If you’ve been reading this website for any decent length of time, you’ve probably seen me write something to the effect of, “Please do not give your children social media.” There is plenty of evidence that social media is bad for kids, and wasn’t designed for them in the first place. But the worst of all social media for kids is, in my opinion, Instagram. I once went so far as to write an article entitled “Maybe Your 6th Grader Doesn’t Need an Instagram,” and I stand by that. My article was more about the dangers of predators and easy access to porn on Instagram, but I’ve also since covered Instagram bullying as well. The dangers are many, but there’s another one I’d like to highlight that I had really only half-considered before, and it concerns our girls.
Save Your Daughters From Instagram
Last night while perusing Facebook (oh, the irony), I came across an article entitled “Save Your Daughters From Instagram.” Of course I clicked, sensing it was going to be something I needed to read, and I was right. The article, written by PhD and body image expert Lexie Kite, carefully detailed the pros and cons of Instagram, and how to navigate a conversation with your daughter about having her own Insta. It also revealed some very true, very haunting statements about the effects of the fabulously filtered platform on our young girls’ self-image, and this is information every parent needs to read.
Kite and her twin sister, Lindsay (also a PhD, holla!) run the website Beauty Redefined, which is “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting positive body image online and in live speaking events.” Their mission is one greatly needed in our world today where the typical female body is still held up for comparison to a ridiculous Barbie doll beauty standard. I love their mission to teach girls to be body positive, and I think their site is a must-read for moms of girls. But let’s get back to what Kite has to say about those girls and Instagram.
Right out of the gate, Kite got me with these words:
But as a media and body image expert, I can unequivocally state that a young girl’s access to Instagram is like a master class in objectification. Taught by influencers and peers with more power than any teacher, parent or advocate, she will learn at the speed of light that she is her body, and that her body is her ticket to happiness, fulfillment, power, and love.
A master class in objectification. Taught by “peers” with MORE influence than you and I have on our daughters. That to me is super, super scary. Kite goes on to say that while “Research echoes what our own real-life experience as women with bodies and access to social media makes very clear: Social media use – especially Instagram – is associated with high anxiety, depression, negative body image, bullying, loneliness, and envy,” girls are at twice the risk to succumb to depression than boys are after they hit puberty. TWICE. So, putting social media, especially the filtered, posed, image-focused Instagram in our daughters’ hands is basically maximizing their risk for mental illness.
Parents, I have written time and time again about not letting your child have social media access; in a recent article on Musical.ly, a concerned mother wrote that she saw girls sexually objectifying themselves all over that app (which is *supposed* to be a way to make fun lip dubs) and that seeing a 12-year-old trying to make herself sexy was “worse than porn.” Seeing young girls fall victim to self-objectification is another point Kite discusses thoroughly in her article (please read it, Mamas, please please please), and she makes a forceful plea to parents as well, saying,
If you are a parent or caretaker to a child, you undoubtedly face the burden of giving them access to social media. We are here to promise you that the burden of objectification that will be placed upon your daughter’s shoulders is much, much heavier than the burden you will carry by encouraging her to stay off Instagram. Even if everyone else is on.
Please, moms and dads. Please do not allow this burden of self-objectification to be placed on your daughter’s shoulders. PLEASE.
I know a lot of my mom friends who struggle with body image issues, and all of them who have daughters have one thing in common: they do NOT want their girls to experience the same thing. Step 1, in this modern age of preventing your girls from having negative body image: Save your daughters from Instagram.
Parents, I am going to beg you once more to read Kite’s entire article. She tells you how to go over the pee-reviewed research studies on the pros and cons of Instagram with your kids as well as the self-reported feedback from Instagram users about its effects. For example, while a “pro” of Instagram is: You won’t be left out of what is happening on Instagram, the corresponding con is: You will be more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and the more time you spend on social media, the worse these symptoms get.
She also has a fantastic section on “media literacy” for your child: questions they need to ask themselves such as:
- Does this image/account encourage me to fixate on my own or other women’s appearance?
- Does this image/account spark body anxiety or feelings of shame?
- Am I engaging in self-comparison as I view these images?
The bottom line is this, parents: as a 40-year-old woman with an awesome husband and three great kids, as a follower of Christ who knows I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, Instagram can sometimes make me feel REALLY bad about myself. How much more damaging is it to a 13-year-old girl going through massive body changes and hormone swings, who feels peer pressure and the desire to fit in? The answer is much, much more damaging. Please, save your daughters from Instagram.
And while you’re at it, subscribe to Beauty Redefined. It’s so chock full of resources for parents that in this social media age, we will all undoubtedly need to make use of.
P.S. Just in case you think I’m overreacting, search the “#fitness” hashtag on Instagram. Might seem like an innocent search your teen daughter would make to learn about exercise, but be warned: it’s mostly just sexy, near-porn poses in the name of fitness.