From Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars to Barack Obama on a glacier in Alaska, selfies have become part of modern culture. Indeed, it’s estimated that more than a billion selfies are taken each year in the UK so it's important that parents understand more about the selfie generation.
Teenagers in particular have embraced the digital self-portrait. 91% of teens have taken a selfie and many have shared them on Instagram, Facebook and other social networks. Most of the time, young people’s selfies are harmless fun – a way of expressing themselves and showing others what they’re up to – but there are some things parents need to be aware of.
Sharing lots of selfies could make your son or daughter more concerned about their appearance than their personality and other positive qualities. In fact, research reveals that the average girl in the UK takes 12 minutes to prepare for a single selfie. Under pressure from friends (and celebrities in the media) to look good and be popular, the number of likes on a selfie has become important social currency for young people. Negative comments about your child’s selfies or getting no likes could have a big impact on their self-esteem.
Selfie or sext?
While most selfies are innocent and low-risk, young people might also share nude photos and videos of themselves. Commonly known as sexting, this can have serious consequences. The recipient is breaking the law if the subject is under 18 and the image could get passed on to others and used for bullying or abuse. According to the Internet Watch Foundation, young people are increasingly uploading nude photos and videos of themselves online, which could put them in danger as they go viral or end up on child exploitation websites.
- Talk to your child about why they like taking and sharing selfies – how do they make them feel? what kind of comments do their friends make? how important is it to get likes?
- Discuss what’s appropriate and what’s not and remind them that anything they post could be seen by anyone and remain online forever – don’t forget to talk about the risks of sharing nude photos and videos (sexting)
- Set some boundaries so that your son or daughter has a good balance of screen-based and other activities
- Remind them that most social networks have a minimum age limit of 13 to protect them from inappropriate contact and content
- Set a good example – if you’re constantly taking and sharing selfies, your child will regard this as the norm
For more information about selfies, check out the Be Strong Online ‘Selfies & Self-Esteem’ module and read this article by Parent Zone. You can find advice about dealing with sexting in CEOP’s Nude Selfies films.