In-depth: How Instagram could hurt a teen’s self-esteem, and what parents could do to help


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Every day, 92 percent of teens report going online to use some form of social media, according to a Pew Research Center study.

And fifty-two percent of those teens, ages 13 to 17, are all about Instagram and getting those online likes. But be careful.

It is human nature to want to be liked, but when is it too much? How many “likes” are enough?

“It definitely makes me feel a little bit better when more people like it, but…when I notice a photo doesn’t get a lot of likes, it might cross my mind a little bit,” Rachel said. “Does someone just not like this picture or do they not like me?”

Rachel and Elena are twins in the seventh grade and both have had Instagram for about six months.

“I was really nervous about them being on Instagram, but once they hit middle school, everybody had Instagram, and they begged me for it,” mother Jennifer said.

Their family was able to figure out a way to make it work, where the girls could get what they want and their mom could monitor what they do.

“I’m also able to log in as them,” Jennifer said. “You can toggle between your accounts, they hate that! But I can do it and see if they have any private messages, who they’ve started following, who started following them.”

Jennifer’s concern wasn’t as much about the addiction to the app as it was the repercussions of what her girls might see.

“Are they going to see pictures of a party they weren’t invited to or is a friend hanging out with another person and ignoring them?” Jennifer said.

Stacy Hernandez is a licensed counselor.

She says early teens are in a self-concept stage at this point in their lives.

“Because they are trying to identify themselves, and they are looking for that validation,” Hernandez said. “They’re looking for that popularity. They’re looking for that comparison. It’s the stage that their brain is in right now, and they don’t understand it.”

In extreme cases, Hernandez says that can sometimes lead to depression or it could do the opposite and boost your self-esteem.

Either way, a risk is involved.

“If I’m trying to figure out who I am, and I’m trying to figure out what people see me as, then do I want to set a positive feature of myself, or do I just want to put out a message of ‘Can I be liked?'” Hernandez said.

So besides monitoring your child’s Instagram activity, what else can you do as a parent?

First, privacy settings. Evaluate them. Maybe limit your child’s exposure online.

When they do post, encourage them to post something they like, not necessarily something that requires them to receive attention.

And encourage them to use Instagram lightly.

Let the app be used as a tool for fun rather than competition and a scale for self-esteem.

“…Unfortunately, Instagram can ruin your self-esteem, depends on how you use it,” Hernandez said.

But the girls say among their friends, numbers don’t really matter.

“It doesn’t really get to me if they get more likes than me or if they do have more followers than me because it’s just Instagram. It’s not real life,” Rachel said.

But if things get out of hand, Instagram can be deleted. Pictures can be deleted.

Then, you can start a new account, in an instant.

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