I know that it is tough to keep up with all of the changes in technology but, there is one in social media that all parents should know about. It is called INSTAGRAM SELFIE FILTERS. How to Add Instagram Filters to Existing Photos – Followchain

Photo filters have been around for some time . (You know a feature which will put a deer’s nose or elfin ears on on your face.)  What has put Instagram in the news, however, is their image enhancement filter . New research reveals that using selfie-filters  is emotionally harmful (toxic) for teenagers. Sadly, these reports were hidden from the public by Facebook for years.  Now that they have been revealed, here is what you need to know.

The Problem

Specifically, the alert is being sounded for parents due to the negative psychological impact that some of Instagram’s body and facial altering filters have on teens,. i.e. use lowers self-steam and dramatically increases anxiety and depression.  As seen in the pictures below*,  the effect of the filters are restrained. They digitally add make-up, slim facial structure and subtly alter the overall image. Instagram Toxic for Teen Girls, Research Suggests – NBC Bay Area

The subtlety of the changes are the problem . The person who uses them is still recognizable but looks “better.”  The damaging message that these visual changes give to the young people who use the filters is that: Your image needs enhancement or, inversely, the way you look, naturally, is not okay.

This message plays upon the vulnerability of young folks who fear that they are not attractive enough to compete with the social competition and  will wind up being alone. Loneliness and the Human Need for Connection | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)  

Another factor which makes dealing with this issue so difficult is our culture’s emphasis on looks. The way media creates unrealistic expectations especially for women and heightens self-doubt about their appearance.  In other words, features like enhancement filters undermines a teen’s acceptance of their natural appearance and encourages them to change {“improve”) it .  That said, here are seven tips for parents to help their teens cope with this difficult issue :

Some tips  

1) Talk to your kids about their experience with social media   in general and especially  about Instagram filters.  Ask then if they use them and how they feel about the feature.

2)  Ask them about any concerns that they might have about their own bodies or looks or feelings of anxiety or depression.

3) Empathize with their experience  concerning their appearance by sharing the self- doubts that you had when you were their age.

4) Normalize their experience, i.e. that not liking the way you look is very common and that most likely many of their friends feel the same way, too.

5) Help them to recognize the differences between reality and the idealized imagery portrayed on social media. Think the Gabby Petito story.

6) Set time limits for their use of social media and  invite sharing their posts with you..

7) Reassure them that although being a teen is difficult now. that things will get better as they grow older. Again share your own personal stories of how your feeling changed and got better about yourself.

Although being a parent and an adolescent  has always been tough, it seems that the speed at which high-tech innovations are available to teens has made the challenge even more difficult.  Nonetheless, the key to dealing with these trials begins with ,as it always has, good communication.  Parents willingness to talk openly with their children about anything is key to navigating the tumultuous teen years.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC , FELLOW AAPC    9 16 2021

Lead image from : Instagram, Facetune, and the endless pursuit of physical perfection – Vox

*Comparison photos courtesy of ‘I tried ‘Instagram face’ for a week and here’s what happened…’ – BBC Three