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Sex, Gender, and Body Image

What should I do when my teen posts a sexy "selfie"?

The advent of social media means that teens aren't just passive consumers of the media's messages; they're creating and sharing images of their own. All over the Web, you can find "selfies": photos kids take of themselves in silly or provocative poses. Whether on YouTube or Facebook, many girls now feel more pressure to be "camera-ready" -- as if to say that the only way to be valued is to appear sexy.

The teen years are all about experimentation and the search for identity. A lot of times, the impulse to broadcast sexy photos is driven by the desire to get attention. Ask your teens whether they want to get attention by being provocative or by being themselves. Help them understand how certain choices make them feel. Here are some more ways to help teens develop a healthy self-image:

Offer positive role models. Get your two cents in about whom your kids idolize or find pretty in the media. Without being heavy-handed, talk about other people you find beautiful who are all different body types -- and say why.
Help your kid become a media critic. Pay attention to ads, magazine covers, and billboards. Then talk to your kids about how these messages make you feel, and ask them about their reactions.
Expose the myths. Make sure kids know that celebrities have stylists, hairdressers, personal trainers, and more all working to make them look polished. Point out that pictures in magazines have been altered to make models look flawless -- and impossibly thin. Even better, show them just how much work goes into a cover shot by watching the short "Evolution" film produced by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.