Headlines show that a growing number of tweens and teens are using websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in order to ask "friends “or even worse— complete strangers— about their level of attractiveness. They are displaying their insecurities online in the hopes that someone will tell them that they're perfect the way that they are. Some bluntly broadcast questions like "Am I pretty? Am I ugly? I can take it you can tell me"; while others choose to post photos (some even with suggestive poses) in order to encourage a flow of steady compliments.
While studies have already proven that Facebook in particular is a playground for the vain and those who suffer with low self- esteem, these kind of sites can ruin a person's self-esteem even further. How so? People are cruel—sometimes even more cruel that necessary because they can have the power of hiding behind a computer and have the luxury of never being confronted in real life. That said, some feel like they can say anything and instead of giving compliments, some people tend to give negative feedback and harsh criticism that can ultimately destroy an already fragile individual. Take these snarky comments that were posted after an 80 pound, 12-year-old girl who was more than likely seeking affirmation that she was in fact thin and pretty created a video inviting anyone to state whether they thought she was ugly or not:
"UR ugly as sh**"
· "Ugly on the inside, because you're an attention wh**e"
· "No you are not ugly but you are a very, very dumb girl!!! You're incredibl[y] stupid"
Mind you, the young girl asking strangers to comment on her looks explicitly says in the introduction of the video "I think I'm ugly and fat"—this comment in itself is an invitation for people to agree with her own sentiments. The video, which was created in December of 2010, has received more than 4 million views. The video may be more than a year old but there are tons of videos just like it floating in cyberspace that are created all the time—and they are not only exclusively made my females either. There are a few young boys who use the internet to seek affirmation as well.
All of the girls and boys who use social media as an esteem-booster are obviously are perfect just as they are. But often times they forget. It's a parent's responsibility to raise their child in a way that they don’t feel the need to seek public affirmation on the Web. After all, if not corrected, low self-esteem can lead to much serious conditions such as eating disorders, depression or sometimes sadly, suicide. That said, below are some tips that a parent can take to slowly start building their child's self-esteem.
Reassure Your Child of His/Her Beauty
One of the main reasons that your child may not think he or she is attractive is because they don't get enough compliments from the person that is supposed to love him or her unconditionally—the parents. Your child may grow up thinking, "If my own parents don’t think I'm pretty then who else will?" Tell your child that he or she is beautiful as often as you can—especially if your child is a tween and just getting in touch with his or her identity. At this time your child may go through a variety of "changes" on the journey of self-discovery—hair color changes, wardrobe changes, etc. While some of the changes might be a bit more drastic than others, try to refrain from telling your child, "I think it looks ugly" or "You looked better before." Assure your child that he or she is beautiful inside and out and let your child find his or her own way.
Never Pick on Yourself Around Your Child
There may come a time where you, the parent, have some doubts about your own physical appearance—maybe you gained some weight and don’t quite like how you're pants are fitting. Whatever you're unhappy about, do your absolute best not to judge yourself in front of your child. Children pick up more than you may think, and if your child sees you downsizing yourself he or she will most likely do it too and find things to nick pick about themselves. Instead, try to be as confident as you can in front of your child and talk about the features that you love about yourself, even if it's something simple like your eyelashes, nose or smile.
Give Personal Stories of Own Struggles with Self Esteem
Everyone has suffered from low self-esteem issues every now and then. Be open and share these stories with your child while also including how you overcame your insecurities. This is a great way to encourage an open and honest conversation with your child so that he or she can tell you what's really going on in their lives. *Note: You want your conversations to be as natural as possible. Don’t lead with, "I read an article that said a growing number of teens are posting insecure YouTube videos. Are you one of them?" Your child will just shut down.
Get Involved with Your Child's Internet Activity
Lastly, but most importantly you need to get involved and monitor your child's internet activity. Don't think because there is only one computer in the family room that your child is doing nothing wrong—he or she can use a computer elsewhere, such as their friend's house. However, having a computer that is in an area where you can glance and check on your child's activity is a start. Go a step further by "friending" your child on Facebook so you know what kind of statuses and photos your child is posting. But don't be naïve about the way Facebook works either—know that your child can block you from seeing certain albums and statuses. Follow your child on Twitter as well as on YouTube so you can monitor their activity there as well. And don't forget about Google—search for your child's name every so often to ensure that their privacy isn't being jeopardized in any way—no public images, videos, etc.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes on education. She can be reached at blauren99 @gmail.com.