It’s not easy being a parent in the digital age. You have to weigh the benefits of letting your kids use different technologies against the possible dangers these tools can involve. Kids today need to know how to communicate and navigate a digital world, but letting them have free rein online can be a recipe for disaster.
Social media is particularly difficult territory for parents to navigate. Peer pressure and bullying are no longer confined to school grounds and can follow kids everywhere, thanks to the phones in their pockets and the internet at their fingertips.
As a parent, you should know that kids’ and teens’ use of these social platforms can have an impact on self-esteem. Here’s how.
The Pressure to Look and Be Perfect
Social media is the perfect medium for dangerous social pressure to build. Kids feel the pressure to post photos and updates that make them look beautiful, smart, funny, and cool. Online, adolescents are constantly comparing themselves to their friends, peers, and even celebrities, causing them to feel pressure to change their hair, weight, clothes, or even interests.
Obviously, kids and teens want to share only the best parts of their lives, but this type of curation can have a negative impact on mental health. The problem with chasing perfection, of course, is that it doesn’t exist. Kids often end up with low self-esteem due to the pressure to look and be perfect online, which holds them back in other areas of their lives.
Could This “Perfect Pressure” Lead to Eating Disorders?
Unrealistic beauty standards filter into kids’ consciousness from all directions. Our society is obsessed with thinness, and social media hasn’t helped to reduce the harm that this obsession has caused. In fact, it has made it much worse.
Kids who think they aren’t thin enough in comparison with the people they interact with online often start watching their weight or dieting, which sometimes leads to disordered eating. The pressure from social media to be perfect is strong and it could be influencing some kids to develop eating disorders in an attempt to feel worthier and more beautiful.
Eating disorders are not only physically dangerous in the short term, but they can end up being a recurring issue that follows people throughout their lives. Helping kids to build a healthy relationship with food can involve reducing their social media use and cutting off harmful comparisons.
“Never Good Enough…” Depression & Anxiety From Social Media
Social media is full of unrealistic perfection. Perfectly posed or even photoshopped images of thin, beautiful young people in perfect clothes can make kids feel like they’ll never measure up to what they see online.
In addition to piling on expectations of perfection, this feeling of “never being good enough” can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Self-esteem issues grow over time and may become worse with increased social media use.
The Deadly Cycle: Sadly, Depression Can Then Lead to Overeating
Depression, self-esteem issues, and the feeling that they’ll never measure up can create a vicious ongoing cycle for kids and teens. Many kids overeat when they feel isolated, depressed, and anxious. This eventually leads to weight gain, which feeds into the original negative feelings and makes them worse.
It’s very common for people to eat junk food when they’re feeling sad or stressed. Kids with low self-esteem from social media comparison might reach for a snack when they’re feeling hopeless or down and might eventually become obese and develop physical health problems.
FOMO: Fear of Missing Out
Kids never want to feel left out of something they could be doing, especially if they see their friends having a good time on social media. The curated nature of social media means that kids have the perpetual feeling that where they are and what they’re doing is never good enough.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) causes many kids to be overly concerned with their peers’ and friends’ updates on social media. If they’re not included in social activities, their self-esteem can suffer and they may feel isolated, lonely, and obsessed with being included. FOMO can also feed into increased social media use and feelings of isolation.
Parents: You Have a Responsibility
It’s not easy to monitor and regulate your kid’s social media use, but letting them use these platforms as they wish can lead to a whole host of self-esteem and mental health issues. You have a responsibility to teach your kids how to use these tools appropriately and to understand that social media is not a representation of reality.
A child’s self-esteem impacts their confidence, happiness, and well-being. You don’t have to forbid your child from using social media to keep them safe, but you do need to know your role and step up to protect them from the dangers of unattainable perfection.