After spending a week on the beach in Florida, I realized the danger that faces my teenage daughter. Girls around the age of my Megan surrounded us on the beach. They were just as cute as they could be. They enjoyed their time on the beach with their friends, but to an extent that I was not comfortable with. You see they used their smart phones to take pictures of themselves. Not just “heh look I am on the beach having fun” but more like “heh, don’t I look good in this bikini.” It was sad to watch. They took shots of their bottoms, fake actions like running into the waves while another videoed them, and supermodel poses that were inappropriate for small children to watch. It even went further, they asked strangers to snap pictures of them posed in these provocative positions. To top it off several wore thong bikini’s that made me blush.
I was sick to my stomach. Was my teenage daughter doing these very same things and I just didn’t realize it? Was I naïve?
Body image is intense in our teenage world. Heck, it is intense in our adult world.
Yet, we are responsible for promoting this by modeling this bad behavior, by allowing our teenagers to be connected with social media accounts, and by handing our babies smart phones. I know this sounds crazy, but think about what we are giving to these kids; we are initiating a direct hit of destruction on their self esteem. We allow them to post pictures like this in the hopes that someone, somewhere will “like” her photo. Maybe even someone will comment on her snapshot. What is going on? How can we stop it?
Instead of destroying our children’s self esteem, we have to lift it up. We have to give them the tools to improve their self image. It all starts with first modeling the behavior we want them to acquire.
So, as I sat on the beach, I realized that I had to make some changes at home.
Now, whenever I do this it seems that God always has a little plan in mind. He always seems to like to test the waters when “I make the plan” and forget to ask Him what His plan is…
So, as I arrived home I found my own 16 year old daughter hanging close by me. Now this is not normal. Whenever she wants to talk to me about a personal situation, she tends to hang around me – ALL THE TIME. After having her on my coat tails for a few days, I said, “What’s up?”
“Mom, I would like to know if I can get my own smartphone.”
(God, what are you doing to me?)
She had (on her own) interviewed for a job this summer and had an orientation for this job. During the orientation the manager explained that they would use their smart phones to clock in. My daughter, like a lost puppy, went up after orientation to explain she didn’t own a smart phone. Her manager had never been faced with that issue before and assured her that he would find a way for her to clock in. It was the last straw for my girl. She had received her first cell phone (a dumb one) when she became a freshman in high school. This was well after all her friends. It was a joke among her group of friends. Even then the dumb phone she received she took tremendous pride in. She was a trooper. Next, she had to deal with the fact she couldn’t receive group texts from her friends, her coaches or even some of her family. Yet she suffered through it. ( I am using that term “suffering” very loosely).
Now my girl was fed up. “Mom, PLEASE can I get my own smart phone” she pleaded again. Oh man.
(God, we are going to have to talk about this later).
I couldn’t help but make the connection of the body image issues I saw on the beach to the usage of smartphones. I was terrified to allow her to have one.
As we sat down to talk, I explained to her the dangers. I talked to her about what I witnessed on the beach. Smart phones entice us into behaviors that we wouldn’t normally do. It seems fun and exciting, but it leads to dangerous situations. As we talked, I realized how much my little girl had done to earn my trust. She had dutifully done as I asked. She never had a facebook account, an Instagram account or a vine account. She had stuck with her twitter feed and even followed her Christian writer mom. She was about to enter her junior year as an honor student, a top athlete and a Christian advocate. She had proven over and over to us that she held God on her shoulders.
She understood the dangers of smart phones and even saw the correlation between smartphones and body image. She recognized her body was a temple of God. Something I sure didn’t understand at her age. To top it off, she sat with me for hours going through our bill, how much it would cost per month, deciding the best way to upgrade before we have an upgrade, and even offered to pay for the phone.
Yet, God kept tugging at me with this body image thing. Body image and smartphones – who would have thought the two would be connected???
Our children are faced with the sad idea that body image is the most important thing in the world. Actually, I know adults who feel the same way. You need to look good so people think you are all that. You need to be pretty so people look up to you. You need to be polished to prove your worth. You won’t get a job if you don’t pretty yourself up. Lose weight to make yourself feel better. We are taunted with body image everyday on advertising billboards, on television, on social media, and I guess now we know – on vacation!
How sad that we promote this image to our children. How sad that we brush off these chances to talk with our kids about these dangers because “everyone does it” or because “it is just easier to ignore it.”
Here is a great link to an article in LiveStrong about creating self esteem in our teens….
I am sure you are thinking, well did she get the smartphone?
Yes, she did. Of course she has to share 1 GB of data with her dad (good luck dad on that one)!
Yes, she is now going to face the world of selfies and she probably will make mistakes.
Yes, I do think by making her realize the privilege of the phone (making her wait for it), she knows it has great responsibility.
Yes, I pray that I prepared her for what she is about to face. Welcome to the world of big decisions, social media, body image, and destruction of self esteem.
At some point she has to face the realities of the world. I think for her, it is time. I just pray that God stays with her. I pray that she truly sticks to her guns, uses her leadership skills to lead others to make good decisions, and always remembers that her body is God’s temple and He needs us to take care of it here on earth.