Are likes, followers, shares and comments the new currency for self esteem? Must every child’s friendship be legitimised with a selfie proclaiming BFF status? Are kids placing their very self worth on the accumulation of affirming ‘friends’ they have neither seen nor spoken to?
With our kids relying increasingly on social networking sites for much of their socialisation, connection and sense of belonging, it appears that for many kids, too much of their self worth is being hinged on their online popularity. Nothing knew of course. Kids have always wanted to belong, to be popular and to be liked. That hasn’t altered. But of course with this new playing field, the medium and scope of people they need to be ‘liked’ by has certainly changed.
Maybe it is adults themselves who are fuelling this with their own need to seek out constant affirmation? With their retelling of every emotion, photographing of every meal, describing every whinge, success, thought and daily trials in great detail to be consumed and affirmed by others? If so, it would seem that our kids havn’t become more narcissistic as is the common belief, but instead it is something we have always craved, only now we have the means to get attention more quickly and from a vastly greater audience.
Recently I had someone tell me about their daughters best friend not speaking to her daughter as she had failed to comment on a picture of the two of them together. This neglect to scroll through her feed over a 2 day period was viewed as a dismissal of the relationship. The lack of a ‘like’ resulted in the near disintegration of a schoolgirl friendship. This friend obviously didn’t have the confidence in their relationship to think she may have just neglected to check that particular feed, nor the skills to speak to her friend first to see if everything was OK.
What we are seeing is a generation, and a generation to come, who are feeling the pressures of keeping up with their online persona. They are becoming exhausted by a constant need to share to be liked, to upload to be followed and to comment to make a statement legitimate.
There are however many adults and children who are not so ruled by this. They have confidence to ignore judgement, resilience to turn a blind eye to the haters, enough achievements outside of the online world to enjoy their pursuits and good solid real life relationships based on mutual respect and intimacy rather than just the online banter.
This is what we should be aiming for, for all our kids.
Self esteem that supersedes anything that needs validation online. They can use the online space to connect and interact, but it must be with a background of confidence, discipline and resilience. So how do we do this?
We know that praise alone does not help build self esteem. In fact we are finding that a ‘praise only’ mentality is having more detrimental effects to the self esteem of our kids.
Recently Dr Tim Elmore looked further in to this building of self esteem and found that the very best way to build self esteem in our kids requires parents to be both:
1. Responsive: Encouragement, belief, understanding and support.
2. Demanding: Setting standards and holding kids accountable to them.
So as parents we must continue to encourage our kids endeavours whilst praising real achievements. We must give them chores, teach them skills, allow them to take risks and make mistakes. We must make real effort to understand their world so we can help be the support they need and to remain relevant to their lives. We must encourage pursuits that help them shine away from the screens and give them a sense of community and belonging. We must continue to have boundaries in place that demand respect. Respecting others and respecting themselves.
We need them to rely upon themselves, so that anything that happens online is an extension of their life and connections, not the sole source of their self worth.