As a Trini, I love social media, it plays into one of our best Trinbagonian qualities – macoing other people’s lives. But seriously, we get to connect with old friends, connect with new ones and get glimpses into how our friends and strangers live. With all the good social media has there is also the dark side. Particularly I’m talking about the impact social media has on the youths of today, the impressionable teenage years.
I can scroll through social media now and witness a profile of a fifteen year old female who only posts pictures of herself in swimsuits, a seventeen year old female who’s posts are so filtered and her face laden heavily with make-up that she looks unrecognizable. Then I have the sixteen year old male who’s posts are riddled with him posing with premium bottles of alcohol and a twelve year old boy who every single picture is throwing up gun poses and crude gestures. On the flip side in the real world in my office, I have the other teenage girls in tears, because they don’t have the same life as their friends, they don’t get to go out without their parents, or they aren’t allowed to post pictures without their parents approval. These young ladies are feeling beneath their friends because they feel like they don’t fit in with their peers, their lives are, “lame” in comparison. Or I have the teenage boys who are seeking therapy because they feel awkward, they don’t like the partying lifestyle or the “gangster” lifestyle that their peers are into.
Is this what these students base their entire selves on? Pictures? Pictures that have been so heavily filtered, air brushed, sides taken-in, abs airbrushed on, all the imperfections removed, fake props, fake poses. Or Pictures that have to be posted on a Sunday evening and have to receive over one hundred likes for them to remain on their profile? Our students of today are basing their self-worth on false pictures. And even if you ask them they will tell you they know they aren’t a true representation of reality. Yet they still strive for that impossible perfection.
Parents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, we need to help change the narrative of the youth today. Remind them that they are so much more than a couple of likes or a couple of views on their social media profiles. Let them know that they are so much more than what they can take a picture of or how good they can angle their bodies in a pose. Take it back to the old school days of values…WAY back in the early 2000’s when all cell-phones were good for were getting into contact with others on the go.
Let’s remind the youth that their self worth is how they can be themselves everyday:
- Can you carry-on a conversation with not only your peers but adults as well?
- When you are representing your parents in the real-world are you respectful and well-mannered?
- Are you trying your very best everyday whether it be in academics, sports or extracurricular activities?
- Do you have dreams and aspirations that you are working on diligently, setting life and professional goals?
- Are you showing up to school, even if it’s difficult at times, but you are there trying?
- Are you a good friend, person, son/daughter, citizen of this country?
These are the different personality characteristics that make you who you are. These traits enable you to go out into the world a strong and confident person. Image can only take you so far, as cliché as it sounds, in the real world you need a lot more than looks to get through life successfully. Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. let those teenagers in your circle know when you are proud of them. Raise them up when they do even the “little” things that make you proud. Take conversations further than the surface-level of appearances. Take a minute to also evaluate how you as an adult speak – are you always talking about your weight, obsessing over exercise, talking about materialism as it is your end all and be all? Lots of time our children are a reflection of what they have absorbed over the years and your conversations feeds into that unrealistic social media obsession.
Lastly, talk to your teenagers, and if you can, check-in on their social media use, comments, direct messages that are received. There are those keyboard batons, as I like to call them, or trolls, who obsessively try to pull others down and say awful things. Those cyber bullies can wreak havoc on a child’s self-esteem. The students of today don’t get a break from bullying, it can follow them home in their phone and through their computers. Keep open conversations. Have social media holidays where everyone un-plugs or suspends their accounts and actually live in the moment, the reality that they are supposed to be in – not a social media reality.
If you do have concerns about your child’s self-esteem or think they are a victim of cyber-bullying do not hesitate to reach out to the professionals for assistance.