Trouble with Teens and Social Media, More Positivity Needed

“Botox is amazing; you’re never too young to start.”

Horrifying, yet this is the kind of insidious ad kids and teens see on their social media feeds, or, “If your teeth are uneven, you can always file them down with a nail file.”

These ads are deplorable, targeting girls with toxic, harmful, and dangerous beauty advice.

Every parent needs to know what is happening to their children, and what they are exposed to. The Dove corporation does an outstanding job of bringing awareness to the way society pressures women to see themselves as less than they are. In a world where children scroll through social media, they are influenced not only by their peers’ posts but also by the sponsored ads that show up in their feeds.

Clean positivity

“A girl’s greatest influence will always be her parents.”

This is the last line in the Dove Toxic Influence film on YouTube.

“We’ve identified a clear problem that is eroding the self-esteem of our girls and needs immediate attention and action,” said Leandro Barreto, global vice president of Dove.

Social media is filled with peer pressure to meet societal standards of beauty. On top of this, some influencers promote toxic beauty advice. Ask your child, is what they’re seeing on their feed making them feel good, or is it causing them to feel bad about themselves?

The Dove #DetoxYourFeed campaign empowers young people to define their beauty standards and choose their influences. Dove invites them to unfollow anything that doesn’t make them feel good about themselves. According to the Dove website, seven out of ten girls felt better about themselves after unfollowing toxic beauty advice on social media.

There are also toxic influencers on young men’s social media feeds. Some influencers promote the aggressive pursuit of a woman, regardless of consent. They also advise men the value of a woman is in her appearance… how attractive is she?

How parents can influence

As parents, you can empower your child by talking to them about what shows up on their social feeds.

  • Advise them to unfollow all posts which serve to lower their self-esteem.
  • Talk with them to help them see perspectives different than the hurtful ones pushed on them through social media.
  • Help your teens see themselves in empowering ways:
    • Help them find what they like about themselves in the mirror instead of cataloging what they dislike.
    • Show them how to widen their perspective and re-evaluate their ideas.
    • Talk with them about their mistakes and let them know those are steps in the growing and learning process; that failure is not the opposite of success . . . it is part of success. Henry Ford famously said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
    • Let them know they are a gift to the world, a collection of skills, assets, values, and love.
    • Encourage your child to make positive posts on social media.

Emotional Contagion

Cornell University partnered with Facebook and UC San Francisco to track the emotional impact of content on Facebook. In The Emotional Contagion report, they found that positive and negative posts influenced the moods of others. The research revealed that when users saw more positive posts, they wrote more positive comments and made more positive posts. It also works the other way: the more negative posts they saw, the more they wrote negative comments and posts.


How we can all make a change

Professor Lea Waters of the University of Melbourne started a campaign in 2015 to have university students post positive messages on social media. “We are drowning in a sea of negativity amid the daily tsunami of bad news,” she wrote.

University of Pennsylvania researchers tracked news posts for three months and found that positive news posts were shared more often. Professor Waters recognized that with social media, we have the power to take news into our own hands.

Following her example, we can influence others into more positive behaviors by posting positive things. Let’s flood Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, with positivity. Encourage your children to post positive things.

Walt Disney, famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”


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