Adolescence can be a difficult time for girls and, according to research from Girlguiding UK, is the time when most women's self-confidence plummets. This drop in self-confidence can be exacerbated by the use of social media, as teenagers are often keen to publish their lives online. As adults we know that the images online may have been digitally altered and the statuses exaggerated so they don't reflect real life. However, young women may feel under pressure to live up to the perfect lives portrayed online.
While these platforms may be opening them up to an unsafe world, we shouldn't stop teens being online. For many, the internet has become an important part of their friendship community and cutting that connection could cause loneliness or missing out.
So how do we protect our daughters from posts that may be upsetting them and the anxiety of people judging their online persona? In her recent address at the Demographic National Convention in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama described how important it is to raise confident girls. Referring to her own daughters, Michelle highlighted that confidence is a key component to their future success.
As parents and role models, we need to help our daughters find confidence and ensure they hold onto it throughout life. Here are my tips on how you can inspire confidence in your daughters:
1. Communication and understanding is key
Communication should be the lifeblood in any home. Ironically, technology can often be a barrier to communication, for example we regularly see families or groups of friends on their phones instead of talking to each other when out together.
Cultivate a relationship where your daughter openly communicates with you about her feelings. This isn't always straight forward, so start off by scheduling to spend time together. Something as simple as a walk or a coffee could encourage her to talk about any worries or problems she has. Encourage her to share her feelings by talking about your own experience as a teenager and discuss how you overcame moments of low self-esteem, concerns over fitting in, or friendship problems. By establishing routine 1:1 time, you are giving her an opportunity to raise sensitive subjects by letting her know you are ready to listen.
2. Understand what she is doing online
If you aren't familiar with the platforms she uses, research them and keep in mind that social media channel trends and popular YouTube and Instagram personalities can change very quickly. By understanding what she is looking at online, not only can you check it is appropriate, but you will also be able to determine some of the things that may be concerning her, whether it is fashion, health or something else.
3. Focus on her skills and celebrate success
Teenage years are tough and it can be overwhelming when you are trying to balance academic success and a social life. It's important to remind your daughter that no one is good at everything. Instead, help her to focus on her best skills and encourage her to use these as a platform for building confidence.
Remember to give plenty of encouragement and praise whenever you can. Give compliments that recognise her determination and individuality making her appreciate the value of these qualities over more generic attributes. Celebrate small accomplishments, especially if she has put in a lot of effort, whether it is a subject at school she finds difficult or trying a new sporting activity.
4. Don't let failure scare her
Even if she tries something that doesn't go the way she wanted it to, teach her to look at this as a learning experience. Discuss what she could have done differently, or what she learnt from the process and where she thinks this might help her in the future. This will encourage her to be confident enough to try again in the future and not be put off by the thought of failure.
5. "Put your hand up"
Encourage your daughter to try something new outside of social media, as it is a great way for her to build her confidence and gain other new skills. Whether it's volunteering to organise a class event at school, trying a new sport or joining an extra curricular club. Learning to do this at a young age will set your daughter up for life as when she enters the workplace, those that 'put their hand up' and put themselves forward for opportunities are more likely to succeed and reach high-flying positions.