Your daughter stares into the screen of her phone, deeply engaged in social media. Many of the images are recognizable. The comments are personal. Some elicit laughter. Others hit a little too close to home. Still others leave her feeling uncomfortable and upset.
What your daughter may not realize is that the limited view of her friends via social media—shared for the world to see—are skewed, a little or a lot. As friends share flattering photos and make enviable remarks, they give her the false impression that everything in their world is ideal. They may be “making an appearance” before their peers, attempting to build themselves up, to appear a certain way.
The result? Your poor princess ends up feeling inferior to or resenting her friends, whose goal may not have been to intentionally hurt anyone but merely to look good to others. In other cases, friends may share suggestive images or inappropriate content to seek negative attention and end up causing even further hurt as a result. In still other cases, so-called friends may attempt a direct attack against your daughter, using social media as the means for cyberbullying.
Research reveals a direct correlation between time spent on social media and negative feelings of self-worth, especially among growing girls, who often struggle with confusion and uncertainty regarding their changing appearance, their acceptance by peers, and their very identity. Researchers from the School of Psychology at Flinders University in Australia surveyed more than 1,000 adolescent girls. Dr. Amy Slater reported, “Our findings demonstrate a worrying correlation between excessive media use, particularly social media and the internet, and lower self-esteem, body-esteem and sense of identity and higher depression” (Medical Daily).
I’m not advocating a ban of social media for our girls (once we’ve determined that they are old enough and prepared to make use of it). So many excellent Internet-driven tools for connectivity, conversation, and education have the potential to powerfully and positively impact our children when used with discretion and when our children’s eyes are wide open to the potential deception and harm that can be found in them.
You have the opportunity to let social media be a great teaching tool for your daughter.
- Be the mom. Set limits and explain them clearly; define appropriate and inappropriate use and provide clear-cut guidelines as you also educate yourself about the latest trends in social media.
- Alert your child to the very real dangers that exist. Don’t mince words. If you’ve determined that she is ready for social media, then she must also be ready to understand the inherent dangers: Internet pornography, sexual innuendos, crude language, cyberbullying, and other vices exist across cyberspace. Help safeguard her by providing ample information, for her protection.
- Pray for and with her, asking God to guard her heart and guard her eyes: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in Your ways” (Psalm 119:37).
- Establish a level of care and trust so she knows she can approach you with concerns and every possible scenario that may appear before her.
Your daughter is “making an appearance” before her peers when she sports her first smartphone, when she sets up her first Facebook page or Instagram account , and every time she texts, posts, pins, or tweets (or whatever term the latest social media uses to define sharing something across cyberspace!).
What kind of appearance will she want to portray?
- Help her to think carefully about the image she wishes to project, about how she wants to represent herself publicly.
- Encourage her as you remind her of her true identity as a godly girl. The image she projects doesn’t have to try to impress because she is made in the image of God.
- Share God’s Word of truth, which tells her that she is being transformed into Christ’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). With God’s help, her every appearance before others can be a reflection of Him by her character, as she chooses to reveal it.
What an opportunity! As she shares images of herself, words, interests, video clips, and more, she is free to express her unique identity as a chosen princess of the King, a redeemed child of God in Christ Jesus.
Deb Burma is the author of Raising Godly Girls. Learn more about Deb at her website.