Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 04:52 pm

The average 16- to 25-year-old woman spends about five hours a week taking selfies and has an average of 150 selfies on her phone, according to a study conducted by beauty website FeelUnique.com.

This is one hour more than the average American child and teen spends on homework per week, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

Selfies don’t make our kids selfish. Or us, for that matter

In moderation and with good judgment, they are harmless and may even offer a slight self-esteem boost. Who wouldn’t feel a teensy bit better when others like a photo of you or share in your joy? Come on, most of us would!

But these alarming statistics present a potential problem which we parents must address. What are our kids’ selfie-taking habits? Just how often are they taking selfies? And how does it affect them?

Studies focus heavily on the selfie-taking trends of girls and young women because of frequency. On average, girls snap more selfies than boys. But guys aren’t off the hook; they’re in on this trend too.

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For teens, it’s a way of life; for us, old fogies who grew up in a tech desert, it’s a mysterious experience, an enigma

Unlike the media’s fascination with the troubling trend of deadly selfies, the average tween or teen is far less interested in this type of risky venture. Instead, many kids take selfies in an effort to control their image, share their experiences, and socialise. Some of it may be attention-seeking behavior as well. It depends on the child and the situation.

Most of us take selfies for the same reasons our children do. It’s natural to want to express yourself, share a snippet of who you are, and connect with others. Technology simply gives us more ways to do so. Even the shyest of us can unleash their inner-extrovert with the help of a camera phone.

And somehow the world doesn’t seem so big and scary. Likes, comments, shares, re-tweets – these cyber hugs have a way of bringing us together to celebrate good times.

Our kids don’t need more selfies; they need a better sense of self

Self-realisation and technology go hand-in-hand

For our kids, it’s part of growing up. Part of that all-too-daunting process of figuring out who they are, in all its messy splendor. Self-realisation and technology go hand-in-hand. Their online identities often help to shape their identities. For them, it’s a way of life; for us, old fogies who grew up in a tech desert, it’s a mysterious experience, an enigma.

Our rituals of choosing outfits (however horrid they were at the time) and even taking the occasional picture, are about as close as we got. But, while we may have spent too much time prepping in front of the mirror, we didn’t feel the colossal pressure our kids feel, because our images weren’t being shared with the world. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful mine wasn’t. We should all be thankful mine wasn’t. That ’90s hair, alone, is pretty unforgivable.

x (selfies) + y (likes and comments) = z (peer approval)

Our children are growing up with pressures that were non-existent in our adolescence and worrying about things we simply didn’t have to. We didn’t have to worry about someone snatching an unsolicited picture of us and posting it online. Maybe even using it to bully us. Or the type of response our selfies receive from others.

We didn’t have to add into the already-tricky equation of adolescence the possibility that: x (selfies) + y (likes and comments) = z (peer approval) . Which might somehow be linked to popularity. Which can seem like everything at that age.

These modern pressures open our kids up to a whole new level of judgment. While technology is a staple in many of our children’s lives and can reap some rewards, it has a dark side. And our children have probably experienced it.

Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – all of these social media milieus, some cooler than others, I’m told, serve as popular platforms for selfies. Posting them there allows our kids to connect with one another and may even offer a temporary boost in self-confidence; however it can also do just the opposite and with disastrous outcomes. It has the potential to create a relentless vacuum with the power to not just suck up our kids’ time but their confidence as well. One participant in CNN’s groundbreaking study Being#13: Inside the Secret World of Teens, which chronicled the social media lives of 200 eighth graders, admitted:

I made this google document on all my rules and requirements to take a selfie. I take a lot of pictures, but don’t judge, I take like 100 usually, or like 150, maybe 200 sometimes if I really can’t get a right one.

Social media and selfies negatively affect body image and self-esteem

This degree of fascination with selfies is not all that uncommon on these social media sites. It’s in these very places that unrealistic expectations abound and are more powerful than ever. Whether it’s a favorite celeb, the Kim K’s of the world, or a friend who seems to always snag unbelievable selfies, it all becomes a lot to live up to.

Our kids need to know that they are better than their best selfie

An innovative study out of the University of Strathclyde, Ohio University, and University of Iowa found that social media and selfies negatively affect body image and self-esteem. As mentioned by writer Helen Briggs, a spokesperson for the Beat Eating Disorders charity said:

The fascination with celebrities, their bodies, clothes and appearance has all increased the pressure that people typically feel at a time when they seek to establish their own identity and when their bodies are growing and changing. Young people compare themselves to the images that bombard them and feel it is their fault that their bodies compare so unfavourably.

But it’s not celebrities’ selfies that pack the knockout punch

In fact, in comparison, our child’s friends and acquaintances may hold the heavyweight title because our kids know them. The more time spent on social media sites, like Facebook, the more girls and young women compare their bodies to their friends’ and, in turn, felt worse about their own physical appearance.

Let’s face it. Selfies aren’t going anywhere

Nor are they the root of all evil. However, when our kids are excessively taking and sharing selfies, it robs them of precious time which could be invested in cultivating their true selves. It diminishes their opportunities to look outside themselves in an effort to look within. When they spend a hefty amount of time on social media and comparing themselves to others, they are undermining their worth. And, no matter what the media portrays, their worth can’t be captured by a selfie.

Our children don’t need more selfies; they need a better sense of self

According to David Proost, a Dallas-based child and adolescent psychologist,

You put [a selfie] out there because you’re looking for that form of validation. That’s the danger with teenagers overly looking for that external form of validation rather than trying to foster internal validation.

To help our kids escape the temptations of external validation, we support them as they navigate through life and shape their character. It’s a hard task in today’s media-driven world, but it couldn’t be more worth it. These character-shapers may come through faith, family, service, academics, athletics, the arts and all those little (but so very big) moments that require us to dig our feet in and dig down deep. And that level of determination is exactly what is needed for us to help our children avoid the snares of social media. To teach them to resist the temptation to compare or to merely look skin deep.

Our kids need to know that they are better than their best selfie.

Stay connected for my next article on discovering ways to guide your children to embrace their true selves.