Tanya Meessmann: (00:00)
I’m Tanya Meessmann, and you’re listening to episode six of the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast.
It’s my fundamental belief that every girl has a fire in her belly and confidence is the oxygen to those flames. If you’re the parent of a teenage girl who could do with a confidence injection, listen in, as we deep dive into the relationship between confidence and areas of your daughter’s life it directly impacts such as happiness, resilience, communication, connection, and much more.
I aim to leave you inspired by new ways to build your daughter’s self belief and nurture her flame from a flicker into an inferno. Alright, alright, enough of the fire puns already, let’s strike the match.
Tanya Meessmann: (00:51)
Hi everyone. And welcome to episode six today. We’re deep diving into the relationship between confidence and social media for teen girls. And I can’t stress enough how comprehensive and informative the discussion I had with Dr Kristy Goodwin was for this episode.
Now, social media is a tricky one, and personally I have steered clear of running into conversations about it too much with Girl Shaped Flames over the last few years. And really that’s just because I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic. I think it’s a very complex thing in our lives. I think we, as adults are spending time trying to figure out our own relationship with social media. And so the impact that it then has on parenting and raising young girls who are also trying to navigate social media and potentially better than we are in some ways, because they’ve never known anything else.
While we still have a sense of adjustment in our own minds about what it is to live in such a connected world, but it is a topic I have left to the experts like Dr Kristy Goodwin who we are speaking to today, although it has become a lot more frequent that parents have been approaching me to speak about what is the best approach with their daughter or challenges that they’re facing with their daughters’ usage and the impact it is having on her confidence and her self belief. And that’s where I have started to get a little bit more vocal about it and giving a few more areas of guidance. But I really did want to get Kristy in to speak to us today because she just has the most enormous amount of knowledge after years and years of studying this exact space. But the conversation we have today is incredibly comprehensive.
So we cover so much: the highlights, how Kristy developed from a shy introvert into an award winning public speaker herself, the amplification of confidence challenges for girls in the current online landscape, social media’s negative impact on sleep, which I think is something we all know, but Kristy really dives into the detail. We cover why consuming social media at night prevents logical emotional processing; that was a very fascinating bit that we get into there. The fact that humans are hardwired to imitate and therefore for teenage girls increasingly the importance of positive content comes into play. Something extraordinary about Ziploc bags, taking phones into the shower, which was completely news to me. A key design principle, that’s increasing the social media addiction that they use in in the apps to get people addicted. A really powerful concept around opportunity cost – what are our girls actually sacrificing in order to be and stay connected.
And then Kristy’s three B’s to guide parents through the tricky landscape with their daughters. I’m not kidding. That’s only the first 25 minutes out of 40 minutes. So because we covered a lot of neuroscience in this particular episode, I actually gave Diane the week off. And we just both were in agreement that this is such a fantastic comprehensive episode that we’ve just left it in full. And we get a lot of neuroscience throughout this entire thing, which is amazing. But one thing that Dr Goodwin and I agreed on was the important role that parental connection plays in keeping daughters safe and confident as they navigate social media. So without that connection, we can expect increased risk taking, hiding activity from parents and kind of more scarily, just not coming to you, if she’s feeling threatened or unsure or insecure about something that’s happening online.
So I’m going to take a second just to spruik our Connection Kit resource from Girl Shaped Flames, which I developed over the last few years for parents and daughters.
It’s a 10 module program that provides amazing content and conversation starters. And it just gives you the structured approach that you can use to start building that bond and trust between the two of you. So you can head over to go to www.girlshapedflames.com/gsfconnect. Otherwise I’ll just pop a link in this episode’s show notes for you to check that resource out because connection is key and through communication is powerful. And if you have that all in place, then it sets you up to have a really good, robust relationship to have all of these social media conversations in the show notes. You’ll also find links through to Dr Kristy Goodwin’s incredibly valuable resource, “The Switched On Parents’ Portal”. Now within the portal, there’s loads and loads of content, but in particular, as parents of teenagers, you’ll find a video seminar “Raising Screen-agers”, and then a number of master classes, in particular there is one on selfies, social media screens and self esteem, and then there’s another one about helping kids and teens deal with digital overload. So there’s amazing content in there, that’s the “Switched On Parents’ Portal” at her website, I’ll put the link in the show notes. Alright, I’ve bigged it up, so I know you want to get into it.
INTERVIEW WITH DR KRISTY GOODWIN
Tanya Meessmann: (06:02)
So let’s get in to my discussion with Dr Kristy Goodwin. So Dr Kristy Goodwin is one of Australia’s leading digital wellbeing and performance experts, and a mum who also deals with her kids’ techno tantrums. Kristy draws on cutting edge neuroscience and research to explain the profound impacts that technology has on our performance and health. And she’s on a mission to empower people to foster healthy and realistic digital behaviors. Kristy worked as an educator before becoming an academic and speaker, and she’s worked with clients, including Apple, Westfield, Bank of Queensland and the New South Wales Department of Education, just to name a few. She’s spoken at national and international conferences, schools, workplaces, and medical conferences throughout Australia. And as a researcher, author, speaker, and media commentator, she provides science backed solutions to optimise wellbeing and productivity in a digital world. Welcome to the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast, Kristy!
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (07:04)
Great to be here.
Tanya Meessmann: (07:04)
So before we get into today’s topic and we are going to be looking at how confidence is affected by social media for teenage girls, I’d really like to start at the top and get to know a little bit about your own personal confidence. So if you can cast your mind back, it wasn’t that far, but back to when you were a teenager: were you someone who is naturally confident or did you have to develop it in some way?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (07:27)
I really had to cultivate confidence. I was the timid child that used to hide behind my parents’ legs. I was a very nervous and apprehensive adolescent, but I really hit the jackpot when it came to parents. My parents really encouraged us to try and take risks and to build confidence, and we engaged in a lot of team sport and I think it was playing team sport and engaging in a whole lot of other wide life experiences that I started to cultivate that confidence. And I mean, I went from the timid child, literally hiding behind my parents, to leaving school, being school captain, and taking on all sorts of leadership roles. So it was something that definitely was developed, but I will say it definitely wasn’t innate at the beginning.
Tanya Meessmann: (08:11)
Fantastic. That’s always reassuring to hear that a girl can move from a state of reservation and even sort of an introverted type to then be nurtured to come and find that confidence within, and the fire within, as we talk about at Girl Shaped Flames. You mentioned your parents there, and my next qiestion is about influences that you’ve had throughout your life. So from being a teenager through until now, were there any other key people or things that have taken place throughout your life that have really helped build that confidence?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (08:47)
I think definitely I’d reiterate my parents. I also have engaged in recent years with a mentor and that has really bolstered my confidence, but I will honestly say, I think it was my younger sister, and I know that sounds odd, many people have older siblings, but my sister, my youngest sister is very wise and, having an intimate understanding of who I am, she’s often quick to very blatantly call me on my own confidence issues and lay things very straight. She’s someone who’s seen the ride throughout adolescence and she has been a really close sister, but more a friend, but also someone who encouraged me to take risks, and to look at things from a different perspective, she’s got a great way of looking at life. So that’s definitely something that’s shaped my confidence.
Tanya Meessmann: (09:35)
So knowing what you know now of the world, and you are a mother to three beautiful children, do you believe that the proactive development of confidence, like what we do at Girl Shaped Flames, that’s our focus, that the proactive development of confidence in young girls is important. And if so, why?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (09:54)
I definitely think confidence is critical, particularly with girls, but I think in this digital age, more so than ever it is vital. we’ve got a long history of media, traditional media, be that TV print, media bombarding girls with often sexualised images or idealised bodies. And that situation has become amplified in the digital context where we’ve got children accessing social media at younger ages. We’ve got a preponderance of sources of media now, often in the palm of our hands. And so I think given that we know that girls are very vulnerable and impressionable, that that problem has become amplified in this digital landscape. And this isn’t to demonise technology. I think technology can actually play a really positive role if we seek positive role models for our children and adolescents, but I also worry sometimes that the problem can be very pronounced in this space.
Tanya Meessmann: (10:57)
Such a perfect segue into where we’re taking this chat today. Social media has been a topic that I personally have danced around a little bit with Girl Shaped Flames and I’ve been reluctant to go head on because I do feel like it can be an issue that has a lot of different sides to it. But it is a very hot and important topic. We knowso many issues have arisen in the last 10 years as social media has come to the fore and the girls that we work with have only ever known a world with technology and social media. And so parents, who grew up in one landscape with no technology like this, are now trying to raise their own little ones in a world where that’s all they know. I want to get into the topic of today. So social media seems to get sort of blamed for everything these days, it’s the quick response when I speak to parents, it becomes “Oh, social media, that’s the problem”. Do you believe that social media has an impact on girls’ confidence, and we’ve already sort of alluded to that, and if so, how does it? S.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (12:08)
So I’m going to revert I’m cautious Kristy, I go back to what the research and science tells us, because I know this can be a very polarising topic amongst parents. And I want to say at the moment the research is very contradictory and conflicting when it comes to the impact of social media and smartphones more broadly, particularly on mental wellbeing. Obviously one aspect of mental wellbeing would be levels of confidence. And unfortunately, it’s probably going to remain this way because to get ethics approval, to do studies, experimental studies, where we conclusively prove causation, is really tricky. You know, I wouldn’t sign my kids up to an experimental study where they might be under unnecessary or undue harm or exposure. Look, we do have some research evidence. Some of the research evidence does tell us that there is a correlation, but I really want to stress that word correlation, not causation between social media, smartphones and poor mental health outcomes. What we do have is evidence that sometimes is more related to the amount of time that they’re spending on these devices and also what particular applications or tools or platforms they’re congregating on, not necessarily social media more broadly. So we need to start, I think we need to be having more nuanced conversations. What my hypothesis is at this point point in time, is that what social media and smartphone use might be displacing. So the opportunity cost that might be at the detriment of poor mental health outcomes.
Tanya Meessmann: (13:48)
Can you explain that? Can you go into that a little bit about the opportunity cost? What do you mean by that?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (13:53)
Basically whenever our children or adolescents use technology, there’s some displacement effect, some of their other developmental priorities and needs are not being met or perhaps being superseded. So one of my possible theories, my postulations is that screen time is having a really adverse impact on young people’s sleep, both quality and quantity of sleep. And we know conclusively that sleep is very strongly associated with poor mental health outcomes. So is it excessive screen time that is deteriorating their sleep, which is therefore having a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, which could in turn obviously impact their confidence. One of our most basic psychological drivers as humans is the need for connection. We are hardwired for connection and yes, social media can offer a type of connection, but it’s no substitute for real in-person connection. You know, one of the things I think we all realised through home isolation, social isolation, is that we crave physical connection.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (14:57)
We know, for example, the brain releases oxytocin, which is a social bonding hormone. It’s the love hormone when you touch someone. The thing I’m really worried about, so sleep, real relationships and physical movement and physical movement help the brain release a whole lot of positive neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. And given that our young people, many of them are more sedentary than they ever have been, this could also be one of the opportunity costs. So that’s where I’m concerned, and again, it’s going to probably be very difficult to get research evidence that proves conclusively that social media and smart phones are the root cause. I’m not naive enough to suggest, I definitely think they can have a negative role, especially if they’re used excessively, if they’re used inappropriately, if young people are dunked in the digital stream prematurely before their brains and their mental state are able to cope with the demands. But I think we have to be careful about pointing the finger exclusively at those factors. We also know that young people’s brains are very vulnerable to the potential pitfalls. We know that the part of the brain, their prefrontal cortex, which basically helps with self regulation skills, isn’t fully developed. So this is the part of the brain that helps them to think critically about what images they’re posting or what images they’re consuming of their peer groups or of celebrities or influencers that they’re following. Now, that part of the brain would help them make logical conclusions, make good judgments about what it is that they’re processing. What I find really fascinating is that we know a lot of young people are consuming a lot of this media at night and at night that logical part of the brain basically turns off.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (16:49)
It’s worn out, it’s depleted and the part of the brain that fires up at night. And this is why we know most cyber bullying occurs at night. Because it’s this diabolical combination in the brain, the logical brain turns off and the amygdala, which is the emotional heart of the brain, it fires up. I don’t know if parents have noticed, but this is often when we have more disagreements with our kids, at night or with our partners. So quick relationship advice I often say: when your partner is picking a fight with you at night, just say to them: “My prefrontal cortex is off, my amygdala’s firing, can we talk about it some other time?” But for young people, this is a recipe for really negative impressions to be made. And one of the really negative things we know with excessive inappropriate types of social media use is the “compare and despair” phenomenon.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (17:37)
If I was to look at this in the middle of the day when my prefrontal cortex was working and I was saying, look, I recognise that that photo that my peer has posted or that influencers posted has been filtered, you know, I can see the filter on it, I can see the caption has got some embellishments in it. I’m not going to compare my reality to their highlight reel footage. But when the emotional state is on, I only need to see one upsetting photo or one image that triggers me and my limbic system, my emotional response takes over. So this is one of the practical strategies I often say to parents, it’s not about not cutting them off or completely limit, but try to discourage girls particularly from using social media at night, because again, they’re vulnerable to cyber bullying, but they’re also vulnerable to misinterpreting and misrepresenting information. And the other time that’s also really critical is first thing in the morning, when you wake up, you only need to pick up your phone and see one tick tock that is a little bit controversial. You only need to get one sort of snide, nasty comment on social media. And again, you’ve fired up that limbic system and we don’t make logical decisions in that state.
Tanya Meessmann: (18:55)
No. And that’s the day gone, you know, emotionally. It sets the tone for the day and it’s very hard to pull yourself out of that.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (19:02)
Yeah. And you haven’t even gotten out of bed.
Tanya Meessmann: (19:04)
I know, it’s such an intense power in these tiny little devices. Such an intense, emotional power.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (19:13)
One of the other things I did want to point out too, and this is where we can have some control and try and shift it to a more positive paradigm, is that if our young people are following influencers or they’ve got a peer group and they’re perhaps sharing with an overemphasis on physical appearance, the American Academy of facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons found that 42% of their surgeries that conducted in 2018 and 19 were done because they were being asked to perform procedures, to improve selfies and pictures on social media, 42%. And one of the reasons why all of us are vulnerable to social media, but particularly impressionable girls is that in our brain, we have something called mirror neurons, mirror neurons mean that we are hardwired to imitate.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (20:13)
We are hardwired to copy. This is why if you’ve got little kids, they copy what you do. It’s always your partner that you blame, but we are as a species, we are wired to copy and imitate. So if our young people are constantly consuming images and videos that are sexualised they’re over filtered, they’re photoshopped. We all, as adults consumed media, that was like that. I grew up in an area in an era where you’d look at glossed or photoshopped images of Elle McPherson, or Cindy Crawford, you can see I was a child of the eighties, and they graced the magazines and newspapers of our time. And for boys there were sports stars that they watched on TV. But the problem is now it’s not just celebrities and models who are enhanced. Now, it’s the kid you sit next to at school or on the bus, who’s also photo-shopped and airbrushed and filtered. And because we’ve got mirror neurons, if that is the constant content that we are consuming, we want to imitate and emulate that. There was a trend recently where young teenage girls couldn’t afford to have Botox in their lips, but a thing that trended on social media was how to imitate that procedure using sticky tape at home. And again, young teenage girls are impressionable because a natural part of their development is to shift from the family nucleus and start to gain acceptance, peer acceptance is very important in young people, and all of a sudden, if your peer cohort is constantly consuming and imitating what they see on social media, you can see how it has these negative sort of cascading consequences.
Tanya Meessmann: (21:57)
And it’s the inescapability as well. You know, it’s 24 hours and anytime I speak to the girls and their parents about it, and we reflect on, I always joke about how my exposure to this type of content you could compare yourself to was really the morning paper that would arrive, and you just skip to the cartoons anyway. And then you’d have the news, but that’s just 30 second little bullets that you’re only half paying attention because your parents are watching it. And then prerecorded TV shows, you know, back in my day, it was Friends and Seinfeld and stuff, which wasn’t quite like reality TV, is today. And then you had your monthly magazine. So you had your Dolly and whatever it was, TV hits and stuff like that. And they came out once a month, you devoured them, you cut them out, stuck them on your wall, but it wasn’t constant, and in your face and in your pocket, as well as the connectivity of social media being 24 hours, because we look at girls in particular and I went to an all girls school, if you were facing judgment or bullying at school, it would take place generally between the hours of 8.45 and 2 or 3, and then you would go home and you could escape it. Now it’s there constantly, and you can’t escape it if you’re actively going on those social media tools. And I mean, that has to be incredibly damaging.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (23:24)
Absolutely. And one of the reasons, because I often am asked by parents “why can’t my daughter just switch it off? Why can’t, with knowing what they know about how it might be impairing their wellbeing, why can’t she just switch it off?” And I often say to parents, you know, as adults, I think if we’re really honest, we struggle to shut the laptop lid and stop the scroll. And I often explain, these technologies, particularly social media platforms have deployed a range of persuasive design techniques to get young people constantly hooked on them. And we know when Instagram was previously giving out likes where you got your vanity metrics, Instagram used to deliberately withhold the number of likes and comments based on a user’s demographic profile. So if they knew that a 14 year old girl would post a photo and she would go in and check her vanity metrics very soon after, because we know most young people will delete a photo rather than having inadequate likes or comments or engagement, but they knew within a certain timeframe what frequency that sort of demographic would go in and check. So Instagram would deliberately withhold those likes and comments knowing that that user, if they came back in a little while later and all of a sudden they got a surge of likes and comments, that would keep them hooked on the product.
The fact that their notification bubbles are red, you know, red is associated with danger and urgency. And all of us, not just girls want to constantly check in. Another reason and you are alluding to this, why is it that we can’t sort of switch off from it? We call it, or the design principle is that there’s an absence of stopping cues. I call it the state of insufficiency. In the online world you’re never done. There’s never a sense of “I am finished, I am at the end”. You’d constantly be scrolling and consuming and that’s no accident. We used to get alerts at the bottom of our feed on a lot of social media platforms when we’d sort of reached our threshold. Now we don’t get that. It’s constantly craving that validation, because there’s no end, it’s basically like swimming in an infinity pool. And for young people with their developing brains, their need for social connection with their peer group, we can see even when it’s against their better judgment, why they stay on the screen.
Tanya Meessmann: (25:52)
Everyone laughs at the term FOMO, but it’s based in science, you know, the fear of missing out, the fear of missing something. And I think particularly when it comes to, again, reflecting on my experience, going to an all girls school, you know, it only takes one conversation. It only takes missing one piece of gossip or one conversation and suddenly you’re on the outside and you have to fight your way back in again. And so it can seem easier to just try to stay on top of every single piece of information you’ve got, rather than give yourself up to it and go, well, I’m going to miss some stuff, but that’s okay. And that’s survivable.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (26:31)
We did a study with adolescent girls recently just to ascertain their digital habits. And we expected a lot of the data that we did get, many young people now sleep with their digital appendage, either underneath or adjacent to their pillow, for that very reason you were talking about, but what came as a bit of a surprise is that many young girls and are putting their smartphones in a Ziploc bag and taking them into the shower. On Amazon you can purchase expensive waterproof cases, but some tech savvy girls shared that you can also do the same thing with the Ziploc sandwich bag.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (27:11)
One of the things I’m worried about with young people spending so much time, that’s where I talk about that opportunity cost. You know, if our girls are constantly tethered to technology, one of the things that they’re not getting is boredom. And when you have independent white space, you get a sense of who you are. If you are constantly on a screen and you are consuming other people’s content that you are trying to imitate just to gain peer acceptance and external validation, then you don’t get that opportunity to even know who you are. And that’s where, again, I’m worried about that sort of opportunity cost. So it’s not just saying smartphones and social media are bad, they do play whether we like it love it or loathe it, they do play a really critical role in young people’s lives. But I think it’s about making sure that they’re not used at the peril of the basic needs that young people need to thrive.
Tanya Meessmann: (28:10)
A hundred percent. And just valuing themselves, valuing your own company and valuing your own thoughts is so important as part of your own development. And just to hear you say about what they’re doing, taking it in the shower, you just think: you’re just not even giving yourself a moment alone. Could you imagine turning and seeing like 40 friends in the shower with you chatting and talking? I mean, this is unbearable. So before we move onto the next bit, I do want to ask one last thing in this section, which is when I have gotten into the conversations with parents about social media, they often, and I’m sure you come across this all the time, they want a solution that usually looks something like: how do I restrict it? How do I take it away from them? How do I stop them doing it? And then that will stop the problem.
Tanya Meessmann: (29:02)
Yet when I speak to parents, what I personally try to advise as I, and part of why I’ll say I don’t generally with Girl Shaped Flames weigh into the social media debate is because what we’re doing at Girl Shaped Flames is we’re preparing the girls in other ways so that when they need to deal with social media, they have their own personal self worth, confidence, the ability to determine what information is relevant and what isn’t. And really going back to that self worth and valuing themselves and their own thoughts and their own times, if we can teach them that, I feel like it’s about prevention rather than cure and restriction. What’s your take on that?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (29:42)
My message to parents is to plan, don’t ban, technology. When something is toxic or it’s taboo, it becomes the forbidden fruit. And all you do is drive the behaviour underground. So you might think that you’re taming it at home, but chances are, they’ve got a decoy phone. Phones are now very affordable, and you don’t need to have credit cards to go on plans, et cetera.
I encourage parents to be the pilot, not the passenger of the digital plane. So come up with rules and boundaries with your daughter, and come up with ways in which she can use it, but can use it in ways that isn’t going to derail her development and her wellbeing. The other thing I say to parents here, and I understand why parents would want to do it, but we really need to avoid using technology as a reward or punishment tool. And I know many of us do it. I will admit, I have dangled the digital carrot in front of my kids, say when grandma is coming over unannounced and I needed the house tidied up quickly. But we have to be really careful about that being our default mechanism, about using it as a reward,. We want kids and adolescents to see technology as a functional tool. But if it’s the carrot and we put it on a pedestal and they already love it as it is, that’s a concern. If it’s used as a reward, it develops a transactional relationship with your kids – if you do this, I will do that. My big concern and the research is backing this up now, is that if we use it as a punishment tool, as the pilot of the plane, you’ve got to have firm boundaries and you need to come up with those boundaries in collaboration with your young person.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (31:19)
So it’s not imposing a contract or making them sign a list of rules, but come up with what the rules are and have rules beyond just how much, how much time on devices is really just one piece of the puzzle. We’ve got to look at what platforms they can use, when they can use them, how, and with whom they can use them, but coming up with those boundaries together and enforcing those, but do not use screen time as a punishment tool. And I’m talking here, you perform poorly at school, I’m confiscating your phone. Because what we do then is that when our children and they do when they face a digital dilemma, when the plane’s going off course, when I hit digital turbulence, when they see pornography, when they’re a victim of cyber bullying, when a predator’s approaching them online, when something unkind is happening online, it may not be the extreme case of cyber bullying, but something’s just rattled them, you want them to come to you as the pilot of the plane. But if there’s any perceived threat that you’re going to digitally amputate them, you’ll confiscate the phone, you’ll take them off tick tock, you’ll ban them from Snapchat, they will never, and they don’t. The research tells us that in about 87% of cyber bullying cases, young people do not go until a trusted adult because they fear digital amputation.
Tanya Meessmann: (32:40)
Absolutely, absolutely. And I think one of the conversations I have repeatedly with parents is around trying to encourage them to share the experience in a more equal footing with their daughters. Because the concern I believe is also very strongly rooted in what they’re actually consuming regardless of the hows and the whens and the where, but who they’re looking at, how they’re being influenced, which are the role models that are going in front of them. And I’ve had a few parents approach me asking, you know, when the daughters are younger and they’re wanting to start using social media and the daughter wants to, and she’s frustrated because mom won’t let her. And the mum’s scared because she’s nervous of all the threats out there. And so I’ve always advised that it should really be about that you’re building mutual trust in each other. The mum or the dad has to trust the daughter that they’re not going to take advantage of whatever allowances are being made now on social media.
Tanya Meessmann: (33:31)
And the daughter has to trust that the mum is not going to infiltrate her world and I’m sure embarrass her to a degree, but my advice is always start off together, start off with the access to the shared account and sitting down together and deciding who you’re going to follow together, looking at some of the things that inspire you and interest you. And if you can do that slowly but surely the parent can have some form of control early on just to make sure that the content they’re looking at is positive, but hopefully it also teaches them subliminally that that’s the kind of content you want to use social media and things for that’s the feeling you want to get from it is, is about inspiration and empowerment and idea generation. It’s certainly a very intense space for parents to navigate,
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (34:21)
Can I just say, I think it’s so important as you said, that parents teach their children how to use smartphones and social media respectfully and responsibly. Don’t think that they’re tech savvy and that they will know and develop these skills through osmosis because they don’t, they need explicit and ongoing conversation. That prefrontal cortex, that logical smart part of the brain, it doesn’t have impulse control. And it’s also the part for memories, and it’s still under development. So this is not a one off talk that you sit down with your daughter and have it’s an ongoing talk. And I love the idea of sitting with them and teaching them. One of the key skills I think young people need is critical literacy skills, sit down and look at the photo that their friend just posted and talk about how that could be misconstrued or misrepresented. Look at the comments that your daughter makes on other people’s posts and get her to analyse and think about how that could be misunderstood. We’d never throw our kids in the ocean and expect that they just know how to swim. We teach them and we need to do the same thing with social media. And unfortunately that requires a significant amount of time and effort on a parent’s behalf.
Tanya Meessmann: (35:35)
It’s interesting how you mentioned it like that, because if you think about it, pre technology land days, parents would have been witnessing behaviour in a playground or behaviour at a sleepover. And they’re hearing the conversations out loud because everyone’s speaking out loud. Nowadays so many of those exchanges happening between young girls are happening silently through their devices. So that’s the way that parents can still help guide them, you’d guide them in exactly the same way if you were hearing something out loud. You’d be able to say, “Oh, you know how you said that to Betty before maybe that could have been taken a little bit the wrong way.” And I think it’s really about parents feeling quite shut out from their daughters and, and the breakdown of communication that’s happening between parents and daughters, because so much of their daughter’s communication is happening through the silent device.
Tanya Meessmann: (36:29)
So really they have to find a way to get in there, nudge their way in and still be able to have those conversations. But it’s about appreciating that now there’s conversations, they have to involve the devices. They have to involve talking about the social media and things, rather than just banishing it and saying it’s all bad and it’s all terrible. Which leads me to the next point, which I know,you know a lot about, which is the fact that there’s a lot of fear around aspects of the connected world and particularly to do with young girls, such as what we’ve spoken about just before cyber safety, cyber bullying. In your experience, how real are these issues? Are parents inflating them to an unreasonable amount or how real are they? What should parents actually be doing to help mitigate the risks that are associated with their daughters being online?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (37:19)
Well, I wish that the findings and the stories were inflated, sadly they’re not, I’ve heard countless awful stories where technology has been used in inappropriate and really awful ways.And it can have a serious and long lasting impact on young girls in fact, on anyone. I encourage parents, as I said before, parents need to be the pilot, not the passenger of the digital plane, whether you love it or not, although that technology will continue and probably already is an integral part of your daughter’s life, burying your head in the sand and hoping that this isn’t going to impact her isn’t a viable option. You need to be that pilot. You need to assume that active role. So as we’ve just been talking about sitting down with your daughter and seeing what she’s posting, seeing what she’s consuming, often a lot of parents say to me “you know, I monitor her Snapchat account, or I monitor her Instagram account”.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (38:22)
And I say “that’s great, but what you have no idea about, thanks to live streaming videos and instantly combusting stories is what it is that she has consumed”. You can monitor who she follows, but suggested posts and other options of searching mean that she’s very vulnerable to following other people. I know many parents say, well, I do an audit, when she goes in the shower or when she goes to school. And I say to parents: “Don’t do that. First and foremost you are eroding trust. And second of all, chances are your daughter has an app installed.” There are so many apps now that young people install one of them under a whole range of different names. Some of them are called I Gotcha, another one’s called Catch A Thief, but basically any time an incorrect passcode is entered into the smartphone. It takes the forward facing camera and silently takes a photograph of whoever it is trying to infiltrate that device. So chances are, your daughter’s got a collection of your face on her screen.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (39:26)
So don’t do it because she probably knows, and you are eroding that trust. And I love what you said before about building that trust initially and saying, you know, as part of having a smart phone and social media to begin with, I’m going to show you, I’m going to help you because I want you to have, and framing it from that perspective, not I’m going to monitor and moderate what you’re doing, but I’m doing this because I want this to be a really positive experience for you, and you don’t want to scare them. But sharing anecdotes, you know, a friend of a friend was telling me, or heard the other day that this happened. I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to learn how to use it in the best way possible to be the pilot of the plane.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (40:06)
I say to parents, you’ve got to get three B’s and the first one is having boundaries. But I think most parents just focus on the, how much. They set a limit, how much they can be on it. And I say, that’s great, but it’s not the only piece of the puzzle we need. When we talk about screen time, we need to be looking at what I think is the most important question. What apps and platforms is she on? Is your daughter psychologically ready to cope with the demands of that platform? When they’re using it, you know, we talked about not beginning or ending your day with the tech, where are they using it? Where are the no go tech zones in your house where technology doesn’t go?
Tanya Meessmann: (40:47)
Like the shower, possibly…..
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (40:49)
You would have thought so, but now we need to be explicit about that. Keeping it out of bedrooms, obviously for sleep, but also cyber bullying issues as well during that time, knowing who they’re interacting with, and how are they using it?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (41:05)
And this is beyond the scope of this conversation, but really massive impacts on physical health, everything from vision and hearing and musculoskeletal health, right through obviously to their mental wellbeing. So that’s the first B, having boundaries. Come up with those boundaries with, in collaboration with your daughter. Because I often say to parents, I do work with a lot of young girls or young young people, boys and girls, and I am absolutely astounded at their maturity and the depth of when it comes to this online world, they want to know how to use it the right ways. So I think having those conversations with them, the second B is making sure that tech time doesn’t displace those Basic needs. Are they getting enough sleep, real interactions with real people? Are they hearing and using language? Are they physically active? Are they playing? Are they getting all the basic things that we know neuroscience and developmental science tells us young people need for optimal performance?
Tanya Meessmann: (42:00)
One area that I’m particularly passionate about, because my background is in communications, is that erosion of communication skills, which seems ironic because generally when you’re on social media, you’re communicating a lot, but the inability to put together comprehensive sentences and to negotiate and fight your point and things like that. We’re seeing that is eroding in younger generations now because they’re not required to do so. The way they communicate with people, short, sharp emojis, gifs, memes, all these kinds of things. And that’s really to the detriment of basic and evolved communication skills that they need in order to function in the real world. And particularly when they get out into the employment world.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (42:46)
Absolutely. And so that’s where I think we need to be. I think we need to focus more on when we look at what they’re doing online, the other part of the equation is, what are they missing out on? What is that four hours scrolling on a device at the expense of? And that’s where I think it’s an integral tool in their lives, but we want them to use it, and use the benefits that it affords them.I’m going to finish off with the third B there. I got carried away. I said Boundaries, and Basic needs. And the third one is Boredom. Having time for white space, neuroscientists call it mind wandering mode or the default mode of thinking. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to have the best ideas sometimes when I go for a run, go for a swim or wake up first thing in the morning and don’t have my phone anywhere near me.
Tanya Meessmann: (43:34)
Or in in the shower, when I don’t have my phone with me!
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (43:38)
You used to be able to travel and go on a plane and be daydreaming, but welost this art because we fill every bit of white space with the scroll and with using technology. I do a lot of work with big organizations and I say to them: for your optimal wellbeing and peak performance, you need to digitally disconnect. For ideation, for problem solving, for creative thinking, we need tech free time. We need to digitally disconnect and untether. And this is so important, I think even more so for our young people who are still forming that concept of identity and concept of self, to have time away from their devices.
Tanya Meessmann: (44:24)
Absolutely critical. Oh my goodness. So much good stuff. Ok, we are running out of time. I’m going to launch into our final question, um, that I’m really interested to know and hear from you. And traditionally, I ask this question of people where I want to know what would they go back in time and tell their 15 year old self. And usually we focus on confidence and things like that, but because of the world that you operate in and how much you know about it, I’d really love to know if your 15 year old self, if a 15 year old Kristy was growing up in today’s technology landscape. What advice would you give her?
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (44:59)
When you sent this question, I got quite emotional thinking about this and it’s making me emotional, I hope I answer it. I would have said this, even if we weren’t operating in this digital landscape, but I think it’s probably even more critical in this space and that is not to seek external validation. I grew up as the high performing A type overachieving child and all the accolades and successes and external validation that I got and that I craved, stayed with me through to adulthood and led me to be the person that did her PhD in two years and constantly be craving external validation and praise. And I’m grateful that I’ve now got the mental capacity, not to be craving that as much, but if I hadn’t been through that and done some intensive personal development work myself, I think being in this digital world where you crave vanity metrics and you see your metrics and your likes and your comments and your online popularity as a determinant of your self worth and it is not. I get quite emotional thinking about this. I think we have to unhook from external praise and validation and teach our young girls that that is not by any means a sense of their importance in life.
Tanya Meessmann: (46:27)
Oh, thank you. That’s so powerful. Thank you for sharing that, that has been an incredible and robust and comprehensive conversation that I know our parents will be so grateful to be able to have heard from you. So thank you again so much for your time today and all the best for the rest of your year. The work you’re doing now, it’s always important, but right now, with the challenges the world is facing and parents are facing your work is even more critical. So thank you for everything you do. And thank you for your time today.
Dr Kirsty Goodwin: (47:00)
My pleasure. Great to be here. Nice to chat.
Tanya Meessmann: (47:03)
I told you, wasn’t that just brilliant, so much valuable information in there. I wouldn’t blame you if you pop back and listen to it again, later down the tracks, particularly if you start coming across any of those social media challenges that we touched on in that conversation. So don’t forget to apply Dr Goodwin’s three B’s Boundaries, protecting the Basics and Boredom, and definitely check out her Switched On parenting portal. Honestly, it’s $49. You get access to the whole array of her live recordings and videos and mini master classes. And she’s got downloadable resource PDFs. It’s just brilliant. I’ve put the link in the show notes, along with a link out to our Girl Shaped Flames Connection Kit that I mentioned at the start of the episode, which also is an incredibly comprehensive resource, but this one’s really dedicated around helping parents strengthen their bond with their daughter through communication.
As is the case with all of our podcasts topics, we’re going to be discussing this in more detail over on our Raising Girl Shaped Flames Facebook group, which we would love you to come and join. It’s a fantastic community of parents discussing how to raise confident and self-assured girls. We continue to have lined up an amazing suite of guests, looking at the role confidence plays in commitment, indigenous youth lives and body image coming up soon. So to make sure you don’t miss out, subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasting goodness, and sign up to our mailing list for a reminder. Until then, keep fanning her flames.
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