Our teen girls aren't 20-something influencers and shouldn't pretend to be
"Act your age [you] idiot!" Why the online harassment of teen actress Millie Bobby Brown is an important lesson for parents and their teens.
"I don't understand why people have an issue with the dress. It's more age-appropriate than some of the comments to it." (iStock)
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Maybe it's the bad ass role that made her famous, or the fact that her name is eerily similar to the notorious R&B singer, Bobby Brown, but for some reason, the internet loves to hate Millie Bobby Brown. 

For her young age, the 14-year-old has already achieved more than most of us have in adulthood, and perhaps it's the fact that she's racked up so many 'youngest person ever' titles that the actress seems to find herself the target of so much negativity online. 

(Then again, it could just be that that internet is a place filled with mean people). 


Also see:  “I’m not going to tolerate it and neither should any of you”: Millie Bobby Brown responds to bullies after she was trolled


The actress has been harassed online before and her latest brush with the trolls involves her choice of clothing – a fitted, long-sleeved dress imprinted with a snakeskin design. 

Click here for a link to the post.  

The star posted an innocent enough picture of herself wearing the dress via her Instagram account, and received an onslaught of comments from followers saying the dress was too mature for her, and that she needs to act her age. 

"Act your age [you] idiot," said one troll. 

"I'm not hating but aren't you a little too young for this outfit, I mean it's an okay outfit but it's just a bit mature," said another. 

Needless to say, fans weren't happy, snapping back: 

"Calm down you're acting like she’s 9 wearing heels," retorted one fan. 

A mom said, "It is a mature look, but compared to what girls wear at my daughter's school? Amazing!"

Another user commented, "I'm confused. She's completely covered and it's inappropriate?!" 

We could not see what was so mature or inappropriate about the dress either, but what we found concerning was the actress's invitation to her followers to "write a caption."


What are you most concerned about regarding your teen’s life online? What are your rules for them when it comes to using social media? Tell us, and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous. 


Here's what we mean. 

It's never okay for anyone, especially a teen, to be shamed online. Her choice in clothing is her (and her parents') prerogative and as one user put it: "Good for you, sweetie. You look great!"

The problem with her caption is that it places a 14-year-old at the mercy of millions (her account boasts more than 18 million followers) of faceless nameless elements, asking them to judge her. 

The other disturbing factor is the character of the audience on the other end of her request, with one follower hitting the nail on the head, saying: 

"I don't understand why people have an issue with the dress. It's more age-appropriate than some of the comments to it." 

Here's a look at some of the most cringe-worthy remarks: 

"The fact that your underaged doesn’t mean you can’t be hot"

"MILLIEEEE, that dreessss looks so beautiful BUT NOT ON YOU" 

"How many snakes died for that outfit? Or was it just one big snake? (sarcasm people don't kill me) As a 40 y/o guy I don't feel it's my place to critique your outfit. (other than you look nice) Enjoy the show by the way." 

"You look pregnant"

"You're fat"

"You're hot already at this age"

"When your dress is skin tight, you know your body MUST be feeling right"

"I hope she fell on her way down those stairs"

"You are an enemy of women @milliebobbybrown"

"That dress looks repulsive"

It's enough to make your skin crawl!


Also see: Parent's guide: Making Instagram safer for your kids


The "influencer" mentality

Millie's caption is nothing out of the ordinary, and it's what we've become accustomed to seeing from the influencers of Instagram. 

And let’s not forget, Millie is famous and it’s the entire point of her Instagram account to attract attention, but she’s just one of many examples our young ones are following. 

Our teens aren’t famous but how do we keep them from falling into the same line of thinking? 

Seeking validation online is a trap even grown-ups fall into, but if we reinforce important lessons now, we might help our teens to create a new way of expressing themselves online that doesn’t involve the "do you like me?" mentality. 

A good point of reference is the work of Emma Sadleir and Dr Lizzie Harrison, the women behind the book Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A Teenager's Online Survival Guide

As experts in psychology and social media law, Emma and Lizzie offer invaluable advice that parents could use to teach their young users healthy online habits. 


Also see: WATCH: Here's what teens do on Instagram and YouTube

Here are a few of their golden rules: 

1. The billboard rule

It’s so easy to forget that what we post online is not only easily accessible but also easily shareable, to wit Emma and Lizzie advise that tweens and teens always remember that posts and comments online are not unlike a huge billboard. If they wouldn’t feel comfortable having their comments and pictures blown up to billboard size, then posting is probably a bad idea. 

2. Screenshots mean nothing is ever truly deleted

In their book, Emma and Lizzie mention that most of the legal cases they’ve dealt with has been due to a screenshot. If it’s in digital form, it can be easily duplicated, and you can never really know when something you’ve posted has been screenshotted and shared. 

3. The internet’s memory is built to last 

This follows on from the screenshot rule. You can never be sure where your posts and images could end up, the internet is just too vast and as the authors put it, "the internet never forgets."

Chat back:

What are you most concerned about regarding your teen’s life online? What are your rules for them when it comes to using social media? Tell us, and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous. 

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