I’m Not Sweating Instagram Girls Beauty Contests

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imageThis may come as a huge shock, but Instagram girls beauty contests are going viral and young ladies are soaking them up.  Instagram released a statement urging parents to monitor their kids’ use of the Internet, which is noble and all, but I think that sends the wrong message entirely.  Instagram may think it’s important that parents have an idea what their kids are up to online. But monitoring your kids’ Internet use isn’t going to do squat in the long term. reports:

There are no crowns in this beauty contest. The winner gets to call herself the prettiest of the bunch and the losers, well, this is what they get: A big red “x” over their faces.

They’re so young we can’t show you those faces but here’s how it works. They post their photos on social media sites like Instagram. Just about anyone, even strangers can vote anonymously choosing the cutest of the group.

Kind of sounds like fun, right? Just kidding. Maybe. Okay, not at all, I would have totally entered my face into this contest when I was a teenager. In fact, while the adult me sees this kind of thing and shakes her head, the teen girl inside me can’t help but wonder how she would rank.

I just don’t quite see what parents are fussing about. First off, there are plenty of instances in which little girls’ pictures wind up on the Internet through no fault of their own. Just last year Swedish teens rioted because their pictures were uploaded to Instagram without their consent. So even if you’re monitoring your daughter’s Internet use, guess what? Her friend (or worse, a stranger) can still do whatever they want with your kid’s pictures. You’ve probably posted pics of your kid on Facebook, right? So what’s to keep some crazy friend-of-a-friend from snatching them up and using them however they want?

The other thing is that there will always be popularity contests like these. Even if the Internet suddenly vanished, tweens would still be rating each other’s hotness and analyzing each other to death and making their own “Burn Book” spin-offs. And we would have to monitor every waking moment of our children’s lives offline to keep this sort of stuff from happening.

So really, the only solution I can see is to instill a strong sense of self-worth in kiddos from an early age. I know this is an uphill battle regarding preteens. I get that it’s an actual developmental milestone for kids to start caring what other people think. Even the most stable of preteens will long for approval at one point.

But we as parents need to stop making things worse by sending messages that validation comes from the outside.

I don’t talk negatively about myself around my daughter. I also try not to take other peoples’ behavior personally. I want my daughter to really consider why it’s easy to shrug off people’s dumb opinions about food or sports or politics, but it’s so damn difficult to shrug off their opinions about us.

One of the teens interviewed in this story said if her picture didn’t win, “it would ruin my self confidence.”

That’s the part of this that scares me the most: that some girls would actually feel ruined by this kind of thing. So while iPads and viral social media technology will only continue to pervade, it’s not like parents are completely helpless. With a little focused energy, good parenting should be able to offset the effects of modern tools of bullying.

(photo: lithian/shutterstock)