HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECT YOUR CHILD’S BODY IMAGE?
Today, we live in a world where images can be easily manipulated. Photoshop is only one of the thousands of photo editing software available online.
And, one does not need sophisticated computer knowledge to edit images with today’s technology. In fact, even social media sites have built-in editing features in order to help users enhance their photos. However, has society gone too far with this kind of software?
The photos are pretty, but they’re not real
Hollywood A-list celebrities such as Kate Winslet and Brad Pitt are firm on their belief that they are strongly against such manipulation on their photos. Even the American Medical Association is taking a stance against Photoshop. The AMA further stated that body modifications made through photo editing programs can lead to unrealistic expectations of how the human body should look.
Young women are particularly vulnerable
And, with the advent of social media, things got worse. Research has proven the negative effects of social media on how young women see their own bodies.
Associate professor Jennifer Mills, along with a team of researchers at York University in Canada, studied the consequences of social media, especially on young women. The results were published in an online journal called Body Image.
Mills and her team studied a group of 118 females, undergraduate students ages 18 to 27, who were categorized into two groups. Participants in the first group were asked to interact on Facebook and Instagram with peers they considered as more attractive than themselves. Participants in the second group were asked to interact with family members on the same two social media platforms.
Then they were asked to rate their body image. The results were conclusive in the first group that the women’s perception of their own bodies greatly changed after being active on social media when they were interacting with their attractive peers. There was no similar effect for the group of women who interacted with family members.
The researchers deduced that when people engage with attractive friends on social media, negative body image increases. In the report, Mills reported: “They felt worse about their own appearance after looking at social media pages of someone that they perceived to be more attractive than them.”
And the reality, Mills suggested, is that when on social media, it’s unavoidable to compare ourselves with other people. And when we start to compare, it affects how we view ourselves. Mills concluded that we all need to guide our children – especially young women – on their usage of the various social media platforms.
Social media can lead to more than just poor body image
Too much time on social media can lead to extreme dieting, eating disorders, and even depression. In fact, the University of Kansas in Lawrence coined the term “social displacement theory.” It explains that the more time a person spends on social media, the less time he/she will spend time socializing with actual people in real life.
This could contribute to the decline in a person’s general outlook in life. Other studies have found a connection between social media and loneliness. This new evidence suggests that using social media can increase loneliness. Experts have suggested that people try a social media “detox” in order to keep from feeling sad, lonely, or depressed.
Common Sense Media also reported that hundreds of thousands of teens, ages 13 to 17, use social media several times a day. A majority of teens in the U.S. insisted that they show their “real” self. However, they also admit to only uploading pictures that make them look better. In short, they filter their information and pictures in order to look good.
There is also an added pressure of maintaining the ideal self on social media. Popularity on social media can become a basis for the value they attach to themselves. For example, when our children are not invited to an event posted on social media, they feel like an outcast. To make matters worse, they see happy pictures on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever. It’s heartbreaking to see everyone having fun without you. That’s why it is important to regulate our children’s social media use, and, as parents, we should always remind them of their true worth.
Use FACE to help your kids stand up to social media
To help our kids cope with the information they see on social media, tell them to remember FACE, which stands for Filter, Avoid, Compare, Evaluate:
- We should tell our kids to filter the information they see. Not everything is as it seems.
- Assess how a particular social media platform makes them feel. If it makes them feel bad, then filter it. Stop using that platform or stop following that “friend.”
- Filter — remove — the negativity, whether it’s an app, a friend, or someone you know.
- The next step is to avoid. If it’s necessary to force kids to stop using social media, then do it! As parents, you have the last say. Don’t give in to their excuses. Instead, encourage your children to interact in real life. If they want to talk to a friend, talk to them at school.
- Also, you can remind your children that they can always erase an app from their phone. They don’t have to stay on social media just because everyone is there. They should carefully choose what makes them happy and avoid what stresses them out.
- Next is careful comparison. In general, we tend to look at other people’s appearance and accomplishments as a standard of how we should live our lives, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we often compare favorably.
- Teens are easily susceptible to feeling inferior when they think someone is “prettier” or “smarter.” However, as parents, it is best for us to encourage our children to focus on their strengths and remind them that we are created uniquely and have our own wonderful qualities.
- Lastly, encourage them to evaluate what they see on social media. Remind them the images can be edited or manipulated to look better than real-life. Thank you, PhotoShop. Thank you SnapChat filters. NOT!
- It is imperative that our children understand these pictures most likely are fake … or at the very least doctored. It’s impossible for anyone to keep up with such high standards.
It’s true that we can’t protect our kids from every harm on the internet. We are not be able to monitor them 24/7, but educating them about the proper use of social media can be the first step toward avoiding potential dangers on the World Wide Web.
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