I smiled, listening to my friend talk about her tween daughter and her daughter’s friend. The girls were entertaining themselves by taking selfies and filming videos on their phone.
Inside, my heart sank at the new playtimes of selfies, videos, Instagram, and Youtube posts. It’s not a passing fad. It’s the new normal for girls raised in the digital culture.
As a parent, I’m constantly stepping to back to weigh new options my kids have which were nonexistent for other generations. I’ve learned to consider the overall moral and spiritual implications of things before deciding what my kids can or can’t do.
We moms need to consider how the new culture of digital and social media impacts our daughters.
Their generation is the first whose lives are openly public because of social media. Parents of girls ten and younger have been posting their children’s lives online for almost a decade. Because we don’t know the long-term implication of this “new normal,” as a parent, counselor, and educator for kids and teens, I pose six questions to consider as we raise girls in an instant-media culture.
1. Is my daughter’s playtime balanced between technology and electronic-free play? Balanced play is crucial for brain development, problem solving, creative and academic development. Girls of any age still need to explore their tangible surroundings, both by themselves and with friends.
2. Is my daughter looking to digital and social media for affirmation and identity? From age 10-14, there’s a delicate balance in a girl’s inner life as she separates from her family and becomes an individual with interests, personality and thoughts all her own. It normally happens in the vacuum of home, school, and peers. Now there’s a new layer – social and digital media.
I wonder how identity and self-esteem will impact girls with a steady stream of Instagram photos and Youtube channels of both her and her peers. Will beliefs about herself come from selfies, comments, “likes,” or lack of them? If a girl routinely sees herself in staged photos or videos shared with others, how will that impact her understanding of who she is?
3. How will living her life in front of others impact her? It’s normal for a girl’s “I look great” moments to go public; how does posting personal moments influence her idea of privacy, intrinsic moments, and social acceptance? We don’t yet know the impact of instant-media-attention on their generation. How it will also affect personal, social, and cultural norms when selfie girls become selfie parents?
4. How is body-image affected by girls who post and compare pictures of their bodies and others? A fourteen, I despised my body compared to my beauty-queen friend. I lost twenty-five pounds. I believed I was only acceptable when my skeleton-figure was thinner than anyone else. I battled an eating disorder and it’s effects most of my life. That was before social media. Here’s what happening to girls and social media.
That’s a big concern.
5. Is seduction the expected look your daughter is seeking? This is probably the gravest reality for the selfie-generation. The pouty lip, no-smile and tongue-hanging-out photos speak nothing but sensual and sexuality. As a mom of boys, I’m saddened and alarmed when girls, as young as 7-10, post photos with these looks rather than genuine smiles. With porn, child pornography and sex trafficking on the rise, normalizing or encouraging these poses and photos of our daughters should be taken seriously.
Their identity, self-worth, and image of womanhood is sacred – it should not be sacrificed for sensuality.
6. How does “all of this” affect friendships for our daughters? Girls are increasingly vicious to one another in and outside of school through social media. As a counselor to 10-12 year olds, I increasingly hear girls call one another “whores” and “sluts” when someone “steals” another’s boyfriend or posts a photo that looks seductive, even if it’s not intended that way. Because digital media allows girls to post every thought online, regular girl drama has another level, adding more insecurity and mistrust to developing relationships.
As moms in this generation, the unknown implications of digital media should be taken the heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit guides in understanding how these things affect your daughter’s social, moral, and identity development. In considering these areas, what is the Holy Spirit saying to you about the impact of digital media in her life?
Ask Him – He will tell you!