When I was twelve I asked Santa for new games for my Nintendo, a few CDs and whatever else was cool in 2010. My younger sister, who turns twelve in two months, recently asked Santa for Flawless foundation brushes, a dupe Kylie Jenner lip kit, a new case for her iPhone and vouchers for Boots so that she could buy even more makeup. I told her it was crazy that she wanted all this stuff and that our parents would never agree.
In the end, Santa granted her wish because every girl in her class had been given much the same things and my sister feared being the odd one out. On Christmas Day, I watched on in shock as my sister took pictures of her presents and posted them on her Snapchat story and then her Instagram page. She only looked up from the phone to remind me that it was ‘uncool’ for me to still not have an Instagram account.
My sister is a prime example of the trendy kids of her generation. While the majority of us college students spent our preteens wearing questionable shades of eyeshadow or roll on lipgloss, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. The awkward transition phase we once experienced has been wiped out by this generation. By fourteen or fifteen, kids now have perfectly shaped eyebrows and an expert makeup look to match. Whenever I glance at my sister’s Instagram feed, there are always dozens of her classmates who have posted enviable selfies that make them look years older than I know they are.
While the early teens are a difficult period for everyone, it seems that it is only becoming tougher for Ireland’s youngsters. Their desire to be ‘Insta ready’ at all times creates huge pressure on today’s young people, both boys and girls. In 2016, Business Insider UK carried out a survey on 60 teenagers and found that on average kids received their first smartphone at eleven years old. As a result, children are being exposed to the dangers of social media at a younger age than ever before. The typical feelings of confusion and insecurity during puberty are heightened by the superficiality of social media. Many young people feel that they are a lesser person if they don’t receive a socially acceptable number of likes on their latest Instagram post.
Teenagers now possess the ability to alter their appearance with makeup and filters simply to rake in more likes on their social media. While we are all guilty of using this trick, discovering it this young means that teenagers have delusional ideas of how perfect they should look. Cyber bullying is also a much more serious threat for young people today than it was for previous generations. In 2015, a survey conducted by YouGov found that one in four teenagers in Ireland had been cyberbullied. Two thirds of the teenagers surveyed also revealed that it was more painful than face to face bullying.
The saddest part of this trend in today’s generation of youngsters is perhaps their loss of childhood innocence. Our childhoods are ideally a peaceful and happy time. Childhood should be void of all the stress and drama that adulthood brings. However, this obsession with being perfect has corrupted the stress free model of childhood that we once knew.
I personally am thankful that my early teens were spent playing outside with my friends, rather than scrolling through my phone to keep up with the latest trends. All the makeup, filters and Insta likes in the world can’t match up to that feeling of being a kid and free to have fun, with none of the tedious responsibilities that lie ahead. While my sister and the rest of her generation admittedly look amazing in their selfies, I hope that they put away the smartphones for a second to realise that the world around them is even more beautiful than their filters.
-By Shauna McHugh