Taylor Swift, who has been bringing some sanity as well as hugely popular good deeds into the social media news flow of late, had some great comments this week on selfies. Specifically, in an interview with ITV, she commented on how wedded teens and tweens are to their selfies, and how that’s a bad idea.
“You have teenagers who are attaching their self worth to how many likes they get on a picture they just posted. I don’t necessarily think that’s a healthy way to see yourself. I want to always be there to tell them, that’s not the most important thing – whether this picture got 50 likes and that picture got 10. Please don’t base your day and your happiness and your sanity on that.”
What does it mean for parents, whose teens and tweens spend more time on their phones than they do with family, and who use the selfie as a mode of communication and the central image of their personal brand? The pressure is on, and you can get started today.
Don’t deny that it’s happening – It’s truer in our experience for girls than boys, but either way, there could be hundreds of selfies “out there” of your child. If you search on Instagram for the hashtag #selfie, you get 288 million results! Also true is the fact that for some girls, how many “likes” those selfies get is very, very important – a measure of popularity or of the strength of your friendships or feedback on your attractiveness.
You should be talking about it – As a parent, frequent communication can ensure that it all stays healthy. As a first step, make sure that your teen always knows that she has your love and support. Ask her which social networks and apps she is using, and what she does there. Help her to be self-confident and resist the urge to look for others for affirmation.
Understand that not all “friends” are friends – If your teen is in the like collecting business, she probably accepts friend or follow requests from just about anyone, since it’s a numbers game. That means that many of her Snapchat friends and her Instagram followers are not real friends. This could be unsafe from a predator point of view, but it’s also unhealthy to be seeking the approval of people who are complete strangers. She should understand this.
You probably won’t be hearing the truth – Your first conversations will likely not be that helpful. Of course she’ll assure you that all is well; that she isn’t gaming the like system. To her, her behavior just feels like regular teen stuff.
You need to keep doing it – Kids change, and just because your teen or tween isn’t on Snapchat today, doesn’t mean she won’t be tomorrow. If she doesn’t care much about her clothes and makeup now, she will at some point. Those changes are likely to play out at least in part on social media. The more often that you’re talking about what she is doing online, the more likely you are to sense that something is amiss.
Day in and day out, you won’t be able to stay on top of everything this is happening with her online life. By communicating frequently and hopefully openly, you will be in the best position to make sure nothing goes off the rails.
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