Are you concerned with how online life and social media are shaping girls’ development, their identity, relationships and their feelings of self-worth? At a time when tween and teen girls are exploring their own individuality and finding their true self, our daughters are facing a constant barrage of social media messages, influencers, and trends, from sexy selfies to body stereotypes and social comparison. What can parents do about it?

On September 7, 2022, at 12pm via Zoom, Children and Screens hosted the #AskTheExperts webinar “Mirror, Mirror, in My Palm: Girls and Media.” A panel of expert researchers, psychologists, and parenting experts examined parents’ most pressing questions on how online media affects girls and their mental and physical health as they navigate through the increasingly tricky waters of social media and digital interactions. Topics included identity development, social pressures, media behaviors, cyberbullying and social exclusion, media portrayals, sexual identity and more! This webinar provided practical tips to help girls gain control of their on- and offline engagement.


  • Elizabeth Englander, PhD

    Executive Director and Founder; Professor of Psychology Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center; Bridgewater State University
  • Lisa Damour, PhD

    Psychologist, Author
  • Meenakshi Gigi Durham, PhD

    Professor and Collegiate Scholar, University of Iowa
  • Sophia Choukas-Bradley, PhD

    Assistant Professor of Psychology; Director, Teen and Young Adult Lab (TAYA Lab); University of Pittsburgh
  • Lanice Avery, PhD

    Assistant Professor of Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Director Research on Intersectionality, Sexuality, and Empowerment (RISE) Lab; University of Virginia

Girls face unique experiences and challenges online that are important to consider when understanding digital media usage and impacts across child development. In this “Ask The Experts” webinar, an interdisciplinary panel of researchers, psychologists, and parenting experts discussed how digital media, primarily social media, affects girls’ mental health, self image, and well-being. The panelists also shared their advice on how parents can effectively communicate with their daughters in order to minimize the negative impacts of digital media on girls’ health.

00:00 Introduction

Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, Founder and President Emerita of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, introduces the webinar and moderator, Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Executive Director and Founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center and Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University.

03:28 Sophia Choukas-Bradley, PhD

Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Teen and Young Adult Lab at University of Pittsburgh, addresses the influence of gender and social media on girls’ mental health and body image. Dr. Choukas-Bradley details the “perfect storm” that underlies the intersection of gendered socio-cultural pressures, social media features, and adolescent development factors to influence body image and mental health concerns. She closes with a brief overview on the additional risk factors that transgender youth experience when it comes to body image and disordered eating.

19:10 Meenakshi Gigi Durham, PhD

Dr. Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor and Collegiate Scholar at the University of Iowa, introduces the topic of sexuality in digital media. She displays several examples of how girls’ sexuality is portrayed in the media and highlights the five myths of girls’ sexualization from her book The Lolita Effect. She describes the effects these myths have on young girls and discusses what parents can do to help prevent these adverse outcomes.

29:51 Lanice Avery, PhD

Dr. Lanice Avery, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Research on Intersectionality, Sexuality, and Empowerment (RISE) Lab at the University of Virginia, explains how Black womens’ media usage affects their social attitudes and psychological health. Dr. Avery reviews research on the mental health impacts from usage of specific social media platforms, then describes the true paradox of social media for Black women, addressing the issues of mental health, online sexual victimization, gendered racism, and body esteem.

44:19 Lisa Damour, PhD

Dr. Lisa Damour, Psychologist and Author, notes both the upsides and downsides of social media before focusing on ways parents can minimize harm related to social media usage. Dr. Damour shares both a structural and relational approach to social media harm reduction and closes by stressing the importance of modeling healthy technology usage for children.

56:13 Elizabeth Englander, PhD

Dr. Englander adds her insights on key concerns around cyberbullying among adolescent girls, briefly touching on the effects of peer relationships and social isolation during the pandemic. Dr. Englander provides some alternatives that can combat social struggles in girls.

01:02:34 Q&A

Dr. Englander leads the panelists in a discussion guided by audience questions. Topics addressed include specific intervention methods that are most successful with youth, differential impacts by platform or type of content, and specific conversational points parents can use to open dialogue with their children.

[Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra]: Hi, and welcome to Mirror Mirror in my Palm: Girls and Media, a Children and Screens Ask the Experts Webinar. We hope you’re feeling refreshed from a wonderful summer and we’re so delighted to be back with another fantastic workshop to kick off the school year. I am Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, founder and President Emerita of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and I’m honored to be your host for today’s webinar. As the mother of a teen, I’m particularly looking forward to the insights, ideas, and advice that our experts will share with us in a few moments. Here at Children and Screens, we spend a lot of time talking about the roles and impacts of digital media in the lives of toddlers, children, and adolescents, categorized into ages and stages. Over the next two webinars, we’re going to focus separately on the experiences and challenges by gender, and the caveats that issues surrounding gender identity, I’m sorry, with the caveat, that issues surrounding gender identity can be complicated and may not be perfectly reflected by this dichotomy, and in truth, every individual child is different and unique. Today, we turn our attention to girls growing up in a digital world and their unique and complicated pressures, realities and oftentimes unrealistic expectations. We hope that you’ve come away with a better understanding of how digital media, particularly social media, influences girls self-esteem and body image, anxiety and depression, tech mediated sexual identities and behaviors, and the effects of embedded beauty and racial biases in media broadly, as well as cyberbullying. We hope that our experts will give you what you need to know to talk to your daughter about the issues that she may be facing online. Now, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to today’s moderator, Dr. Elizabeth Englander. Dr. Englander is the founder and executive director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University and a nationally recognized expert in the area of bullying and cyberbullying, childhood causes of aggression and abuse, and children’s use of technology. She is also an active board member of Children and Screens’ National Scientific Advisory Board. Welcome, Elizabeth.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I’m Dr. Elizabeth Englander, and thank you for that introduction. And thank you to everybody who’s taking the time to come here today out of your busy day. And I hope that what our speakers have to talk to you about is going to be useful and interesting for you, I feel very sure that it will be. Our first speaker is Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley, and Dr. Choukas-Bradley is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is the director of the Teen and Young Adult Lab and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her lab studies interpersonal and sociocultural influences on adolescent mental health, and she is also the author of the blog Psychology of Adolescents: The Science of Teens Screens, Gender and Sexuality. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Choukas-Bradley, we’re so happy to have you, and please take it away.

[Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley]: Thank you so much for that introduction, Dr. Englander, and to Children and Screens for inviting us all to be here today. I’m so honored to be here with this group of amazing panelists and excited to speak with you all. So I will be speaking with you briefly today about gender and social media influences on girls’ body image and mental health. Otherwise known as the talk when I try to tell you about eight years of my work in seven minutes, so we’ll see how that goes. So I really think it’s important for all researchers interested in adolescents and for parents of adolescents to be aware of the importance and centrality of body image during this developmental period. Body image has implications for disordered eating. When adolescents are dissatisfied with their bodies, they’ll often engage in disordered weight and shape related behaviors and a broad range of disordered eating behaviors in order to try to align their bodies with sociocultural beauty standards. Body image also is associated with depressive symptoms, especially for adolescent girls, because girls are socialized to believe that body image is incredibly important for one’s value as a person. Having a negative body image has huge implications for feeling negatively in terms of mood and in some cases developing depressive symptoms or even a clinical depressive disorder. Negative body image also can affect health risk behaviors related to appearance, such as for white or light skinned women engaging in indoor tanning, and for women of color and girls of color in some cases using skin bleaching creams with the goal of changing one’s skin tone to align with standards of beauty, which are very complex, change over time, and are definitely affected by social media. And then my doctoral student, Annie Mayhew, who is an incredible researcher, is really interested in how body image and appearance concerns can also have implications for academic motivation and for example, for engagement or desire to engage in STEM fields for high school and middle school aged girls. We know that body image can affect all these things, and that social media may be exacerbating body image concerns. I also want to note much of my research focuses on mental health among adolescents with marginalized identities. And today I’m trying to do a broad overview of how social media affects body image and mental health, and I don’t focus on all of this work in today’s talk, but I just wanted to start the talk by noting that minority stressors, proximal and distal, in other words, within the self and within the environments, stressors related to minoritized or marginalized identities can create heightened risk for a broad range of mental health concerns and risk behaviors. So, for example, for LGBTQ plus youth who I focus on in my research, experiences of discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, can increase mental health concerns and risk for mental health concerns, and then for youth of color, experiences of oppression and discrimination, some of which occur in the context of social media, can increase the risk for mental health concerns. But social media doesn’t just exacerbate risks for these types of minority stressors. Social media can also provide community and resources that can help with resilience and resistance against harmful societal influences. I recently published this Developmental-Sociocultural model for how social media can affect adolescent girls’ body image. And I’ve been working on this model for many years, but right before it was published for the first time in, at least my lifetime and maybe ever, teen girls’ body image became a front page above the fold news story, with the release of the Facebook files and the revelations that Meta as a company may have had knowledge about how Instagram in particular, and also Facebook, may have been negatively affecting teen girls’ body image and mental health. And I call this model, informally, the perfect storm model. Its more formal academic name is a Developmental-Sociocultural Model of Adolescent Girls’ Social Media Use, Body Image Concerns, and Mental Health. I can see everyone’s faces but then can’t see my slides. So that’s what’s happening when I awkwardly post. Alright, so what this model says is that long standing, gender-related sociocultural pressures, which I’ll talk about in a moment, intersect with the features of social media, such as its quantifiability, its visual emphasis, and its availability 24/7 in all contexts, and that those two things intersect with adolescent developmental factors, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment, to increase body image concerns for adolescent girls in particular, as well as for gender minority youth, and that body image concerns, for the reasons I mentioned previously, can increase the risk for a broader range of mental health concerns. I’m going to focus on these adolescent developmental factors briefly first. So as I mentioned, we know that adolescence is a time of heightened body image concerns and this is especially true for girls and transgender or gender minority youth. This is due both to cultural gender related pressures. So for example, the overemphasis on physical appearance for girls and women in the U.S., which intersect with biological changes, for example, cisgender girls, those who are not transgender, who are assigned female sex at birth and identify as girls, in terms of their gender identity, when they go through puberty, they on average gain weight. And although social media has changed beauty standards in complex ways that involve some cultural appropriation, we know that the average body type is now curvier and more muscular than it used to be for female bodied people, but it’s still very thin. It still requires a certain amount of caloric restriction and excessive exercise for many female bodied people to attain that beauty standard, and the biological changes of puberty make it harder for many female bodied people to achieve that beauty standard. We also know that adolescence is a time when peers become extremely important for one’s sense of self, and when adolescents on average begin dating and sexual relationships. And finally, last but not least, adolescence is a time of huge cognitive changes, and these cognitive changes lead to increased egocentrism. So, for example, adolescents experience something called the imaginary audience, which you might remember from when you were an adolescent, where you felt like everyone was uniquely concerned with your every move and anything embarrassing felt like it was a huge disaster in terms of your day or even how you feel about yourself broadly as a person. For all these reasons, it’s not a surprise that the majority of adolescents of all gender identities experienced body image concerns. So, for example, when I’ve collected data from a broad range of studies where I ask kids whether they agree with the statement “I wish I looked better”, 76% of cisgender teen girls say sometimes, often or always, they wish they looked better, compared to 63% of cisgender teen boys and 74% of gender minority teens, teens whose sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender identity. With the item “I worry about the way I look”, 69% of cisgender girls say sometimes, often or always, 50% of cisgender teen boys and 71% of gender minority teens. Coming back to this model we’ll now talk for a moment about what is it about social media in particular that influences these things? So social media really involves the intersection of peer influences and mass media influences. So for example, celebrities, influencers, so those who became famous because of social media, and one’s peers, for example, high school girls classmates are all shown within one space. And I think this is creating a really complex new environment where the imaginary audience may actually not even be imaginary anymore. What does it mean to talk about the imaginary audience, this cognitive phenomenon we’ve always known about in adolescence, in an era where any moment could be photographed and broadcast to a huge network of peers and even strangers. I’ve done some work with Mitch Prinstein and Jackie Nesi about how social media might transform interpersonal relationships, and these are some of the specific features of social media we’ve proposed that could affect interpersonal relationships and body image and mental health. Availability refers to the 24/7 nature of social media, where if kids have phones in their bedrooms, they are able to access social media in any given moment 24/7. I’ll skip some of these, but a big one is quantifiability. Kids can now see actual quantifiable metrics of the number of likes, friends and followers they have and that they receive in response to specific posts. And at the time we first published this work in 2018, we weren’t yet aware of something that now is much better understood, which is the role of algorithms. We are not just interacting with people we know in a genuine way on social media. There are algorithms built in that are meant to show us increasingly extreme content based on our prior interactions and searches. And this has huge implications for body image because adolescent girls or people of any gender identity who search for perhaps mild and perhaps not harmful content such as looking up a makeup routine, may soon be taken to more extreme content related to pro-eating disorder pages or other damaging content. And the reason those algorithms are in place is because social media operates through an attention economy, where the more time we spend on social media, the more social media companies make through advertisements. And humans are naturally drawn to things that are more extreme, that’s just a basic element of our social cognitive evolution. So coming back to how does social media affect girls’ body image, my colleagues and I have found that social media increases both the focus on other people’s appearance by encouraging social comparisons with idealized or even fake images. We now are seeing AI generated influencers, entirely fake human beings, who are being designed to conform to current beauty standards or even to make those beauty standards more extreme. And I’ve mentioned this several times, but beauty standards have really changed in the era of social media and are increasingly impossible to attain. When I asked undergraduate young women and high school girls to describe the ideal female body, they list dozens and dozens of body features, specific body parts, the need for perfection across all aspects of face, hair and body. And as you might guess, social media with all of this that I’ve already talked about, can increase the focus on one’s own appearance. And I’ve been studying something I call appearance-related social media consciousness, which refers to how girls and people of all gender identities may be focused on how they look to a social media audience, not only when they’re online, but even when they’re alone. I see I’ve run out of time, but I’m hoping some of the Q&A will allow me to come back to body image concerns for gender minority youth in particular, and very briefly, transgender youth experience not only all of the specific influences that all adolescents are exposed to that I’ve already talked about biological, sociocultural, cognitive, etc., but they also experience unique challenges. For example, someone who identifies with a gender identity that doesn’t match their assigned sex at birth may have an even harder time than cis kids aligning their bodies with societal standards. And I will skip to the end and just let you know that I didn’t have time in the talk to give both this basic info and applied knowledge about what we can do. But in the Q&A I can share some of the intervention development work I’ve been doing, and in my last Children and Screens talk, I focused on some tips for parents and teachers about how you can engage adolescents in discussions about body image and how to raise critical consciousness about the role of social media. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your being here. Please check out my website and my blog if you’re interested in learning more. Thank you.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you so much, Sophia. That was absolutely fascinating. And I love hearing about your research. I did have a question that occurred to me. Some of our own work has been based on trying to raise awareness in adolescents, particularly in girls, around the idea of how curated images on social media really impact body image. And I’m just wondering if you have any data or if you’re aware of any data thinking about how awareness of this issue and awareness of this association in adolescent girls might help them develop a slightly more skeptical eye when it comes to their own, the impact on their own body image.

[Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley]: Awareness, it’s an excellent question, first of all, and thank you for the kind words. Awareness is part of the answer, but unfortunately not the whole solution. We have decades of research on mass media influences on adult women’s body image, and we know that even when adult women with fully developed brains and decades of experience looking at media images are fully, cognitively aware that an image has been Photoshopped and is not real, exposure to those mass media images still leads immediately to decreases in body image. So when you think about social media and how it can be really hard to tell when something is real or fake because everyday people, adolescent girls and people of all genders and ages have access to apps that can allow them to dramatically change their bodies, but in ways that are not immediately detectable, according to research that’s been done in the Netherlands. And when you think about the adolescent developmental period and how susceptible adolescents are to peer influences and how their brains aren’t finished developing, awareness is not the whole story. So I know I’m doing that thing I do where I talk way too much, but I will just note that I’m currently working with colleagues at the Harvard School of Ed, including Emily Weinstein and Carrie James, who just wrote an amazing new book Behind Their Screens, which I recommend to everyone. And we are trying to understand how we can use evidence based principles from clinical psychology, as well as principles from educational psychology, to bring in different aspects of behavioral change and values alignment approaches beyond just raising awareness, although that is one really important piece. So thank you so much for that question.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Sure. And there are some other questions that I think are wonderful, but I think we have to save them for the Q&A at the end. So let’s move on. Our next speaker is Dr. Meenakshi Gigi Durham. She is a professor and collegiate scholar in the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a joint appointment in the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. Excuse me. Her research focuses on representations of gender and sexuality in the media, with an emphasis on the politics of the body, intersexual identities and youth cultures. She’s the author of several books, most recently including Me Too: the Impact of Rape Culture in the Media and Technosex. Fascinating word, technosex. Dr. Durham, we are really looking forward to your talk, please take it away.

[Dr. Meenakshi Gigi Durham]: Thank you so much again, like everyone, I’m so honored to be part of this panel of experts, this group of women with so much expertise in various aspects of children’s and teen media environments especially. So I’ve been asked to focus my presentation on sexuality in this media-saturated environment that we all inhabit, which is challenging enough for adults as Sophie just said and even more complicated and daunting, I think, for kids. I want to begin by saying that I consider myself to be a pro-sex feminist, and I define that as meaning that I believe sex to be a normal and natural, healthy part of human existence, and that we need to be far less squeamish about discussions of sexuality than we are. So that’s the starting point for discussing the information that I have gathered as part of my research on this topic, which I’ve been doing for more than 25 years now, actually, and I want to mention that I have two daughters who are now in their twenties, and I’ve had both hits and misses along the way as I’ve tried to be a proactive and caring mom, but they’ve turned out great, so there are effective ways to support our children in this media scape. I’m just going to begin by running through a few images that I’ve gathered from various media sources and sort of collected over the years and just let you look at them. Okay I’m going to break my silence on this one, this is a peekaboo pole dancing toy that was sold by the British retailer Tesco, and it was in their toys and games section, and when they were criticized, they actually claimed that it wasn’t meant for children. But, you know, if you look at the sort of cartoony image and the girl on the, you know, the curtain who looks very young, it looks kind of fake monopoly money, it does blur the line between, you know, children and adulthood. And they actually did pull this product after there was such a large outcry about it. And then, of course, there’s the fact that young women are presenting themselves more and more in the ways that you see on the left, which also connects with the issue of sexting, where the images are even more revealing that they share via social media and via text. So these are just a few examples of the way girls’ sexuality is represented in the media. But in my analysis of a wide range of media artifacts from fashion and beauty magazines, to advertisements, to social media, I found some repeated trends and portrayals of girls’ sexuality, and I refer to them in my book, The Lolita Effect, as the Five Media Myths of Girls’ Sexualization. I use the term myth as we use it in media studies, which is not to refer to a fable or fairy tale, but to refer to social constructions that have no roots in any fixed reality but have become so pervasive, so seemingly normal, so naturalized by repetition that people believe in them with the result that they have real world effects. And I also use the term sexualization, which is a term used by the American Psychological Association to describe sexual representation that is objectifying, degrading or sexist or otherwise inaccurate or harmful. It’s vastly different from a concept of sexuality that’s healthy, progressive, age appropriate. So the myths that I have identified are myths of sexualization, and I’m going to run through them very quickly. The first one is the myth that if you’ve got it, flaunt it, which is about girls having to signal their sexuality by removing as much clothing as possible and exposing their bodies as much as possible, which also relates to sexting, where they feel like, you know, transmitting risque messages is a way to signal their desire. This is particularly, this kind of message is particularly directed at girls because boys’ clothing is not like this. It’s much more, you know, big baggy shorts, big hoodies and so on, so it’s girls who are told this. There’s a condition to that myth, if you’ve got it flaunt it, and it, of course, refers to a certain type of body, the anatomy of a sex goddess, which we all know is the Barbie body, a body impossible to attain, you know, in nature, because it requires borderline starvation as well as plastic surgery. It’s a very thin but voluptuous body, which really isn’t easy to attain without all sorts of, you know, body work that’s usually harmful. The third myth is pretty babies, I call it after the Brooke Shields movie of the same title, where the message is increasingly that the younger a girl is the sexier she is. If you’ll think back to that Vogue cover with the ten year old model on it, and again, this is a very dangerous message because it indicates that young women are ready to be active sexual participants at a much younger age than they’re actually developmentally ready for. This wasn’t the case decades ago where we had Marilyn Monroe or Ava Gardner as our sort of ideal sex symbols. These were grown women with grown women’s bodies. So something has really shifted over time. The myth that violence is sexy, which we see in a lot of horror films in particular, also video games, again, dangerous given the high rates of sexual violence and intimate partner violence that we see across the country. And the fact that what boys like matters more than what girls want and need, which you saw, for example, on the magazine cover I showed, where, you know, girls are exhorted to make guys crush on you, you know how, how you, you know, 50 ways to please your men kind of thing instead of looking at their own, their own desires, their own comfort levels, their own feelings of safety and so on. And I’ve also written about the way the Lolita effect has gone global, affecting cultures in which, you know, there were perhaps other safer and more, you know, like supportive ways of children moving into sexual maturity than there are in the U.S, but this message is is now being transmitted everywhere and actually wreaking havoc in other cultures in some ways. So those are the five myths, I just ran through them very quickly, but can discuss them in more detail at the end of the presentation if anyone has questions. Overall, these myths have negative effects. They lead to increased sexual activity in many cases, lower self-esteem, negative body image, sometimes very serious consequences, eating disorders, making major depression, suicidal ideation. They seem innocuous, but they’re not, and children and teens are exposed to millions of such images and messages every day. So what can we do about this? There are indeed some things that parents can do, I would say, and again, I have many, many suggestions in my book for, you know, especially girls and people who identify as girls at a range of different ages and from different backgrounds and so on. But I’m just going to distill them quickly right now. The first most important thing is keep the lines of communication open, have conversations about, you know, these media images and trends that you’re seeing. Listen to your children, express your own feelings, but, you know, don’t be judgemental. Stay interested in the media that your children are consuming, again, just know what they’re looking at. Talk to them about it. If you need to regulate their media, and I do think that’s important sometimes, especially for younger children, explain why you’re doing it, be reasonable, be loving, because lecturing kids never works, even though we all do it sometimes. But it’s, you know, not really a winning strategy. And then I would say give girls a chance to voice their views, especially their critics. Because I have found in my dealings with young girls that the minute you sort of open that door, the minute you give them a chance, they’re amazingly critical. They engage, they’ve been thinking about this. So those are the things that I would suggest. I want to end with two quotes from women who have been, who have deeply inspired me. The first, the psychologist, Mary Pipher, who said “In an ideal culture, sexual decisions should be the result of intentional choices.”, not peer pressure, not cultural pressure, not media pressure, but your own decision to to engage sexually in ways that feel right to you when you’re ready. And the second from the anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, it is the only thing that ever has”. And that’s what keeps me going, that if we keep, if we keep engaging and doing this work, that we can make positive changes. So thank you for your time and I’m happy to discuss this further at any point.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you so much. And actually, that was really, really interesting. I do have a question for you. How do oversexualized portrayals of girls in modern media impact how young girls see themselves and their own sexuality?

[Dr. Meenakshi Gigi Durham]: Yeah, so actually there’s quite a bit of research that shows that exposure to sexual media, you know, and I think, you know, Sophie referred to and I’m sure we’re all going to talk, does fact in fact affect girls own perceptions of their own sexuality. First of all, how to represent themselves sexually, which is very much in terms of these narrowly defined, very restrictive and very, you know, very oppressive in some ways, models of, you know, the body and so on. But also there is research that shows that exposure to sexualized media actually leads to, it accelerates sexual activity. There was a study of more than a thousand young, well, actually, yeah, girls from different racial backgrounds, different class backgrounds. And there’s a very clear correlation there.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you so much for that. It’s fascinating work. It really is. And very important work. We’re going to keep moving in the interests of keeping to our schedule, and our next speaker is Dr. Lanice Avery. And Dr. Avery is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia with a dual appointment in the Department of Women. Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is the founding director of the Research on Intersectionality, Sexuality and Empowerment (RISE) Lab at the University of Virginia, and the Director of Research at the Bay Area based DEI consultancy firm Radicle Root Collective. And we really look forward to hearing about all that and about your research, Dr. Avery. So please take it away.

[Dr. Lanice Avery]: Thank you so much for that lovely introduction. I am still trying to get over all the amazing things that I’ve heard from the other panelists, so thank you for inviting me, not only to give the opportunity to talk about some of the things that I do, but mostly to hear about all the wonderful things that you all are doing, and to see the connections between some of the things that we’ve been all, kind of, thinking about in our own respective places and being brought into conversation with one another. So, scholars have expressed a growing level of interest in how Black women navigate gendered racial stereotypes in ways that kind of help them maintain a generally positive sense of self. Research across several fields indicates that heightened social media activity might adversely impact young women’s gender socialization and diminish their well-being. But today, little is known about whether heightened exposure to the racist, sexist and heteronormative gendered narratives derived in social media actually undermines Black women’s body image and self-esteem. So I’m going to talk today about some of my findings to help us better understand the contributing role of social media on Black women’s development and health. Black women are seemingly always connected. Prior research shows that Black women use digital media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter more frequently than all of their peers. Most cases, these digital spaces provide a context for Black women to engage in community building, intraracial social connection and positive identity formation. However, digital media might also be a toxic environment for Black women as they report disproportionate experiences of online race and gender based harassment and increased exposure to unattainable feminine beauty standards as we all mentioned today, and these heightened experiences of digital victimization could be associated with poor mental health and well-being. Despite heavy use, there remains a dearth of quantitative social science research that investigates Black women’s unique experiences with digital media. So my work addresses this gap by number one, examining Black women’s unique social media habits and their preferences to better understand their usage patterns and two, investigating how these patterns influence their social attitudes, their identity development, and their mental health. The first study I’m going to talk to you about, I conducted in 2017 in order to assess the specific social media patterns for Black women. So Nielsen and other media monitoring reports are always talking about how Black women are, you know, the most voracious users of social media. But rather than treat social media as a monolith, in my studies, my team and I measured Black college women’s social media use across several digital media platforms and then tested the distinct contributions of each platform on Black women’s mental health. So in this graph, you can see that young Black women in my sample reported using Facebook and Instagram most frequently. That’s not a surprise, but I wanted to test the associations between this usage on their health. And as you can see from this table. I explored social media’s impact on several dimensions of health, including depression, anxiety and self-esteem. And I want to draw your attention here to this highlighted area because that’s where the good stuff is. It’s here you’ll see that Instagram was linked with lower sensitivity and Tumblr was linked with a whole host of adverse outcomes: depression, hostility, sensitivity, and lower self-esteem, despite being the platform used least frequently, it ended up being the driver of some of the most adverse conditions. So contrary to previous research, the most frequently used platform Facebook wasn’t significantly associated with any adverse mental health issues, indicating the importance of us considering these relationships among diverse populations. So I know you’re probably thinking about how the social media landscape is just wildly different today than it was in 2017, and I thought the same thing, so my team and I revamped this study last year. Given that social distancing requirements related to the pandemic had amplified the ubiquity of social media in people’s lives, I wanted to test whether the social media patterns had changed and update my findings regarding the contributing role of social media on Black women’s health. Perhaps not surprising, Black women reported using YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook most frequently, and we see that some of those associations were related to more anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem and loneliness. One of the coolest and weirdest findings was that Instagram was linked to less loneliness, not more loneliness. And I want to dig in further to these analyses to see what is Instagram doing particularly differently than these other modalities in its relationship to these health outcomes. So the next study I wanted to talk with you about addresses those discrepant experiences of online gendered racial harassment that I mentioned earlier. Given that digital media use represents such a central part of Black women’s daily lives and much of their social interaction centered on visual content, my team and I were interested in learning more about how social interactivity might also increase susceptibility to harmful social interactions like appearance related victimization. Black women’s bodies are often the target of gendered racial microaggressions and sexual victimization, which can contribute to body image concerns. And still, the online victimization body image link remains kind of unexamined. So I tested four dimensions of sexual victims of online victimization in relation to body esteem to see which one of these might sort of have an impact. And then I wanted to test whether there was like the impact of the moderating potential of a positive gender racial identity factor called womanism to see whether or not that mitigated some of the risk of that victimization on Black women’s body image. Of the four types of online victimization that we studied, sexual victimization was the only dimension that significantly diminished Black women’s levels of body esteem. We only found that high levels of womanist consciousness buffered Black women from some of the harmful impacts of general online victimization and body esteem. And to my knowledge, this is the first of its kind to examine Black women’s experiences with online victimization and to study how positive gendered racial identity factors like womanism, which may be promoted and bolstered through women’s frequent engagement with positive race related media functions to counteract some of the detrimental impacts of online victimization on Black women’s mental health and development. So in our current society, social media platforms are common sites of self-presentation, identity construction, and relationship development for all women. However, it’s conceivable that young Black women’s social media use might center on additional culturally specific needs, such as social support, sociopolitical activism and discursive engagement and affirmation given their discrepant exposure to gendered racial stressors, both online and offline. Black women might use virtual communities as a user generated source of culturally relevant and empowering content. And social media sites like Twitter and TikTok are especially appealing to Black women because they foster positive identity development, collective community and strengthen social networks among Black women. These channels allow them to speak to each other across borders and boundaries and provide visibility to their unique experiences while using verbal formats, wordplay, and images that draw on culturally specific oral traditions, experiences and expertise. For these reasons, understanding the contributed the contributing role of social media use on Black women’s health and development is complex. It takes rigorous methods to capture the nuance, the social context and the temporal conditions that shape Black women’s paradoxical experiences with digital media. And these sites offer Black women an opportunity to produce and consume empowering messages that challenge those rooted in structural racism. But they also heighten their exposure to gendered racism and sexual victimization in the process. So my findings showcase how social media is not unilaterally associated with diminished health for Black women. Fortunately, social media has not been a consistent predictor of poor health across my studies, and these null findings offer us some insight into how each platform might work differently for users. And future research is needed to examine not only how frequently Black women are using these sites, but why they’re using these sites and how they use it. Like any good researcher, I have far more questions now than I did when I started this work. And I do invite your comments and your ideas about how we might extend this work in subsequent studies. None of this would be possible without a couple of key folks that work on my research team. Alexis Stanton is my student and doctoral candidate I’ve been working with since she was an undergraduate student in my research lab when I was getting my doctoral degree. And Dr. Sarah Matsuzaka, who is an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Child Advocacy, who helps me sort of think about how all of these things might work for gender nonbinary, for non-cis folks. And when we queer thinking about heteronormativity as a sexual precursor for media messages, what might it lend or what new information might that yield into how gender and sexual socialization is happening in these images? Thank you.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you so much, Dr. Avery, your work is so interesting and informative. We had a couple of questions that came in which kind of intersected with some of what I was thinking while I was watching you, which is that I’m wondering if any of your findings varied either by content or by the age of the user. So for example, I’m wondering if the finding that Instagram didn’t seem to lead to loneliness in the way that other some of these other apps did was a function of the fact that Instagram your sample use using Instagram might have been rather heavy, you know, bottom heavy towards younger users, youth as opposed to adult women, you know, or if the types of contents, really the type of content that you were studying really varied. Do you have any thoughts about that?

[Dr. Lanice Avery]: Yeah, thank you for asking that question, first I have to say, I study 18 to 34 year olds. I think I am mostly thinking about sex positivity and some of my questions are harder to answer in the same study if I am thinking about this with adolescents. So a lot of the sexual socialization literature for emerging adulthood is sort of about that. I like to be a myth buster about the ways that people are saying like, well Black girls are okay because they’re strong and think, how do I utilize a similar sample in order to be able to push back on some of those narratives? But I do always include age as a covariate, and it doesn’t actually bear out often. And what I like about these studies, too, is I think since 2017, there has been this narrative that Facebook is for older adults, but it is still commonly used within this demographic too, as among I think I asked maybe in that first study, I asked about ten different platforms and only the four or five that I presented today were statistically enough to include in a model. And then in this one I did another similar like 15 different kind of websites that were noted through like Alexa and other kind of properties as being highly circulated. But Facebook still comes up for this and age isn’t, and it doesn’t differ by age in that sample, those parameters are already pretty narrow. But it is not just for, you know, the Boomers as they want to say today. I mean, they’re certainly using some of those other elements differently. But I think there’s something about needing to do some kind of interactive investigation about, I think, number one, people are utilizing these apps one at a time, they’re utilizing them at the same time, they’re chatting with friends on each of them, they’re sending content from one platform to another and I think it’s very difficult to isolate what people are doing, but to whatever end our frequency of usage, isn’t the best like predictor of how these mediums might be impacting health. There have to be some other questions that we might be able to ask.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: So we tend to think of them as very discrete. But your point is that they are very fluid in actual use and there’s a lot of sort of cross use which I completely agree and I see all the time. So thank you so much, Dr. Avery. That was really wonderful. And let’s move on. Let’s keep going. We have Dr. Lisa Damour next. Dr. Damour is recognized as a thought leader by the American Psychological Association. She co-hosts the Ask Lisa podcast, writes about teenagers for The New York Times, appears as a regular contributor to CBS News and works in collaboration with UNICEF. She’s the author of two New York Times bestsellers Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. And thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Damour. We are really looking forward to hearing about your work.

[Dr. Lisa Damour]: Well, it is an honor to be here and talk about tough act to follow. I just, I have just been soaking this up and I’m going to do very high level, 30,000 feet, what do we know, and really summarizing so much of the wisdom that we shared here, and then I’m going to go really practical on the parenting piece: what can parents and guardians do in light of what we know about social media? So there are upsides and downsides and then basically we’re down to minimizing harm, is what we’re really going to work on here. So starting with the upsides and you know, Dr. Avery said this so much more eloquently that I can, there’s a lot of benefits to young people and young women involved in social media. They make powerful connections. They enhance meaningful social relationships they have in real life. They figure out ways to express themselves. In some of my interviewing for work, for the Times, in talking with young people about their advocacy work and their anti-racism work, so much of what they described to me was being on social media, watching arguments get made, watching arguments get pulled apart, watching arguments get remade is something that hugely advanced their sophistication of their reasoning, their sophistication of their thinking, and anyone who spends any time around teenagers today knows they are vastly more subtle and sophisticated in their thinking than we ever were at their age. And I would chalk a lot of this up to their ability to read and watch and engage in social platforms in very complex discourses that they are participating in all the time. And so it’s a really powerful force. So it’s not all bad, but it can be bad. And this is, again, just I mean, broad strokes, barely covering the depth and the subtlety and the nuance of what’s come before. But we know it’s bad when they’re there to see if they can become popular. And we know it’s not good for girls. This is especially for girls, these two findings, when they are engaging in social comparison, and Dr. Choukas-Bradley, this is your work and I know that I’m referencing your very work here, and so I just I want to acknowledge that. So it’s not all bad. It’s not all good. One of the things that I’m always struck by is I will see sometimes people reporting findings of adolescents reporting that their experience of social media is neutral. And I’m thinking that’s probably the average. It’s not that you’re saying it has no effect. They’re saying that it is both good and bad for me at the same time and I know it. Okay. So given that, let’s talk about harm minimization. So the way I think about harm minimization is I think in terms of structural features and relational features. So starting with the structural approach and this is what I mean by like very practical here, I do not think any technology should be in any bedrooms ever for anyone, if possible. Now I am aware that there are some homes and families where the only place a young person can do homework in a quiet way would be in a bedroom. And that has absolutely got to be protected. If that is the case, then it should all come out at night. There is no reason for any of us, much less any of our kids or teenagers, to have technology in their bedrooms. There are thousands of reasons to not have technology in our bedrooms, and so I would say this is a rule worth having. This is a rule worth having for the whole family. I will tell you, I’m actually a mom. I have a 19 year old and a 12 year old. I just sent a 19 year old off to college who had never had her phone in her room in the time that she lived in our home. So she’s now managing it, and as far as I can tell, well, but this is a rule you make and it’s a rule I would strongly encourage you to make, happy to follow up with more reasons in the questions, but for no other reason than just to protect sleep. When we see negative mental health outcomes as a function of technology, so often it is through the pathway of disrupted sleep. Another thing from the structural side is go slow in giving kids technology. And one thing I will tell you is you can give your kid a phone, you can even give them a smartphone, with no browser and no apps, and they can basically use it as a walkie talkie text machine to be in touch with their friends. I just did this with my 12 year old because her sister went to college, she felt like she needed to be in touch. In order to add apps, she needs our approval. That is how we have set it up. And I think so often families feel like once you give a kid a phone, you’re just opening this door. Not at all. You can really move slowly and I would say hold off as long as you can on browsers and apps. Kids can still communicate with their friends without those. The other way I would think about it is not so much being against technology, that just doesn’t work, but being for other things. Keeping kids busy. I’m a big fan of kids being busy. Not too busy, but busy is good, and when they’re busy they just have less time online and that’s a good thing. What might they be busy with? Let’s start here in terms of the things I would have every family be for: sleep, number one. And just to recap, this is critically important. Elementary school students need 11 hours of sleep. Middle schoolers need 10 hours of sleep. High schoolers need 9 hours of sleep. So that’s a lot of time. Being physically active, studying without the interruption of digital technology that is not part of their work. Helping out around the house, helping out around the community, and then having interactions that do not involve technology, do not involve their face to face you’re with the people you’re with. Fill the time of young people with these things and narrow the time they can spend in digital interactions. The relational approach. So here I want to double down on something Dr. Durham said. Talk with kids about their experiences of being online. We are talking about teenagers, top down approaches do not work. It is really important to say what does it feel like for you when you’re on this app and that app? I had a fantastic teenage girl say to me the other day, I love my phone and I hate my phone. And then we could have the conversation. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you wish you would do differently? What might make a difference, but do it from their point of view, be curious, curious. That’s the best way to make change in behavior. Okay. These algorithms Dr. Dr. Choukas-Bradley mentioned, these, I have to tell you, these are the things that scare me on social media more than anything else. And Dr. Dr. Choukas-Bradley you described them so beautifully, I will not repeat. But here’s what I will say: in the early days of kids interactions on social technologies, they would sometimes fall down a rabbit hole. With the help of algorithms, kids are dragged down rabbit holes now. They do one search for diet, they do one search for before and after images, and then they are suddenly flooded with content. So these are very dangerous. Talk to teenagers about them. Tell them they are being played by social media outlets. Tell them that their attention is being manipulated for money. David Yeager at UT-Austin Does great work. Teenagers do not like to be manipulated. He has showed this. Teenagers will change their behavior when they understand they’re manipulated. So talk to them about what is going on, and then I will end here. We also have to be alert to subtle harms. So everything that has been covered before are so important and so huge. But when we’re thinking about girls, I will tell you one of the things that’s emerged in the last I would say maybe six or seven months is kind of “that girl” memes on social media and “that girl” is about girls who like, have their lives together. They get up at six, they have their coffee, they go for a walk, they take a bath. You know, they just are super organized. And on top of things, it looks healthy. It looks, you know, wholesome. I think it’s hard on girls. I think that it sets another standard of a way of not so we’re not you’re being beautiful, we’re talking about you being incredibly put together all the time. And so I think we want to keep an eye on that, that the goal of social media should be to enrich the lives of young people. And what we’re always, always watching for is the ways it can make them feel less than. And we want to look for it top to bottom, because there’s a lot of ways this can happen.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Wonderful. So interesting. And I love the way that you really pulled together a lot of the research that a lot of us have talked about here today. Thank you so much, Dr. Damour. That was really interesting. I’m wondering if you could give us any thoughts about how to address some of these issues in young girls before they really begin to think about owning their first device or using social media sort of as a way of laying the groundwork for them to be educated consumers and to understand, you know, issues like pressure towards perfection, which I think is the huge issue for women of all ages. And I’m sorry to hear it. I mean, I suspect it was always sort of part of adolescent life. But, you know, I don’t like to see it creeping down. None of us do, the age range. But I’m just curious if you have any thoughts about addressing it with, for example, children in later elementary school where you’re sort of laying the groundwork for their full participation in digital tech.

[Dr Lisa Damour]: Can I have 40 minutes to answer this question?

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: No. Sorry.

[Dr Lisa Damour]: Okay, I’ll go. I’m going to do a speed round on this. So my favorite parenting advice came from the inside of a Dove chocolate wrapper: “Don’t talk about it. Be about it”. So with your little kids and with your teenagers, you’ve got to model what you say you want them to be doing. So your technology should not be in your bedroom. You should not be talking about your appearance and weight. You should be really thinking very carefully about the relationship with technology you’re modeling and the relationship with yourself and your self esteem that you are modeling. The second thing I would say is we have to be very mindful as the adults in kids’ environments, how we talk about their containers versus how we talk about their contents. And for me, social media is a container world. It is all about the container. And so at every opportunity we want to remember, this is a zero sum game. Every moment that we are talking about what a kid looks like, we are not talking about who she is inside. So I’m not saying you can’t tell your daughters they’re cute. I love telling my daughters they’re cute. We also have to spend a lot of time talking about how smart, interesting, funny, sardonic. You know, all of that, they are. And then I think the last thing I would say is get them questioning. Get them questioning what can really be shared in a 2D environment versus what can only happen in a 3D environment. And just ask those questions, talk about it, embrace your own shortcomings. Point out that on social media and 2D environments, people very rarely talk about their shortcomings. Those kinds of things can help to work against perfectionism.

[Dr Elizabeth Engalnder]: That’s a great answer, and it sounds like you’re also really talking about giving them the language, right? Giving them some words and some phrases so that they can label what we’re thinking of. For example, thinking about 2D and 3D environment. One of the things we find in our own research is that there really is a quality to 3D environments that’s quite different from the quality in 2D interactions, even ones that that come close to 3D interactions like the one we’re doing all right now. There’s a quality that is missing, though, that would be different if we were all in a room together. And I love the idea of using those phrases because it really gives them words that they can use to frame these thoughts. Thank you so much, Dr. Damour, your work is so interesting. Everybody here does such amazing work. And just to give you in the audience sort of a few things to think about in terms of cyberbullying specifically in girls, you know, one of the things that we find in in my lab is that the intensity of the relationships between girls is quite different from the intensity of the relationships between boys, that girls tend to have strong, supportive relationships with other girls. They tend to be more invested in these relationships. They tend to be more interested in these relationships. And to some extent that lends itself to social problems as well, because then social problems like cyberbullying tend to be more intense as well. So a lot of the conflict and cyberbullying that we see that is different for girls specifically follows a lot of what we see between girls in person. So we may find, for example, that kids get into a bullying situation and that boys sort of get past it more quickly and that girls tend to be more intense about it. I think, too, that the pandemic has affected the genders very differently, and this is mirrored in our research and it is mirrored in the CDC, is research that girls have really struggled more with their mental health during this pandemic, that it has impacted them more and that they have struggled more. And I think the reasons for that have to do with the fact that social isolation is somewhat, has been more impactful on growing girls than it has been for other people, that they really rely on those social interactions for a lot of their social supports and for a lot of their stimulation and interest and connection with other people. And all of that was diminished even among the, in our research, we found even among schools that remained fully open during the pandemic, these effects were still seen among girls, probably because a lot of the extraneous things like the socializing and the unstructured activities like sports or clubs or interests, were all diminished. So although there were fewer things happening during the pandemic among girls who went to schools that remained open, there were still some issues. But I think there’s a good news part of this, too, when it comes to cyberbullying, the most, the strongest protection against cyberbullying and the the most effective way for girls to develop resiliency when it comes to bullying and cyberbullying really has to do with support from their peers and girls benefit from this to a significant extent more than boys. And so it’s kind of a double edged sword. On the one hand, the intensity of the relationships may mean that they spill over into problems like cyberbullying more often. It also means that they benefit more and they become more resilient when they have the support of their peers. And, you know, many, many times parents and schools sort of ask me questions around how can we fix this situation? We have girls who are doing things to each other online. How can we fix this? How can we make it so it didn’t happen? Or, you know, what can we do to make it go away? And I think the truth of the matter is there’s very limited things you can do to put that toothpaste back into the tube. But what we can do, and I think what we should do when it comes to cyberbullying and girls is really focus on coaching girls, on how to harness all of that social support that they have with their peers and their friends and show them how when you harness that kind of social support, it really makes problems like cyberbullying feel less significant and less devastating. And ultimately, because the world is not all puppies and rainbows, as we’ve all learned over the last few years, I’m sorry to say, you know, the goal has got to be to really bolster resiliency and self-confidence among girls. And I think that really giving them that success experience is a great way to do it. The final thing I would say, and then we’re going to stop and take questions, is that one of the big effects of the pandemic has been a real weakening of social skills in children, and this is particularly true possibly in social skills that have to do with when you’re really challenged by someone. So when you’re in a situation that’s difficult, or somebody is being mean to you maybe or, you know, somebody challenges you in some ways. And I think that that it’s hard to know whether that diminution of social skills is stronger in boys or girls, but it does appear to be happening for both of them. And so I think that has challenged girls a little bit to, you know, to really promote their their sense of where to find their friends. And I think this is one of the big ways that we as adults can help help girls get back from this pandemic, frankly, is really helping them connect with each other, showing them how sometimes putting down screens really bolsters connections. And by the way, the kids in our research really seem to know that this is the case. They’re conscious of the fact that online you can make connections with people, but really deep friendships really blossom in face to face situations. And so we need to sort of use that, use that knowledge, use how clever they are. And Dr. Gigi Durham said, that’s really great, how impressed she is with these girls and what it is that they are able to be aware of. And I’m optimistic too, because I really have the same feeling when I speak with girls of how how aware they are of these things and when they’re not unaware of something, how aware they can quickly become and use that awareness. So having said all this, what I’d like to do now is I would like to have a more extended Q&A and let let people begin by sort of speaking to specific intervention methods maybe, and starting the discussion that way. Please do keep your comments brief so that we can look at questions, specific questions, too. But I think just starting by having everybody speak very briefly about sort of specific interventions that they would recommend for parents, Dr. Choukas-Bradley, why don’t we start with you since you were number one on the hit show and see what you think.

[Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley]: Thank you so much. Well also, we then, if it’s okay, a question I was just checking out some of the questions we got and there was also one about, you know, what can parents do who, for example, who are working more than one job and don’t have time to monitor to the degree that’s being recommended? So one thing that parents can do regardless of socioeconomic status and and need to be working multiple jobs and amount of time in the home with kids is to have some of the discussions we’ve been talking about. And to add to that, I wanted to share very briefly some work I’ve done with Brian Galla at the School of Ed, which is based on David Yeager’s work that Dr. Damour mentioned, which is, adolescents really do not like to know that they’re being manipulated by the man, they really value autonomy and independent decision making. So conversations about the specific ways algorithms are developed and the specific things tech companies and tech execs have been quoted as talking about regarding how they designed social media to capture teens’ attention and keep them using social media more and more and in potentially harmful ways. We have found that just exposing kids, so going back to the awareness piece we talked about earlier, just exposing kids to information about those manipulative business practices is an effective way of motivating them to use social media differently. If we have time later on, I can show some specific conversational prompts on a screen that parents could take photos of, which I presented in a prior talk, but I’ll pass it on to others for now in light of the time.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Meenakshi, do you have any thoughts about specific recommendations that based on your work that you think you could promote to parents?

[Dr Meenakshi Gigi Durham]: Yeah, I do think, and I’ll reiterate that just keeping the lines of communication open is incredibly important. When I was doing ethnographic work with girls in middle schools, I found, these were like 13 to 15 year olds, I found a number, a number of them who were actually fairly resistant to media messages and who are willing to be critical. And I asked them about that. You know, they said, well, you know, my mom was talking to me about this or, you know, my teacher was talking to me about this. So any sort of involved caregiver, they do listen. You know, we might think we’re not. They’re not. But they are you know, they’re sort of absorbing the you know, the kinds of information that we’re giving them. So I think talking to them in a nonjudgmental way and just staying interested in them, staying, loving, staying supportive, that these things really do matter a lot. The other thing you can do is kind of introduce a critical consciousness fairly early and do this with my own kids, like when they were very little, you know, we’d see an ad for, I don’t know, some kind of sugary cereal. And I’d say, hey, they’re telling us this, you know, this sugary cereal is part of a healthy breakfast. What do you think about that? You know, and so we kind of talk about them, you know, and then that would sort of move into maybe the Disney movies, you know? And I would I would, this is me, but I would say things like, gosh, her legs are so skinny, do you think a real person could stand up if they had legs that look like spaghetti?. And they would start laughing, and I think that sort of thing can introduce a sort of critical perspective that becomes so crucial when they’re older. So start having the conversations early is what I’d say.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I think that’s a great point. I think that’s a great point and one of the benefits of conversations, of course, is that it’s not so much after the fact. I mean, one of the difficulties in the whole conundrum of parental controls versus sort of having conversations with your kids, apart from Sophia’s point about some parents not having time to access or to really check or monitor what kids do online, is that parental controls are sort of designed to catch things after the fact and discussions are designed to give your kids the tools and the thoughts and the knowledge to avoid serious problems before they do them. So I think it’s really, really important to emphasize the role of discussion. Thank you so much. Lanice, I wonder if you would talk specifically about different kinds of platforms, because your research really mentioned that, and different kinds of media use, like things that are more negative for kids or things that are less negative for kids. We’ve had a number of parents who are putting in questions right now who are curious if there are some platforms that are more or less negative than others for girls.

[Dr. Lanice Avery]: Thanks so much. I really appreciate everyone’s, the ease with which you offer solutions. I feel like as a psychologist, I’m really good at noting the problems and passing it to prevention scientists for intervention. And I partner with folks and developmentalists who think about intervention recognizing, and I generally feel very mired in the swell, so with respect to the different types of mediums, it’s very difficult because they change so quickly. And then you have your Instagram and your Facebook who just want to take up whatever the new thing is, right? So you have it’s a kind of monolith to keep you on Instagram and Facebook, right? So they want to bring in Twitter, they want to bring in TikTok. They are constantly trying to develop and taking your best social science researchers. I have so many of my colleagues who now work for Meta who are thinking about the user experience and how to keep people building community online. I know for sure that part of this last year they had so many people in privacy at Meta who were trying to think through how do we build sovereignty for adolescent development? A lot of adolescent developmental researchers who specifically think about racial identity stuff went over to go work for Meta so I know they have really great scientists trying to optimize the positive youth development frameworks to think about how important it is for peers to find one another. There are racial and gender socialization messages that you get from home, and there are also things that you get from peers and the media that sometimes bear out heavily in the kinds of like, specifically like phenomenal agencies that folks have over their lives. When you think about queer and trans kids or nonbinary and gender expansive, when you think about kids who are taking up religious paths that may be different from whatever is happening in their home life, those are not actually the best places for them to feel whole and to feel like they’re developing an introductory that feels authentic to them. And so the blogosphere ends up being a really important space for those kids to develop senses of selves that are going to be sturdy enough to get them through some of the things that they’ll encounter when they experience a lot of racism, discrimination and transphobia in the world outside. So I can only say no, none of them, they’re all distinct. But the point is to make them more similar so that you can continue to swipe with like seamless like attention across all of the mediums and they’re constantly changing. But I do think that youth are driving how the mediums are working. So their connections have all of the researchers trying to figure out how do we make this a place where they can continue to find each other? And there’s a lot of legal discussions that are happening on a global scale about what do the role of parents actually need to do to be useful to that. So I think we are all going to have contributions and everyone in the world is thinking about those same things. But I’m currently, I’m listening, if you have ideas for sure, and happy to pass that along to my friends who are trying to think about how to design controls that are more positive youth development and less big Meta surveillance.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I do think it’s a you’re right, it’s a grappling question. And I do think sometimes as adults, we tend to overfocus on this idea that sort of bad apps and good apps, what we actually find in our research, which kind of I think dovetails exactly what you were just saying Lanice, is that apps are used differently by different kids, and that actually the apps with the most negative uses, which in our research is Instagram and Snapchat are also the ones with the most positive uses, which kind of helps explain why kids don’t really want these approaches where we just say this is a bad app or this is a good app. Lisa, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about sort of specific conversational points like really concrete examples of how you could maybe pose this kind of conversation, how you could bring it up and how you could bring it up in a way that would make kids interested in talking about it as opposed to like giving you the hmph answer, you know, which is, I think all too often what we all get as parents.

[Dr Lisa Damour]: I call it the veil of obedience, the girls are great at, where they’re just nodding and smiling. Yeah, you lost me, but they don’t say it. I do think one way to go about this, to try to keep those channels of communication open and actually to move towards behavior change. Right. Like that’s what we’re trying to do. You know, I’m a psychologist who is on the intervention side, like I want to see behavior change. So I think one way to start the conversation can be for adults to reflect openly a bit on their own social media use, a lot of us use it. And to say, you know, I went on insta today and I was looking for a good time and I ended up in a terrible mood because this happened to you, you know, and like owning the app. But I also think there’s another asset that we haven’t talked about that is incredibly valuable in here, which is older teenagers. If you have conversations with teenagers at different ages about social media, you’re having very different conversations. And my favorite conversations are with junior girls, because junior girls will give you the full rundown on all of their concerns about how seventh, eighth and ninth graders are using social media. And my experience is they are incredibly insightful, they are incredibly accurate, and bluntly, they get it in a way that it is hard for adults to get it. So I would say to anyone who is listening, if you have access to a junior girl, whether she is an older sister or a cousin or an old babysitter or, you know, somebody who can talk with your younger adolescent about her social media use and what that junior girl’s insights are now about what works, what doesn’t, what she regrets, what she has started to do instead in terms of her social media behavior, the chances of behavior change are way, way better than any conversation that somebody over, I mean, literally 24 is going to have with your kid. So if you’ve got that kind of access or, you know, can figure that out, I honestly think that’s probably your best bet for behavior change. And the other thing we know from research is that often when older adolescents are asked to teach younger adolescents about anything, the behavior of the older adolescent changes for good as well, that as soon as you teach something, you actually adopt more thoroughly that value system. So older teenagers are invaluable in this process of helping young people use social media as well as they can.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Great, great tip. This is actually what we do in M.A.R.C. is we send older teenagers to work with younger kids. And it does work very, very well. I think it’s really, really fascinating. Of course, kids love being the instructors. They love being the know it alls. They love being the ones who do it. And as we all know, all being academics, to teach something is to learn it. And that’s really, that’s really true. Sophia, do you have any thoughts about this, about specific conversational points that you think parents could use in opening up these conversations?

[Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley]: So the first thing say is that we talked about this in the March talk that I think Kate Blocker will put a link to, but anyone can try this conversation, not just kids and parents but encourage kids, as we were just saying, to discuss with friends and older peers and siblings. And this is something that I do encourage adults to do as well. So the first thing you do is write down a list of all the activities you do related to social media in a typical week. So these are examples I hear from kids a lot. The goal is to figure out what are the ways that we all spend time using social media? As we’ve been talking about, it is not all bad, but some of it is more aligned with our core values than others. So the key thing is, once you’ve identified how you’re using social media, you go through and talk together about the things you do on social media that actually give you lasting happiness, not just quick hits of dopamine via status, from a lot of likes. What are the three things you do on social media that are fun in the moment, but that don’t give a lasting sense of happiness, which often has to do with things that get quick likes. And what are the three things you do on social media that cause you the most stress? And finally, what are the three things you do on social media the most? What do you spend the most time on? And most adolescents and adults realize that we use social media in ways that are fun in the moment, but cause stress and don’t give lasting happiness. So this is a way of approaching conversations that’s grounded in evidence-based values approaches from a variety of psychological interventions. And I’m working with colleagues to bring this into schools, but it’s something you can start with right now. Thanks for the time and please check out this book behind their screens.

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Wonderful points. Thank you so much. I, we’re going to need to begin to wrap up now, but I just wanted to say thank you all so much and thank you for your emphasis on the effects of media on girls and more importantly, how we can help mitigate this as we’re helping to raise girls and have them, help them have positive social relationships and a positive developmental experience, especially in sort of these critical years, as I see it as we’re coming out of this pandemic, which has had such a profound impact on girls. Thank you so much. Now I’m going to turn it back over to Dr. Pam Della Pietra, who is to give our final remarks.

[Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra]: Thank you so much Elizabeth, Sophie, Gigi, Lanice, and last but not least, Lisa, for sharing your expertise to help us all better understand our daughters and all the girls in our lives. And we hope that you, our Zoom audience, are leaving better equipped with some useful tips and strategies for making girls’ experiences and interactions on and offline more positive and healthy. To learn more about child development and digital media, check out our website at and check out Children and Screens’ YouTube channel where you can find all of our previous webinars. Please join us again next Wednesday, September 14th at noon for Bringing Up Boys in a Digital World, which will tackle some of today’s questions and others through the lens of boys. Don’t miss an informative discussion about masculinity, violence and aggression, gaming, body image, mental health and sexuality. We hope to see you there. Until then, be safe and well.