Five Ways Social Media Destroys Teen Body Image and What You Can Do About It
Ninety percent of teens today report using social media (Social Media and Teens, 2018). For many, a social life without social media doesn’t exist. So what happens when a large part of a teen’s peer interactions occur not in person but through a screen? Below are five ways social media destroys teen body image and what you can do about it.
1. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake
With the rise of Instagram came the rise of photo editing apps that slim, curve, smooth, brighten, and more. Any user can upload a retouched photo of their face or body that looks nothing like them IRL (In Real Life). In-app “filters” can enlarge lips, narrow a nose, and heighten cheekbones with a single tap. Looking like someone else has never been easier.
2. Unattainable beauty ideals lead to drastic measures
Online beauty trends portray women as dramatic hourglasses, while men ripple with muscles and 0% body fat. To keep up, social media users may turn to supplements like pills and powders or even develop eating disorders. (To learn more about teen eating disorders, click here.) Teens won’t have to look far to find products that promise the impossible results they seek because…
3. Ads clog Instagram feeds
Sponsored ads infiltrate every social media user’s feed and often use “before” and “after.” images to sell their products. If the “after” photo is idealistic or downright impossible, your teen might identify more with the “before.” That can crush self-esteem, and your teen may believe that there’s something wrong with them just the way they are.
4. “Likes” cultivate a culture of validation-seeking
Users who ” like ” a selfie are communicating their approval. Too often, teens can feel like these likes are an assessment of their appearance. They might compare their number of likes with the number of likes on their friends’ photos. With likes being the currency of online social interaction, teens may come to rely on them for their validation.
5. Commenters hide behind their computer screens
While a like can be a validation token, a negative comment can be devastating. Commenters hide behind their usernames and computer screens and may feel anonymous. That anonymity can lead them to make comments they would never dare to say in person.
Comments also have a “like” feature. That means others can show their support for critical or bullying comments, increasing their severe impact.
What You Can Do
- Encourage your teen to take breaks from the screen.
- Ensure your teen has plenty of real-world outlets for engaging with peers. It’s healthy for your teen to be surrounded by friends of all shapes, sizes, and appearances.
- Active hobbies can teach your teen to appreciate their body for what it can do, rather than how it looks.
- Play “I Spy” with your teen on social media, so the both of you can learn how to identify photoshopped images.
- Remember that when your teen isn’t looking at their phone, they’re looking at you. Setting an example of self-love and appreciation for your body can teach your teen to do the same.
Social Media and Teens. (2018, March). American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Author Bio: Joan Harris is an ex-therapist turned writer with a passion for spreading mental health awareness.