ST. LOUIS - It seems as if we’re living in a selfie-obsessed world and our youth are growing up in the middle of it. You’ve probably witnessed a teenager taking a selfie, snap-chatting, instagramming and tweeting their every move. With so much focus on these self portraits, Five On Your Side wanted to know if it could actually be harming our children’s mental health.
We sat down with a child psychologist and a neuropsychologist to get answers.
Child Psychologist Dr. Sandra Shachar already sees the negative impact of this ‘Selfie-Obession’ in her young clients. She points out that teen minds aren’t mature enough to interpret the overload of comments and likes that come from a social post and often misinterpret their meaning.
“They begin to interpret it in a very personal way,” said Shachar.
Shachar said young girls and boys may see a lack of likes on a selfie and think it’s a negative reflection of themselves. When kids get a high number of likes or comments, it triggers a high, which she says can become addictive.
“So that right selfie or that high number of likes for a particular selfie can create an addiction. If I just keep at it I’ll get the right one, I’ll get the most likes,” Shachar explained.
Five On Your Side asked a couple of seniors at Park West High School about the selfie-obsession. Most of them admitted it’s addicting and they’ve actually had to delete social media apps from their phones in order to focus on school exams.
“It’s kind of like thrilling almost like 'Oh, I got more likes on that photo,' and there is kind of like that, even if you don’t want to be thrilled by it, you kind of are,” said one senior when talking about getting a positive response from a post.
Some students said if a post doesn’t get what’s considered a good amount of likes, they’ll take the post down.
Another senior said, “If it doesn’t get a certain amount of likes they will take it off their page because its downing to their self esteem.”
Neuropsychologist Dr. David Kaufman says the age of the selfie is a dangerous slippery slope.
“Adolescence is tricky enough without this technology making it even easier to set unrealistic standards of appearance and a constant pressure to be performing in that way in front of our peers,” explained Dr. Kaufman.
Dr. Kaufman said parents play a critical role in making sure the selfie-obsession doesn’t spiral out of control. He says parents should watch for behaviors in their children. If they seem to be losing themselves in the social world and becoming detached from reality, they need to have a serious conversation.
Dr. Shachar also recommends having a social media conversation with your children. She says telling them they can’t use the social media sites will not work. Rather ask them why they take the pictures and post them. Try to get them to think about why they’re doing what they’re doing and what they’re hoping to get out of it. Shachar says this will get them to step back and analyze their actions. She says if it does begin to affect their personality and they become withdrawn, you should seek help.