Snap. Tweet. Post. Repost. Like. #Hashtag. These are the social media verbs that you’ve probably heard mentioned on a daily bases. Girls are fascinated and obsessed with social media. If you ever want to connect with her and don’t quite know how to enter her world, ask her about her online life. She’ll light up as she shares what she’s been posting, how many ‘likes’ she’s getting, and the length of her Snapchat streak.
Social media and connecting through Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook has become popular beyond measure and a growing girl’s best friend. Around age 9 (if not younger) a littler girl is begging for a phone of her own so she can explore the virtual world and without a phone, she’ll complain how left out and disconnected she feels. She may have a point.
Social media provides fun, entertainment, instant communication, and yes, on some level, connection. Everyone is doing it. However, girls (and you) need to be very aware of the corresponding drama and damage that can come with this modern method of communicating.
Social media brings drama:
As I am sure you are aware, social media sites make online bullying very easy – in just a click a girl can become devastated and her reputation ruined. Girls don’t always think before they type and do not have to be accountable for their words – as detrimental as they can be. Being mean (and being hurt) is made so easy on social media sites.
There’s also so much misunderstanding and miscommunication. Drama is created by girls who don’t consider that what they post may not be what is meant and that tone of voice is a really important part of communicating – something she’ll never get on social media. Real time to talk and to work through problems is not the same as texting, messaging, or snapping, virtually.
Social media can be damaging:
Seeing a mean comment, being tagged in an awkward looking photo opportunity, or not getting enough ‘likes’ can really negatively affect girls’ feelings. This not only damages their self-esteem and sense of worth but also friendships, reputations, and boundaries. Girls are looking for connection through social media and yet they are feeling less connected than ever before.
I know this is a battle you may not have the energy to fight, so here are some ideas for what you can do to navigate social media and find balance while protecting and supporting girls – one small step at a time:
- Talk to her about her social media time and set limitations.
- Create guidelines around what sites are safe for her.
- Anticipate potential damage and create some action steps. For example, what if she is on the receiving end of girl nastiness or what if she is being bullied. She needs to be able to know what to do and who to turn to.
- Reinforce that social media time is not real connecting and will never give her the same feeling of connecting in real time. Ask her to gauge the difference when she texts a friend vs. spending time with a friend.
- Social media can cause anxiety and be a real trigger for feelings of: not being good enough, jealousy and envy, fear, and loneliness – ask her to identify what triggers her to increase her own awareness.
- Social media can really curtail focus, attention, and concentration – this means she needs to single-task. When she is using social media – that all she should be doing. When she is doing homework – that is all she should be doing. No multi-tasking!
- Remind her that what she posts leaves a forever, digital footprint. What is posted cannot be taken back.
- Talk to her about privacy and not over-sharing or being too known. There is something so precious about being a little mysterious.
- Teach her that social media addiction is no different than gambling – when we “win” our bodies get a dopamine hit (the feel good hormone) and we want that feeling again. As her to experiment – trying a day without social media to see how she feels (she may be surprised)
Social media is fast becoming a girl’s best friend, her happy place, and her stress reliever. We need to educate girls and provide them with the tools for managing their time and purpose online!
For more on the damages of social media, check out:
A great resource to read is:
The Teen Girl’s Survival Guide: 10 tips for making friends, avoiding drama & coping with social stress, by Lucie Hemmen