Published: February 4, 2022
Creating confident kids in a digital world filled with filtered social media images and messages of perfection has become increasingly difficult. With a growing number of kids on social media starting as young as 7 years old, it’s important to consider the future implications.
Although social media can have positive effects when kids feel supported and connected, the potential negative impact on confidence, mental health and self-esteem is real. Confidence is about having a belief to fulfill a dream and reach a goal. Self-esteem is a sense of personal worth or value. When social media platforms are used for social comparison, self-doubt can creep in.
Filters vs. Reality
Many people’s social media profiles appear perfect, often fueled by filters enabling them to look flawless while sharing their exquisite life. Distinguishing between what is real and what is not has become challenging for kids who often view social media as reality. In fact, 63% of parents reported concerns around kids being able to tell what information is real or fake.
Before social media, typically only models, movie stars and celebrities appeared flawless through the magic of magazines, movies, and television. However, today’s social media enables filtered images of perfection in normal people, including kids’ friends and peers. While most adults grew up with only two realities to navigate – private and public – today’s kids are navigating a third reality equivalent to celebrity status.
As early as age 8, kids are starting to establish their self-worth. By the time they’re approaching and into their teens, the opinions of peers become more important than those of parents. Consequently, it’s no surprise self-esteem and body confidence can plummet when social media is used to determine popularity based on likes and comments.
With an overload of social comparison at their fingertips, it makes sense that kids who spend more than 2 hours a day on social media are at a higher risk for mental health issues, especially depression. With a reported 80 percent of 13-year-olds editing their selfies, social media pressure needs to be taken seriously by every adult who has influence over young people.
Social media is here to stay. With that in mind, consider using C.A.R.E.™ to help kids create and maintain their confidence and self-esteem instead of it being based on social media influence.
C – Communicate consistently
For children under the age of 11, determine if they’re ready for social media. Age doesn’t always equal maturity. If you aren’t sure, experiment with a trial period and clearly state expectations and consequences.
Communicate potential positives and negatives of social media. Discuss what is true and false and how filters change images and appearance.Talk about selfies and how those could have a negative impact on body confidence.
Once children are on social media, keep communication open and consider having a weekly check-in to review what they’re seeing, how they’re feeling, and if social media is helping or hurting them.
A – Appreciate yourself
Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, coach, teacher or other adult working with kids, help them appreciate their uniqueness by being a role model and intentional about the questions you ask as well as activities you lead.
Be a role model for appreciating yourself by:
- Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Avoiding the use of self-deprecating remarks about your appearance.
- Help kids appreciate their unique value by asking questions like: What are your strengths, special skills, and qualities? How can you make a unique contribution to the world?
Use activities from the Dove Confidence Kit to talk with kids about what their bodies can do rather than how their bodies look. If you’re a coach, lead your team through the Strong Teammate Activity which involves asking team members to write down two-three strengths they bring to the team and one strength for each of their teammates.
R – Restrict accessibility and reduce usage
Phones, apps, and social media are engineered to get us hooked. One former product engineer for Google used the term “brain hacking” and compared cell phones to slot machines. A social media executive has talked openly about how platforms are designed to trigger dopamine-driven feedback loops that have the potential to turn all of us, including kids, into social media addicts.
Suggestions to restrict accessibility and reduce usage of social media by kids include:
- Keep social media use under two hours/day.
- Create a personalized family social media plan to include the purpose and quantity of usage.
- Utilize parental controls on social media apps.
- For kids under that age of 11, only allow use of apps their school recommends.
- Set the in-app timers on Instagram and TikTok.
E – Emphasize self-improvement and effort
To help kids create confidence, one of the most impactful things we can do is encourage them to focus on self-improvement, which is how they’re doing in comparison to themselves rather than others. For younger kids, ask if they tried their best and praise effort over outcomes. For older kids, ask them to rate their level of effort, attitude, and focus. For more details, check out the 7 Tips for Creating Confidence in Kids.
For all adults, let’s select one area of the C.A.R.E. model and apply it to our own lives. As Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden says: “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.”
About the Author
Beth Brown, Ph.D., is a life-long educator on a mission to inspire families and kids to have fun, become more active and learn life lessons through sports in her children’s book series Adventures with Divot & Swish. After picking up a basketball at age 2 and swinging her first golf club at age 8, Beth was hooked on sports. Her youth sport participation paved the way for her collegiate success as a member of the University of Oklahoma basketball and conference champion women’s golf teams.