|Minna, Bella, Zoe, Quincy, Sierra & Sabre - all their profiles have been removed from instagram|
I've been asked this question quite a bit in the last 24 hours. And while I can't speak for all kids, I can speak for kids who are athletes & who are at the top of their game.
First a little info on why I am speaking out about all of this & my background. Besides running this GN4LW site for girls in action sports, I have also been a wardrobe/fashion stylist for over 20 years, which means I work on advertising shoots & commercials for companies like Gatorade, Nike, Adidas, Cocoa Cola, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc. So I get to work with exceptional adults, teens, tweens, and kids, who are simply the best athletes in the world. (Reference - http://www.cindywhitehead.com) As most of you know, I was also a pro skateboarder in my teenage years, so I have been on both sides of what I am going to talk about.
Perhaps the average kid really doesn't need to have instagram account, but the kids I have posted about (Zoe, Minna, Bella, Sierra, Sabre & Quincy) are all kids who have accomplished major milestones in the action sports community, and are visible, high profile, athletes.
Second, all the kids I have mentioned in the previous post do NOT run their own instagram - their parents manage it, post for them and monitor all comments. Much like a underage actor or actress would have his or her management team do on instagram. Therefore, it's really more akin to an "Athletes Page" on Facebook.
|Zoe showing her sponsor GoPro how that waterproof camera is working for her|
All these girls have sponsors for their given sport. In this day in age when you have a sponsor, you are expected to post pictures of you excelling at your sport while using the sponsors product and in turn, the sponsor is supposed to promote you on their brand page. You also typically place your sponsors stickers on your boards, helmet, etc where they are viable in photos. Sponsors in turn help parents off set costs at the amateur level by providing product - that can mean expensive surfboards, skateboards, shoes, wheels, contest entry fees, and apparel - and these kids can go through a lot when training and competing.
Some of you will ask, "why bother, what's the point"?
Let's look at an athlete like top ranked 13 year old pro snowboarder Chloe Kim, who qualified for the Olympics last year but wasn't allowed to go, because she was slightly under the age requirement. She has a full roster of top sponsors like Burton Snowboards and Monster energy drink, and heading into the 2014/2015 winter season she has 7,000+ followers on instagram, 1,750 on Facebook and is featured on various websites. That means her popularity in general will most likely continue to grow moving forward, and with contests results combined with her social media reach, it all makes her a very attractive package to future endorsement deals and sponsorships at a much higher level. This in turn enables her to make a living from doing what she loves. How great is that?
|Chloe Kim at the X-Games|
Top ranked amateur skateboarder, Poppy Starr Olsen age 14, is another great example. Instagram has enabled her to show off her amazing art work & jewelry that she creates, which she sells to fund her travel from her home in Australia to the USA for comps, as well as being a place to showcase her skating skills. She has spoken at Google Headquarters about being a top young athlete and entrepreneur, and she is giving her first TEDx talk this month! Yes, she is a very exceptional kid, and social media has helped her grow and showcase her talents to become an even bigger source of inspiration to others.
|Poppy skating here in the USA at the Vans US Open and some of her her beautiful jewelry line|
In my day, we had magazines that we were profiled in. I was expected to shoot with photographers, do my best in contests, and project a good image publicly for my sponsors. Social media has replaced a lot of that and there is really no turning back. So now the expectations are a bit different for teh athletes. We like to know minutes after a contest "who won"? We know when someone has left their sponsor and moved onto to another. We also know quickly, when milestones have been reached, like Sabre Norris landing a 540 on a vert ramp. How inspiring is that? Especially when you see Sabre's face light up with excitement when she lands it - all via her instagram page.
Good or bad, it is the world we now live in.
I know for a fact that these young girls I have mentioned are role models and inspirations to many other young girls out there, and to adults like myself. The whole idea of "if she can do, I can do it" comes into play when you see 7 year old Bella & Sierra launch huge airs at the Vans US Open (which was not on a live feed - so yeah for instagram!) or Zoe Benedetto throwing both fins out of a wave with a big old "off the lip" while smiling and having the time of her life. And who can forget Minna Stess dropping in from the top of the 28 ft tall mega ramp at Woodward? I saw all these awesome milestones by these young girls on instagram - before they were picked up and posted elsewhere.
Quincy Symonds, also known as "The Flying Squirrel" has gotten huge support from all over the world via instagram both for her rad surfing ability at age 6 and that a TV show that did a feature on her. We all learned that in addition to being an exceptional surfer, she has also been fighting medical issues her entire young life, but is still out there smiling & ripping daily. To be honest, this is where I catch up with the parents and kids, and know daily who has broken a bone (bummer!), who won a contest, or who is just having fun shredding.
Girls need role models and to be able to see other girls their own age doing exceptional things like this. Yes, the GN4LW site also profiles these girls as often as we can, but their instagram accounts provide that source of inspiration daily. They are also all friends via social media, even though a couple live across the world - its like having a pen pal back in my day. Numerous times I have viewed their comments on each others pages cheering one another on - which I think is awesome - instead of being jealous or thinking that other girls are the enemy.
|The Pink Helmet Posse - inspiring other girls daily. Sierra & Bella's instagram's are now missing|
These girls are not showing off their bodies in risque clothing, they are not glorifying drugs or drinking, they are becoming champions at their sport and need to be celebrated not hidden away, especially when all their parents are controlling their accounts, so they are safe from harm.
I'm hoping instagram will get to the bottom of why these girls were deleted and perhaps implement a policy that says, "if you chose to be on instagram and are 13 or under, your parents must sign a waiver, be responsible for posting and monitoring comments, and you must be projecting a positive image for others".
How about that for a solution?