Father and son walking together.

Instagram Can Affect Teens’ Self-Image. Here’s How Parents Can Help.

by Screen Time Team on 27/02/2019
Teenager taking a selfie.

Talk About Social Pressure

Particularly when it comes to body image, which the majority of studies on Instagram focus upon, Instagram can be yet another venue for near-constant social pressure. After all, on TV, in ads, on movie screens, anywhere there’s an image, there’s usually a toned model or worse, a perfectly normal person presented as less than desirable.

Have a heart-to-heart about social pressure and the roots behind it. One point your kids need to have reinforced is that in many cases, those “perfect” Instagrammers are trying to sell them something, and that they achieve their apparent “perfection” by using layers of filters, make-up, and special lighting to present a false image. Many famous Instagram personalities would likely be unrecognizable on the street, because their online image is so highly processed and curated.

Limit Time On Instagram

In some cases, just the act of using Instagram can affect your self-esteem. Studies have found that the constant, endless scroll of perfection can eat at your happiness, while simultaneously being addictive. Even if you only follow people you know, consider this: When you post about your family, do you ever include, say, a disappointing report card? If you’re talking about work, do you post a selfie with the boss who just told you to shape up or ship out? Probably not, because you don’t want to talk about it. But neither does anybody else, and over time, that reinforces the idea that you’re the only one without a perfect family, body, and job.

Your children should understand that Instagram is designed to drip-feed them things they want to see, so that they’ll keep scrolling. Point out this behavior; for example, you might use parental control apps for cell phones to limit Instagram time to a certain number of minutes a day, and they can observe how they feel afterwards.

Father and son walking together.

Unfollow And Block

It’s also worth looking at who your family is following on Instagram and ask whether they present a healthy worldview to anybody, teenager or not. Instagram is, to a strong degree, about wish fulfillment and longing. You can quite literally look, but never touch. This can be catered to in healthy ways, like food photography that includes a recipe and encouragement, or in negative ways, such as a photograph of an expensive dinner gloating about the cost.

Look for the more toxic examples of Instagram posting and ask your teen to unfollow and even block them. Make it clear why you’re asking, and lay out what worries you about the feed. Parental control apps can’t do the parenting for you, but they can help reinforce the boundaries you set for your children.

Focus On Real-Life Challenges And Achievements

Finally, when they want to post on Instagram, or look for people to follow, look to real-life challenges and how they were overcome. Encourage your kids to learn a new skill, share a book they love, or something else that’s positive without being unreachable for others. A kind spirit does far more good in the world than a good selfie filter.

Need help controlling your teen’s Instagram habit? We can help.  Contact us to learn more about Screen Time.

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