rate me selfies

The selfie kids: Is this the best we can do to build self-esteem?

Are todays kids all about selfie poses and narcissistic self gratification?

One only needs to scroll through an Instagram feed or check out the Facebook or Ask.Fm timelines of a few kids to see a pattern of egocentricity that permeates the social networking sites of todays adolescents.

Is it that todays kids are different to those of years gone by? Or do they just have so many more platforms available to put themselves on show?

On photo sharing apps we are bombarded with selfie after pouting selfie poses to get the attention and praise from mates and strangers who respond with a “you’re so gorgeous, you are the prettiest EVA”…thus fuelling the need to keep adding more and more pouts. We see other posts that ask all and sundry to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 for their sporting ability, their looks, their friendship. Then there are sites like ask.fm and qooh.me that kids flock to in droves, asking an often anonymous public to question them on absolutely anything. They reveal their inner most secrets for others to gush over……or alternatively ‘rip into’, which we know is the all too familiar negative consequence of putting yourself out there.

There are certainly many kids that are not feeling this need or are far more cautious about how much they expose of themselves. I spoke to a 14 year old recently who said it was “social suicide” to put yourself on ask.fm, or qooh.me as you were “pretty much opening yourself up to potential ridicule”. Many kids are able have a better understanding of just how much to take from these online interactions. They know what to take or leave and are able to move on. But for those that base their very worth on the digital persona they put forward, the consequences can be far more destructive.

And is seems there are still millions of kids that are up for the gamble, believing the benefits may outweigh the risks.

We know kids can’t have changed that much in what they want out of life. Adolescents is a challenging time for self esteem and finding your place in the world…particularly amongst your friends and peers. So is it any wonder that they use these apps and social networking sites to help achieve that social standing?

But shouldn’t we as parents be trying harder to equip them with the confidence and self esteem from other areas of their lives so that they feel they don’t need these external sources of lifting them up?

I think we need to keep having these conversations with our kids about separating themselves from their online persona. We need to let them know that there is more to building self esteem, confidence and your place in the world than having some stranger form cyberspace telling you that you are pretty. We need to continue to have boundaries and time limits with their screen time whilst they are young and we have control over what they are doing. We need to continue to encourage pursuits away from the online world and relish these achievements and efforts. We need to continue to nurture and engage positive personal interactions that dont rely on likes and followers.

There is a lot to gain from the communication that takes place online. There is a chance to build this very self esteem, display achievements and get friendship, support and positive reinforcement. But we must be careful not to let this space be the only source of their social worth and standing.

What are your thoughts? Do you think kids are more self absorbed today? Is it just that they have the means? Or should we as parents be doing more?

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Fiona - iRespectOnline

    Great post and such an important issue. I actually don’t think our kids are particularly more self absorbed, but we are able to track behaviour with much more detail in the past. I do feel that many children, as much as we as parents like to think we give our kids everything – they are missing out on validation in their lives which forces them to seek it. Many of the teens on ask.fm seem to have lots of issues of low self esteem long before they find the site. Is our ultra busy lifestyle to blame? So often parents are working, then they are tired, meals are eaten away from the table, computers and tv’s and tablets are kept on. Sadly we often put our children’s need for attention AFTER that mobile phone call, or post that we just had to make , many parents themselves are seeking validation online and they demonstrate to their children poor social media etiquette by engaging in negative ways online themselves. We have much to do, to ensure that our children feel that they are enough.. without seeking gratification from “fans” who are really strangers.

    1. Martine

      Thanks for your great comment Fiona, and I wholeheartedly agree. There certainly does appear to be lots of kids with low self esteem issues. Sometimes I think they are genuine in their cries for help or validation….but sometimes too I think their is an element of ‘loving the drama’. And I believe that maybe comes back to not getting the proper attention elsewhere. I do think too that our busy lifestyles may be playing a part. Love your blog too and all you are doing.

  2. I really struggle with this one and I wonder how our teens will survive when they leave this bubble of “you’re so gorgeous” the real world bites. I was at a year 12 graduation recently and they did kids photos from year 7-12, I noticed at year 10 a lot of them started losing a lot of weight. Is this peer pressure and social media? Could this lead to even more self esteem/eating disorder/happiness issues? Or is it a good thing that kids are making better choices? Everyone wants a bit of praise right?!

    1. Martine

      I think wanting praise is ok, but we need to be careful about what we are praising them for ie praising them for looking great because they lost weight is not so beneficial as praising them for other healthier achievements. I think peer pressure to look a certain way has probably always existed, but the access to even more judgement is probably elevated by the online world.

  3. Miss Cinders

    I’ve said it before when you’ve touched on kids and social media, that it freaks me out. So far I have made it through without any of mine joining ask.fm (that I know of). Miss 17 thinks it should be shut down, and I agree with her.

    Something I think should be readily available to parents is a parental control on modems and/or routers to block these sites from our kids if we feel we need to. I know my router is supposed to have this option, but unfortunately it doesn’t work, it just blocks the whole internet 🙁

    I guess one of the best gifts we can give our kids is teaching them that beauty isn’t what is on the outside. I know I have done my best to get my kids to understand this, and most of them do.

    MC xo

    1. Martine

      Certainly there can be lots of things to ‘fear’ and there are always horror stories. There will also always be sites that are negative and inappropriate, however banning one will only probably make way for another. The kids move around these sites quicker than most of us can keep up. That is why I always advocate for teaching and guiding our kids on how to responsibly interact online so they can be safe on all sites.

  4. Alicia

    Some kids just spend too much of their home time, or family time, in front of a computer or on the phone. There has to be a balance. I have a young person on my FB that always posts, like for a rate. I haven’t taken much notice to see what the outcome is, or what that exactly means, maybe I should take more notice. I have no idea about ask.fm either.

    1. Martine

      Certainly the amount of time spent online needs to be monitored, which is obviously a lot easier when our children are young. Once they get older it is a lot harder, so we need to make sure the behaviours have been instilled early.

  5. Emily

    It’s such a chicken/egg conundrum. Are kids more egotistical, or is it just easier to see now? I don’t know the answer. It’s certainly easier to ridicule and bully, more often, on a larger scale. Scary times for some.

    I hadn’t even heard of some of these websites. Mine are too young, but I’m sure I’ll get to know it all. It’ll be something ‘new’ and ‘different’ by then, no doubt!

  6. Janet @ Redland City Living

    I sometimes want to cover my eyes when I see some of the selfies of Miss 16 and her friends on FB etc … we do talk to our kids often about the importance of remembering that once something is on the net, it’s there FOREVER, it could damage their career prospects etc. Not sure how much goes in though!


    I don’t think they’re necessarily more self-absorbed just that they have so many means of seeking validation and sadly, how they look seem to be the only thing the media is telling them that is important. My husbands 12 year old niece is constantly posting selfies with “Like for looks” on her FB page and it distresses me that this is the sum total of her self worth. And that her mum is one of the people who “likes” it. As the mother of a son and a daughter I’m trying to teach both my kids that they are smart, kind, fun and loving and that it is these things that make them fabulous… if only the media would back me up!

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