Nude photos of celebrities are nothing new. But I confess that when I read recently about the new nude magazine cover shots of reality TV star Kim Kardashian, I paid attention.
I have no interest in the actual photos themselves; I change enough diapers every day that pictures of other people’s backsides are the very last thing I want to see. I know for Kardashian it’s just another publicity stunt — she is quoted as saying she wanted to “break the Internet” when the photos went viral — but to me it’s more than a meaningless exhibition. It’s another message telling young women and girls that what they look like is tramp and that it’s OK to do whatever you must to get attention.
My daughter is only 5 years old, so I’m not worried about her being the next Playboy bunny. But when blink she’ll be 15, and I want her to have a firm grip on what is (and isn’t) appropriate to post in an Instagram feed. I want her to have strong enough sense of self that the number of likes on a Facebook post doesn’t make or ruin her day. I want her to know she is loved for who she is, not what she looks like. It’s a tall order, I know, and that’s why I’m starting now with these five guidelines:
1. Teach her to appreciate her body
I think everyone can agree that our bodies are magnificent machines. I hope to teach my daughter respect and appreciation for the way her body functions and what it can do. I want her to know that she is capable of much more than being looked at.
2. Validate who she is not what she looks like
Along the same line, I’m making extra efforts to direct my conversations with my daughter and other young girls away from comments about their cute hair or darling outfits and towards their interests, personality and intelligence. I want my daughter, her friends, my nieces and my young neighbors to know I value who they are, not what they look like.
3. Model appropriate behavior
Kids and teens are incredibly perceptive. They are hanging on every word you say, whether or not you realize it. If your daughter hears you talk about your flat chest or big booty, she will likely start echoing those sentiments. Complain about your weight and she may complain about hers too, even if she’s only 7 years old. I’m making extra efforts to kibosh the body talk, especially around my kids.
4. Help her develop talents and skills
I’ve been fretting lately about the totally ridiculous Instagram posts I’ve seen from perfectly reasonable tweens and teens. Based on my completely unscientific observations, it seems like teens who are involved in dance, drama, church group, work, whatever, are way less likely to post pictures they’ll regret when they’re older. (Or even next week.) Talents and hobbies give kids confidence, and the more confident they are, the less likely they are to seek external validation. And the less time they’ll have to post dumb selfies.
5. Teach her to serve others
The problem with being wrapped up in managing your self-image in real life and online is that you don’t have time to serve others. I hope that teaching my daughter to seek out opportunities to help others will help shift her default focus from “me” to “we.”