The Institute for Juvenile Research (IJR)’s Dr. Julie Carbray, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Nursing partnered with Andrea A. Lewis, author of the new book Love Yourself(ie), Life Lessons for Building Kid Charisma™ to develop a series of tips to help preteens, ages 9 to 13, and parents prevent social media use from deflating their self-worth. The book follows the fictional story of Harper, who learns to use self-acceptance to filter social media and manage peer pressure and competition. With a focus on teaching what we think of ourselves matters most and ‘how’ to use self-acceptance to keep others from influencing bad feelings and behaviors, Love Yourself(ie) is a highly relatable story kids see themselves in, with a practical perspective and advice they can use to understand what they’re feeling and become more confident and true to themselves – on social media and in life.
Socially and emotionally, middle school can leave preteens questioning who they are and how to act – at an age when character development is being shaped. Social media is further testing the strength of that character, and many preteens check social media 100 times a day because they are concerned about fitting in.
By building resilience through self-esteem in preteen years more kids will have the character strength they need to feel good about themselves and manage conflict – on social media and in life. While it is important to provide proper guidance to help preteens build resilience, many parents are unfamiliar with the topic and unsure how to approach the conversation with their child.
Navigating friendships, belonging, self-image and bullying has long been part of growing up, social media makes the experience public – and it is leaving preteens feeling left out and insecure. Parents and children can use the following tips, inspired by the book and current psychological literature, to help guide them through this new terrain.
1. Reinforce positive self-talk and self-acceptance to navigate peer pressure, competition and negative behaviors.
2. Know what sites your kids are using. Preteens as young as age 9 can be active on accounts without their parents being aware. Check browser history and, more importantly, use the opportunity to communicate with your child.
3. Set up boundaries on what is appropriate or inappropriate for posting. Encourage your child to pause before they post and take a moment to think about how their words might impact someone else.
4. Practice the 3 Cs…Control (what you let influence your emotions), Care (how words and actions impact you and others), Confidence (in positive feelings about yourself).
5. Use practical advice and relatable resources when talking to your preteen. Books like Love Yourself(ie) — a short fictional story about a girl who learns self-acceptance to navigate social media, so her self-esteem isn’t based upon the number of likes she gets — can be a helpful tool in starting a dialogue about social media with your child.
6. Get to know your child’s online friends in the same way you would in person. Check in with them about their online activities, and ask them about their followers
7. Talk with other parents. Compare notes and take a team approach to making the online spaces safe.
8. Talk with your children about their well-being and online dangers (e.g., acceptance, risk-taking behaviors, overuse, bullying, personal disconnection).
9. Monitor internet and social media usage. Use this as an opportunity to create conversation.
10. Recognize some of the positive aspects of the Internet (e.g., community engagement, solidifying personal identity, providing a sense of group cohesion) and help guide your child toward prosocial uses.