Social media has made it easier for everyone to connect, but it has also distorted how we view the world and ourselves. Filters, image crafting, and algorithmic bias make it seem like so many people online are living amazing lives and always looking picture-perfect, but that’s far from the truth.
Because of social media, more teenagers suffer from poor body image, leading to body dysmorphia and severe mental health issues like eating disorders and depression.
To help your teenager feel more confident about their body and themselves, try these tips.
1) Encourage Real-life Connections
Social media is designed to keep people constantly scrolling and clicking. Basically it’s designed to be highly addictive and give people serotonin boosts through engaging sounds and like buttons.
Instead of building real-life connections, teens are staring at their phones for long periods of time and texting instead of talking. Even if they’re texting someone they know in real life, it’s not the same as being with that person face-to-face.
People need physical touch and to physically be around people. It’s just how we’re wired, so if a teen does not get enough real-life socialization, they are more likely to feel isolated and lonely and will rely on social media to connect to others, which is a more superficial connection that focuses more on looks and image than on someone’s inner beauty.
By encouraging your teen to make real-life connections, your teen will place less emphasis on physical appearance and will see the value in connecting with others based on common interests, values, personality, and experiences.
You can encourage your teen to make real-life connections by suggesting that they do some screen-free activities with friends, join a sports team or club, sign up for a fun class, volunteer, travel, or advocate for a cause they believe in.
2) Teach Self-Love & Body Positivity Early
The first six years of a child’s life are a crucial period for developing healthy habits and mindsets that can have a lasting impact. That’s why it’s important to teach your child how to love themselves and their body as soon as they begin to talk.
When kids are learning about their bodies, they should also learn to talk positively about their bodies by saying, “I love my ____.” You should also always tell your child that they’re beautiful just the way they are. Even if it sounds cheesy, they need to hear it!
As your child grows into a teenager, the foundation for their mindset and habits has already been established, including their attitudes towards their body. If you didn’t promote a body-positive attitude in your child earlier in life, it’s still possible to help them shift their mindset towards a more positive self-image. However, this will require consistent effort and may take more time for them to truly see themselves in a more positive light.
Teenagers need to learn to focus on what they love about themselves instead of fixating on things they don’t like. They can start by writing down a list of all the things they like about themselves, including their intellect, personality, mindset, actions, and physical attributes.
Whenever your teen feels ugly or like they’re not good enough, they can look over that list and read it aloud to remind themselves how amazing they truly are.
Praise your teen’s talents and accomplishments, and avoid making too many remarks about their looks. If you do compliment your teen’s looks, make sure it will be viewed positively and won’t add pressure on your teen to look a certain way. And also make it clear that looks are not everything and that their character and inner qualities are much more important and are what truly makes them beautiful.
3) Teach Media Literacy
Your teenager should be media literate and should be aware that they need to fact-check information that they see on the internet using different reputable resources and that many images they see online, especially of really good-looking people, have been doctored in some way.
Hopefully, your teenager is taking a media literacy course at school. If not, you will need to teach them yourself. Start by asking them questions about what sites and apps they like and what kinds of people they’re following.
Even if your teenager is taking a media literacy class at school, it’s important to know what kinds of accounts your teen is following so that you can talk to them about the positives and negatives of consuming that content and make sure they notice when images are doctored or when something is fake.
4) Focus on Health, Not Weight
Encourage your teen to eat healthy and exercise, but don’t tell them that they need to do these things to be a certain weight or to look more attractive. Instead, focus on how eating healthy and exercising can improve their mood and make them healthier.
5) Celebrate Diversity and Uniqueness
Teach your teenager how to appreciate and celebrate people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, cultures, and abilities by exposing them to a diverse range of experiences and perspectives.
You can encourage them to learn about different cultures by introducing them to diverse literature, films, music, and art, and by attending cultural events or festivals together as a family. Traveling to another country is also a great way to teach your teenager to appreciate other cultures, or you can host a foreign exchange student in your home.
6) Avoid Triggering Content & Unplug
If your teen follows people who are really conventionally attractive, they should unfollow them if viewing their content makes them feel bad about their own appearance. There isn’t only one way to be beautiful, so your teen should be following people who are different body types, ethnicities, and cultures so that they have a more realistic perspective on how people look.
Encourage your teenager to unplug and take social media breaks as often as possible for as long as possible. Have weekly screen-free family time during family meals and activities. Encourage your teenager to have their own screen-free time to have their phone off and do something else like their favorite hobby or having a spa day with friends.
You can have a family challenge to see who can stay off social media the longest. The winner can choose the next family activity or even where the family goes on their next vacation. The prize should be an experience and not a monetary reward.
7) Model Body Positivity
If you’re hard on yourself and constantly making negative statements about your looks, your teenager will most likely end up doing the same. If you want your teen to love themselves and their body, you need to love yourself and your body first!
In today’s society, maintaining a positive body image can be challenging due to the pervasive influence of social media. However, you can help your teenager develop healthy habits and instill values of self-love and body positivity by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty and enjoying real-life experiences with friends and loved ones.