Stereotypical examples in social media serve many adolescents as a compass for their body image: The ideals they perceive of being as slim or muscular as possible can quickly lead to their own insecurity. Media images of stars and peers appear to children and young people as the norm of what is socially accepted and worth emulating.
The constant presence of seemingly perfect role models leads to social pressure and not always healthy over-identification. The strongly personal character of new media supports the comparison of self-image and external image even more than usual and conveys that each and every individual can correspond to these ideas with sufficient initiative.
Many adolescents find it difficult to see through the fact that these ideals are staged and not “normal”. Parents should critically question such beauty and body ideals as well as the staging in social networks together with the child.
Influencers – Idols from the Internet:
If young people orientate themselves towards particularly attractive and stereotypical people who present themselves conspicuously, this can put them under pressure. It is therefore important to address such stereotypes and encourage children and young people to take a critical look at body cults and the media’s obsession with beauty.
It is important that parents strengthen the self-confidence of the children and young people and recognize their abilities and inclinations. As a result, the children feel taken seriously, and valued and are better protected from compensating for insecurities by sometimes imitating questionable idols.
What Parents can do about it
Show interest and keep the conversation going
Regardless of age, it’s important for parents to be interested in current role models in the media world and to ask children why they are so enthusiastic. Parents can help children to distinguish between other brands and their own opinions, between the authority of the “influencers” and decisions that one makes oneself.
Even if you secretly think the very staged world of social networks is nonsense, you should be able to have access to your children.
Be Attentive towards who your kid is following as an ”Influencer”
Recommend media heroes who match the children’s age, preferences, and current topics. Alternative role models help to understand how one-sided attributes of gender, ethnicity, etc. are transported. Parents can look for counterbalances to common social media stereotypes. More and more internet personalities are using their reach to educate about diversity and advocate for body positivity.
Clarify the Background
As parents, you must inform older children and young people about marketing and staging and convey to them that these should also be critically reflected upon. Children have fine antennae and turn away when they are being manipulated – or when someone oversteps the mark when it comes to commercialization. Knowledge of the possibilities of digital image processing and filters can also help young media users not to let the pressure to be perfect get out of hand.
Protect with technical measures
Some social networks offer ways to counteract the risks of body cults. Settings can be activated on Instagram which limits the visibility of posts that may be disturbing to young users. This includes images of extreme body ideals. Likewise, on TikTok, for example, certain keywords can be hidden in comment columns in order to keep possible triggers to a minimum.
Parents can talk to their children about the dangers of encountering unhealthy communities on social media. This includes users who encourage each other when they are hungry and glorify problematic eating behaviors or body image. This can prevent such dynamics from establishing themselves in the online world of adolescents in the first place. Physical challenges also appear harmless at first glance, but for some users, they can fuel access to unhealthy online communities.
Avoid Negative Comments
As they enter puberty, even as children, children can make comments about their physical appearance harder than adults. Parents should be careful how they talk about appearances with their children: too many negative comments are inappropriate and a threat to a healthy self-image.
Strengthen self-confidence Strengthen
the self-confidence of children and young people by recognizing their abilities and inclinations. In this way, they are strengthened against insecurity caused by unrealistic body ideals in social networks.
Paying attention to signs
If parents have the feeling that body trends are playing an increasingly unhealthy role in their child’s life, or that their own body dissatisfaction is increasing, they should talk to the child and possibly go to a counseling center.