Being a teenager today is different from being a teenager twenty years ago. I didn’t always like being a teenager but when it got too much I would take to my bed like some heroine in a Bronte novel and shut out the world. It was quite easy to do. I would just lie in bed and go to sleep. No interruptions bar my best friends turning up in my room to wake me up or my parents to make me eat. I did this rather frequently.
Today’s teenage life can be just as emotional. Teenagers still have a roller coaster of emotions to deal with but it is not so easy to hibernate in your room and just switch off. I have written before that I honestly believe that the media demonise teens on a frequent basis and that most teens are just doing what we want them to do. They play sport, they study and they hang out with friends. Yet for today’s teens there is the whole new development of social media to manage. Something I didn’t have. I would have to ring friends on my parents phone if I wanted to ask anything.
Women in the World is a summit that brings together extraordinary female leaders and change-makers to help build better lives for women and girls and during this summit Generation Girl is being launched this exciting campaign is sponsored by The Dove self esteem project. As part of this launch Dove set me a number of challenges related to social media. They asked me to consider what it is like today to be a girl as they launched a #nolikesneeded hashtag. By using the #NoLikesNeeded hashtag, girls will be urged to reconsider our image-obsessed culture, their personal ‘branding’, and the changing perceptions of body image, identity and sense of self.
New Dove research shows how girls can often use social media for self-validation.
1. As girls get older, their desire for validation increases. An 18-23 year old girl will seek three times more ‘likes’ on social media than a 13-17 year old
2. Girls with low body confidence are two times more likely to feel bad about themselves if they don’t get ‘likes’ compared to girls with high body confidence.
3. On average, girls spend 12 minutes preparing for a photo they want to post
As part of my challenge I was asked post as frequently as girls do on instagram, facebook, twitter and snapchat. I let social media take over my day. I considered how many ‘likes’ I was getting. I was required to take a selfie, and did you know girls often spend 12 minutes getting the selfie shot ready? I can believe it after it took me about 12 shots before I was happy (ish) with this one showing off my new purchase. You may notice the positive message on our wall which encompasses how I want my children to think.
I spent the day constantly checking my facebook and social media channels much like my 15 year old, who admits to spending about 3/4 hours a day with her ipad. I asked her where she spends the most time and it is twitter, instagram and snapchat. She is a consumer more than a poster but it still invades her time.
It is pretty exhausting being a teenager, the pressures come from all directions and there is little downtime. But I want girls to know that feeling good comes from within. It is good to play sport, to laugh with friends and to be happy in your skin. Getting likes and approval on social media is asking for validation and we shouldn’t be relying on others for that validation. Actually if parents gave their teenagers that positive message maybe they won’t look for it on social media and let those insecurities fester. I want my girls to know they are valued for who they are, for what they bring and not just what they look like. I want all girls to take on the world with enthusiasm and positivity and not be bogged down with insecurities. Beauty comes from confidence not anxiety.
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