Preteens and social media culture

Art by Naomi Ortiz

As a young girl in a culture of social media and perfection, I’ve certainly felt the pressure of beauty standards and maturity constantly haunting me. Media that emphasizes the over-sexualization and idealization of the teenage experience can force younger girls to try to grow up faster. Preteens have millions of beautiful, perfect people accessible at the tap of a finger, pushing them to mature and develop quicker than previous generations.


Growing up, our generation laughed at the older generation’s fear of the media taking over younger people’s minds, but it’s now clear that some of their concerns were valid. Movies like Poltergeist depict the fear of television and media intruding into a family’s home and tearing it apart. Fears like this have often been regarded as paranoid or unfounded by the younger generations, but it's now obvious that the media can make deep impressions on the young, vulnerable minds of tweens.


Social media exemplifies the pressure put on these young girls to be perfect and cool. They often feel like they need to be told how “aesthetic” and “trendy” they are in their comment section, or else they aren’t like the perfect people they see lining their Pinterest albums. These idealized images are thought of as the blueprint of how these young girls' lives should be when in reality, they are just adults who are at the coolest places in the coolest outfits. While most preteens are dreaming about these perfect pictures and wishing it were how they look, they are forgetting that the images shown are adult women who are long past puberty and have the funds to do whatever their heart desires.


These young girls feel pressured by the content they’re consuming to act older than they really are. Seeing their peers succumb to this same pressure just adds to the competitive nature of “fitting in”. They see someone online being accepted because of their style and think the same thing will happen to them if they dress the same.


Influencers like Jojo Siwa and Danielle Bregolli (aka “Bhad Bhabie”) show the stark comparison between typical “children's clothing” and dressing “older than your age”. While only three months apart in age, Jojo focuses more on bright colors and exciting patterns, while Danielle wears muted crop tops and skinny jeans. Both of these teen girls often face a lot of criticism over their choices in clothing, one for dressing younger than expected and the other, for dressing more mature. Parents often complain about the negative influence that social media stars like Danielle Bregoli have on their kids, and they aren’t wrong-- tween culture has suffered many changes.


When I was in my preteen years, there was nothing I wanted more than a neon outfit from Justice. Today’s tweens don’t feel the same, so much so that all Justice locations have closed as of early 2021. The once reigning store for young girls suffered so much from this change in their demographic that they fell into bankruptcy. This change in preteen interests affects more than just store profits.


Young girls dressing older and more mature than their age sounds like it would attract the wrong sort of crowd, and it definitely does. Preteens trying to act “sexier” than they should play into a culture of pedophilia and grooming. Grown men are finding children attractive and messaging with them to sexually exploit them. Predators online abuse this norm of pushing girls to mature faster and manipulate it to serve their needs. Tweens see this attention in a positive light, thinking they’re being sought after like an adult woman when in reality, these perverts are just trying to take advantage of them.


Social Media is shifting preteen interests and expectations. Girls who are putting their childhoods at risk just to seem “perfect” are creating a new normal with negative effects. The standards that haunt this young generation are much stricter than previous generations, and much more taxing.