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By Beth Brown

Creating confident kids in a digital world filled with filtered social media images and messages of perfection has become increasingly difficult. With a growing number of kids on social media starting as young as 7 years old, it’s important to consider the future implications. 


Filters vs. Reality

Many people’s social media profiles appear perfect. Distinguishing between what is real and what is not has become challenging for kids who often view social media as reality. In fact, 63% of parents reported concerns around kids being able to tell what information is real or fake.


Early Risks

As early as age 8, kids are starting to establish their self-worth. By the time they're approaching and into their teens, the opinions of peers become more important than those of parents. Consequently, it’s no surprise self-esteem and body confidence can plummet when social media is used to determine popularity based on likes and comments.


With an overload of social comparison at their fingertips, it makes sense that kids who spend more than 2 hours a day on social media are at a higher risk for mental health issues, especially depression. With a reported 80% of 13-year-olds editing their selfies, social media pressure needs to be taken seriously by every adult who has influence over young people. 


Model C.A.R.E.

Social media is here to stay. With that in mind, consider using C.A.R.E.™ to help kids create and maintain their confidence and self-esteem.


C – Communicate consistently

For children under the age of 11, determine if they’re ready for social media. Age doesn’t always equal maturity.  If you aren’t sure, experiment with a trial period and clearly state expectations and consequences.

Communicate potential positives and negatives of social media. Discuss what is true and false and how filters change images and appearance.  Talk about selfies and how those could have a negative impact on body confidence. 


Once children are on social media, keep communication open and consider having a weekly check-in to review what they’re seeing, how they’re feeling, and if social media is helping or hurting them.


A – Appreciate yourself

 Be a role model for appreciating yourself by:

  • Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  • Avoiding the use of self-deprecating remarks about your appearance.

  • Help kids appreciate their unique value by asking questions like:

  • What are your strengths, special skills, and qualities?

  • How can you make a unique contribution to the world?

  • Use activities from the Dove Confidence Kit to talk with kids about what their bodies can do rather than how their bodies look. If you’re a coach, lead your team through the Strong Teammate Activity which involves asking team members to write down 2-3 strengths they bring to the team and one strength for each of their teammates. 


R – Restrict accessibility and reduce usage

Phones, apps, and social media are engineered to get us hooked. One former product engineer for Google used the term “brain hacking” and compared cell phones to slot machines. A social media executive has talked openly about how platforms are designed to trigger dopamine-driven feedback loops that have the potential to turn all of us, including kids, into social media addicts. 


Suggestions to restrict accessibility and reduce usage of social media by kids include:

  • Keep social media use under 2 hours/day.

  • Create a personalized family social media plan to include the purpose and quantity of usage. 

  • Utilize parental controls on social media apps.

  • For kids under that age of 11, only allow use of apps their school recommends.

  • Set the in-app timers on Instagram and TikTok.


E – Emphasize self-improvement and effort

To help kids create confidence, one of the most impactful things we can do is encourage them to focus on self-improvement, which is how they’re doing in comparison to themselves rather than others.


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