Girls and Social Media: Parents Beware

In last week’s blog post we shared key insights from the Girls Index, a national survey of more than 10,000 young females in grades 5 through 12, released by Ruling Our Experience, an Ohio-based nonprofit. In that post we focused on factors related to the overall health and well-being of our daughters. In this post we turn our attention to results from the study that pertain to girls’ use of social media and the deleterious impact that’s having on their social and emotional lives.

Social Media Insights

An article in EDWEEK Market Brief summarized the findings from the research undertaken by Ruling our Experience, an Ohio-based nonprofit:

Thirty percent of the respondents reported having been bullied or made fun of on social media. Nineteen percent said they have made fun of someone else on those forums.

Many of the girls who are the heaviest social media users struggle in making connections with peers, and they tend to have fewer outside interests.

Girls who spend the most time using technology are five times more likely to say they are sad or depressed nearly every day. Girls who engage with technology the most are also the least likely to be involved in activities such as clubs, sports, band, music, and theater.

In addition, girls who spend the most time on technology are the least likely to say they have supportive friends and supportive adults to talk to about serious issues.

Seventy-five percent of 12th grade girls say “most students their age send sexually explicit photos.” And more than half of 8th grade girls have been asked to send a sexually explicit photo.

These results were revealed by Lisa Hinkleman, executive director of Ruling Our Experience, at the recent Austin TX SXSWedu conference.

Hinkleman made clear that this research does not point to causal factors between social media and the attitudes and behaviors of young females. But she does acknowledge that the association between the two suggests further exploration is in order.

What Should Parents Do?

While attempting to limit your child’s social media use may be the instinctive ploy, Hinkleman says that approach is simplistic and may be misguided:  “Young people are going to fight back on efforts to restrict time spent online.”

Hinkleman makes the case instead for “building girls’ competencies in other ways…How do we help them build more effective relationships in life—and online.” In conclusion she adds:

Online or offline, girls need to be encouraged to be able to set boundaries, stand up for themselves, engage an adult, or know when to end a conversation,” she said.

“We’re not teaching girls to be able to do that in real life—but we expect them to be able to do it online?”

You can access the entire Girls Index study report at 

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