On my way into work this morning, I saw three girls taking selfies. One may have just been checking her hair using her camera as a mirror, but the other two were definitely posing. I know this because one of them used the infamous duck face and the other threw up a peace sign as she snapped the picture. It was 7:12 a.m. Too early for selfies, in my opinion.

Even though it’s nothing new, I’m still amazed by how much social media has taken over the lives of our teenagers. They spend just as much time interacting online as they do interacting in person. I see them sitting across from each other in the cafeteria with their phones over their faces, as they text each other and post their stories to Snapchat. It is an obsession and has become almost a responsibility in their lives that they feel compelled to keep up with.

All of that got me thinking. What kind of impact is this having on our teens’ self-esteem? How can we, as parents, coaches, advisors and mentors, help lessen that impact? And, most of all, how can we follow these same guidelines to set a good example for our kids?

How Social Media Lowers Our Teens’ Self-Esteem:

It causes them to live in a world of self promotion
No matter what they post, they measure their self-worth on how many “likes” or “comments” the post gets. This turns the posting into an addiction and a determiner of their beauty, worth, popularity and validity. If a post doesn’t get a lot of likes or receives a negative comment they may assume they must be uncool, stupid or not good enough.

How to prevent it:
Encourage your teenager that their inner beauty, unique qualities and how they treat others are what more important. Help them realize that anyone that measures their worth by their social media profiles, is not a true friend.

It makes them constantly compare themselves to others
Social media provides a constant outlet for the trap of comparison which subsequently creates feelings of depression and low self-worth in many teens. Pay attention to statements that use “like” and “as” from your teen. For example, “I’m not as skinny as”, “I wish I looked like” or “I’m not as good as”.

How to prevent it:
As adults, we need to help our teenagers face the challenges social media brings. If we allow our teenagers to use social media, then we need to parent more intently and deliberately. We need to focus on nurturing their self-esteem and showing them that their self-worth should be rooted in being a good person, working hard and helping others, not in the cuteness of their outfit or how many followers they have on Instagram.

Since we can’t simply say “Keep your teen off social media until they are secure in their self-esteem”, encourage them to follow accounts that promote positive body image, lift others up and show good examples for your teen to follow. Some examples of these are:

It inhibits their experiences
Many teens will participate in experiences (or not participate) “for the Instagram”. If they think going to a new place in town or even spending some time outside will make for a good picture, they are more inclined to participate.

How to prevent it:
Show your teen by example that experiences don’t always need to be photographed. Put your phone away and ask your teen to go for a walk or on your next family trip, make a conscientious effort to put your phone down instead of capturing every moment. Talk to your teen about being in an experience for the experience, not for the photo.

Teenagers benefit from rules and boundaries, balanced with freedom and independence. They need constant reminders of what good morals are and the value of quality time and communication. So I ask of you please, do what you can to encourage your teenager to develop their person, not just their image.

Self-esteem is incredibly important in your teen years. It impacts your child’s academic and social life throughout the pivotal years of their development. Check out our 10 favorite ways to increase your teen’s self-esteem and let us know if you have any that have worked for you!