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The world is changing.  Fast.  It seems that each week there is a new platform for people to engage and communicate with one another and it’s becoming more difficult to keep track of them all.  I think most parents would agree that the impact of Facebook on their children’s lives was daunting enough but now with Instagram, SnapChat, Ask.FM and more, I bet most parents wish we could all go back to a time when it was just Facebook!

In our work with teen girls, I see firsthand the troubles that some girls go through with social media.  From bullying to an unhealthy obsession over how many ‘friends,’ ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ they have.

Some studies have shown that social media can actually have a positive impact on teen self-esteem (Cornell University study 2011) but a 2013 study by Flinders University concluded that the more time spent on social media, the more likely they were to experience low self-esteem.  It can be confusing with so much information out there but one thing that many studies agree on is that self-esteem is affected by how social media sites are used.

A past student of ours and now a University of the Sunshine Coast student, Moriah Overell, posed this question on Facebook last week as part of an assignment, “Does the pressure and appeal to be ‘Instagram famous’ negatively affect teenage girls’ self esteem?”

Firstly, I was proud as punch to see her using social media for such an important discussion!  What do you think?  My initial response to this question was, “well of course it does,” but I loved reading everyone else’s responses and quickly realised that it’s not as black and white.  Amy Doran who I’ve worked with previously through the Sunshine Coast Youth Partnerships organisation responded by saying:

“I think that people in general who want to be ‘Instagram famous, and try and get bulk likes’ actually have low self esteem in the first place, and perhaps trying to become Instagram famous is their way of feeling better about themselves or trying to boost their self esteem. The issue isn’t Instagram…. I believe the issue was there beforehand.”

Isn’t that such a great point?  Social media really can be a tool for good, or bad, depending on how we use it.

For many girls in our courses, interacting on social media is an important way for them to connect and feel a sense of belonging with their peers.  It’s heartening to hear that they are faced with discussions about this in our local schools “all the time” and in our classes they are usually very forthcoming with tips and ways that we can all help each other to use social media in a positive way.  We’ve collated some of the best responses we get in class below:

 

8 Tips for Teens on Social Media:

1.     Make a choice to use social media for good.  Find supportive, positive and inspiring people, create change and awareness campaigns, support each other and use it to connect with long distance friends and family.

2.     Don’t post something that you wouldn’t want your parents or a future boss to see.

3.     Don’t ever say something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face

4.     Don’t air your dirty laundry on social media

5.     Don’t be friends with people who aren’t your friends in ‘real life’

6.     Remember that you are amazing. You don’t need ‘likes’ to tell you that.

7.     Remember that up to 80% of communication is non-verbal and social media cuts out all of that!  If you need to have an important conversation – do it in person.

8.     Don’t spend excessive amounts of time being a “passive follower.”  Research suggests that those who update their own profiles have higher self-esteem than those who simply scroll through other people’s feeds.

 

A Tip for parents:

Experts suggest that parents need to start by setting a good example and ensuring they aren’t spending too long on their phones, checking emails or being on social media for too long themselves.

 

Video: how different families put technology restrictions in place

Sourced from the Raising Children website, Australia’s trusted parenting website. For more parenting information, visit www.raisingchildren.net.au.

 

Our Policy:

In case you’re wondering, here at Shine From Within, we can certainly see the value in social media and the community spirit it can instil.  In saying that, we’re quite conservative in the discussion around social media with our students and stay on top of current research for our discussions around bullying and online media.  We certainly don’t encourage, or discourage the use of social media in our courses, but rather ensure that they are aware of the importance of how they use it (as it will be a part of their life at some stage).   We use Instagram and Facebook regularly to connect with parents, students, potential students and our local community.  We love being able to share snippets of what’s happening in our courses and absolutely love having a simple way to continue connecting with students, long after a course finishes.  We set up private Facebook groups for the teen courses so that they can stay connected with one another and our teachers if they happen to be on Facebook.  We are in the middle of building an entirely separate forum that incorporates the Members Area of the website with an easier way to communicate and stay in touch, without the use of Facebook.  We also notice that the students tend to share their contact details with one another anyway so that they can remain friends and support one another for years to come.  We don’t tend to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ our students as we don’t want to invade their privacy or monitor what they are doing outside of our courses but we welcome them following our pages and connecting via comments and messages.

There are lots of great resources out there and further research.  See below for some of our suggestions.

Further resources:

The Impact of Social Media on Body Image, by Dove

Social Networking: The Basics, by Raising Children

Teens and Social Media, by Child Mind Institute

What now?

Start a discussion about social media in your household and consider putting some boundaries in place for yourself and each other.  If your teen girl could use a little extra support and real-life connection, book her in for one of our Sisterhood Evenings or our full-week Personal Development Course.    Make sure you are on our mailing list to receive up-to-date information about our courses, workshops and exclusive content just for our online community.

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