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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!

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Parents: Boys Are Sexting More Now Than Ever– What You Need to Know


Today_aug2013I was on the Today Show this morning talking about teens and sexting.  A new study suggests that boys are sexting more than ever–  aiming to get the attention of girls in profoundly inappropriate ways.  Here are some questions parents have asked me– and some answers that I hope will be helpful to you as you navigate today’s high tech culture with your children.

(1) Is this the new normal?

This kind of behavior has become a lot more common likely because there is so many messages out there that are telling young people this is the norm. Pornography is just a few key strokes away.  Objectication and sexualization is part of the natural landscape of advertising and marketing to teens today.  (3) Hook up culture is celebrated in many TV shows and reality shows for teens. And don’t forget (4) Real life politicians, sports heroes and entertainers are made into household names for doing it, make excuses for it and are excused for doing it.  These messages happen 24/7 so their frame of reference is, this is the norm.

(2) What should parents do?

When I’m presenting to parents or educators I tell them that they must look & listen, Engage & explain and Be a powerful example.

  • Look/Listen:  What is my child doing?  What is he watching?  What kinds of texts is he sending? What is he saying about girls?  To his friends?  To girls?
  • Engage & Explain: Ask directly. For example; Dr. Robyn was saying on The Today Show that boys are sending texts to girls about hooking up and having sex—is this happening in your world?  What do you think about it? Be very clear that what he is seeing and hearing on the internet and on TV is not the norm.
  • Provide a powerful example: There are too many messages out there that are telling your children that hook up culture is to be expected—so show them what it means to have a meaningful relationship based on respect, kindness and character.

(3) When should parents talk to their children about it?

Parents need to start talking to their children about the power of the media, their bodies and treating people with respect and kindness from a very early age.  This is not one conversation but a series of conversations we have over a childhood so that when we move into sexting, dating, hook up culture and sex, it’s not strained or strange—it is a natural continuation of countless conversations you have had with your child.  We can’t just have “the sex talk” we need to have the relationship talk, the character talk, the technology talk and many others to raise a healthy, respectful child. Conversation not only with boys—but absolutely with girls too who may have more power than they think to change the way boys talk to them and relate to them.

(4) Boys are acting with clueless aggression that is fueled by anonymity so I tell them that a good litmus test is– Would you be embarrassed if this text was seen by your mother or your sister?  If yes, it’s probably not something you should send.

What do you think?  Is this a concern of yours?  How do you deal with it?

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Amanda Todd: Teen Ends Her Life After Relentless Battle with Bullying

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I’m stuck. What’s left of me now…nothing stops.  I have nobody. I need someone. :(

Amanda Todd, a once, promising happy young Canadian girl committed bullycide on Wednesday after relentless, senseless attacks– physical, emotional and psychological– over several years followed her from town to town.

Her horrible story is hauntingly told in a youtube video with cue cards and shaking hands. What began in seventh grade when, she wrote, “I would go with friends on webcam [to] meet and talk to new people.” A stranger made her feel attractive and convinced her to flash the camera.  A mistake that would unravel into years of stalking, black-mailing and bullying, this girl was shamed and made to feel worthless.

Even when moving to place to place to get away from the abuse, the tormenters would find her and continue to cyberbully and physically bully this young woman who was trying her best to find someone who would love her as she is.  She spiraled into depression, complicated by intense and crippling anxiety, self hatred, self harm, and private self-bullying (see the connection between bullying, mental health and suicide here and how to report responsibly on suicide here).

At one point, 50 kids bullied her at one time.  A boy had lead Amanda on, told her he liked her, and slept with her only to gang up on her later with his then girlfriend and friends.  “Just punch her!” they yelled.  The kids filmed it. Her father found her in a ditch later that day.  Even then, she didn’t want to press charges and get anyone else into trouble.  Her self worth was obliterated.  She went home and drank bleach– which landed her in the hospital– and urged on her tormenters to make fun of her that much more– and even urge her to kill herself.

Sadly, that’s exactly what she did.  At the end of this video, uploaded just last Read more

Making Friends: Teaching Kids (and Ourselves) About Real Friendship

Navigating new friendships can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  Whether you are 3, 13, 33 or 63, certain rules of friendship are constant.  Here are some things I teach my children and also, remind myself of to this day:

(1) Allow great friendships to happen organically: We may feel lonely. And we may want a group of supportive, wonderful friends that seem to be featured all over TV today. That doesn’t mean it happens instantaneously. Friendships happen over time.  Create opportunity to allow friendships to grow and thrive without forcing them to happen.  When we force friendships, everyone feels awkward and the opportunity for real friendship to form is diminished.

(2) Just because you’re friends with certain people, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone else: There is a tendency for cliques to form in both childhood and adulthood.  Be careful you are not shutting out the opportunity to meet other great people outside of your proscribed group.  When we shut out such opportunities, we also diminish our own chance to grow and become better, more well-rounded people.

(3) Gossip is an ugly habit: If you are finding that you and your friends have a habit of talking negatively about others, give it a rest.  Gossip creates drama.  And frankly, it’s just an ugly thing to do. There are too many other wonderful and interesting things to talk about besides other people. If your typical friends won’t stop gossiping, it may be time to go out with some other friends.

(4) Branch Out: Try meeting new people.  Join a new class, go outside your town, attend a meet-up or go someplace you haven’t been before.  Spend less time on Facebook and give people more Facetime in order to get to know others better. Ask someone new to join you for a playdate, cup of coffee, or a walk around the park.  When we branch out, we give new friendships a chance to grow.

(5) Nurture the friendships that feel mutually easy, refreshing & positive: Sometimes we overlook the friends we have in exchange for focusing Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the Powerful Word Accountability

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The powerful word of the month is accountability! Accountability is all about keeping our promises and commitments while also taking care of our mistakes.  It’s important to allow our children and teens to be accountable for themselves (while still being age appropriate) so that they learn (1) Making mistakes is not the end of the world; (2) When you make a “mess,” clean it up; (3) Ask for help when you need it; (4) healthy promises and commitments are something that should be kept; (5) Accountability is a crucial part of goal setting and goal getting as well as a vital part of being a good friend, student, employee, and family member.

While it may be tempting to jump in and “do it for them” when we see a child/teen challenged by a mistake s/he made (i.e. forgot his homework, lost a book) or a promise he no longer wants to keep (i.e. wants to quit a sport, doesn’t want to go to the birthday party she said she would attend), learning accountability at a young age is a great life lesson.

Children may need support or assistance at times but at others, we need to step back and allow them to take the lead.  Encourage them to tell the librarian that they lost a book and want to pay for it with their allowance.  Teach your children that once they make a commitment to a friend, it’s important that they keep that promise.  Show them that when they make a mistake, they need to admit it, apologize for it and help make it right. If they can learn this when stakes are low during childhood, they will be able to apply these life lessons to their life when stakes are higher during adulthood.

Enjoy this month’s Powerful Word! How are YOU teaching accountability in your home?

Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can my Child be More Self Reliant?

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Dear Dr. Robyn,

My daughter often seems a bit timid when it comes to doing things on her own.  She asks me to help her do things even when she can probably do them by herself.  I admit that I find myself doing many things for her. How do I get her to be more self-reliant?

–Fran B, Brick Township, NJ

In this video, Dr. Robyn Silverman explains a variety of ways we can support our children in becoming more self reliant.  Whether it’s in academics, chores, or new activities, building self reliance can be a gift to children. She fleshes out the following:

  1. Support your child’s natural tendencies to become independent
  2. Allow your child to be alone and do things on her own Read more

Kiss My Assets: Lighting the S.P.A.R.K. in the Young People We Love

We know it when we see it. Strength. Power. Self-assuredness. Guts. The wonder of assets in motion. Brought to life in a child not only in the way s/he acts, but in the way s/he thinks and feels about him/herself and the world in which s/he lives. Studies of more than 2.2 million children and teens from the Search Institute, an organization that promotes healthy children, youth and communities, consistently show that the more assets young people have, the more successful they are, and the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.

But it’s more than just a list of competencies. Our children must have what researchers at Search Institute call “spark” – an interest, talent, skill, asset or dream (academic, relational, athletic, artistic or intellectual) that excites them and enables them to discover their true passions, along with encouragement from trusted adults to nurture it. In my experience with young people, I have also seen spark further fueled when they have the “know how,” committed behaviors or “actions” behind those aspirations and defined reasons for pursuing their passion. Therefore, I’ve expanded the Search Institute term into the broader acronym, S.P.A.R.K.:

  • Support: Important mentors, most typically trusted adults, in different positions and places where girls work and socialize, who can guide, affirm, celebrate, and encourage a child or teen to keep going.
  • Passion: The animated need, self-identified, and the interest to pursue this goal at this time.
  • Action: The actual work that the child or teen commits to doing and actually does consistently without need of prodding or provoking.
  • Reason: The “why” that intrinsically motivates the child or teen to move forward and puts them in a state of flow.
  • Knowledge: The skills and capacity to actually tackle the goal.

How are you helping to provide S.P.A.R.K. in your children?  What do your Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the Powerful Word of the Month: Integrity

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Integrity is a very powerful word as all character is based on integrity– being true to yourself and others. What does respect or kindness mean if it’s based on insincerity? Integrity is the congruence between how we act and who we really are.  What an important word to teach and model to our children!

Integrity Quotes:

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” –W. Clement Stone

“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” –Thomas Paine

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself,” –John C. MacDonald

“Character and integrity are inextricably intertwined.  Character reflects a personal set of values. Integrity is the grit to uphold them.” — Dr. Robyn Silverman

If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” – Alan Simpson

Three More Great Reviews of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat

Today’s Reviews of Good Girls Don’t get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Robyn Silverman is transforming what we teach our girls is beauty, October 26, 2010
This review is from: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Paperback)

Good Girl’s Don’t Get Fat is a tremendous edition to any parenting book library. The view of beauty is taughtGGDGF Cover (hi res) not innate. Who is teaching our daughters about true beauty – you will be surprised. Dr Robyn Silverman has been a guest on my show The Coffee Klatch and speaks beautifully about the struggles our girls face. Theses struggles are not just in our teens, it starts early, very early and Dr Silverman has taken great time and care to document the lives of hundreds of girls and their battles with weight and their self impression of beauty. Good Girls Don’t Get Fat is an eye opener for parents…(read more…)

(2) On: It’s My Genre Blog

Are you a girl?
Are you the parent, grandparent, friend, teacher or caregiver of a girl?
Do you know any girls? Read more

Fighting Weight Obsession: The Video and The Words (Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Dr. Robyn Silverman)

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I had this video in my heart for a long time as I wrote my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls & How to Help Them Thrive Despite It. We need to tell all the girls in ourGGDGF Cover (hi res) lives how beautiful and amazing they are.  But just as important, we need to tell ourselves.  Remember, our daughters, nieces, grand-daughters, students, and girls we mentor need to know that WE believe girls can be beautiful at a variety of sizes. Do these girls know that you believe that YOU can fit into the definition of what beauty is? Can they? Tell a girl she’s beautiful today. And then, go look in the mirror, and tell yourself.

Here are the words to the “Fighting Weight Obsession: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” video, as requested. And may I take this moment to just send my appreciation to all those who have reposted the video, talked about it, and praised it? Thank you so much for helping to send the message.

There was a time when we  loved looking in the mirror. Remember? We’d strike a pose, sing into our hairbrush, and call ourselves “rock stars.” We’d kiss our reflections and smile at the person staring back at us. Read more