Social Media: Selfies

One of the most dominant features of recent social media has been the selfie, and they remain extremely popular among teenagers today, especially with females. Selfies are much more than a passing fad these days. They are an established part of the fabric of youth culture.

According to the Oxford American English Dictionary, a selfie (noun; pronounced sel-fee; plural selfies) is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

Selfies are huge in social media today and are a perfect fit for teenagers in the throes of adolescent development, particularly in their process of creating the sense of identity, self-image, and self-esteem. Each selfie gives a kid the opportunity to test drive her or his sense of identity and receive almost immediate feedback through social media. This feedback is a double-edged sword, cutting both ways, with positive and negative outcomes. As kids view feedback from their selfies, they refine their sense of identity, for better or worse.

Why Kids Love Selfies
Selfies are an easy way to communicate visually via social media and to receive feedback via likes and comments from friends and followers. When a teenager posts a selfie using social media, she or he doesn’t have to ask: What do you think about this picture of me? The question is assumed. Selfies provide a steady stream of identity validation and/or criticism from others.

The Dark Side of Selfies
While kids are looking for validation from their selfie posts, there is a huge potential for bad outcomes through negative comments, bullying, and feeding the monsters of self/narcissism that lurk in each of us. As with other pictures posted online, once it’s in cyberspace, it’s likely to be out there forever.

How Parents Can Help Kids Handle Selfies
• Help kids establish a healthy sense of self-image by encouraging them to establish their identity and value upon who they are in Christ.
• Provide kids with plenty of loving affirmation.
• Encourage healthy relationships with family, peers and trusted adults.
• Encourage kids to think through who they are seeking validation from when they post a selfie.
• Encourage kids to consider what values their selfies convey, and whether those values are consistent with the values they claim to hold.
• Teach kids to avoid posting inappropriate selfies.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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