Is Our Instagram Obsession Harming Young Girls?


We often weigh up what the dangers of social media are. We all try to break ourselves out of the bubble every now and again, remind ourselves that real life is not filtered, not perfect or neat or chic.

But for a child, these images can be more confusing. And in a new report by GirlGuiding, girls as young as 7 feel the pressure to be perfect. 61% of girls aged 7 to 21 feel happy with their appearance, which is down from 73% in 2011, and a third of girls aged 7-10 say that people make them think that their most important asset is their appearance.

When I think about my littlest sister, who is only 8, I really worry about this. It’s a problematic side-effect of our culture, but we grew up with it, too. From MSN chatrooms where people would criticize your choice of profile photo, to airbrushed magazine covers and Barbie dolls. There are mixed messages. When I was a child, all of my heroines were blonde. When I was very young I asked if it was possible to change your hair color. That could be the reason why I dye it now.

Francesca, aged nine, told researchers, ‘I rode my bike past some teenagers and they said I looked ugly.’

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said that women and girls were “persistently judged on what they look like” and because of it are more at risk of mental health issues.

“This is serious. As a society we need to face up to the fact that objectification and harassment is ruining girls’ lives and we are letting it happen,” she said.

One of the best things about children is their ability to look in the mirror and say, “I look great. I’m so pretty!” When did we stop kissing ourselves in the mirror? Somewhere between 4 and 24, we stopped loving ourselves. And yet, we’re all guilty of portraying a certain image online, but we need to remind these girls it’s not real, and we are all beautiful without all the added extras.

According to Brownie leader, Liddy Buswell, girls are unwilling to try new activities because they’ve been called names, and shyer because of it. Girlguiding director Becky Hewitt says, ‘We are calling on everyone to show girls that they are valued for who they are – not what they look like,’ by using the hashtags #YouAreAmazing and #GirlsAttitudes.

What do you think about this? How can we empower young girls and teach them to embrace themselves?

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