Social media is turning a generation of children into liars, a leading headmistress has warned.
Youngsters are used to projecting a perfect image of themselves online and this is beginning to spill over into real life too, according to Sue Hincks, the incoming president of the Girls School Association (GSA).
Teenagers must learn the importance of acting with integrity, rather than telling “convenient lies” in order to get ahead and further their careers.
Miss Hincks, who is headmistress of the £12,000-a-year Bolton School Girls’ Division, said that teenagers tend to “curate” a certain image of themselves on their social media accounts, such as the photograph sharing platforms, Instagram and Snapchat.
They become used to covering up any perceived imperfections, and there is a danger is when this attitude trespasses into other aspects of their life too.
“If you get used to showing one image of yourself on social media, you may begin to believe that is completely aligned to reality,” she told The Daily Telegraph.
“I’m not saying people shouldn’t improve, obviously it you want to present your best self which is fine. But you might gloss over things that are core to your identity that it’s useful for people to know – you don’t want people to be ashamed of any aspect of their life. We have to tell the truth and encourage young people to present their weaknesses.”
Miss Hincks, who will take over as president of the GSA next month, said that youngsters must be careful to be “scrupulous” with their CVs and not “cut corners”.
When entering the workplace, they should share their strengths and weaknesses with colleagues, she added. “If people are putting forward an image that everything in rosy, that they are finding it fine to juggle their career and family – and then if it suddenly all falls apart, there is no support network.”
Miss Hincks said that while lessons about integrity may once have been upheld by public institutions and other parts of society, this is no longer the case.
“People revealed to be unfaithful to their spouse don’t lose all public integrity in the way they once did,” she said. The Church and institutions such as the BBC used to be considered as “bastions of public morality”, but now schools have had to fill the void, she added.
The GSA represents the heads of the country’s leading independent girls’ schools. Its members include South Hampstead High School in north London, which counts the actress Helena Bonham Carter among its alumnae, and Oxford High School where the pottery tycoon Emma Bridgewater and the actress Dame Maggie Smith studied.
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