Teens and Selfies: What Parents Need to Know

Selfies actually pose several emotional and physical dangers.
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While some teens would never post a selfie on Facebook, others can't seem to resist posting selfies on Instagram at least a few times per day.

For parents, the whole selfie phenomenon can be a bit perplexing. Why would you want to take 50 pictures of yourself standing in a bathroom and then choose the one that you think makes you look best and post it on your profile so people can give you feedback?

Well, in some cases, it's just harmless fun. But for other teens, selfies can actually be part of a much deeper rooted problem.

Selfies and Self-Worth

For some teens, their self-worth is highly dependent upon the feedback they receive from their selfies. The more likes, hearts, or positive comments they get, the better they feel.

If some teen attracts negative attention—or worse yet, no attention at all—their self-esteem may plummet. They may declare that they are unattractive and unloved if they don't get the response they hoped for.

Often, the need to get a surge in self-esteem becomes addictive. Teens become obsessed with taking attractive selfies in an effort to gain positive attention from others.

Teens with mental health issues may be at an especially high risk of becoming obsessed with selfies. There have been reports of some teens spending hours each day trying to take a perfect selfie that could help gain accolades from people on social media.

Unfortunately, the quest for the perfect selfie can become so severe that it interferes with a teen’s social life and education.

Selfies and a Teen’s Reputation

Although most teens aren’t likely to develop an obsession with selfies, there are other dangers that exist. If teens aren’t careful about the type of pictures they share, a selfie could ruin their reputation.

Many teens are sharing scantily clad photos for the entire world to see. Others expect that the selfies they’re sharing will remain private if they send them to only one or two people. They don’t realize that selfies can be easily shared with the world once they’re out there in cyberspace.

A teen who shares a partially nude photo with a dating partner, for example, may be surprised to discover that they have shared it with their friends. Or worse yet, if they break up, that photo could be posted on social media in an act of revenge.

Physical Dangers of Selfies

A common trend among teens is to take selfies that include action shots in the background. Teens are taking photos of themselves in front of burning buildings, while standing underneath waterfalls, or while performing various stunts. Sadly, some teens have died trying to take risky selfies that they thought would make them look cool.

Another danger of taking selfies that many teens unknowingly reveal their location. They don't realize the street sign behind them or their house in the background may make it easy for a predator to find their location.

Why You Should Talk to Your Teen About Selfies

Selfies can be a healthy way for teens to express themselves. However, teens need some guidance about what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Help your teen understand how selfies can become problematic.

Monitor the quantity and the content of your teen’s selfies. While there isn’t a set number of selfies that signals your teen may have a problem, you should ensure that your teen’s picture taking escapades aren’t interfering with real life. If your teen gives up time with friends or isn’t able to get chores done because they are busy posting selfies on Instagram, it could signal a problem.

Have frequent conversations with your teen about the dangers of selfies. Ask questions about social media and what your teen thinks about people who post selfies.

Educate your teen about how selfies could be viewed by future employers or college admissions offices as well. It's important for your teen to recognize that something that may seem like a harmless prank now could become a serious problem later on.

1 Source
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  1. Sung Y, Lee J-A, Kim E, Choi SM. Why we post selfies: Understanding motivations for posting pictures of oneself. Personality and Individual Differences. 2016;97:260-265. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.03.032

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.