“Just being on Instagram isn’t harmful, it’s the way you use it,” said Dr Fardouly. When we only look at the potential negative effects of social media on teens, we also ignore how they can be a good influence. Dr Fardouly has done studies showing that body-positive content representing a range of shapes and sizes and parodies of thin-ideal content can boost young women’s moods – although the research is preliminary.
How parents can help girls grow back
As individuals, we can’t control what social media giants like Instagram are blowing up in the ether, or how their algorithms work. But as parents, we can lessen the effects of images that can potentially make our children feel less good about themselves. First, we need to control the social media entry point, Dr Radesky said. If your child is under 13, they are not supposed to create their own account, as collecting data on children is against US privacy laws.
If your kids are interested in social media because it allows them to connect with other kids while we’re still in a pandemic, you can encourage them to use apps like iMessage or FaceTime, which allow them to chat without ‘like or social comparison or post to subscribers. These tools are also a better match for the type of socialization they do in person, Dr. Radesky said. If they’re interested in something like TikTok, you can explore this app with them, monitoring what they see, she said.
Starting your children with social media literacy at a young age is an essential tool, said Dr. Yolanda N. Evans, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington and specializes in adolescent medicine. For example, she said if you observe your child looking at an ultra-manicured photo of a friend, you can say something like: taken to get it? ‘ It helps them think critically about what they see.
If your kids are older and already on social media, you can encourage them to organize their feeds so that they don’t just have #fitspo and extremely slim bodies. And try to model good technological hygiene yourself, Dr Evans said, whether it’s a family rule that there is no phone at dinner or after 9 p.m. She recommends this interactive American Academy of Pediatrics media plan, which you can customize for your own family’s needs. .
I have no illusions that my daughters will always feel good about their bodies. I’m certainly not impatient for them to be on social media, especially from a data privacy perspective. But I’m happy that I can arm them now, while they still listen, with weapons to push back the thin ideal wherever they meet it.