There is an old ad age that says: “you are what you eat”.
In our house, my husband I and I work to make good dietary choices, eat whole foods and avoid processed products. We are pretty good at staying on track. Until we’re not But as the mother of two (almost) teen girls, it’s not their food diet that has me wrapped in worry: it’s their steady diet of social media and technology.
I’ve quoted them before (but I’ll say it again) According to Rawhide.com, American teens are now spending more time in front of screens that ANY other activity. We can only assume the trend is similar for Canadian teens. That scary stat means that teens are consuming more digital media than ANY other activity including: sleeping (with an average 7 hrs/night), school (average 6 hours/day) or exercising (average .7 hours per day)*.
In today’s digital age, there is no faster way to access a teen’s group of friends than through social media. I use the term “friends” loosely because many social media “friends” bestowed with such a title hardly even know your teen at all. No. Through hours of scrolling, clicking, liking and commenting she has been credited those names… a following…. a group…a vacant community of faces in the latest teen commodity: social media followers.
The currency of followers has become so valuable today that teens (specifically young girls) are pushing themselves and their images into over glamorized (and over sexualized) situations in order to fill their feeds with photos worthy of exceptional online attention. I could show you samples but if you’re a Mom of young teen girls I know that you have seen them: hair, makeup, pursed lips, cleavage, innocent eyes….from 14 & 15 year old girls! What’s uber sad about this is not just that young girls have learned to ask their peers to value them as sexual objects but that they blend into a sea of online 14 year old sexual objects.
How does this happen? Did our mothers not begin this battle decades ago? How are we letting our teens demean the fight through social photo sharing?
I’ve heard parents defend this behaviour with “it’s what they ALL do” or It’s just the “norm”. I’m sorry, Wha??
In our house we have a few guidelines:
If you don’t know them, they are not to be followed (if you’re struggling with this one think – have they been to my house?) This means that my daughters have a measly 34 followers but guess what? Don’t care. These are your FRIENDS. You don’t need followers.
Photos are to include something (not just your figure). Validation does not come from people liking your body. It comes from the unique perspective you provide from your photos and comments.
No comments on others’ physical appearance and keep all comments positive. I swear if I had a dollar for every time I read one teen girl refer to another as OMG HOT AF (hot as fuck) or “You’re SO HOT” or “Body GOALS”. Really? We want this exchange?? Nope. No thanks.
Now, I know it’s unrealistic to expect teens to scrub their accounts from the 2000 followers (really? 2000?) they have and re-instate only true friends but can we not unite together to ban inappropriate content (see rule number 2 above)? Should we not encourage our girls to do the same?
We’ve worked so hard to move society beyond dated stereotypes we owe our teens equal access to a community based on personality and wit – not appearance.
The value of being followed leaves teens living to please others instead of pursuing what could make them happy long term: real interests, unique perspectives and intellectual leadership.
Remind your kids that they are the sum of the choices they make and the images that they broadcast online.
In truth: you are not just what you eat….you are what you post.