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How can I best advise my DD on dealing with social cliques and social media at secondary school?

(107 Posts)
OccidentalPurist Sun 31-Mar-19 00:35:41

This is more an Am I being unreasonably concerned (and sorry for the long post!).

When my DD left junior for secondary last September she was a very happy, bright, creative and slightly eccentric girl with a lot of friends. Until recently I’d got the impression that things were continuing as normal at secondary school, but I had a rather worrying conversation with her today.

Since starting the Spring term she has become rather pale, grumpy and emotional. Me and my DH initially put it down to hormones, but today she (and her best friend) really opened up about the pressure they feel under to be popular at school and, in particular, on Instagram. It really threw me and I’m worried that this is only going to get worse.

My DD is in a class with her best friend from junior school, but there is a large, dominant group of girls there from another school, who seem to lord it over the rest of them and whom everyone seems to want approval from, including the boys. This on its own I could offer advice on, as I remember it happening at times in my school, but now it comes with a whole other strata of pressure from Instagram as well.

My DD and her friend follow these girls on Instagram and they have three times the followers my DD has and get hundreds more likes and many comments etc. Just writing this is making me think how ridiculous it is, as it’s not real life, but I’m not a 12 year old girl in 2019 and I really don’t think telling her to just come off Instagram is the answer, as she would be known as that girl who’s no longer on Instagram etc.

My maim worry is that, until now, my DD was the sort of person who was so above this sort of rubbish, but that it’s just so pervasive and overwhelming at secondary level that she’s going to end up being some sort of compromised and watered down version of herself just so she can ‘fit in’, in real life and on social media.

Instagram is such a recent phenomenon and I just wondered if there were any mums out there whose DDs were currently navigating it or who had ‘come out the other side’ who could perhaps offer me some advice, reassurance or anecdotes I could pass on to my DD!

kateandme Tue 02-Apr-19 22:38:26

ask her honestly to think of the future.where does she think Instagram group will be.will their 'beautiful' posers be important.will they look back on them with pride.will they help them become a good a good mother or partner.will they get them the job they want or the real deep freidnships people love to have.or will your daughter who is creative and kind and sensitive who is funny and warm and an individual be the one to go and bloom.being attached to there rating wont earn them a wont earn them wont get them to wont help them drive or ride wont help them learn new things.its trapping them inside and inch wide screen.put it into list terms of all they will gain and lose by being who they are.and how amazing your daughter is for seein this and doing her own thing,mapping her own life.
keep giving her confidence in other ways.
always remind her to tell you if she has seen or read something that irks matter how big,small,interesting or silly if it effect her she can talk about it.

OccidentalPurist Tue 02-Apr-19 22:35:29

@Islands81 there is a girl in my DD's class with Aspergers who she has had a couple of play dates with (if you can still call them that!).

She's beautiful and so bright with lovely parents, but struggles at school sometimes. My DD and her old friends from junior are really sympathetic to her, but the alpha ones not so much unfortunately.

kateandme Tue 02-Apr-19 22:28:10

jameela jamil is a great one to look at.she is calling out body and photo and diet shamers.she is calling out race and bullies.she put posts of her skin colour,of her stretch marks.she recently did a post on the kardashans shameful laxative shakes they push! shes wonderful.she also has a separate account called I_weigh on Instagram where woman put all they are with a picture up (apart from weight) so someone will post and put...a nurse,mum,freind,kind hearted,powerful,scarred etc its really inspirational.
would looking at someone like her help?

Islands81 Tue 02-Apr-19 20:26:43

OP - well she’s been a lot happier since she left school that’s for sure. She does feel quite socially isolated. Currently waiting for the panel to decide on an EHCP so hopefully I will be able to get her into a specialist Aspergers school in September.

She is soooooooo over the top in the mean girls profile that you’d have to be seriously hard of thinking to believe she is serious. Which I guess unfortunately a lot of ‘mean girls’ are, if they’re anything like they were in the 90s when I was at school.

Namestheyareachangin Tue 02-Apr-19 20:23:44

@smarties hope it helps some. For what it's worth, teachers who recognised hat I had something different about me and treated me with a modicum of respect made ALL the difference. I had English teachers who would personally lend me books they had enjoyed because they saw I would appreciate them, a deputy head who would come and have a proper friendly chat to me at lunchtime if I was on my own (sadly but proudly I ended up being invited to his funeral by his family when I was 14) - it gave me something approximating friendship and an intimation that the things I liked and valued were respected by some more than all the things I wasn't and couldn't be a part of. Only made me more "weird" in the eyes of some of course grin but it meant a lot to me. I'm sure you having their backs means a lot to your pupils flowers

Smartieshavetheanswer Tue 02-Apr-19 19:26:08

Agreed, Names. That really does sum things up nicely. I'll also remember your words when consoling my pupils in school.

OccidentalPurist Tue 02-Apr-19 19:08:59

@Namestheyareachangin I teared up a bit reading your inspiring post - I'm going to read it to my daughter this evening before bed, thanks.

Smartieshavetheanswer Tue 02-Apr-19 19:06:38

Islands parody in her mind or not, not everyone who reads this 'mean girls' fake account will understand/appreciate parody so she's very much part of the problem. I

OccidentalPurist Tue 02-Apr-19 19:06:34

@Islands81 gosh that's heartbreaking - are things much better for your DD now? thanks

Islands81 Tue 02-Apr-19 16:04:43

Oh actually, dd does have another insta account, which is a parody of a ‘mean girls’ insta profile, with a stock image as a profile pic. She posts ridiculous (but hilarious IMO) over the top mean girl stuff and has a surprising amount of followers who seem to think it’s actually genuine!

Islands81 Tue 02-Apr-19 16:02:01

SM is bloody horrible for girls of that age. My dd has ASD, and she didn’t really have any friends at school. When she was in year 8 a group of the ‘cool’ girls asked if she’d like to sit and eat her lunch with them. She thought they were being kind and was happy to sit with them. Unbeknown to her, one of the girls took a picture of her and added the caption ‘loner’, and then sent it via snapchat to most of her year group. It broke my heart, and it’s things like that which meant that by year 9 I had to remove dd from school completely for her own mental health.

I attended a conference on internet safety for teens and it was frankly terrifying. Turns out that it’s the norm for secondary girls in relationships to send explicit pictures to their boyfriends. It’s expected of them and of course mostly they will do it. And when it all goes wrong and they break up, those pictures are often shared without their consent which can literally ruin their lives.

Luckily for me, dd is not at all interested in posting photos of herself on SM. She has an insta account but only uses it to post pictures of her art work (she is an amazing artist).

Namestheyareachangin Tue 02-Apr-19 15:47:56

@onsen Thank God parents were so ignorant about the internet when I was a young teen - inappropriate fanfiction was my delight! grin Don't think my parents would even have had the first idea what it was...

Namestheyareachangin Tue 02-Apr-19 15:46:27

To be honest, for me, this was the moment in school I really had to make the choice between fitting in and being who I was. I could have learned to play the game; but I would have had to suppress so much of myself. I chose not to; and secondary school was hell on earth (or at least started that way, by GCSES/A Levels all the really hateful girls had either dropped out or gone off pregnant and everyone else had pretty much settled down by then and didn't need to constantly status-call and bully as in the early years). At best it was miserable. I was so perennially, noticeably weird and different.

But then I went travelling, and then to university, and my real life started, I found my people, I discovered that outside of the school 'popularity' straight jacket there were so many communities and worlds I fitted into but wasn't restricted by. While 'popular' kids found that the currency of their world had completely changed, and what they had invested so much time in becoming meant very little in a bigger wider and more diverse world.

Just explain to her that in school, a lot of people will just be average and boring, interested in average boring things, and because they are the majority it seems like those things are important.

But later in life she will be able to choose who she associates with, and that with a whole world to choose from those average boring people will fade into the background of her life and become inconsequential.

Tell her what she thinks of her is going to be far more important in the long run of what they think of her. Tell her she is special. Encourage a healthy contempt for people who think 'likes' and going to Burger King in a pack is the be all and end all. It won't make her more popular, but neither will scrounging after these girls' approval, and she'll lose a lot of herself in the process.

Seriously, the only way out of the 'being unpopular' trap is to not give a damn either way. It's hard, but it's a skill that can be mastered, and far more easily than bending yourself into a shape that doesn't fit.

onsen Tue 02-Apr-19 13:41:17

@ProfessorLayton1. I'm afraid I can't lay my hands on them as they have mostly come from the library, but I think one was written by Gemma Cairney. She also did a great thing about body image which was done by our local chapter of Mighty Girls, in which they represented themselves as they wanted to show themselves - bookworms or so on.

MsTSwift Tue 02-Apr-19 13:21:45

These poor kids on our day at least you were “safe” at home now with social media you aren’t

OccidentalPurist Tue 02-Apr-19 13:06:24

@onsen photography club is a really good idea thanks - I'll talk to her about it later. There may be one at school.

I so want her to realise she's better than this!

ProfessorLayton1 Tue 02-Apr-19 12:11:46

Onsen - what books do you suggest ?
Dd is one of three who don't own a phone and she is going into secondary school next year.
I am aware of some children who have had problems with SM - WhatsApp bullying etc.,
I have been speaking to her about the social media and she is only getting a brick phone next year.
Some really good advice here...
Fortunately she has a lot of outside activities that will keep her occupied ...

onsen Tue 02-Apr-19 11:57:57

Mother of another quirky, eccentric girl here. She went through utter hell with this in year 6 and it has taken a while to build her confidence back up.

I definitely agree about outside interests, but can she also do something with her photography? That sounds like a good source of self-confidence. And are there any clubs at school where she can meet like minds from other classes.

Two other things. We are very open with DD about the pressures of this kind of thing; we talk to her about how the ones who are looking for likes are usually doing it through lack of self confidence, and the pointlessness of selfies/appearance culture, although this is made easier by the fact that DD is a raging feminist. There are quite a few good books out around this kind of subject at the moment as well.

And in the end, we have heavily restricted social media. She has an app on her phone which restricts some things (we've had issues with deeply inappropriate fan fiction, which she did report but oh my) and in the end, because of all the fuckwittery, we have deleted Instagram for the forseeable. This is bearable because it's mostly the idiots who are on it, and some of her friends aren't even allowed WhatsApp.

Finally, I would go and talk to the school about what is going on - that comment about 'not you' is over the line and I think they should know, and may be able to help her find a group which suits her better.

Oblomov19 Tue 02-Apr-19 11:56:18

A quick word (email) with her tutor? And possibly her HoY?

Oblomov19 Tue 02-Apr-19 11:48:43

I totally get that. I think it's worse for girls. But realistically this isn't going to change, get any better, as she goes through year 8,9,10 etc, is it?

OccidentalPurist Tue 02-Apr-19 11:30:41

@Oblomov19 friends becoming more popular with cliques has always happened at school, I realise, and a decade or so ago she could have much more easily accepted it and dealt with it accordingly.

But it's how this has had a direct consequence on Instagram that has shocked me.

When her BF was accepted by the clique, suddenly loads of girls in her year (not just her class) wanted to follow her BF, followed by girls from other schools in our city, once her followers built up

So my DD's circumstances have really been exacerbated by this. As I mentioned, Instagram at their age is like being fed into a giant popularity ranking system. What's worse is that my DD isn't as fussed about Instagram as others - she posts mainly arty stuff, but she can't help but feel rather inadequate compared to her BF.

She said the other day that she felt that no one cared about her. She's usually very upbeat and I hate to think of her being made sad by this.

Oblomov19 Tue 02-Apr-19 09:46:18

It's not the BF's fault that she's become so popular and your DD hasn't.
Maybe they are drifting apart? Maybe your DD needs to find new friends.

This is not uncommon. Surely you talked to your DD pre going to secondary about friendships and how they develop and change?

Oblomov19 Tue 02-Apr-19 09:36:36

I'm really sorry I'm a bit confused as to quite what the problem is or whether you're blaming Instagram, mid-directing your attention? for what is really a confidence issue in your daughter.

Ds1 is a bit older admittedly, But I do know from fellow friends that girls can be a totally different kettle of fish!! And sometimes nasty.

however Ds1 fortunately hasn't really had any major friendship problems on Instagram etc, or the boys seem to sort it out in a totally different way and it certainly hasn't had the effect that has on your daughter.

You have a number of options: you can remove her from all social media, but I'm not sure that's best - she needs to learn to make it work for her, in whatever way that is- for her to have the inner confidence of knowing who she is, and be happy and excepting of that. Maybe wanting to be part of this group of girls, but also excepting that they may have 100 followers and that is okay because she still a nice girl and she's got nice friends and this is all alright.

MsTSwift Tue 02-Apr-19 09:24:46

11 - 13 year girls have always gone through this it’s part of the human condition remember it from my own school days SM just magnifies it.

Sunkist12 Tue 02-Apr-19 09:15:19

I've no advice to give on this, but it's so awful.
I do actually work on social media full time day in day out as my job and I want to stress that it really doesn't get any better with the adults on these social platforms.

I had all aspects of social media until about 6 months into my job when I just cancelled everything and the relief I feel is overwhelming. Would your DD be interested in doing this?

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