Social media filters are really doing a number on our kids’ self-esteem

If you are wondering whether the unrealistic images of perfection that social media filters layer over our kids’ faces are causing them harm—you can stop wondering. They are. TikTok’s “Bold Glamour” is the newest filter receiving criticism for the unrealistic image that reflects back on viewers when they use it. It’s one thing to be an adult experimenting with tools like this, but studies have shown time and time again that these filters are damaging our kids’ self-esteem (more on that below). And it’s really time to take the effects they’re having on our kids seriously.

What is the TikTok Bold Glamour filter?

The reason the Bold Glamour filter is causing such an uproar might be because its execution is pretty flawless. When you look at yourself through the lens of the filter, your skin is perfect, your brows are snatched, and your lips are plumped to correspond with society’s current standards of beauty. It’s a subtle yet jarring change—that illustrates just how “imperfect” your actual image is.


Filters like this help set unrealistic standards of beauty on the youth of today. Some filters are a bit of fun I get it, but we mustn’t forget natural beauty too. Let’s not lose sight of reality. #naturalisbeautifultoo

♬ original sound – Zoe_George

“It’s just scary because there’s a lot of girls out there who don’t realize when someone’s got a filter on, and they’re chasing perfection because they think that’s what everybody looks like,” Zoe George, former Big Brother Australia contestant says in her video. “And this is not what people look like.”


This filter is really something else 😂 should I try and do a tutorial recreating this filter with makeup? #fyp #makeup #beauty #beautyfilter #boldglamour #AXERatioChallenge

♬ original sound – Kelly Strack

The filter has been used nearly two million times in the last two days, and many users are reacting the same way—questioning whether the filter is solidifying an unrealistic expectation of beauty. We don’t have to wonder though, at least when it comes to adolescents.

What does the research say?

The research proves time and time again that social media use has a negative effect on teens and tweens. “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said a slide from an internal presentation by Facebook in 2019 that was seen and reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, leaked an internal study that found that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls in one survey said their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting to use Instagram, 17% of teen girls said their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram, and about 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel even worse.

So the question is, why are we letting our kids use these platforms?

“Teens and young adults who reduced their social media use by 50% for just a few weeks saw significant improvement in how they felt about both their weight and their overall appearance compared with peers who maintained consistent levels of social media use,” reads a report published by the American Psychological Association.

“Adolescence is a vulnerable period for the development of body image issues, eating disorders, and mental illness,” said lead author Gary Goldfield, Ph.D., of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. “Youth are spending, on average, between six to eight hours per day on screens, much of it on social media. Social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day, including those of celebrities and fashion or fitness models, which we know leads to an internalization of beauty ideals that are unattainable for almost everyone.”

I lived through the ’90s as a tween. Even with the absence of things like selfies and social media filters that make teenagers look at themselves way more than is healthy for any human, being a teen is a difficult time. Your body is changing, your skin is changing—your physical characteristics are morphing almost daily into the adult you’ll become. The whistleblower research from Facebook is absolutely stunning—knowing that 32% of teen girls were made to feel worse just by virtue of using Instagram regularly. It really makes you wonder if we all need a giant reset.

When our kids are babies, we obsess over every. single. safety measure. We take recalls very, very seriously, as we should. When we discover things like crib bumpers are dangerous, we take measurable actions to avoid those things, even banning them from the market. It’s really past time for us to take a good look at what allowing our tweens and teens on social media is doing to their mental health—to really absorb the research.

“Research shows that young adults who frequently use filters on social media often have increased feelings of dissatisfaction with their actual face and body,” reports The Newport Institute. “Not only are they comparing their appearance to ‘perfect’ images of celebrities and peers, they’re judging themselves against their own filtered selfies.

“Social media overuse and social comparison can trigger anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues, or they can make existing mental health conditions worse.”

How do we help our child reduce social media use?

So what do we do?

Well, knowing we as parents probably have a social media addiction of our own means that we can work with our children to reduce time spent on apps. Choose a day a week and make it a no-screen day. Your kid can see you modeling behavior, and you will most definitely end up spending more time together if you’re not glued to your respective devices.

Related: What to Do When Your Kid Wants a Social Media Account

You can also help them to curate their feeds. Teach them how to unfollow accounts that make them feel bad. Share some hashtags that will expose them to new communities like #bodypositivity or #booktok or other things that shift focus away from how they look and toward other interests.

And most importantly, expose your child to the research and talk to them about it. If they’re old enough to use the apps, they are old enough to start to grasp why certain things about their use are unhealthy.

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