social media

The "Kylie Jenner Challenge" highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens

2014 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge?

It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star.

One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the younger sister of Kim, Kylie has become admired for her full lips and fashion sense; is it any surprise that tween and teen girls want to emulate her?

Perhaps not, however the degree to which they want to be more like their idol is troubling, at best.

In an effort to emulate the young TV star, teens have responded to the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” call to action that involves “participants placing their mouth over the opening of a cup, jar or other narrow vessel and sucking in until the air vacuum causes their lips to swell up.”(Daily Mail) The desired result is the pouty look that their young celebrity idol sports, seemingly without such painful effort.

Kylie Jenner and young girls who have tried to emulate her look

kylie jenner examples

While it would be easy to write off such silly behaviour as harmless tween/teen antics, the reality is that this type of body mutilation in the quest for “beauty” is anything but.

The physical pain and frequent injury that results from the #KylieJennerChallenge are the least of these kids’ problems. Rather, as parents, we must look at the root causes of why kids feel the need to emulate their idols to such a painful degree.

So what is really going on here? Why are young girls risking physical harm in the unrealistic quest to look like a celebrity who has the means and ability to look “just so” without pain or discomfort?

Here are some of the reasons for this disturbing trend:

1) Celebrity Culture

We live in a society that is dominated by celebrity culture. Add to this fact our kids’ ability to access the latest information, gossip and trends related to their favourite stars and you’ve got the recipe for a beauty disaster - and then some. The digital age, including kids’ love of social media, smartphones and the latest updates about the celebrity of the day adds to the desire to emulate what they are seeing. The famous have also been sucked into the digital vortex, with many stars using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to connect with their fans. While this may be a great marketing tool and publicity generator for the celebrity, the focus on appearance, as well as an unrealistic standard of beauty is resulting in the damaged self-esteem of vulnerable kids.

2) Insecurity and Diminished Sense of Self

Perhaps spurred on by the constant feed of information about Hollywood beauties and otherwise, is it any wonder that impressionable tweens and teens - girls in particular - feel insecure about their looks and bodies? In the age of Photoshop, Instagram and unrealistically “ideal” bodies, it’s difficult for the average tween, who is often already sensitive about their appearance, to maintain a positive self-image. Our celebrity culture doesn’t help, highlighting the “perfect” and largely unattainable body types of the rich and famous, making young fans who are already vulnerable even more insecure than they already may be.

3) Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty

It should be no surprise that insecurity and diminished body image exist in this age of “perfect” beauties, photoshop and plastic surgery. With images of celebrities being digitally altered before they are shared online and on social media, is it any wonder that our kids have a skewed sense of how real people look? Post-baby bodies that showcase washboard stomachs and curvaceous figures that echo shapes rarely found in reality feed into young girls’ doubts about themselves and perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Tweens and teens idolizing celebrities is nothing new, but the standards of “perfection,” made possible through technological and medical manipulation most certainly are. With the bar being raised higher and higher daily, there appears to be little hope for the average young person, insecurities and all, to ever reach the pinnacle of what they see to be the norm.

As parents, we have an obligation to counter the messages and images that our children are bombarded with, particularly now. If we don’t put a stop to it, we’re destined to have a whole generation that is not only insecure, but psychologically scarred as well. Instances of eating disorders, younger and younger children going under the knife in the name of beauty and worse will become more prevalent if this celebrity trend continues.

For parents who are concerned about the emphasis on looks and unrealistic expectations conveyed through celebrity culture, here are some tips on how to help your tween/teen:

  • Discuss their fears and insecurities - Talking to your child about how they feel about themselves and countering negative or incorrect perceptions that they may have about their appearance can help them to put things in perspective
  • Show them the “real deal” - The reality of how using Photoshop, plastic surgery and other methods of altering appearances should be shown to teens who are emulating the looks of their favourite celebrities
  • Encourage their interests - Self-esteem is often increased through success and activities; help your child refocus on an interest or skill that will support their feelings of self-worth. These could include sports/athletics, reading, art, music, cooking or more
  • Focus on their abilities, not their looks - If we as parents focus on our or others’ looks, so will our children. Support and encourage their abilities and what they do, downplay the importance of appearance and how they look
  • Give praise and support - A positive word of encouragement and praise for a job well done can go a long way - especially for a tween or teen who is struggling with their self-esteem
  • Encourage independence and decision-making - There’s nothing like confidence in one’s abilities to make one feel better about themselves. Support your child’s steps towards self-reliance and good judgement
  • Do unto others - A great way of taking the focus off of oneself is to give back to others. Encourage your child to volunteer and their feelings of self-worth will increase considerably, guaranteed.

How do you feel about the #KylieJennerChallenge and the focus on celebrity appearances in general? What additional tips would you give to parents who are struggling to help their children increase their self esteem? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

VIDEO: Under Pressure

Image courtesy of www.instyle.com

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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

by Samantha on September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts?

Gmail Does your child have an email account? Why or why not?

This is a question that I addressed on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program about kids and online access. Following a discussion on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show on a similar topic, I delved more deeply into the questions that all parents face about when they should allow their kids online access.

cbc_radio_logo

 

Some topics discussed:

  • Should kids under 13 have an email account and online access?
  • How young is too young to be online?
  • How has parenting a child in the digital age changed from raising a child before the Internet was the norm?

As digital technology becomes the norm both at home and at school, kids are increasingly expected to have some type of access, whether it be via email or otherwise. This reality raises a number of issues and concerns for parents who worry about the safety of their kids as they venture online.

Is it okay to let a child under the age of 13 have an email account or online access? What are some of the considerations that parents should make before allowing their children online? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed by all of us who are raising our kids in the digital age.

To listen to the full interview, click here:

What are your thoughts? Do your children have email accounts? Why or why not? How much online access do you allow your kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts?

girl on laptop

Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all?

Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

As a parent raising kids in a digital age, as well as someone who is both a lover and avid user of social media, digital technology and online communications, the questions gave me pause.

For many, the thought of allowing their children online presents a conundrum, a Pandora’s Box of sorts. While there are many benefits to having access to the online world (can we say “Google?”), there are some real risks as well. This is particularly the case for those who are younger and more impressionable.

Parents worry about a lot of things when they consider their children’s potential online activities not the least of which include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to inappropriate images, videos, information (pornography, violence, etc.)
  • Online stalking
  • Phishing and related scams

Yet, there’s no denying that digital communications is the standard these days. Try to get around finding information without some type of online element; I suspect it would be quite the task.

I allow my ten-year-old daughter to have an email account for a number of reasons, the least of which is that  she can communicate with her close family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles) and teachers - yes, teachers. It is quite the standard these days that teachers email information to both parents and students about school assignments, homework and activities. Implicit in these actions is the expectation that the child will have an email account and that the parents are in approval, and my daughter is no exception. For the most part, her peers have email accounts as well, with the full support of their parents.

That being said, there are some best practices that parents should follow when allowing their children online, whether it’s just for email purposes, or more. I talk about these, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), in the interview.

Here’s the full interview, below (first link is to Metro Morning’s website, second is to the segment via CBC Player).

What are your thoughts? At what age is it okay for kids to be online? Is email for a child under 13 okay? Why or why not? How about Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Image courtesy of www.http://techpp.com

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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

by Samantha on April 12, 2014





How connected are you to your tools and toys?

I’m not talking about the items that you may actually find in your toolbox or in your children’s toybox. I’m talking about the things that you’ve come to see as necessary parts of your everyday life - those things that you couldn’t live without.

In many cases, sadly, these items are largely technologically-based. Think about it - how did you feel the last time you left your smartphone at home or forgot it in your other bag? Ever try to take a technological holiday, even for a weekend? Difficult, isn’t it? And your kids? If they’re like mine, they’re already connected - literally - to the tech toys. Tablets, video games and online videos have become standard fare for even the youngest of children. It’s a new world order and families work, play and learn via digital and technological means.

So how could a family possibly exist without the items that have come to be seen as standard and trusted tools in their everyday lives? One family did it - for a year. To be exact, they chose a year that they liked, one that was many years in the past: 1986. This family in particular chose the year of the parents’ births as they benchmark time frame that they would use as a basis for how they were going to live for 365 days. Forsaking all technologies and conveniences that mark the lifestyles of today’s day and age, they pulled out the VCR, videotapes and Super Mario brothers and got busy. Oh - they also got mullets, kids included.

go back in time
This foray into the past is an interesting and fascinating experiment, particularly in this day and age where many of us are connected - literally and figuratively - to our tech devices. The thought of going through our lives without the conveniences that we have come to expect and rely upon seems almost unimaginable. And kids? That’s a whole other story. Entertaining them circa 1986 style means forgoing the modern conveniences like iPads, Netflix, video games and a range of distractions that we use in trying to keep our little ones quiet.

Perhaps this point is where the sheer horror of this family’s story begins. That’s right - I said “horror.” Because we all know that most of us could not give up our current lifestyles and modern conveniences to go back in time and live like they did over 25 years ago. If we did, we’d have to drastically change the way we do things, in more ways than one. No more reliance on technology to provide us with those much-needed “quick fixes” when our kids started to meltdown in the grocery store or doctor’s office. There would be no more text messages as methods of communications for our Tweens and Teens when they were outside of our home or view. And think about this for a moment: we’d actually have to talk to our children from a landline or pay telephone when they went to a friend’s home or to the mall. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Perhaps the real story about this family’s journey back to the ’80’s is not about their experiences living a more simple life, but our collective fear of what their experiment says about the way we are living our lives now. The idea of losing our technological crutches that we’ve come to depend on is a frightening one for those of us who can admit to our reliance (and often addiction) on technology. The thought of no longer having our trusted distractions to keep a certain distance between ourselves and our loved ones is enough to send a shiver down our collective spines. Hard to admit, I know, but true nonetheless. Sometimes it seems so much easier to bury our heads in a movie on the iPad or to pop in our headphones and listen to music than to actually connect - really connect - with our kids. Conversely, our kids are similarly distracted, more often than not, texting their friends or turning to an online community for support. It takes a strong man or woman who can turn on, tune in and drop out of the digital age in favour of a lifestyle that does not include the distractions of daily life.

Kudos to this family who had the courage to ditch the modern conveniences that they’d come to love in order to get back into the lives of their children. I couldn’t do it. Could you?

If you had to live your life with your kids the way it was 25 years ago, do you think you could do it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

VIDEO: Watch a family live life like it’s 1986

 Image courtesy of www.sodahead.com

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madonna vogue image

“Strike a pose.”

Remember that edict that Madonna pronounced to us so many lifetimes ago?

In the song “Vogue,” she challenged us to go big or go home. “Strike a pose” was the battle cry for some heavy-duty showing off, if that’s what you want to call it. “Voguing” was the rage and narcissistic vanity was at its core.

Fast forward more than 20 years later and here we are, striking poses like it’s nobody’s business. This is particularly the case with the younger set – those in the tween and teen ranges are especially attuned to vain behaviour. The culture of narcissism has been facilitated in large part by those very handy little items that many of us tote around with us every time we leave the house: the smartphone. No longer just a vehicle for making and receiving calls, the ability to take pictures and share them almost instantaneously, has made even the most timid folks into showoffs.

“Look at me at the mall!”

“Here I am in the waiting room at the doctor’s office!”

“Check out my style at the grocery store!”

Duck lips abound, faux smiles dominate and a general sense of self-importance is de rigeur in this age of acceptable and often-encouraged vanity.

But to what end?

How much is our collective acceptance and encouragement of narcissistic posing affecting our kids? Are we complicit in raising a whole generation of those who feel that their image is one to be, at minimum - admired, at best – adored? Our reliance on documenting every second of our lives – mundane moments and all – has become the norm, not the exception, much to our detriment. Our children must surely have a skewed sense of what is truly important as they jockey to get that perfect shot of themselves as they walk down the street.

monalisaducklips

As parents, we’re both shocked and complicit, as we too have become addicted to the allure of social media. Instagram feeds are no longer the sole domain of the younger set and increasingly the over-35 crowd is embracing the urge to document their interesting and not-so-interesting pursuits. The urge to instantaneously share what would have at one time been perceived as “humdrum” is overwhelming. Is it any wonder, then, that our children have no qualms about broadcasting their everyday pursuits to the world, whether said world is interested or not?

We laugh at the vanity and self-absorptions of tweens and teens, all the while ignoring the fact that we ourselves are Tweeting, Liking, Instagramming and generally sharing portions of our lives that others may find…well…boring. Is it really possible to think that even our closest friends and family want a regular stream of pictures recounting our meals, snacks, grocery store visits and waiting room demeanours in an ongoing feed of monotony?

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and monkeys not only see, but they “do” as well. Aphorisms, perhaps, but realities in this era where smartphone addiction (otherwise known as “Nomophobia”) is a very real ill. While older folks may not have started society’s social media obsession, we may, surprisingly, be the ones who are unwittingly facilitating our kids’ dependence on it through our own actions and examples. To this end, we should take a long hard look at our social media behaviour and realize that it’s not only our children who should put down the smartphone and stop to smell the roses.

What do you think? Has the “Selfie Generation” gone too far with the amount of images of themselves shared on social media? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Madonna - Vogue

Images courtesy of Sire Records and Notable.ca
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VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - Top Tips For Parents

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November 2, 2013

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Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mamma ————————— My favourite topic was the subject of discussion recently. Parenting in the Digital Age, an ongoing topic on this blog was the basis of discussion for my opinion on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air program. Some of areas that were covered included the pervasiveness […]

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