Social Media and Self-Esteem

TOUCH Youth Intervention

Social Media and Self-Esteem

It’s 7am. The alarm goes off on the iPhone perched on the wooden nightstand. Nicole reaches over for her iPhone, turns the alarm off and taps on her most visited app – Instagram. She scrolls through her feeds filled with photos and takes in the updates that were posted while she was asleep. She treats herself to one Instagram Story before heading to the bathroom to get ready for the day.

Like Nicole, the first thing that most youths do when they wake up every morning is to scroll through their social media accounts or upload a post.

Social media is simply an extension of many youths’ lives where they share their thoughts and daily updates. What is of concern is how youths process the content they are exposed to on social media and their motivation for posting on social media.

The counsellors at TOUCH Youth Intervention (TYI) have observed that youths who use social media to seek social validation are often obsessed with portraying a perfect life on social media just to get that extra like or follow to boost their self-esteem. However, because they measure their self-worth using social media metrics, they may end up feeling frustrated or lousy about themselves if they don’t receive enough likes or positive comments on their posts.

Social media is here to stay and banning our youths from accessing their social media accounts may not be the solution. Here’s what parents can do to help build their children’s self-esteem and keep their social media use and habits in check:

  1. Build a close relationship with your child

    What’s most important is for parents to establish a close and trusting relationship with their children. Focus on building a relationship with your child so that he/she knows that you are there to support them should they face any challenges in life or when they are feeling less than adequate about themselves. Encourage open communication by listening, being understanding, and refraining from harsh criticism. Having a close relationship with your child also means that you would be best positioned to notice if your child is going through a rough patch. Parents can then offer guidance and a listening ear before the issue becomes too overwhelming for the children to bear.

  2. Affirm your child for good effort

    Praise your child but do it wisely. Do not overpraise as your child may not feel that the praise was earned and that it seems fake. Instead of focusing your praise on achievements (scoring A’s in school) or fixed qualities (being smart or good looking), praise your child for his/her efforts, progress, and good attitude. (E.g. “I’m proud of you for persevering and putting more effort in your swim training. I’ve observed that your strokes are improving.”)

  3. Focus on your child’s strengths

    Pay attention to what your child enjoys and is good at, and help your child develop those strengths. Focusing on your child’s strengths helps your child feel good about him/herself and contributes to a healthy self-esteem. 

  4. Turn off notifications

    If your child is constantly checking his/her social media, suggest going on a social media detox together. Model by example. Turn off the notifications so that both of you would feel less tempted to check your mobile devices frequently. Make it a point to use social media actively to connect rather than passively to see what others are posting.

  5. What’s real?
    Social media, being populated with highly curated and photoshopped images, conditions our minds to think that dangerously unrealistic standards of success or beauty is the norm. Remind your child that most people only present their positive sides on social media and that like everyone else, they too have their challenges and bad days. Do also consider processing with your child how certain photos on social media may have been edited and not reflect reality.


TOUCH Youth Intervention (TYI) was set up in 2017 to better meet the range of challenging issues facing today’s youths. TYI specialises in counselling and programmes for youths supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Its areas of focus are on cyber wellness, mental health and youth issues.

Need to speak with a counsellor on any youth-related issues your teen may be facing? Get in touch with our counsellor by calling the TOUCHline: 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm).