mcafee.com/activate: As a mom of a teenager, I have a front row seat for the good, the bad and the heartbreaking ways in which social networks influence teenagers. The struggle to fit in with the peers that each teenage generation has the task of navigating has only proliferated with technology. Now it’s not just about presenting the best of you at school, in the field or at parties, the biggest challenge is perfecting a ready style for Instagram 24/7.
What is the demand for Instagram ready appearance? Fleek makeup, perfect hair, ready clothes and an aesthetic that competes visually. But what about defects such as pimples or cellulite? There are many photo applications for that.
It sounds like a lot of work right?
Walk for a moment, if you wish, in the shoes of a teenager where the digital image is reality. Perfection is perfection. You must represent the perfect friends, the perfect body and the perfect relationships. Intelligence is essential (ordinary does not get me like). Go viral is the dream (even if you try dangerous stunts). And, competing not only with their peers, but with beautiful bodies all over the world (usually retouched) is the social reality that most adolescents wake up to every morning.
Here is the reality:
People undergo plastic surgery to look better in selfies.
To compete visually online, the cost of the graduation party has skyrocketed when considering promotion, designer dresses, professional hair and makeup.
Online pressure is leading to extreme behavior. In some studies, sexting has been called the “new normal” and even the “first base” between preadolescents and adolescents.
The constant connection and pressure to be perfect online is affecting the physical and mental health of teenagers.
According to Anxiety.org, social networks provoke anxiety and cause users to: 1) compare themselves and become desperate because of physical and material deficiencies 2) fear of being lost and being excluded 3) develop technological addictions.
A recent study reveals that women who spend more time on social networks have increased body image problems.
While we can not eliminate social pressure or put the Internet in a sleeper block until our children pass safely into adulthood, as parents, we can train our children through this digital arena with a vision of reality.
So, what can we do to stop (or at least make a dent) in the madness? Here are some suggestions.
5 tips to help teens alleviate digital pressure
- Reform the “reality”. Take time (repeatedly) to remind your child that the content of social networks is carefully edited and rarely reflects real life. Remind them that despite our differences, we all share feelings of insecurity, fear and … they simply do not photograph or publish those moments. A simple “I love you as you are”, from time to time is always a good idea.
- It challenges the paradigm of social comments. Teens tend to focus on the looks when they comment on the photos of a partner. Unfortunately, if you read the threads of comments, the discussion ends on the surface. Teach your child to express themselves in comments beyond appearance. For example: replace “hottie” with “love your confidence”; replace “#tbh you are gorgeous!” With “Y, just as beautiful on the inside”.
- Start higher discussions. Talk to your child about what is important or someone else will do it. Get comfortable talking about the importance of a positive body image, the many ways of valuing women and their contributions to the world, and unrealistic body images promoted by the media. Challenge your teen about how people modify their appearance online and their opinion on the subject. “Why do people do it? What do you think they win?” Sometimes just expressing a feeling or opinion can make a teenager feel less lonely and begin to defy the norm.
- Be personal Ask your child how he or she feels about the comments people make about them online and how they make positive and negative comments. Sometimes, just expressing triumphs and damages can open a fresh and realistic discussion on the subject.
- Watch the videos of Dove. Sit together and watch Dove’s powerful videos of body image and real beauty. If you’ve never seen these videos, a refreshing dose of truth awaits your family.
Affirm, accept, repeat. Send your child a strong message that she is accepted, individually designed and possesses an inner beauty of her own. Be careful not to focus on appearance or make critical comments about your appearance or body.