Self-Image & Identity

  • Whether designing avatars for virtual worlds, selecting profile pictures, or carefully crafting texts to friends, young people have countless opportunities to express themselves through digital media. Students should consider how their identities -- online and offline -- may affect their relationships, sense of self, and reputation. Here are some potential talking points and considerations:

    • Connect the dots - Children can have a difficult time understanding how their online actions can have very real impacts since they may not see or feel those impacts directly. Capitalize on events in the media or even on TV to make those connections. Explain how things that start online, and perhaps seemingly anonymously and with no bad intent, can translate into very real things.
    • Connect "behavior" to "reputation" - Help students understand that their behavior is the lens which will develop into a reputation. Behaviors can be changed in the short term; however, a reputation can take a long time to change.
    • Look inward - Do you behave differently online vs in person? Ask yourself why that is? Be true to yourself. If you think you can hide, you may be right... But you may be wrong too.
    • Point out photos that are too good to be real - For example, look at some of the photos on magazine covers when in line at a store. Where are the freckles, veins, wisps of hair, blemishes, etc? The "perfect look" of some of those photos may very well be un-real and un-attainable.
    • Seek balance - As your children demonstrate good choices and decisions about being safe and responsible under parental guidance, gradually allow them more independence and privacy. This helps them develop their sense of self.
    • Don't be afraid - Engage with your children about their technology use. Ask them to show you things. Ask them to explain how something works. You will undoubtedly learn something and it provides an opportunity for your child to be a "leader" and expand on their identity.
    • Keep an open mind - A large portion of today's children's lives will likely be spent in a connected, digital world - a world where virtually everyone can create and communicate. We need to help them learn how to live in that world, and enjoy it.

    As always, please feel free to discuss this topic with your local Teacher-Librarian and/or IT Specialist. Also, consult the CommonSenseMedia website -