Over a third of girls say the pressure to live the perfect life online is affecting their wellbeing

The pressure to showcase a ‘perfect’ life online is affecting the wellbeing of girls and young women, our new data has revealed.

Over a third of girls as young as eleven say that comparing their lives to others is one of the greatest worries they have about spending time online. 

And girls are concerned that while their parents are well aware of threats to their safety and online grooming, they are less confident in addressing this emerging trend. Less than half (47%) of those questioned feel that their parents realise the pressures they face on social media.

This comes as more and more girls and young women turn to social media including Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube as recreational hobbies, engaging with both their friends and with celebrities. A third of girls also say that they worry about how they look in photos, and a quarter say they worry that they feel the need to check their phones first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

35% of girls aged 11–21 say that comparing themselves and their lives to others was one of their major worries about the amount of time spent online. The older girls get, the more of an issue it becomes, with 40% of girls aged 17–21 citing it as their second greatest worry, after being distracted from their academic work.

The statistics come from Girlguiding’s Girls’ Attitudes Survey, the largest piece of research of girls and young women in the UK. The survey questions over 1900 girls and young women aged 7–21 about their lives, beliefs and activities. The gap in perception of online dangers shows that parents are at risk of underestimating the impact that a life online can have on their daughters. Just 12% of girls aged 11–21 think their parents are worried about their daughters comparing themselves to others online.

15-year-old Girlguiding advocate Maddie from Southampton said:

Social media is an incredible tool, but these statistics show it can also have such a negative impact on our lives. I think it is so sad to see how girls and young women today are becoming more and more affected by the pressures of social media. Speaking from experience, it can be such a hard thing to face along with the other pressures of being a teenager or young person, and it can become very overwhelming.Comparing yourself to others is a very easy trap for girls and young women to fall into, especially given how often we use social media to follow the lives of both our friends and celebrities.
The fact that Girlguiding offers body confidence workshops such as the ‘Free Being Me’ scheme, and their system of Peer Education means that girls can learn how to deal with the pressures we’re faced with through our use of social media. I would love to see a future where girls can be happy just the way they are. I believe raising awareness of the pressures girls face online is a step in the right direction.

Currently, young people have to be thirteen to use popular photo-sharing apps Snapchat and Instagram, although many sign up at a younger age. Online demands are obviously affecting girls’ moods with only 15% of girls aged 11–21 listing being online as something which makes them feel good.

Youtuber, actress and writer Carrie Hope Fletcher, has offered words of advice to girls who are struggling to cope with online pressures. She said:

Life online can be a daunting place for anyone and as it's so relatively new, there's a lack of rules and guidelines in certain areas and a social etiquette is yet to be fully formed so it's often tricky to manoeuvre.
I've spent a huge portion of my life trying to navigate the depths of the world wide web and three things I would urge people to remember are that it's okay to block people who are making you feel negativity; that there's more to life than what's on your screen - if things are getting heavy online, shut it down and go outside or get a hug from someone; and finally, you're never alone.
The internet can be a wonderful place to connect with incredible people but so often it can make you feel very isolated and alone. Trust me when I say, you never are!

A total of 1,906 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 took part in the 2017 survey from the across the UK, from both inside and outside of guiding. The ninth Girls Attitudes Survey will be published by Girlguiding in September.