Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Aug. 24, 2016

Teaching Self Esteem in a Selfie World

Program Coordinator, FOSI

I recently took a trip with my family and my mom took a bunch of candid photos of me and I was not happy with any of them. Actually, I was furious with them. My arms looked awkward, my face too round and I have no idea what was going on with my left eye. Looking back there really was nothing wrong with them (sorry mom). I was being over critical and seeing flaws that just were not there. Pressure to look a certain way gets the best of all of us and our digital connectivity certainly can increase that pressure if we are not careful. 

I think this is why selfies are so popular. Taking a selfie allows us to be in control of what we look like in photos, we can angle ourselves and contort our faces to look just the right way. THEN we can edit them with all the photo apps and tada we look perfect. Or what we think is perfect. The problem is that after we do all that contorting and editing we perceive ourselves to look that way and get upset when we see ourselves looking anything different. We fail to realize or accept what is reality because we edit reality out. 

Selfies are not the answer to the growing self-esteem problem we have. And not allowing your child to use apps such as Instagram and Snapchat isn’t the answer either. Instead just like pretty much every other issue, the solution is to keep an open line of communication with your kids about self-esteem. Use the tips below to open up a conversation with your child about the images they share online and the images they see others posting. 

  1. Show them what is fake. Go online and look at a variety of pictures. Start by pointing out to your child what is real and what is not realistic. After a little bit show them pictures of people and let them point out to you what is fake. 
  2. Ask them why. If your child demands a photo not be posted, printed, framed or be deleted and you see nothing wrong with it, ask them what it is that bothers them about the photo. Do not approach it as they are wrong or silly for disliking the photo, but instead, phrase it as a genuine inquiry. 
  3. Don’t always use a filter. I get it filters are fun and I am guilty of always using them to enhance my photos. I apply all kinds of edits to get a photo just right. That is ok, but we also need to make sure our kids know they look amazing without a filter and a lot of editing. As a parent make sure you share photos of your child that are filter free, to enforce the idea that they don’t need a filter to look great. 
  4. Encourage them to make healthy choices offline. We need to start encouraging our kids to make choices that will build their self-worth. Insist on them doing activities that cause them to place self-worth on something other than their looks.  Find community projects or classes for them to get involved in, encourage them to explore developing a skill such as coding or use sites such as Pinterest and research healthy activities and recipes. Praise them for their accomplishments in school and their activities and establish that there is more to their worth than their selfie game. 
  5. Stop talking negatively about yourself. I get it we all have bad days where our hair isn’t right or we aren’t as toned as we think we should be, it happens. But don’t complain about those insecurities to your children. It will only ingrain in them to nit pick at themselves. 
  6. Determine a standard for what should not be posted. This may sound like I am contradicting myself, but it is also ok for some photos not to be posted. Some photos are indeed unflattering or portray us and others in a negative light. It is ok to not want a photo to be posted if it makes you uncomfortable, if it shows you doing an activity or behavior you don’t want to have permanently online or it opens up a window for your child to be bullied. Show them how to untag themselves from photos others share that make them feel uncomfortable. The problem is when we aim for unrealistic perfection in our looks, not when we are striving to maintain a positive image online.