A recent article in The Guardian explored the link between girls’ use of social media and an increase in depression and anxiety. Many things came up; poor sleep habits, comparison, likes as a form of validation, and young people being anxious about their online image.
There was a lot of call to social media giants to take responsibility and action. Whilst I don’t disagree, I also believe that it is important that we teach our young people how to have a healthy relationship with social media. It’s essential that they remain in control, that social media serves them and not the other way around.
So how do we do this?
If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I talk a lot about kids finding their ‘spark’. I first came across this idea when I read Steve Bidulph’s ‘Raising Girls’. He talks about girls needed to have their ‘spark’, the thing that brings them joy and helps them to find their place in the world, nurtured and ignited in their early teen years. Based on research initially carried out by Dr Peter Benson, a leading expert on adolescence, children with sparks do better at school, are happier and confident, engage well with adults and so on. Although their spark may change as they get older, it is
your way of being in the world- artist, creator, writer, athlete, leader, carer, inventor, mystic, activist - this is your deep self, and that fire will keep you alive and sparkling until the end of your days.
So where does social media fit in? Is it helping to keep the spark alight or is it putting it out? Too much time on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and following people who trigger comparisonitis could be keeping it dim. By talking to your daughter about the benefits of curating their own feed, treating it like a magazine they want to read, could help keep their spark lit. Because if they follow people who share the same interests it can give her a different group ‘friends’ than the ones she met at school and has stuck with whilst her interests and beliefs have developed and grown.
With social media she has the opportunity to find a group of like-minded people who will support her passions and cheer her on.
We can never fully replace face-to-face contact and real life social interaction. But whilst social media is here to stay for a while then we have to find a way to make it a positive experience for girls (and boys too!) We ate the last generation to remember what life was like before it, and they are the first to not know a life without it. They are the pioneers; they will make mistakes. What we can do is give them guidance and support so they can charter their own course.