Save Us From The Selfie


Save Us From The Selfie

It’s a subject that’s been playing on my mind lately, particularly as I watch my first born child heading towards her teen years like a clumsy snowball barrelling down a hill. Perhaps it’s because we sat as a family and watched old videos of her as a toddler this past weekend, or simply due to the fact that her newly discovered sometimes surly teen-like attitude is belting me over the head as a reminder that my firm, motherly grasp is gently loosening. Either way, I need to give further consideration to this especially tricky subject that all parents face thanks to the wonders of technology and connectivity.  I am of course referring to the modern age artistic phenomenon of the ‘selfie’. For those living in 1980 or with their head in the sand (any room there for me?) a ‘selfie’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as follows:


noun (plural selfies)

informal, a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
I’m no prude nor am I inclined to wrap my kids in cotton wool, but truth be told, as a Mum of two girls I feel like in our house at least, we have got to get our educational ‘ducks in a row’ regarding discussions about the selfie (and indeed wider elements of the social media phenomenon). Not that we assume either of our kids will be particularly irresponsible in this regard, but I figure it’s beneficial for early conversations to take place, and for them to enter into the boundless digital age with a degree of understanding of how a selfie has the potential to evolve into territory that no longer represents the kind of person you truly are, and the possible negative effects it can have within oneself.

Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the smiling teenage girls simply hanging out, having fun and capturing the moment for the sake of a memory, then sharing with friends. You know where I’m heading. See the above images; simply type selfie into Google and you’ll get my drift. I’m talking about the fine line between innocent and potentially suggestive and how the all-important public acknowledgement of ones physical appearance can have a significant impact on a teen’s body image and self-acceptance. Furthermore, I make an assumption here but it seems that the more suggestive the shared image, the more ‘likes’ and comments they receive from their peers and consequently, the better they feel about themselves which I think is where the danger lies. News flash fellow Gen Xer’s, the word “hot” no longer applies to the temperature of the fire if you stand too close – hit Instagram in the 12 – 17 age bracket and see how many times it comes up under a photo of some doe-eyed teen not suitable to pop in their family album.

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic and maybe I’ll get schooled about why I should let my kids completely navigate the process for themselves, but I’ve seen too many kids that I know personally taking shots of themselves imitating suggestive poses they’ve seen on TV or in magazines, simply begging for positive body affirmation and it’s that shit that troubles me. These kids are smart, quiet, sporty, or nerdy and from loving families and yet, they snap and share the type of shots of themselves that would make Granny’s hair curl. And when the ‘likes’ dry up what happens? Are we faced with some real body issues? Or maybe we move onto ‘sexting’ as a new way of stepping up the attention-seeking? (Surely no definition of that sunny little phenomenon is required…?)

Regardless, we need to remember that the territory is completely new. We can’t refer back to previous generations for advice on digital issues – we’re breaking new ground and writing the blue print on how to parent through this successfully. For me, it’s really important that we add it to the list of stuff we need to discuss with them before they gain their independence. We have the drugs conversation, the sex and body discussion, why not this? Clearly, knowledge is power and I believe that perhaps we’ll see a few less suggestive selfies if the 9 – 11 year olds are mentally and emotionally armed enough to make their own choices with consequences in mind.

And if not, well just don’t get Granny signed up to Instagram. It may not end well.

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