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Social Media and Self Esteem in Teens

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Social Media Effects on Self Esteem – With the increase in social media availability, teens are more connected to one another than ever before. As a result, they can build one another up or tear one another down in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, most teens are choosing the latter–and even when they aren’t, social media is causing a distressingly negative impact on the self-esteem of tween and teens.

Constant Social Media Self Esteem Blows Increase Body Dissatisfaction

Let’s face it: most teen or tween especially girls would probably never choose to post that frumpy, rolled out of bed late and barely got to school on time while still wearing sweats image on Instagram. Instead, they post their best pictures. From the picture that makes them look ten pounds lighter than they are in reality to the perfect date-night picture of girls who are dressed to the nines, social media  usually displays only the best image each teen has to offer. Worse, those images are usually accompanied by the usual teen need to put themselves down and talk about how “ugly” or “fat” they look–often in an attempt to draw out compliments. Unfortunately, these images combined with those words only increase negative body image and low social media self esteem in teen and tween girls AND boys.

Perfect Image Beyond the Body

It’s not just body image that gets slammed by the “only the best” status posting on social media. Most teens and tweens only post the good news: another college acceptance letter, a new award, or information about that “perfect” date the night before. Pummeled by this image of perfection, teens and tweens often forget that their peers are only posting the good while simultaneously ignoring the bad. It’s as though everyone on social media has banded together with the common goal of only putting their best foot forward–and it’s slowly convincing teens and tweens that whatever they’ve accomplished and whoever they are isn’t good enough because their “everyday” doesn’t measure up to someone else’s “best.”

Social Media Effect on Self Esteem in Teenagers | Netsanity

“Like” Pressure

Just a generation ago, the biggest blow to a teen’s self-esteem was going to school with a new haircut or the perfect outfit and not being recognized. That slight, however, was easily enough forgotten the next day as life resumed its normal pace. Social media, however, provides a constant stream of, “Why is no one noticing me?” Teens wonder:

  • Why did no one comment on my post?
  • Why did that post get more likes than mine?
  • Why did that special someone not react to my post?
  • Why do I never have as much response as someone else?

With that level of pressure, it’s little wonder that teens and tweens have steadily deteriorating self-esteem as they struggle to deal with the constant competition associated with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.


Worried teenager girl looking at her smart phone in a park with an unfocused background

In the worst possible scenario, teens and tweens don’t just struggle with acceptance and peer response to their posts, nor do they merely find themselves jealous of the “perfection” experienced by their peers. Cyberbullying has added an increased viciousness to the torment that many students experience every day. Now, they don’t get away from their tormentors when they go home. Instead, they’re pounded from all angles. The online environment gives the illusion of anonymity. Characters on the screen aren’t equated with real people. As a result, many children are being bullied relentlessly–and worse, without proper monitoring, their parents may never even realize it.

Exposure to social media can have an incredibly negative impact on the developing self-esteem of many young people, or even contribute to eating disorders. Controlled access to these intense online environments may allow teens and tweens to develop in a way that is more historically “normal,” especially as their exposure to the so-called perfection of their peers is limited.

What Can Parents Do?

It makes most every parents nervous when their teens are exposed to the pressure and drama of using certain types of social media.  Your first reaction might be to just ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. Sooner or later, teens will need to learn how to navigate the online world responsibly. That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access with various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject.

If you do allow your tweens or teens to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software.

What can teen’s do (and not do)?

With social media expanding into existence and evolving so rapidly over the past few years, it is really not that easy to grasp the social rules around proper etiquette and what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media for all to see. With that being said, I hope that there is still a general standard of etiquette for communicating online that can be agreed upon by most of us.  Here are just a few do’s and – pretty please…really don’ts, that we should all follow.

Keep Tragic Events To Yourself

The pain of learning that someone you love has just died is one of the most painful feelings that most of us can ever experience. It is the most difficult phone call you will probably ever get. But what do you do when you learn this information through social media? How do you react when you’re scrolling through your newsfeed only to discover that death has taken someone you knew or loved?

Recently, I discovered that my precious grandmother had passed away when I was randomly pulling up my Facebook feed. I knew she was ill and the time was near, but to read messages posted about her by strangers before I was even told that she had died was truly disheartening.

It is always a good idea to wait until the death of another is “old” news before heading to social media to express your grief.

Social Word CloudBe Mindful Of What You Post

When you have hundreds of friends or followers on social media, you have people from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, beliefs, and values. Tweeting or updating your status or even sharing a meme with a general statement may seem like harmless fun to you, but to others, it may read with a very different perspective. This could come back to bite you with a particular friendship, work relationship, or even lead to a fight or argument on your wall or feed. I am all for free speech, but when expressing your personal views & opinions, it is always a great idea to keep things light, as it relates to social media. Even with stringent privacy settings, there are still risks that your post will reach people that you may not want it to reach. So, I think your best bet is to play it safe and be mindful of your posts!

Sharing “The Chain Letter”

Social Media Self-esteem and Body Image in Teenagers, Girls and Boys | NetsanityRemember those chain emails that ask you to act NOW and forward immediately to all of your friends or you’ll have bad luck for 7 years? Social media has way too many of those these days. Most claim that if you post this “letter” in your status and leave it for 24 hours,  you will certainly win the lottery, or even better, that if you share a status, Bill Gates just might show up at your front door with a check for a million dollars just because he liked how you shared a post. Sometimes, these posts such as the ones discussing an illness or medical issue, go viral for a good cause because they spreads awareness. However, in general, posts such as these can become very annoying, especially when containing false information or other nefarious schemes. It does not show you in the best light when you are sharing these ridiculous “letters!” Be smart and diligent by not “falling” for these requests.

Flaming  Your Friend’s Friend

We all are entitled to state our own opinions, online or offline, so if you see someone comment on a post which you do not agree with, please keep quiet. I often see people criticizing the comments of their friend’s friend who replied to a post, whom they don’t even know! Please don’t embarrass yourself or your friend by doing so. It really is just plain awkward for everyone involved. In the spirit of friendship and conversation, try to always take the “high road”.

Ultimately, it is about finding balance between being free to be yourself and remembering to be sensitive to others online and off.  We all need to continue to be aware of the “publicness” of social media and always remember that each of us forms a piece of the online, social eco-system experience, for everyone else. Finding that right balance will also help you enjoy your social media time as well.  Happy posting!

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