Psychologist Dr. Lauren Hazzouri says it is "disturbing" that "12 is the new 20" and feels many young women are trying to emulate celebrities and influencers in their posts, which she feels can lead to being sexualized in ways they might not even understand.
She says research has found the over-sexualization of girls on media can lead to issues with mood, school performance, their relationship with themselves, and self-esteem. She also warns in extreme cases it can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
And more young girls are sharing and sexting nude photos than you might imagine. Dr. Hazzouri says studies have found 24 percent of high school girls and 3 percent of college girls have taken part in some form of nude sexting.
Dr. Hazzouri acknowledges simply telling a teen not to do something (like sexting) is usually not going to work, so she shares her main rule of sexting, which is "no photos, only words." Additional tips from Dr. Hazzouri on how to protect kids on social media include:
- Keep their feeds and accounts private
- Do not allow kids to accept a friend request from someone unless they have 50 shared or mutuals followers/friends in common
- Make sure your kids know the consequences of sharing content online
- She also says phones -- whether a child is 6 or 16 -- should be allowed in their bedroom
The psychologist adds, "Parents need to get much more proactive and set boundaries about what their children are doing online."