Social media is infiltrating children’s lives in a completely new way, and no doubt many of those old enough to have their own smartphone will be snapping and sharing all summer long.  Leanne Maskell says there are the top five truths which you should teach and talk about with your child:

The iGen generation, who have always known social media in their lives, will grow up speaking a language of filters and photographs that last 30 seconds, never knowing the nostalgia of having to telephone a friend’s home phone to ask their parents can they actually speak to them. And whilst there are of course benefits to the digital age we live in, it is more important than ever that children are aware of the reality behind their screens and equipped mentally to deal with the world of Instagram – one that I feel is becoming harder and harder for parents to understand. In the wake of teenage suicides relating to viewing dangerous material, and the intense difficulty for even our government to succeed in regulating this world, it is vitally important to teach your child to have a healthy relationship with social media.

  1. It is not reality

Instagram is not real. It is an endless scrolling album of other people’s highlights, who will only ever be posting their good times. The images they post are most likely five per cent of the reality of their life. Children need to remember that they do not need to compare themselves to other people’s filtered showreels.

  1. It doesn’t mean anything 

Remember when the ultimate popularity was being in someone’s ‘top’ friends on Myspace? Imagine having your popularity neatly numerically organised and shown to the world. Valuing yourself by how many followers you have is a terrible way to live your life and it is vital that children understand this really does not mean anything about who they are as a person. Followers are easily bought (and it is heavily recommended to avoid this vortex!) and it is much better to have privacy than embark on this endless search for validation.

  1. Instagram is a virtual world of strangers

Try to encourage your children to have private Instagram accounts, so they are protected from strangers online. With cute pictures of beaches and thousands of followers, it can be hard to remember that the person behind the account may not be who they are claiming to be. Teach your children to NEVER meet with anyone they have spoken to online or to send them any information or images of themselves. Essentially the stranger-danger talk, but online, and with fancy looking Instagram accounts instead of white vans.

  1. Instagram can make you feel really bad about yourself

Instagram is undeniably addictive. The temptation to scroll through endless alternative scenarios of your life and compare yourself with others is often most attractive when you are already not feeling great and need a distraction. Children need to know that Instagram is not a fix to their problems and should be avoided if they are not feeling happy–they should understand the reasons why boundaries are so important with social media. It is advisable to ensure they can only go on for limited periods of time, under constant supervision –not because you don’t trust them, but because they are simply so vulnerable online.

  1. Instagram can be dangerous 

Children need to be taught what is unsuitable content, whether that is self-harming or sexual imagery. There is simply so much information available online that it is almost impossible to police it. Instead of shielding them completely, have a conversation with your children about the material they may come across online and what to do in such cases. By providing a safe place for them to come to you with questions, you really can save them from any potential dangers.

About the author

Leanne started modelling at the age of 12 and has worked for clients such as Vogue, London Fashion Week, ASOS and I-D Magazine.She is now sharing her experience and advice with aspiring models and their parents in The Model Manifestoan anti-exploitation manual for the fashion industry, priced £14.99. For more information go to or follow @themodelmanifesto

Image © Photographer Rankin – Stylist Ellie Witt – Hair & Makeup Jaimee Rose

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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