Digital media educator Devorah Heitner, the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World sums up the challenge of growing up in the digital age with one rule. She calls it the “bikini rule.”
In this article in the New York Times Heitner writes:
“You can post a bikini or bathing suit picture only if you are with your siblings or your family in the picture,” said one middle-school girl who was participating in a focus group on digital media. In other words, don’t try too hard to be sexy and you’ll be O.K. in the eyes of your peers. By high school, the rules change. At that stage, a bikini picture often is acceptable, even considered “body positive” in some circles.
As an educator who leads workshops at schools, Heitner says she has a unique glimpse into what she calls the “hidden world of middle and high school students.” She recognizes that while adults impose rules for their kids, Hietner says “the most important rules are those that children create for themselves.” Heitner believes that as parents, trying to get to understand the rules kids make for themselves, is part of challenge of social and preserving and portraying one’s identify, particularly middle school and teenage years.
How we portray ourselves on social both in text and photos impacts the perceptions that others have of us. Peer influence is powerful and the need to be “liked” on social media is equally as powerful. For teens who are grappling with challenging emotional changes in their lives, social media can be a dizzying thing. The explicit rules that codify our use of social is crucial, however trying to understand the “unwritten rules,” taps into the tacit and implicit knowledge that teens learn through cultural context, their self-perception and the interactions they have with each other that help them the social rules of their worlds.