A while ago, I ran into an old high-school buddy of mine. We grabbed coffees and started talking about life and how challenging it was to bring up teens in this digital age. Most of the things teens deal with nowadays weren’t there when we were growing up—selfies, sexting, cyberbullying—none of those existed. These days, however, it’s a whole different ball game, and it’s a tough one for fathers to navigate, especially when it comes to guiding our daughters.
After reminiscing for a while, he shared that he had recently come across some of his daughter’s Instagram posts that had left him uncomfortable and unsure of how to approach the subject with her.
As a fellow dad to a teen daughter—I understood. My daughter has posted her share of “sexy” Instagram photos that left me feeling conflicted.
On the one hand, I want her to be confident and comfortable in her own skin. I want her to have healthy self-esteem and self-respect. My daughter loves clothes, make-up and taking pretty photos of herself to share with her friends on social media, and I want her to continue being comfortable expressing herself this way.
On the other hand, I am not completely oblivious of the negative effect that social media has —especially its impact on teens’ self-esteem. I’ve read articles detailing how the unrealistic expectations on body image and beauty can destroy girls’ lives, and I don’t want my daughter to rely on social media for validation.
Furthermore, I’m constantly worried about the darker side of seemingly innocent apps like Instagram. With one provocative, sexy or revealing photo, my daughter could expose herself to all kinds of online predators. Besides, the internet never forgets, and such photos may resurface later on, maybe when she’s being interviewed for a job.
Dealing With The Posts – My Personal Advice
The teen years are all about experimentation and the search for identity. While I understand the lure of popularity and want my daughter to fit in with her peers, I want her to have boundaries. So, what can a dad do?
- Make her aware of the dangers. The first step is to talk with your daughter about the dangers of posting provocative photos online. Approach the subject from a point of support and understanding, instead of anger or other negative approaches, to help her not feel attacked, which can trigger defensiveness and rebellion. Also, teach her how to stay safe online and the importance of keeping some things private, including her Instagram account.
- Teach her to love herself. Empower your daughter by teaching her to love herself as she is, rather than how good her angle, makeup, and filter can make her. Complement her on her attributes, actions, and qualities rather than her appearance.
- Challenge her to develop her own identity. Sometimes teens post such photos due to peer pressure. Challenge your daughter by asking her how she wants to be known—does she want to get attention for being provocative or for her other qualities?
- Model positive body talk. Watch what you say to her and make sure you talk about her body and whatever changes she’s going through in a positive way. Also, pay attention to how you talk about other people’s bodies. Even if you never say a negative word to your daughter, commenting on how fat or unappealing you find someone’s body can lead your daughter to wonder if people are thinking that about her.
Talking to your daughter about her questionable Instagram posts is sure to be awkward; my talk with my daughter was. But it can definitely be handled with grace, preparation, and lots of love. I think it’s best to find ways to express the dangers of it without shaming her and guide her on how to make more appropriate posts that won’t embarrass her in the years to come.
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