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Dr. Robyn and Robin Roberts on GMA October 2014

Am I Like-able? Teens, Self Esteem and the Number of Likes They Get on Social Media

How much do YOU “unlike” like?

I was recently on Good Morning America talking to Robin Roberts about how social media has become a constant part of the teen world. Teens are learning that the number of likes they receive is equivalent to how likable, popular and worthy that they are. While it shouldn’t be about quantity, but rather quality, given that many of these likes come from people these kids barely even know, when it comes to social media, it’s a numbers game—the more likes you receive, the better these teens feel.


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Welcome to the 100 club– the exclusive club invented for those teens who’ve received 100 or more likes on a social media photo or post. Getting the most likes is the new extreme sport. The need for likes and getting an “in” to the 100 club makes a competitive sport out of social media- where the trophy is the privilege of saying you are in an exclusive club—which is not attainable for all.

Teens are at a time in life when they want to fit in and feel the approval of peers, getting likes is an immediate, albeit flawed way, of finding out “am I worthy, am I popular and am I likeable?” Getting likes fits our immediate push-button culture and the need for immediate feedback and gratification even if it’s from people that our kids don’t know well. Not getting the likes, the positive feedback, can feel like a slap in the face and a blow to the self esteem—not good enough. You see the number of likes, but so does everyone else. It’s easy for them to wonder; am I like-able enough?

Now what?

When presenting to teens and parents on this topic, here are two of the takeaways I provide:

First, break the like habit. Ask your teen, what are you hoping for when you post that photo? If the sole reason to post is to garner likes, you may have a slippery slope as it’s a self esteem trap. Make sure your teen is getting out and about, face to face with 3D people- through sports, drama club, martial arts, dance, cheer so they can get away from the likes, set meaningful goals and feel significant achievement.

Second, send a clear message to your teens that it’s who you are– not your number of likes that make you worthy. Social media can be a self esteem trap.  Teens may believe it all comes down to numbers when it’s really about quality of connections with your true supporters, how you feel about yourself and the gifts you contribute to the world.

A final word:

Don’t forget– the example we set is also vital to our children.  Many adults will go through their days, heads down and eyes buried into their phones, looking at how their posts fair on their social media pages.  It’s easy to get caught into the same trap at their children.  We must keep it all in perspective while acknowledging that everyone likes to get a pat on the back or a high five– even if it’s virtual.

Just for fun:

Taylor Swift and Dr. Robyn SilvermanAfter my segment on Good Morning America, I ran into Taylor Swift in the elevator!  What a fun, happy treat.  I posted the selfie of us and you know what?  I received the most likes I ever got.  Ironic given the segment topic!

Here’s to you!

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

Is the “Chinese Mother” superior? Are Western Parents missing the boat?

I was interviewed for this yahoo.com article posted today about the opinion of one “Chinese mother” (her label) on the difference between Western parenting and Chinese parenting. How self esteem is really cultivated is certainly in question.

“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches,” Chua wrote in her recent Wall Street Journal article. “Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently…. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

What do you think?

I think it’s important to note that according to recent studies, Asian-Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest suicide rates of all ages in that age group. They have the highest rates of depression as well.  “Model minority” and the intense pressures to achieve are often cited as factors of the suicides.

While we all have a lot to learn from one another—perhaps Western parents allow their children to quit too easily and may not push hard enough and Chinese parents (as defined by the writer) push too hard and use too many radical methods to ensure achievement—we know that self esteem, sense of self, and individuality develop throughout childhood.

How should success be defined within families? How do we know how hard we must push?

“If you look at the suicide and depression statistics of Asian-Americans, I think they contradict her assumption that this kind of verbal abuse has no effect,” says Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-development expert and professional speaker. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Asian American women, ages 15-24. Asian American women, ages 15-24 and over 65, have the highest female suicide rates across all racial/ethnic groups…and family pressures are often cited as factors.” Read more

A Dad’s Perspective: Most Recent Review For Good Girls Don’t Get Fat

As a father to a 20-month-old girl, this just may be the most important book I’ve read since becoming a parent. Do something special for the girls in your life and read this book. — Chris Singer, Book Dads, reviewing Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It
Thank you, Book Dads (Chris Singer), for an outstanding review of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat– A Dad’s Perspective (on body image and girls)
A Dad’s Point of View on “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” By Book Dads 5.0 out of 5 stars
How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Paperback)

I think the title of Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book (Good Girls Don’t Get Fat) really says it all. We’ve trained our girls to think they are bad or less of a person if they are fat. Whether it’s through magazines, television, the internet or ironically, the people who are supposed to love these girls the most (parents, siblings, “friends,” and teachers – yes teachers!!), girls are beginning to worry about their weight at younger and younger ages. While talk radio programs air news stories weekly extolling the dangers of obesity (which is, of course, also an important health issue), Dr. Silverman sees countless girls in her practice with only minor weight problems or none at all. However, these girls have convinced themselves they are fat and therefore “bad.”

The book provides excellent information of how aspects of a young girl’s life can send her the message of to be thin is to be happy, healthy, loved. The author takes the discussion from the “inside out” starting with what a girl thinks about her weight in her own head and continuing to cover how the various relationships in her life can exacerbate the issues. Including how powerful words can be in these various relationships (mother, father, step-parents if applicable, other family members, teachers and other adults).

Dr. Silverman uses a lot of tools, tips and worksheets throughout the book and are an excellent supplement to the information. Readers get examples of weight issues that may arise with girls and can read “Say What” boxes to give guidance on “what not to say” and “what to say” — (dads take note of that please). “Overheard” boxes appear throughout the chapters as well which share (read the whole review on Book Dads here: http://ow.ly/3sYEi)

Again, many thanks to Chris Singer of Book Dads! I would love to hear what you all thought was the most helpful part of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and what articles and tips would help you in the future.  After all, 2011 is going to be a fantastic year…so let’s plan for positive body image, confident girls, and dreams fulfilled!

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show Talking about Body Image & Her New Book!

Dr. Robyn sat down with Meredith Vieira on The Today Show to talk about body image, her book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, and the alarming trends of low body esteem in girls. A recent poll shows that 95 percent of girls between the ages of 16 and 21 want to change their bodies in some way. Even in young girls, low self esteem, disordered eating, and dieting have become more commonplace. Working on behalf of girls and women, Dr. Robyn Silverman is speaking across the country to help them identify their assets, bolster their body image and learn to thrive in a world that values thinness at all costs.

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Dr. Robyn Talks About Body Image on ABC Parenting Show

Here it is! Dr. Robyn Silverman's First-Ever Interview on Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We can Help Them Thrive Despite It.

It's that time of year.  The time of year when girls (and many boys too) are thinking about how they look and how others will see them as school is starting and everyone is getting the once over…many times over.  How is your daughters' body image fairing under the pressure? How can we help our girls deal with negative media messages, fat talk, and their own family body image culture? I had the privilege of speaking with ABC's Parenting Show Host, Annie Pleshette Murphy, about my book, Good Girls Don't get Fat, body image, girls, parental influence, and how we can help our girls feel good about themselves at a time when it's natural to feel self conscious.

A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp

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A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp

ABC Family is debuting a show called HUGE on Monday night and we are all waiting to see how the show is received and what we’re all going to think of it. As a body image expert, the author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (due out in October 2010) and a child/teen development specialist, I draw a fine line between what moves us forward and what moves us back when it comes to weight, size, and body image.  As TV and celebrities like to be “in your face” or else they’ll have no viewers, they have taken a HUGE stance with HUGE—a full dramatic show centering on teens at weight loss camp.

Some might be frustrated.  I mean, why do we have to go there? In an attempt to move forward, don’t we simply want the gaggle of Gossip Girls to be more diverse in their cliquey membership? Yes, of course we do. But I do believe, this could be a step in the right direction.

Why? Because in a show where all the main characters are considered plus size, the typical Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Tyra Show Talking about Body Image

Dr. Robyn Silverman, body image expert, was on The Tyra show talking about women, body image and life after pregnancy. After pregnancy, many women have trouble accepting the changes in their bodies.  Loose skin, stretch marks, and extra weight can make new Moms feel inferior given the definition of beauty put out by media and carried out by the rest of society.  Dr. Robyn coached one young woman, Maria, through her body image challenges so that she was able to embrace her body and show it off proudly.

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Can Dropping Acid Increase Girls' Self Esteem? Selma Blair Wants to Give It a Try

Can Dropping Acid Can Help Girls Feel Good About Themselves? Selma Blair has the Answer

and…everything you want to know about LSD

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Well folks, it looks I could be out of work—I mean, who needs a body image expert to help teens when all we need is to tell girls to take some acid to feel better about themselves? Selma Blair, star of Hellboy, cracked the code with the help of filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro.

Selma Blair has admitted in the past that the only thing she likes about her body is her hands. Giillermo Del Toro suggested some acid would do the trick! Yes, of course it may make her well-loved hands look like enormous oven mitts, but Selma believes it’s worth a try.

“You know what Guillermo thinks? That I should go to Amsterdam and take an acid trip and it would fix my head. I think he could be right you know. You know, I’ve done some things to excess but I hate pot and I’ve never done acid or ecstasy. But if I was in the right frame of mind, in a pleasant, creative, chilled-out space, with just the right amount delivered by an Amsterdam technician, that would be incredible.”

So what does Selma Blair say about the future? It looks bright!

“I’ll be happy and say something nice about myself for a change, I’ll have gone to Amsterdam, done acid, done some amazing theatre in London. Beautiful!

Just for the record:

What’s acid?

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Full Name: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)

Characteristics: LSD is a semi-synthetic drug made of lysergic acid. It has no color, taste, or odor. It’s a crystalline substance that is soluble in water or alcohol. It comes in different forms such as blotter paper, microdots, capsules, and gel sheets.

Type of Drug: Hallucinogen; which means that it distorts the user’s sense of reality. The user sees images, hears sounds, and perceives sensations that aren’t really in existence.

How is it usually taken? LSD is usually taken by ingesting small tabs of paper, often placed under the tongue but can also be taken as a liquid, gelatin, or tablet. Sometimes it’s soaked into a sugar cube.

Why it looks so attractive to kids and teens: LSD tabs are often decorated with colorful kid-friendly designs and cartoon characters….yes, seriously.

Other names: Acid, microdot, tabs, doses, trips, hits, sugar cubes.

Effects: Elevated body temperature and blood pressure, suppressed appetite, sleeplessness, tremors, increased heart rate, nausea, chills, irregular breathing patterns, changes in perception of light, sound, touch, smell, and time, chronic recurring hallucinations and extreme changes in behavior

Risks: The most common dangers of LSD result from bad trips, including terrifying thoughts and feelings, despair, fear of losing control, and fear of death. These problems are especially common and severe in people with underlying mental problems like severe depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disease. Some fatal accidents have also occurred among users who could not perceive the reality of their situation.

How long do the effects last? 30 minutes- 12 hours. It can be diffucult to sleep if LSD has been taken in the last 6 hours.

What does this have to do with self-esteem? LSD causes an inflation of the ego which, at least in Selma Blair’s eyes, may be an effective antidote for low self-esteem.

Yes, sometimes famous people say really stupid things. And yes, it’s LSD is illegal.

What kind of media makes an impact on girls’ body image?

Do magazine diet articles make an impact on girls’ body image?

In a 2007 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Minnesota suggest that when teen girls read articles about diet and weight loss, it could have unhealthy consequences years later.

Magazines feature impossibly thin supermodels next to “back-to-school” diet plans and tips for getting your body into “bikini-bearing” shape. Cover headlines scream; “50 Shortcuts to a Sexier Body” (Glamour) or “6 Ways to Thin — Easy Diets That Really Work” (Allure)

Articles might say “Embrace your curves” but the retouched photos of ultra thin models tell a different story. Suffice to say, some advertisers have their hands in more than one cookie jar.

Who was in the study? 2,516 middle school students that were surveyed, weighed and measures in 1999 and again in 2004. About 55% were girls.

The Scoop: Adolescent girls who frequently read magazine articles that featured articles about dieting were more likely five years later to engage in extreme weight-loss practices such as vomiting than girls who never read such articles. This result was not influenced by whether the girls were considered “overweight” by medical standards or if the girls believed weight to be important to them.

Middle school girls who read articles about dieting (compared to those who did not read such articles) were twice as likely to try to lose weight 5 years later by fasting or smoking cigarettes. These girls were also three times more likely to use extreme weight loss practices such as taking laxatives or vomiting to lose weight.

“Forty-one percent of adolescent females report that magazines are their most important source of information on dieting and health, and 61 percent of adolescent females read at least one fashion magazine regularly,” –Eric Stice, Ph.D

The problem: Girls are being duped, but they don’t know it. Studies show that the average fashion model is much taller than the average woman—but weighs about 23% (one-fifth) less. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, while the average woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds, the average model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds. On top of already being think, advertisers and publishers use retouching techniques to make models seem even thinner and taller.

Note: Other studies have found that 69% of girls feel that magazine models influence their idea of the perfect shape (Field et al). Other statistics show similar body image problems, such as

the modeling industry standards suggest women should have waists no larger than 25″ and hips no larger than 35 1/2 inches, they also recommend measurements of 34-24-34;

women’s magazines have 10.5 times more ads and articles about weight loss then do men’s magazines;

60%+ of college students feel worse after reading magazines;

changes found in magazines between 1970 and 1990 include increase emphasis on fitness for attractiveness and a decrease in the model hip to waist ratio (becoming less curvy);

1 out of every 3.8 commercials sends a message about attractiveness;

the average person sees between 400-600 ads per day;

7 of 10 girls say that they want to look like a character on TV

Do music video models make an impact on girls’ body image?

Researchers from the University of Sussex, leader by Dr Helga Dittmar, found that the use of ultra-thin models in music videos can lead girls to develop poor body image. The article was published in the Journal of Body Image.

Who was in the study? 87 girls ages 16-19 years were put in random groups. A third watched music videos featuring the Pussycat Dolls and Girls Aloud, known for being thin and attractive. Another third listened but did not watch the music videos. The final groups was asked only to learn a list of neutral words. All three groups were asked questions that asked them to recall what they heard or watched. Answers measured levels of self esteem, body satisfaction and mood.

The Scoop: After just 10 minutes of exposure, the researchers found that the groups that had watched the music videos with the thin, attractive stars, exhibited the largest increase in body dissatisfaction in comparison to those who simply listed to the songs of completed the memory task with the neutral words. In addition, and perhaps the most troubling, it did not matter whether the girls had high or low self esteem to begin with—they were all equally affected.

The Problem: Girls look to these music video icons as what they should aspire to be. Seeing very thin celebrities can make the girls feel “less then” and make them wonder how they can ever look like their heroes. Girls are tending towards dieting, poor eating, and other more extreme weight loss behaviors.

Media is all around us. We see it everyday even when we don’t seek it out. The portrayal of very thin models, actresses, singers, and entertainers does indeed have an impact on the ways girls see themselves and their bodies.

Let’s help them-

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Randy Pausch: On Loving the Teachers who Don't Give Up on Us (and Are you Ruining My Child's Self Esteem?)

“Experience is what you get is when you didn’t get what you want…We send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is… for indirect learning..we don’t actually want them to learn football… We send our kids out to learn much more important things; teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etc. etc.” –Randy Pausch

Dear Parents,

This inspirational video is of Randy Pausch giving his last lecture. The full YouTube version is posted here– and well worth the view– but here’s is a shortened version (10 minutes) that played on Oprah for your convenience. In the spirit of Gratitude Month and Teacher Appreciation Week at all our Powerful Words family schools, it seemed fitting to post something about the teachers and role models who push us and never give up on us even when we’re ready to give up on ourselves.

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Aren’t you ruining my child’s self esteem?

By Dr. Robyn Silverman

Mrs. Phillips came to talk to me while her son, Patrick, age 8, was in class. “Patrick was upset the other day because his teacher corrected him three times on one of his skills. When you tell him he’s doing something wrong, aren’t you ruining his self esteem?”

This story came to mind today when I was watching a video of the inspirational “last lecture” of Randy Pausch, who’ll likely die of liver cancer within the next few months. I love watching videos like these because they shine such a bright light on learning and put a fire in my belly. In fact, they make me feel like running to the helm of a ship and yelling “I’m the king of the world!”

Anyway, Professor Pausch said; “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up…your critics are the ones who still love you and know you can.” Boy, do I agree with that–although, it’s not always easy to experience criticism and it can be excruciating to watch someone we love being critiqued.

I’ll let you in on a little secret–I wrote an article on my own experience with this phenomenon. At Tufts, my advisor was known to be the toughest in my department. My dissertation was often filled with red marks and comments like “no!” “wrong!” and “don’t say this” throughout it’s 150 pages. While I’m not recommending my advisor’s blunt delivery, I appreciate his persistent pushing. Would he be helping me by giving me a disingenuous pat on the back? Certainly not.

Interestingly, after I was awarded my doctorate, he did say something to me that I’ll never forget; “I was hard on you because I always knew you could do better. And you did. In fact you did so well that you became one of the very best.” I felt as though I had destroyed every brick wall placed in front of me and I was ready to take on the world.

So, what about the claim Mrs. Phillips made about her child’s self esteem? While too much criticism in the absence of praise can be detrimental, too much praise in the absence of critique is just as damaging.

Feelings of self worth, esteem, and gratification come from overcoming challenges. They derive from hard work, perseverance, self discipline, and self reliance. They don’t come from simply being the best but rather, doing one’s personal best and raising the bar higher every time we approach a skill. These feelings don’t come from our teachers and parents telling us we’re doing well when we aren’t or telling us we’re doing “the best” when we’re not putting in “our best.” They come from when others, whose opinions we value, tell us that they know we can do better and then notice it when we do.

In the end, we gain self esteem when we break through brick walls when even we wondered if we could.

As parents, while it may be difficult to watch out children be critiqued, it is a gift to find teachers who care enough to push them and see to it that they reach their potential. It’s this experience that they can take away from their Powerful Words family school and apply it to everything they do.

Nobody ever feels satisfied while leaning against a brick wall that blocks their dream as their superheroes yell “at-a-boy!” But I’ve certainly felt the rush of achievement when I’ve barreled through brick walls, bruises and all, with my mentors and loved ones nodding their heads saying, “we knew you could do better. And you did.”

Here’s to you– for seeking out teachers who inspire your children to live out their dreams,

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