Our Fascinating Selves

Self-Image and Identity

Social media and online technology often capitalises on our fascination with ourselves. Whether it’s the ubiquitous selfie, what we’re eating, where we are, who we are with, what we are doing; there are a whole host of apps and services that allow us to present ourselves in our best light and share it with everyone.

And yet, it is often easy to lose sight of how our use of those powerful technologies can influence our behaviour and attitude to ourselves.

The Power of Image

The Safer Internet Day 2017 UK Safer Internet Centre research “The Power of Image” examined young people’s use of image based media. Amongst the young people who took part in the project, the research revealed that the average number of photos taken before posting a selfie was 12 and that a “successful” selfie was one that received over 40 “likes”.

Whilst this could be just a little care and attention about how we look, it’s interesting to consider how online culture demands what is the “right look” and how we are drawn into those requirements. Duck face? Dabbing? Face filters or lenses? Naked? What are the influences and pressures to conform or engage?

This strand of the frame work Education for a Connected World  sets out to explore those influences and shape understanding around how technology might influence behaviour and attitude towards one’s self.

From the differences between online and offline identity: beginning with self-awareness, to shaping online identities, and how media impacts on gender and stereotypes, this strand identifies effective routes for reporting and support and explores the impact of online technologies on self-image and behaviour.

Very young children and ages up to seven:

  • Considers consent and ways to challenge both on and offline relationships you might not be comfortable with
  • Highlights ways in which a young person can tell someone to get support when they are feeling uncomfortable
  • Examines differing identities; how they might look

Children seven to 11:

  • Begins to define what identity is both on and offline and how they differ
  • Offers strategies for making responsible choices when adopting an identity and how that changes depending on the context of who you are with and what you may be doing
  • Explores how identity may be compromised through copying, altering or modifying
  • Encourages examining how media can influence behaviours through targeting gender
  • What is a safe and effective way to report and share concerns

For young people 11 to 14:

  • Describes how technology can be used for positive self-promotion
  • Explores ways in which you can curate or experiment with identity in a way that empowers
  • Demonstrates ways in which an online digital persona can influence the content we see in our social media feeds and internet searches
  • Offers opportunities to assess the role digital media plays in our lives; the benefits and risks; and strategies to reduce those risks
  • Considers ways in which online media can reinforce stereotypes and offers strategies to identify and rationalise when this happens
  • Examines the pressures social media can place on us to engage
  • How identity can be altered in the media through the use of ploy-manipulation

For 14 to 18 examines more complex issues:

  • Examines the types of content that can and/or have been deliberately designed to influence behaviour and body image
  • Considers Artificial Intelligence and its impact on our present and future lives
  • Explores strategies for positive self-promotion and how it can be shaped to improve future opportunities
  • Offers strategies to challenge social norms and make informed decisions on identity with respect to gender, culture and social group
  • Explores ways in which to challenge negative comments online concerning identity and how to identify and assist others that may need support
  • Considers UK Law governing sexual content and the influence of that content on behaviour and relationships
  • Examines positive online role models and explores examples from own media research
  • Highlights how digital manipulation can be both positive and negative

SWGfL is currently in the process of developing resources and content to support each statement in the framework. These will be managed via a FREE online portal and available for any adult to use.

In our next article in the Education for a Connected World series we will takes a deeper look at the second strand of the framework, Online Relationships.

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