Helping young people express themselves authentically online to improve wellbeing

How can we help children express themselves safely online while encouraging them to love who they are? Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov, Esq. shares insight on what you can do as a parent to address this issue.

Social media impact on self-expression

Social media has played a huge role in allowing teens and young people to engage, share and connect in ways that are growing more creative every day. Whether teens are dancing on Tik Tok, pointing out tips on Instagram Reels, or sharing on the latest social media platform, online self-expression allows teens to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

These young content creators may choose artistic and colourful ways of expressing their personalities and style, however, teens and young people may not be aware of how social media can influence and change their behaviour and even change how they view their own image and body.

Parents can support their teens and young people to use social media and technology in ways that permit creative discovery and innovation, as well as wellbeing and authenticity. Parents can engage in thoughtful conversations on trends and online influences, explore the content of the latest influencers and offer guidance on ‘keeping it real’ in the online world.

A few conversation starters:

What type of editing app did she use to create that look?
Using editing tools can be fun and create a little sparkle, but young people should have a sense of when the editing is carried too far.

Why is the image blurry in certain spots? Do you think he really looks like that in real life?
A large number of the images that we see online have been edited and having discussions about what is real, what is altered, what is photoshopped, can help young people realize the illusion.

I wonder how it must feel to meet someone in person when the image doesn’t match the person?
Providing opportunities for young people to understand the disappointment when someone doesn’t ‘match their online illusion’ may provide empathy and awareness for their own images.

Do you think that universities or employers really check out social media profiles?
Universities and employers can and do check out publicly available data and children and young people may want to perform a Google search on their own names to see what is in the online space.

Do you think it’s easy to have a positive body image and self-image when you see edited images?
Having open and transparent discussions about wellbeing, authenticity and self-image can guide young people towards more positive uses of social media platforms.

Social media will always be a place to get social, to share, and to connect and the experiences can be positive if we engage in a responsible manner – both in what we share and what we receive. Our children and young people must be able to distinguish reality from online illusion, real friendships from thousands of anonymous followers and positive uses of technology from creating noise in a vacuum – and with parental support and guidance, they can do just that.

Resources

Addressing the pressure to be perfect toolkit for parents

See our Instagram ‘Pressure to be perfect’ toolkit to get advice on how to make the most of the platform to help children manage their wellbeing.

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