Navigating friendships, belonging, self-image and bullying have all long been part of growing up, but social media today makes the experience public. This, in turn, is fuelling preteen insecurity and acceptance-seeking behaviours that range from obsessing over appearance to putting self worth in how popular a post is.
This is according to Andrea Lewis, author of the book Love Yourself(ie), Life Lessons for Building Kid Charisma.
The book is targeted at 9-13 year olds and has a focus on self-love, 'what we think of ourselves matters most', and looks at how kids can use self-acceptance to keep others from influencing bad feelings or behaviours.
The fictional story follows a young girl named Harper who learns to use self-acceptance to filtre social media and manage peer pressure and competition.
"Kids thrive when they don't give others power over them," said Dr. Julie Carbray, University of Illinois clinical professor of psychiatry and nursing.
"Social-emotional challenges in middle school can leave preteens questioning who they are and how to act - at an age when character development is being shaped and, now, social media is publicly testing the strength of that character.
“Love Yourself(ie) is a wonderful resource for kids, parents and educators, offering much needed perspective not only on what preteens are 'really' facing but also the importance of building self-acceptance and character strength as a solution,” Carbray says.
Written by business executive Andrea Lewis in collaboration with Nicole Pearl, founder of The Beauty Girl, Love Yourself(ie) is essentially an effort to make social media a more positive experience.
According to the pair, the story combines life lessons about character strength that Lewis has learnt, along with Nicole's knowledge about the relationship between self-esteem and beauty. They say they dedicated the book to all preteens growing up in the digital age, as well as parents, educators and youth advocates.
"How we handle life experiences begins with what we believe about ourselves, and my spunky daughters at ages eight and five are examples of the good that comes from developing self-love, determination and resilience early-on. All kids deserve that emotional advantage and Love Yourself(ie) is a platform to inspire it,” says Lewis.
Pearl says, "For many preteens, social media is a popularity contest that leaves them feeling left out and bad about themselves. Love Yourself(ie) instils self-love as our best accessory, and shows kids how to build it within themselves.”