“Each girl will go on to directly influence at least 50 people in their lifetime.”
Wow. 50 people may not seem like a lot, but to have a direct influence over anyone is a massive responsibility. Of course, that begs a question – if our daughters have the potential to impact so many lives – who are they looking up to form their own decisions?
According to Haley Kilpatrick, Founder & Executive Director of Girl Talk and author of The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School– Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More– girls develop behavior by observing parents actions and by listening to what they have to say.
Take the two things together – the reach of one girl and the “who, what, where” of how girls develop their own behavior – and my inner red flags skyrocket to the top of the flag pole.
Because lets be honest…although I try my best to model healthy, appropriate and confident language, actions and behavior in front of my daughter…. it is not always that easy.
“Why did you say that on the phone?”
“What picture did you post to Instagram?”
The wandering eyes and spy like listening ears of a tween daughter are everywhere.
I remember “trying” to listen to my parents when I was young. My favorite snooping tactics were to pretend I was asleep on road trips or listen to conversations from around a corner in our house (and yes, a mom now, I know full well that they probably knew I was listening.) Whether I was a sneak or just curious, my information gathering provided insights into the unknown – aka – the secret lives of my parents as adults.
Fast forward to today – where the art of observation takes place not just in cars or around hidden corners – but with a simple click that opens the flood gates of our digital lives for everyone to see.
Parents’ use of social media can impact girls
The problem – or challenge – exists in the question of consistency. While we as parents usually (try to) model responsible language, decisions and actions in front of our children – we also vent about the ups and downs of daily life on our social media streams. We use sarcasm and jokes. We share images and memes that are meant in good fun. Except that if seen by the watchful eyes of our children, these messages have the potential to make our daughters wonder – which version of “us” to really believe?
Looking back through my own streams, although my daughter would find many notes about empowerment, leading change and excitement – she would also read notes that scream of insecurity and sadness.
While we all need to vent at times, there is a bigger picture when it comes to the social media impact on girls. According to Haley, the mom confidence crisis has become our girls confidence crisis. By the age of 8 or 9, you can see behaviors in the child that are just like their mom’s behaviors.
Whether we are commenting, sharing, liking or retweeting our behavior – online and offline matters.
Moms, women, partners, friends, professionals – we lead multiple lives each day. With each role comes a new hat, one that sometimes we forget we are even wearing. While this multiple personality sort of life is normal as a parent, our ability to balance the many hats with consistency directly impacts our children and especially our daughters.
Haley encourages parents to gauge the potential impact of our online messaging with one simple strategy.
Think before you speak, text or type. Is it helpful, important, necessary, kind?
I love that by simply being intentional before I post or comment in my digital world, even on the busiest or stressful of days, my daughter can better piece together who the real “me” is. It is not about being fake – or pretending that the ups and downs don’t happen. It is just reframing our intentions.
Let me be clear – I get it. We all have those moments (or maybe it is just me?) that fit the someecards that appear in our streams. The question becomes – are those giggles worth our daughter questioning our messaging and leadership? What if we could “refresh our funny” to reflect more intention and more responsibility – while still being honest about our ups and downs?
As much as we think about monitoring our kids online…the truth is that parents’ use of social media can impact girls just as much as the messaging that we try to get across at the dinner table or at bed time. Maybe it means that I do not share every big and little feeling or a card that on the surface makes me giggle. For me– it is not worth it to not un-do my credibility when it comes to helping guide my daughter towards a lifetime of healthy choices.
Follow the #RefreshYourFunny conversation across social media streams for examples and tips to refocus our digital conversations.
*As a member of the #TalkEarly parent blogger team, this post is part of a campaign sponsored by The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR). All opinions are my own.