My daughter is 14 years old, and the proud owner of an iPhone, but not of an Instagram account, or of any social media. She won’t have any until she’s at least 16. Call me a mean mom, but that’s how it is in our house. As a parenting writer on ye olde internetz, I have seen for years how negatively social media impacts girls’ self-esteem and body image, and I’ll keep my kid away from it as long as I can.
When I saw this ad from the beauty brand Dove yesterday, I felt validated in my parenting decisions. It’s called “Reverse Selfie,” and it’s extraordinarily powerful.
Take a look:
The ad features a young teen posting an obviously filtered and heavily edited selfie to social media with the caption “My new look.” Then, as if someone hit the “rewind” button, the video reverses to show not only what the girl did to the photo, but what she did to her hair and makeup to prepare for the photo, as well. We watch as filters come off, her nose and chin are returned to their normal size, and her makeup and hair come undone.
We are left with an absolutely beautiful, bare-faced young girl sitting on the edge of her bed. She undoubtedly has no idea how lovely she looks just the way she was made. Because, as much as Photoshop and fashion magazines influenced beauty standards in girls of my generation, social media and digital editing have made things a million times worse for our girls. Now beauty standards are more artificial and easier to create than ever, and feedback on your ability to meet them are immediately available on social.
No wonder Dove says that by age 13, 80 percent of girls distort the way they look online.
“The pressure of social media is harming our girls’ self-esteem,” on-screen text states at the end of the ad. “More screen time during the pandemic has made things worse. Have the selfie talk today.”
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I cannot argue with either of these points by Dove, but I do wish they’d come up with some talking points for parents. So, let me add some of my own. Here are some things to include if and when you have the “selfie talk” with your child.
Gather Photos of Yourself at Various Ages
I’m a GenX-er and all my childhood and teen photos are in old photo albums. But that’s OK, I’ll dig them out to show my daughter my evolution from child to woman. As moms, we’re the primary example of a “real woman” our daughters have. So, show her your development, awkward stages and all. Personally, I feel more beautiful and fashionable in my 40s than ever before—and more comfortable than ever before. Tell your daughter that she is uniquely made and glorious in every stage, and show her that a 14-year-old is not supposed to look like she’s 25.
Demonstrate How Easy it is To Create a Fake Image
If she doesn’t already know how quickly and easily photos are edited to portray a false beauty, show her. Don’t instruct her; I’m not asking you to give Photoshop lessons. Simply demonstrate how quickly beauty can be faked and teach her to recognize the difference between fake and natural beauty.
Talk About the Importance of Transparency
Honesty is so important in our relationships, and kids need to know that someone “liking” a false representation of them rather than their real selves isn’t healthy or sustainable. Cite examples of unconditional love in your relationships. Talk about people you know and love who have differences in ability by the world’s standards, yet who are priceless parts of your lives. Mention how your husband leans in for a kiss in the morning before either of you are even awake, how you don’t need to even need to see what each other looks like to demonstrate your love. Tell her what you love about her, and encourage her not to hide her gifts or natural beauty. Tell her that people who don’t love her for who she is on the inside aren’t people she needs to pursue friendships with.
The truth is, the world’s beauty standards aren’t likely to change for the better anytime soon. So, it’s up to us to ensure our girls understand and seek out natural beauty. What ways are you working on this with your daughters?