In news that is not really news to parents with kids on social media, a former Facebook employee recently released internal memos that the app Instagram, which Facebook (now Meta) owns, harms teen girls’ mental health. While this isn’t a shock to most parents, we still get that kids will turn to social media to connect with friends and follow influencers they admire. But what happens when those influencers present polished, believable posts about things that veer perilously close to toxic wellness? Or fully embrace dangerous behavior altogether? Our children, whose brains haven’t reached full maturity, are more likely to buy into such messages than adults.
Preventing teens from using social media can seem like an impossible ask. A more realistic approach may be nudging them toward healthier consumption. Get started with this list of Instagram accounts that focus on acceptance and positivity.
1. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
An account created for girls “to celebrate their truest selves.” Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls utilizes Instagram’s every feature to great effect, with video stories and posts that highlight a wide variety of topics like #sharkfacts, President Biden’s new Build Back Better plan, and discussions on ending racial bias in organ donation, to name a few. There’s no dumbing it down around here.
2. My name Is Jessamyn
Jessamyn Stanley is an author, yoga teacher, entrepreneur and advocate with a large following who founded The Underbelly, a wellness brand that encourages its users to “take up space” and “dare to amplify yourself.” She posts about unhealthy power dynamics, energy preserving mantras and intersectional identity. Note that she’s a grown-up and is very sex-positive and smokes openly.
3. I Hart Ericka
Ericka Hart is a racial, social, gender justice disruptor who has survived breast cancer and isn’t afraid to show her double mastectomy scars. She calls herself radical and relatable and is all about body positivity.
4. Girls Night In Club
The Girls Night in Club is a feel-good account with ideas for how to spend your downtime. From tips for building art into everyday life to becoming a thoughtful gifter, crafting ideas and a whole lot more, this joy-filled follow will give you and your kids all the cozies.
5. Not Plant Based
Started by Eve Simmons, a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, Not Plant Based posts sporadically but effectively with reminders that eating whatever you want isn’t just for the holiday season. With a bio that reads “Learn to love ALL food again (yes, even carbs),” Simmons has been targeted by fitness influencers who don’t care for her criticism of the sexualized online fitness industry. Which makes us want to cheer her on even more.
6. The Shira Rose
Shira Rose, with almost 100k followers, brings attention to “fat phobia” and advocates for people in marginalized bodies to get equal access to health care, employment, travel and more. She models beautiful, plus-size clothing and posts lots of photos of her new dog, Bamba. She’s rightfully critical of the diet industry and gets real with her readers about her own body size struggles.
7. Some Good News
Started by actor John Krasinski at the beginning of the pandemic, SGN was sold to ViacomCBS but maintains the same cheerful mission of highlighting happy-making stories. The account features touching moments like people with cancer celebrating remission, wedding proposals and reunions.
8. Hey Bobbi Banks
A therapist and coach, Londoner Bobbi Banks posts tips and tools to give you flashes of insight into why a friendship might feel toxic or how to stop self-sabotaging. While an Instagram account is not, of course, a substitute for actual therapy, small reminders to look inside ourselves every so often certainly can’t hurt.
9. Vicky C Books
Vicky is a book blogger and artist who posts aesthetically lovely, pastel photos of YA books she’s reading and details of upcoming reading goals (like delving into indie books). She also posts recommendations, cover reveals and occasional coupon codes. If your teen is a bookworm, or even a budding bookworm, this is a fun account to follow.
10. Reading Writing and Me
Lanie, the owner of this bookish account, is an 18-year-old making the switch from YA to adult books (think Sally Rooney and Emily Henry). She puts up photos of impressive To Be Read stacks and links to her reviews, plus stylized pics with props and scenic backdrops. It’s a bright, cheerful palette with upbeat, thoughtful posts that will appeal to older kids.
11. Some Books and Ramblings
Teen bookstore employee Sam is an OwlCrate subscriber who posts unboxing videos of her monthly treasures as well as photos of books at her home and at work. Her account has a magical, fantasy focus and she often groups photos by color or theme.
12. Glowy Amelie
A minor Instagram and TikTok sensation, she’s great at ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), or whispering, crinkling and tapping that gives some people a deep sense of relaxation. She also highlights skin products and makeup she likes, smearing it over her face in a sometimes artful, sometimes more sloppy way that is fun to watch.
13. Its Damion G
Unapologetically himself, Damion Gross has cerebral palsy and posts about both his insecurities and photoshoots in which he feels cute. He’s a ray of sunshine and fun to follow.
Muslim-American woman Huda Fahmy creates webcomics and is releasing a new young adult graphic novel this month. She posts inspirational illustrations empowering women and humorous cartoon strips about Hijabi life. Muslim girls will likely be able to relate and laugh at the same time, and non-Muslim kids can learn about the realities of a different culture.
15. We Rate Dogs
This account is flat-out adorable and almost always funny, too. Every dog receives at least an 11/10 rating and the photos are consistently cute, sometimes worthy of a belly laugh, and on other days very touching. They crowd-source medical care for dogs who need it and put up frequent sponsored posts, but my daughter and I regularly talk about and chuckle over this account’s content.
An inspired and genuine account of an Asian American trans woman who models, sings, and gets candid about what it’s like coming from an unaccepting family and loving her true self — despite what she’s been told. She posts reels sharing her past and trans joy.
While Instagram and other apps that teens flock to can be a noxious stew, there are accounts that actively promote healthy habits and spread positivity and acceptance. Our kids deserve access to the kind of influencers that nurture their whole selves and not those that steal their wonder.
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