So Your Child Is Obsessed With Selfies. Here's What You Should Know About That
Of all the things children fixate on at a young age, perhaps one of the most interesting is their fascination with photos of themselves. Whether they're taking selfies or studying photos their parents took of them, in 2018 there's no escaping the fact that kids have way more access to photos of themselves than the children of previous generations did.
But at what point does a child's curiosity cross over into an unhealthy obsession with his or her image or appearance? It's a fine line, as it turns out—but with the right information and tools, it's one that can be easily identified. Here's what you need to know.
Selfies as a form of identity development.
Your child's love of photos of themselves hardly makes them a tiny narcissist, according to clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner. "Many parents might see this and fear that their little one is sliding into the world of selfies and adolescences, but it is really a way for them to see themselves as the world sees them," she explains. In fact, what they're doing is working to match their internal world with their external world. "If you watch, you will see kids with experimenting with different faces and positions to literally see what it looks like when they move their body or face into different positions. It is an important part of developing self-awareness."
Do you know what types of photos your child is taking?
If your child is taking pictures of themselves, one of the most important things to watch out for is what types of photos they're taking. "Is an 8-year-old taking a sexy photo or one where she is making a silly face? If your child seems obsessed with taking sexy photos, it might be worth examining why and asking them questions about it," Wegner explains.
She adds that it's important to watch how you respond to photos of your child. "Are you only saying 'you look beautiful' to your little girl, or 'you look brave' or 'strong' to the boy? By responding to the pictures, we create an internal dialogue, self-talk for the child that will carry with them for life," she explains. "Be conscious about what you say, and carry the weight of knowing that your words stick with your kids for a lifetime. As a therapist now, I often ask patients 'Whose voice is that?' when they have judgmental or critical self-talk. It comes from somewhere, and unfortunately it's often their parents."
When your kid's curiosity teeters into obsession.
With the prevalence of selfie culture in today's day and age, it's easy to place too much value on appearance. Katie Hurley, LCSW, notes that we have to be careful about the messages we're giving our children surrounding their image starting with their habits around picture-taking in childhood. "We don't want to send the message that 'you're only good, accepted, worthy...if you do this particular thing,'" she explains. "Those messages leave a void in a kid's heart that they may try to fill by seeking approval from peers, and the perfect filtered selfie might just be the ticket they're hoping for."
Wegner adds that if you notice your child taking an absurd number of selfies, it's important to take a "curious stance." "Say something like, 'It seems like you have been taking a lot of pictures of yourself recently. Do you enjoy it? If so, what do you like about it?' Open up the conversation about why their kids are doing this, and what they are getting out of it," she suggests. "Be aware, a lot of the content on kids' TV shows is pretty mature, so "noticing and wondering" what the selfies are about can open the conversation to bigger and more important issues they might be wrestling with."
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