When it comes to connecting with others, there is no denying the power of social media — and for young people, it can be a lifeline. But unfortunately, the type of content kids are exposed to can be a cause for concern, especially when it comes to unrealistic beauty standards for girls and the effects they can have on mental health.
In fact, 8 in 10 girls say they compare the way they look to other people on social media, and 50% of them say idealized beauty content and unrealistic filters on social media is damaging to their self-esteem.
But since social media isn’t going anywhere, it’s more important than ever that parents and guardians play an active role in helping young people make sense of the content they’re consuming. It’s critical to discuss its effects and how to strike a balance between being active on social media and engaging with content that promotes body positivity and mental and emotional health.
Here are four ways parents can help empower kids to use their social media feeds to build confidence and boost self-esteem.
1. Be prepared to have a candid conversation with your child.
Boys & Girls Club partner, the Dove Self-Esteem Project, reports that 80% of girls would like their parents to talk with them about managing unrealistic beauty standards they see online. Parents can prepare themselves for a conversation by reviewing their child’s social media accounts. Be sure to look at popular channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitch and more to get a sense of the content your child is likely viewing on a daily basis.
2. Discuss the effects harmful beauty standards can have.
20% of girls report being cyberbullied during the past year, and nearly half of them did not report it to an adult. As more girls struggle to build confidence, it’s more important than ever to set aside dedicated time with your child to have a real conversation about their social media accounts.
Explain to them the negative consequences following harmful accounts can have on their self-esteem and ask them how they feel about it. The key is creating a safe and understanding environment for an open conversation.
Point out to your child that many social media posts are paid advertisements for products and services influencers may not necessarily use or do themselves. Posts that promote negative ideas around fitness (like #fitspo) and unnecessary cosmetic procedures can distort the way girls see themselves and impact their self-esteem. Remember — be bold. The more open a parent can be to discussing any topic, the more comfortable kids will be discussing them.
3. Empower kids to build self-esteem by reviewing their social accounts.
70% of girls report improved self-esteem after unfollowing damaging social media accounts.
Spend some time scrolling through the accounts your child is following and helping them review and remove harmful accounts. Ask them why they’re following those accounts and if any of them make them feel bad about themself. If they don’t know how to block, unfollow, report or click ‘not interested’ on an account — show them. Many young people don’t know this, but social media uses algorithms to serve users similar content. That means the more your child engages with positive accounts, the more positive content they will see and vice versa.
Encourage your child to follow accounts that are authentic, promote your family’s values, and represent unfiltered, positive and neutral attitudes towards appearance. For more information on how you can help your child build body positivity and boost confidence, download the Dove Confidence Kit.
4. Encourage offline self-esteem activities.
Research shows that when girls have the right support during adolescence, they can change the world. Boys & Girls Clubs across the country offer programs, like SMART Girls, to ensure today’s girls have the critical support they need to overcome challenges and reach their potential. Through dynamic sessions, participatory activities, field trips and mentoring opportunities with adult women, Clubs empower girls to explore their own and societal attitudes and values as they build skills for eating right, staying physically fit, getting good health care and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.