To celebrate Safer Internet Day (Feb 6), we spoke with international model and mental health advocate Jada Sezer.
When Sezer is not breaking new ground as the face of global fashion brands like Nike, ASOS and L’Oréal, she helps build self-confidence and body positivity skills in young people. Today, she met with a group of enthusiastic girls aged 10–12 to talk about staying safe online, defeating online trolls, dreaming big and staying determined. Afterwards, Sezer talked to us about some of the challenges young people face in a digital world, in which social media distorts our perception of reality.
Save the Children: As someone who is active on social media, what tips do you have for young people for staying safe online?
Jada Sezer: Don’t share any personal information, make sure your parents are always checking in with you and that they have access to your passwords and your accounts. Don’t talk to anybody that you don’t know – that’s a big thing – even if they might seem like a young kid in their online persona. Be wary and steer clear unless you know someone personally. And if something just doesn’t feel right, tell someone about it and block and ignore that account.
How do you deal with negative comments or trolling from people online? What advice do you have for young people facing negativity or bullying online?
When you put yourself out there online, you’re always going to get the good with the bad. I do get the occasional negative comment like “you’re fat!”, “you’re ugly”, “you’re just a model and you don’t know what you’re talking about”. I’ve done a lot of work offline that helps me maintain a strong backbone. I don’t put a lot of energy into the way I look and I also do a lot of self-development. I’ve got a good family, good friends, I know who I am as a person, and my online persona isn’t the entirety of who I am. All this helps me to maintain my core values and my integrity so that I won’t be knocked over by one fickle comment. Usually it’s people who are looking for a reaction and who are unhappy [that make those sorts of negative remarks], so I tend to try and respond in a positive way to help them and engage them in some way given they are clearly looking for that reaction. I try to always keep a clear head even though it is hard not to take a comment personally, and sometimes it does hurt.
You recently shared a post on Instagram suggesting that people portray themselves online in a way that doesn’t always reflect reality. How can young people keep a sense of perspective when they’re constantly bombarded with social media and unrealistic digital content?
We’re showered with Insta-bloggers, models and superficial images, and we’re scrolling through and forgetting the humanity of the world that we live in. For me that post was a reality check – we need to pull ourselves up and know that the lavish lifestyle some people are living isn’t real. These #CoupleGoals [people] aren’t as happy as they pretend to be. It’s so easy to get swept up in that, but we need reminders constantly to just keep it real.
Gratitude came up quite a bit in the workshop. What does gratitude mean to you and why is it so important today?
Gratitude is something that helps me to be a centred person when I feel a bit lost, under pressure or stressed. It brings everything back to what really matters. It’s not something that someone can buy for you. It’s all the things that we often forget about like the love that our families have for us or the empathy we have for our friends. These things can’t tangibly be put somewhere to look at as a reminder, so keeping a gratitude list is great. Having it and reflecting on it from time to time allows you to look at your life and remember how great it can be.