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.
Excellent advice, also it’s good to be a part of their source of validation and affirmations too!
I have a few family members that for sure have an issue with social media and one niece that suffers from depression and I think that social media and the internet in general has a lot to do with it.
It is important to teach our teens to learn how to control or limit their usage on social media.
I remember the days before social media and it was worse. Magazines showed unhealthy skinny bodies.
Thanks for sharing these tips. It’s so important for teens to take social media breaks.
I think this is a great post. I agree it really does lead to unattainable beauty ideals. I think my daughters need to read this post.
Yes, it can be tough. I always check in on my daughter. So far she’s okay. She said it used to sting when she didn’t get as many likes as her friends but now she realizes she’s proud of what she posts and if others don’t like it, oh well.
It’s not just teens, but people in general, especially women. I stopped shaving two years ago when I realized how much of it was because I was worried about what other people thought versus if I actually wanted to do it.