Your teenage years shape a large part of who we are, but like the other late ’90s babies my teenage years were largely defined by social media.
In reflection, it’s an odd thing to think about. At 16 Instagram and Snapchat were becoming really popular and anybody who was anybody was using them, including me.
In my defense I was using these apps to photograph a stack of harry potter dvd’s and a blurry shot of a scenic landscape from a moving car because that’s all you had to do to be a little bit #arty. However, there were so many people being shamed and at times blackmailed through the content they would share with others on these apps.
The popularity of these social media apps during this time completely changed the way everyone around me was communicating. One of the most common occurrences with the app’s prominence was the level of vulnerability that came with. Sending nudes became a normal thing. Every other day you would hear about the new people that were both sending and receiving nudes and more often than not these private images were seen by eyes they were never intended for.
I remember quite clearly sitting in year 11 maths with a gaggle of pubescent 16 year old boys at the back of the classroom passing around a nude a girl had sent to one of the boys in the group. They were all laughing and making jokes about it and didn’t seem to care at all about the total breach of privacy they were conducting.
We have the freedom to do whatever we want without bodies, but the real empowerment comes from understanding the factors of doing so. Sending nude images and wanting to interact sexually is 100% okay, you shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about feeling confident in your body and wanting to share it. The thing is, girls especially, were sending images in confidence that were then being passed around a group of horny teenage boys like a plate of chip n dip.
Snapchat, Instagram and so many other social media apps have become so ingrained into our daily lives and grown in popularity from when I first started using them back in 2013. Rather than negatively dealing with the negative repercussions that come from sharing intimate pictures, we should be teaching teenagers about informed choices.
It comes down to simple conversation. Informed choices literally cannot happen if they are not told about what can happen. We need to teach our kids that they have the freedom to use their bodies in any way they please, equally with the risks, threats and complications of doing so.