One of Netflix’s latest documentaries, Social_Animals dives deep into the world of three teenagers whose lives have changed because of social media.
There’s Kaylyn, a 15-year-old whose rise to internet fame and her journey into fashion is documented; Humza, a daredevil photographer known for stunning images from unfathomable — and dangerous heights — in New York City; and Emma, a teen from the midwest who’s bullied mercilessly via Instagram, leading her to attempt suicide.
These glimpses into the lives of teens on Instagram is fascinating … and terrifying if you’re a parent.
The award-winning documentary is directed by Jonathan Ignatius Green (owner of a content creation firm, Conscious Minds) and produced by Blake Heel (also with Conscious Minds), who subsequently rose to YouTube fame nabbing more than 10 million views. If you haven’t seen it yet, Social_Animals provides a shocking glimpse at the world of today’s image-conscious teens.
The reality for teens on Instagram
The documentary shows how teenagers today have an unhealthy relationship Instagram. It’s removed them from their real lives and enveloped them in a highly curated world where how many followers people have, how many likes they get, and who “slides” into their DMs (direct messages) reflects their value and worth.
At one point, one of the teens interviewed for the documentary mentions that if she doesn’t receive 60 likes in an hour, she removes the post as a failure. In another segment one teen talks about when you should post during the week and how different this is during the weekend.
But, there’s more than meets the eye with Social_Animal.
Consequences of Instagram
As a clinical psychologist and former visiting scholar with the FBI Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit, it’s a sad reminder of the children I’ve worked with whose lives were cut tragically short. The film creates parallels with the teens featured in it who feel the pain and devastation that is caused by others. The survivors I work with continue to receive counseling to help them live with the trauma — and it is trauma — of daily social media hate and bullying.
Social_Animals exposes a reality for these teens that not only highlights the addictive nature based on a need for more affirmation, but also a continued desperation despite adverse consequences. It also shows the pain and anguish of a life based on Instagram validation.
Teens today live and die for the curated versions of their lives on Instagram, and quite frankly it has become a full-time job. In the film you meet Humza, who after becoming an Instagram “hero” for his work, had his life threatened when he mentioned the underground community he was a part of. Emma was a common story – her peers from her private Christian school turned on her quickly, leading the teen down a dark path of depression and a suicide attempt.
How you can make Instagram safer for your children
– Follow your children and monitor what they are posting. Look for cries for help and bullying comments.
– Limit phone/screen time or embrace concepts like Technology Free Tuesdays where everyone stays offline.
– Get rid of followers that your child doesn’t know in real life. Look at who is following your children and ask if they know them. If they don’t know them or have never met them IRL (in real life), remove them from your child’s account. To diffuse a situation where your child may be upset about losing that all important follower and thus lowering their stats and becoming less popular, explain that followers who don’t know them are seeing their private photos and it can be dangerous.
– Make sure their accounts are private, that way you (or your child) can personally approve who follows them on Instagram.
– Keep private information private. There’s an option to put phone numbers and emails for people to contact account holders on the platform. Skip it.
Want more ideas?
We offer a home program to help you tackle the challenges of your children growing up in a connected — and addictive — world. Learn more today