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Help Your Child Conquer Unrealistic Expectations from Social Media

a cell phone takes a picture of an influencer at a busy cafe

If your child is in middle school, or even elementary school, you’ve probably had heated debates about when they’re old enough to go on social media. It’s hard to say no to your child’s request to join TikTok or go on YouTube when most likely all of their friends are online. 

But there are dangers to social media. It can create insecurity in your child in terms of how they view their body, their social life, and even their mental health. If your child is using social media or wants to create an account, arm yourself to fight the myths perpetuated by these apps with facts. 

Most People Have A Handful of Close Friends

Myth: Most people have a large circle of friends that they see throughout the week. 

Truth: The Majority of adults have between one and four close friends. 

Influencers on social media only show their viewers the highlights of their life. They cleverly make it appear as though they’re always surrounded by a large circle of friends, doing only the trendiest activities. Teens who see this may feel as though they’re a failure if they only have a few close friends, instead of a large circle. 

In reality, studies by Pew Research show that 53 percent of adults have between one and four close friends, much fewer than influencers appear to have on TikTok. The unrealistic expectations created online cause our teens to become dissatisfied with their friends. Instead of appreciating the close relationships they have, they may find themselves trying to widen their circle at the cost of their current friends. 

Everyone Struggles with Body Image Sometimes

Myth: Most people are beautiful and have no insecurities about their physical appearance. 

Truth: Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed, about their body image. 

Social media is filled with images and videos of beautiful people with perfect, or nearly perfect bodies. Sometimes the most unrealistic thing about these videos is not what they look like, but how confident they are in their physical appearance. In reality, many creators on social media use filters or other nearly undetectable editing apps to create a perfect appearance. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation’s Body Image Report, 37 percent of teens felt upset about their body image. No one has a perfect body and everyone has some minor physical flaw that they feel self-conscious about. It’s important to discuss the use of filters and AI with your child and remind them that their favorite creators may not actually look like that. 

Happiness and Mental Wellness are not Universal

Myth: Everyone else is happy all the time. 

Truth: 1 in 5 US adults experienced mental illness in 2021 (57.8 million people)

When your child is watching social media, they’re watching someone else’s highlight reel. They don’t get to see the hard work that goes into building and maintaining fame. Remind your child that all of these creators had to start somewhere and that they have bad days, just like the rest of us.

In 2021, one in five U.S. adults struggled with mental illness. That equates to 57.8 million people. If your child feels abnormal or inferior because they have sad days or struggle sometimes, the best thing you can do is remind them that they’re not alone. Everyone struggles with their mental health sometimes and the best thing you can do is reach out to your support network for a little extra help. 

Confident Kids Defeat Unrealistic Expectations

Confident kids are less likely to develop unrealistic expectations due to social media use. The more secure they are in their mental and emotional health, the better they’ll be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake online. At LeadYouth, we believe that every child deserves to be a confident, capable leader– all they need is a great coach. 


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