It’s been a few years since I’ve been a teenager, but I do remember how intense social media began blowing up. It came in all avatars: Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, and Facebook. As a kid, my dad always warned me about social media, and how desperately he wanted me to stay off of it. “Keep your footprint off the internet. The less people know about you, the better.”
I had an interesting teenage experience, because I really didn’t have that much exposure to social media. Now as an adult, I have a few more accounts than I did before with Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Even in the 2 years I have been on social media, I have seen how harmful it can really be.
Snapchat was my first social media platform. There wasn’t anything stereotypically social media about it. I kept my following to my closest friends, and I only allowed those I knew to be added to my Snapchat. I was careful and too afraid of random people adding me and what it would mean for me. Maybe it was because of what my father instilled in me, but I felt it was because I didn’t want anyone tracking me.
I do remember my friend that had Instagram, and how obsessed she really was. She posted weekly, and each post was showing off something extravagant either on her or in her home. Her pose had to be just right, and her face was always done with makeup. She was self-conscious about a birthmark and found every way to hide it. I remember her constantly obsessing over the models she followed and being envious of the girls on vacation in bikinis. I lost count the number of times she said “I’m fat. I won’t ever look like them. I hate my body.” I’m not saying teenagers aren’t always the nicest to their bodies, but at that age it’s the most critical to be encouraging and nourishing.
Having parents that were positive and said, “honey, you look great and I hope you feel great too. If you don’t, what can we do to help you,” is far more helpful than parents that said, “honey you look great, but if you want to look better you can go to the gym.” Even as an adult, others’ opinions on my body doesn’t affect me anymore. It is more about how I feel about my body, and if I like what I see or don’t.
Social media hasn’t made that easy either. I already know that my mentality is different, but even if I saw models or bikini girls, I immediately thought about getting back into working out and feeling healthy than chasing an unhealthy body standard. I would admit though, as a teenager if I saw those same models and bikini girls, I do feel like I would’ve started having an unhealthy obsession of being a thin girl. Social media doesn’t have to be negative, but I do feel like it is a breeding ground for unhealthy obsessions and unrealistic expectations.
With current trends on social media, it has become central for human communication and your place in society. Almost all teenagers have Instagram, and the new platform TikTok. With teenagers becoming famous at a younger age, the generation now are wanting the same fame and have the feeling to become famous. The pressure of living up to social media expectations and having to perform in daily life is stressful. I don’t think there should be restriction, but I do believe parents should be aware with the trends and regular activity that goes into social media.
Trends on TikTok can be fun, but there are some that can be dangerous. Being aware of what is going on each platform and having an open form of communication with your teen is the best way to stay relevant with them. On top of that, it gives you an ease of mind knowing what they do and what is going on with social media. Taking control over your teen’s social media doesn’t always bode well. Communicating with them and letting them know that they can come to you if they have questions, feel uncomfortable, and want to share something is essential to keep them feeling overwhelmed.
Social media is healthy if teens have goals; and they use the platforms to help them reach those goals. In an idealistic world they would utilize it to get inspiration and work towards a life they want. But unfortunately, most teens want to gain popularity or “clout” from these platforms and will go through lengths to get there. Parents should encourage growth, and even participate to bond with their teen. Otherwise, just understand social media will continue to keep growing and eventually jobs and opportunities will be coming from social media. As times evolve so should the parents. Teens will adapt naturally to new information and new social media trends, or platforms. For parents to feel up to-date, learn about social media; ask questions, and be present. It’s the best way to help a teenager get through their impressionable years with their biggest support team on their side.