(This article is a reprint from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com).
A recent article published by the University of Michigan Extension features the connection between social media use and body image. Based upon surveys conducted by Common Sense Media, the main things parents need to be aware of for tech-savvy youth include: body image is learned behavior; media of all forms can hype unrealistic (unattainable) body types and images; mobile connectivity enables exposure to body image hype with greater frequency and intensity. The report concludes that it is critical that young people learn media literacy skills (i.e., how to properly receive media hype and be discerning, less gullible).
Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, is a mental health and addiction specialist serving the greater Sacramento area. As CEO & Clinical Director at GatewayCorp in Sacramento, offering addiction, trauma, and family system services, she has a lot of experience working with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. “Eating disorders are intense,” she said. “They are the result of a toxic and shameful belief system that says, ‘Something is wrong with me.’”
According to Rodriguez when youth internalize shame, they become defeated and will not believe they are good enough and this makes it challenging to communicate the truth about their value to you the parent, your family, friends and community. “I want to encourage parents to be mindful of your words,” she said, “and consider caring habits (as opposed to the deadly habits) to include being supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences with them.”
Tips to help youth maintain a healthy body image
- Become more aware of what is going on in the life of your youth. Visit their school, be aware of what messages are coming forth from the pulpit, create time to know who they are spending time with and be sure that the places they are visiting are free from negative, harmful and shaming experiences.
- Listen to what they say, spend quality time with them and validate their needs. Commit to evaluating what they spend time doing. Make a realistic healthy assessment of the time they are on their smart phone, video games, computer or watching television. Determine whether their engaging is appropriate and if not, be the parent and address it.
- Take an interest in their education and support them towards a memorable and successful education experience. Sacrifice some of what you want, need, and afford your attention, your time to be present in their life. This is a very critical time, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Youth also require clear expectations, instruction and when necessary consequences for unacceptable decisions and actions.
- Focus on the positive aspects of your child, remind them of their value, worth, how much you love them, how beautiful they are; let your actions be loving, nurturing, kind and consider a caring habit belief system. A quality relationship is the key to their overall wellness and success.
- For parents who are weary and feeling less tolerant and patient with your child, or just not knowing what to do, Rodriguez encourages parents to strengthen their spiritual life. Develop healthy relationships with individuals who have your best interest and that of your family at heart.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.