Opinion: Why I'm helping educate youth on dangers of social media

Aug 17 2017, 5:21 am

Written for Daily Hive by Kaitlyn Bristowe

Let’s be honest, we spend way too much time plugged into our devices.

With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and everything else at the tips of our fingers, it’s easy to lose track of time scrolling through our timelines. Before smartphones, I didn’t even know my thumbs could “cramp up,” but here we are.

In moderation, social media can be great. It’s a fun way to connect with friends, and who doesn’t like posting a selfie when you’re feeling your vibe?

But it has a dark side. It can be extremely damaging to our self-image.

Ninety percent of the time I open Instagram, I immediately wish I had a Beyonce-esque booty, rippling abs, and skin that looks like it’s never heard of pimple cream (Clean and Clear? Is that a dish soap?).



Young people are especially vulnerable to these feelings of inadequacy. If I, a 30-something-year-old woman with an amazing group of friends and supportive partner, am this affected by what I see on my screen every day, what are kids and teens going through?

Coming off The Bachelorette was not an easy experience. I was excited to start my life with Shawn, but the comments thrown at me through social media were mean and unacceptable. It was a challenging time and I thought about moulding into who “they” wanted me to be—just to get people off my back. I couldn’t keep everyone happy.

According to a recent study I read, Instagram is the most damaging social network to young people’s wellbeing. One in six youth will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life, and apparently the number one wish of girls between the ages of 11 and 17 is to be thinner. That one breaks my heart.

I have a little niece and nephew, and the thought of them valuing themselves based on the way they look terrifies me. I know I have a voice, and I want to help change these stats to create a better world for them and other kids.

Some of you may know, but I’m an ambassador for Raw Beauty Talks—an organization dedicated to building positive body image and wellness run by my amazing friend Erin Treloar.

We recently launched a crowdfunding campaign in support of the non-profit organization Free To Be, a positive body image program that empowers kids in grades 6 to 8 by helping them develop media literacy skills, building resilience to social pressures that impact body image.



Our goal is to raise $50,000 to put 2,000 students in the Lower Mainland through the Free To Be program—with dreams of expanding the curriculum’s infrastructure across North America.

To help raise awareness and change beauty standards on social media, I’ve started a social movement called #realstagram on Instagram. The idea is to share a picture or selfie of yourself au natural with the hashtag #realstagram to help change the way we think of beauty. Pimples, cellulite, webbed feet—we want to see it all.

It’s not always easy to be this raw and vulnerable, but it’s honest and something that is missing in our “perfectly filtered world.” Sharing a picture of yourself looking less than perfect on a platform where everyone is filtered, edited, and cropped is scary, but it’s a great way to use social media to spread love and positivity.

I’m so excited to have teamed up with two incredible organizations as passionate about changing the conversation around beauty and social media as me, and I can’t wait to see first-hand the difference this campaign makes in the lives of young people.

Join the movement and let’s help build today’s youth into strong, resilient adults.

Share a #realstagram photo on Instagram or donate to the campaign. Let’s do this!

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