young girl taking a selfie: the effect social media filters have on childrens self esteem

Can we please teach our children about their self worth? The one filter our children really need to know about is their own self worth. How amazing it would be to see a generation of young people who view the world through their self-worth filter instead of social media filters?

Everyone can have an attractive jawline, perfectly-shaped nose, long lashes, arched eyebrows and full lips. You can remove your freckles, pigmentation, and blemishes to create flawless Snow White like skin. Well, you can if you are using the right apps on your smart device and the myriad of filter options we can use to fill our feeds and stories with unrealistically gorgeous photos.

Social media filters: the comparison trap

Even though we know that most of the social media images we scroll through have been edited, we still fall into the comparison trap that can leave us feeling insignificant, hopeless and even resentful.

Think about it – after spending 40 minutes thumbing from the one post to the next, do you feel energised, uplifted and inspired to jump out of bed and conquer the day? Or does the mindless never-ending scrolling have a different, somewhat negative impact on you instead? Some people grab the to-do list, because they want to prove that they are also worth a thousand ‘likes’ and others don’t even bother.

There is so much to unpack, however let’s focus on one element today: how are our young people being influenced by their perfect-selfie-peers and how are they responding to brands and influencers who seem to exist in a photoshopped realm where regular people are not welcome?

ALSO READ: Good digital habits & how to manage your child’s screen time

Brands and influencers shape our children’s perceptions

It’s no secret that influencers are doing exactly what the name suggests – they influence the decisions, perceptions and behaviour of others, whether that’s in order to motivate us to be fit and healthy or show us how to apply make-up perfectly.

Then there are the brands we follow and our children are at the forefront of advertising campaigns and hashtag movements, which also influence the way they consume and purchase.

However, brands and influencers are directly impacting the way young people are thinking about themselves and they are using brand-made standards to measure their own value. This is both sad and scary, because who can actually measure up to what they are experiencing in the digital space as worthy?

One brand that has impressed me and that has taken responsibility for their level of influence is DOVE.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project looks at how low body confidence and anxieties affect young people and Dove offers resources to help create positive body confidence and self-esteem. Have a look at the DOVE reverse the selfie video and then come back to see what role you can play.

young girl taking a selfie: the effect social media filters and photoshop have on childrens self esteem

What is the role of parents? 

Let’s look at some of the most popular words first, because there are many ways to approach this when we talk to our children. However, we can easily put focus on the wrong thing, so here are some thoughts:

  • Self-esteem: how I see myself (subjective), my emotional state and my beliefs are mostly impacted by external factors. Very much focused on achievements.
  • Self-confidence: how I see my abilities, my weaknesses, and strengths. This impacts the expectations I set for myself and the way I manage feedback. The level of confidence I have in doing certain things that I am good at and, again, my level of achievement.
  • Self-acceptance: how I feel about and accept who I am. Usually influenced by external comparisons and achievements. 
  • Self-worth: having the internal sense of being worthy, loved and belonging. How we view our ‘worthiness’ of being loved, to belong and to be alive.

I always encourage parents to build a good and open relationship with their children. This is where YOU build the foundation that will either keep your children standing or let them fold under the pressure of social media and new digital expectations.

READ NEXT: Everything you need to know about cyberbullying

If your child knows (not just feels or thinks, but knows) that he/she is worthy, loved, chosen, accepted and liked by you, then their foundation of self-worth can be built daily. It’s not a once-off chat, but rather a life-long series of reminding each other of your worth. In this way, their need to build their self-esteem, -confidence and -acceptance is satisfied by you instead of social media filters and trends.

So what?

There is a direct link and potentially devastating consequences to the way our children behave online based on their self-beliefs. Anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, self-harm and suicide can be fuelled by the people and content they are exposed to through the internet and on social media platforms (WhatsApp and other chat apps included).

Besides their self-worth, children need resilience and exit strategies to deal with the online challenges they face – will you be the one to guide them through their journey?

We are in this together

Digital parenting can feel like an isolated and lonely journey, however the good news is that we are actually all in this together. There are so many resources available to choose from and here are some to consider that are linked directly to our children and their online challenges:

  • Parental control apps to help you with screen time management, app permissions and location tracking: Kaspersky Safe Kids and Google Family Link are some of the apps I’ve tried and like.
  • Be alerted when your child might be in a cyberbullying situation, receives adult content or searches for inappropriate topics on the internet: FYI play it safe [use “cyberwellness” when you subscribe]
  • Education and interactive app to teach young people how to use social media safely: Klikd [use “Rianette” for a special discount]
  • Join me for my Digital Parenting webinars and Family Coaching Sessions (mail bookings@rianette.com)
  • To order my book “Raising a screen savvy child”, also available in Afrikaans
  • If you or your child are in cyber trouble, contact Help@SaveTNet.com

Travel safely in cyber space and remember your value is not determined by the likes you get, the number of friends you have or the filters you use, because you were marvellously and wonderfully made. Now go tell your child and make a deposit in their self-worth foundation.