers posting photos of “perfect” bodies they can never achieve.
Child psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos today urges parents to be aware of the pressure on children and to “focus on what’s inside.”
TV doctor says social media stars, often with millions of followers, can make teens feel worse about their bodies by posting heavily Photoshopped snaps or bragging about the results of extreme workouts or cosmetic surgery.
It comes after the launch of the Mirror’s Keep Kids Safe Online campaign, amid growing concern about how young people are being manipulated, bullied and exploited online.
Carolyn Bunting MBE, chief executive of the Internet Matters charity, says parents need to be aware of the accounts their children follow online.
She says: “Adolescence is a crucial time when young people explore their identity.
“It’s vital to talk to your kids about their life online and let them know you’re there to help them if they need to talk to you, so you can fix these types of issues as soon as possible.”
Former Geordie Shore star Chloe, 26, has spent more than £50,000 on procedures to drastically change her figure, regularly sharing her Kim Kardashian-like physique with her 3.7m Instagram followers.
The 20-year-old former TOWIE star frequently posts pictures of her dramatic weight loss on her Instagram account, which is followed by more than 41,000 people.
The 26-year-old former Love Island star, who has 1.1 million followers on Instagram, was criticized by ad watchdogs in 2019 for promoting diet gummies. They also ruled that the image appeared to have been edited to make her waist “appear artificially thin”.
The 37-year-old reality star is regularly accused by followers of “editing” her snaps to make her waist slimmer or her butt bigger.
The 26-year-old model, who rose to fame on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, has shared photos of her extremely elongated body with her 216 million Instagram followers, including this image in a skimpy red bikini.
Show our young people that their talents matter more than their appearance
By Dr. Linda Papadopoulos
For years, young people have come to me for help because they have an eating disorder or mental health issue related to their body image.
Where once the conversation often focused on numbers like being a size zero runway model or celebrity you’d see in magazines, today things have moved on quite alarmingly.
Now they are bringing hashtags. “Bikini bridge”, “thigh gap” or “eight pack” or whatever the latest fashion demands.
They are the victims of the selfie generation: those who have grown up in the age of social media, where taking a picture and posting it online is a normal part of their day.
But not everyone really understands the impact this is having on young people trying to keep up with the constant stream of perfect bodies they see online every day.
Many of the most followed celebrities and influencers regularly post their perfect physique, excessive exercise regimen and restrictive diets online, but do not show that they are editing their
photos to make them look perfect, giving children unrealistic health and body image goals.
A study of more than 5,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 17 in 14 countries found that more than half had low body image.
It is a big problem for children, as body image is closely associated with identity, self-esteem, and consequently self-esteem, and therefore can have a significant impact on a child’s behavior and decision-making. young person.
The problem lies not so much in how we see ourselves but more in how we think others see us.
Of course, the desire to explore and manipulate our identity is a normal part of growing up. But until recently, this was done in front of the mirror, experimenting with clothes, hairstyles and makeup. And the only people who will give you feedback will be the people you know.
Now, young people have a new audience: the whole world.
The way we access information about body image is in part through other people’s reaction to us.
Sadly, many of these reactions now come from complete strangers who have no interest in making sure we value or feel positive about ourselves.
If you think about the process of posting images on social media, it’s very much an exercise in poor body image.
Research from Internet Matters suggests that the age at which we are most likely to give children their first mobile phone is 10 years old. Critically, it is also when children, especially girls, become more aware of their social equity, or in other words, how other people see them. .
They take photos of themselves, go through their phones to find the “least worst,” and then edit those photos.
In effect, they look for things they don’t like about their bodies and modify them to make them more acceptable for others to see.
Once posted, the validation wait begins with likes and comments. If the likes don’t come in sufficient numbers, they feel rejected and even if they do, all it does is leave them wanting more.
In general, studies suggest that kids who post the most tend to have the worst self-esteem because they feel the need to seek validation and social acceptance from others, in effect giving away their power to feel good about themselves to others who don’t even know it. make. know them. They’re saying, “I don’t know if I look good, but if you tell me, then I feel good.”
As children get older, this need for validation can turn into hypersexualization, and the desire to be desired takes precedence over anything else.
To be desired, you look around to see what others want. And the goal posts keep moving. Be skinny, be curvy, be skinny, be both at the same time. You can never win.
It’s not just girls who experience these problems. A study by Internet Matters and Youthworks found that nearly a third of children in the UK said they had been exposed to online content that encouraged them to build their bodies.
So it’s not just the pictures that end up feeling like they need editing, but their actual bodies as well. People come to see plastic surgeons and ask to look like the altered and edited images of themselves.
Children have never engaged with their physical image in the way that they have since the advent of social media.
I can count on the fingers of one hand how many photo albums I have of myself as a child. Now, it’s relentless.
Worse than that, we no longer compare ourselves to our cousins, sisters and friends, we compare ourselves to the edited versions of our cousins, sisters and friends, plus all the celebrities and influencers.
Solutions to body image problems aren’t easy to fix: everyone needs to do their part, from lawmakers and tech manufacturers to parents and teachers.
As parents, it is vital that we are talking to our children right now, understanding more of the problems and helping them overcome them.
We must teach our children that their appearance is a part of them and not all of them, constantly emphasizing their other attributes.
Every time someone said that my daughter was pretty, I would say, “She’s very good at math and she’s also very good at judo.” I wanted her to know that the most interesting things about her weren’t things that people see right away. She needed to see that value in herself even when others wouldn’t.
While everyone talks about what’s on the outside, it’s up to you as a parent to focus on what’s on the inside.
You need to make sure your kids don’t reduce their value to thigh gaps and perfect skin, but develop an identity that makes them feel good about their talents and accomplishments.
1 Strengthen the online safety bill to comprehensively protect children from abuse and harmful content.
2 Get Facebook and Instagram to show that your plans for end-to-end encryption won’t put children at risk.
3 A champion of children online to fight for their interests.
4 A tax on technology companies to pay for online safety campaigns and classes in schools.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.