Here's a very interesting read on the rise of sexualization of young teenage girls in social media: http://time.com/americangirls/
A lot of what teens are doing today stems from the unconscious messages they receive from the media. With the rise of cellphones and social media apps, girls’ access to these unhealthy messages is only amplified and increased, resulting in many girls taking more sexualized photos of themselves in an effort to “get likes” and validation.
Teen years are developmentally characterized by the desire to exert one’s individuality and independence along with validation for that individuality. “Accompanying the boom in selfie culture is a rise in competitive spirit, as well as a disturbing trend of sexualization. Likes, hearts, swipes—validation is only a tap away. And one of the easiest ways to get that validation is by looking hot. Sex sells, whether you’re 13 or 35.” When we were growing up, we did versions of this too. For me, it was wearing tight or revealing clothing and flirting on AOL Instant Messenger. For you, it may have been sneaking out or making out at school. But with kids' unlimited access to their phones and media, this sexualization is escalating and this need for validation is only getting worse.
That’s why it’s important to not only understand the media’s messages, but also to have these conversations with your daughter. That way she can make conscious and healthy choices about what she chooses to share and post on social media. That way she realizes that she doesn’t need followers, “likes,” or views in order to gain attention and love. She is more than good enough just as she is.
It’s also important to reasonably limit her access and use of social media websites along with having open conversations on what's safe to post, what to stay away from, etc. She is not yet an adult with a fully developed brain who can think through long-term consequences. When she has boundaries and conversations around social media etiquette, she can make more informed decisions.
Again, the more conversations, the better! And a great way to start the convo is to start by watching the documentary Miss Representation with her or reading this article about a teen Instagram star who announced she was quitting social media: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/03/instagram-star-essena-oneill-quits-2d-life-to-reveal-true-story-behind-images
So I invite you: Ask your daughter why she likes Instagram and Snapchat, as well as what types of things she follows and why. Ask her what her friends or other people at school post on social media and what she thinks about that.
Finally, how do you handle this conversation with your daughter? Is this something you talk about even with the eye rolls? How do you bring these conversations up and do you have any questions you ask that seem to work well? I’d love to hear!
I am a teen-empowerment coach. I work with teen girls, ages 14-17, who struggle with self-acceptance, perfectionism, seeking attention from others, and deep sadness or anger.