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Curbing Social Media’s Effect on Girls

SocialMediaGirlsI’ve talked at length about getting out of the comparison trap as a mom. It’s so easy to compare yourself to the mom down the street who looks like she has it all together and it’s easy to feel “less than” when you’re feeling like you can barely keep your kids from splashing in the toilet or from knocking pictures off the wall — never mind be able to put on lipstick. It’s easier than ever to be able to seek out ways to compare yourself to others. From Instagram to Pinterest to Facebook, there is just so much content out there … so much to be consumed … that it’s actually a challenge to stay away from its influences — especially for young kids.

It turns out it’s not just me comparing my crafting skills to Pinterest-perfect creations. Studies are now looking at how social media affects body image  in young girls. In a recent study I discussed recently over on Babble, adolescent girls were surveyed about their Facebook habits and body image. Results of the research suggested that it wasn’t total time spent on Facebook or the internet, but the amount of Facebook time specifically spent on photo activity that is associated with greater thin ideal internalization, self-objectification, weight dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. It’s hard to determine whether those with body image issues are drawn to looking at images on social media or if images influence body image issues, but researchers speculate that both factors may be at play here.

Girls are always going to compare themselves to other girls. Teenagers are always going to flip through magazines and wish for that perfect (likely airbrushed) hair. But beyond TV and magazines and movies, girls have another source always at the ready with their friends’ photos. So how do we teach girls to accept themselves and embrace themselves for who they are, not what they look like? I discussed it some in the post, but I think it starts with moms. It starts with how moms treat themselves and their bodies, how we discuss food and exercise, and the words we use when talking about ourselves. And it continues with making our girls feel strong and healthy themselves, confident in their abilities and brains and talent. And it continues with getting girls out there to experience life and get active. After all, it’s way harder to compare your thighs to someone else’s when you’re out there using them to run fast or jump high.

Does social media get you into a comparison trap? Do you limit your kids’ social media consumption? —Erin

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