According to studies, teens spend more time on social media than any other demographic. In fact, CNN reported that teens spend about nine hours every day using some kind of media, and some 13-year-olds check social media as much as 100 times every day. Unfortunately, all of this screen time can involve negative comparisons between themselves and what they see portrayed online as “real life”, which can have a major effect on teen body image. Find out how big of a role social media plays in body image in adolescence and how you can help as a parent.
Social Media Is Like a Toxic Mirror
Social media has become a toxic mirror of sorts, forcing adolescents to continuously compare what they look like with the images they see online posed as real. After a systematic review involving 20 different studies on the effects of social networking sites (SNS) on teen body image in adolescents found:
“As a whole, these articles demonstrated that use of SNS is associated with body image and disordered eating.”
What does this mean exactly? It demonstrates that use of social media could be a contributing factor for an adolescent to look in the mirror and not like what they see, which could also be a contributing factor or trigger involved with eating disorders. Even without the severity of disordered eating development, this heightened amount of social media time can have an extremely negative impact on overall body image in adolescence.
Why Social Media Creates a Platform for Body Image Issues In Teens
Imagine this scenario regarding teen girls’ body image: A teen girl takes a picture of herself. She’s done her makeup perfectly, she has on that cute new outfit and feels pretty confident in how she looks. It only takes a second to post that picture on one of the many social platforms, but when she does, the negative comments immediately start coming in. No one likes her picture or has anything nice to say. On the other hand, her best friend just posted a pic and everyone is saying nice things. The teen immediately begins comparing herself to her friend.
This immediate access to peer approval is one of the reasons why social media can be so damaging to teen body image. In the above scenario, this teen was feeling confident, but when she didn’t gain the approval of her peers online, she immediately felt not worthy, not attractive and not desirable in the eyes of the people whose opinions matter the most. To amplify this situation, this could be a repeated pattern that occurs multiple times throughout a single day. Adolescents are constantly on the lookout for the approval of their peers. Social media gives them an instant way to get that, and when they don’t, it can be devastating enough to lead to body image issues in teens.
What You Should Do As a Parent
Of course, some children are going to be more prone to seeking outside approval than others and will spend more time comparing themselves to others. Negative teen girls’ body image can be detrimental in their overall development. As a parent, it is your job to get involved and talk about what is okay. Some tips:
- Limit social media time as much as you can and encourage face-to-face interactions
- Be especially mindful if your teen posts a lot on different platforms
- Talk to your child about how social media is not real life (For example, people post altered images or images when they only look their absolute best.)
Body image in adolescence alone can be a challenge to navigate, and it doesn’t take much for the shaky balance of being okay and mildly confident to be disrupted. For more information about a positive self-image and its role in eating disorders, reach out to us today.
Do your kids spend a lot of time on social media?
Have your teens suffered from body image issues?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.