Is social media affecting my teen’s body image

Through social media kids, teens and young adults are exposed to a barrage of information, images and idealised versions of individuals that do not necessarily always represent reality.

We as social media users in this day and age all have the privilege of being our own editors and publishers…but the downfall of this privilege, especially when it comes to body image and self worth, is that we also have the choice to show an edited version of what we want the world to see, rather than our true selves.

With fashion bloggers, make-up artists, health and fitness gurus and celebrities using social media forums such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to their advantage, uploading heavily edited, stylized and posed photos and videos in order to gain more followers, likes and popularity…what does this mean for the teens of today and their perception of beauty and success and therefore themselves?

Teens look to role models and peers they want to be more like in order to gain social cues on how to behave, how to speak and how to present one’s self to feel like they ‘fit-in,’ and that they are good enough, whilst changing their behaviours or appearance to get closer to this ideal. For some, those who are constantly connected to social media being at a higher risk, this may come at a cost as the pursuit of these ideals can increase in priority, leading to performance at school and sport becoming compromised, and general health and mental health deteriorating.

For our young men and women navigating through the teenage years with all the pressure, expectations and confusion this period can entail, and at a time when we are often at our most vulnerable in terms knowing ourselves and self-acceptance, social media can play on our insecurities and exacerbate negative perceptions of our body image and our sense of self-worth. Our teenage years are a developmental period where we strive to gain autonomy and independence from our parents and part of this process means we grow closer to and seek out our peers for support and guidance. The problem being…that unlike in the recent past, with the technology we have at our fingertips today we can stay connected with social media 24/7. This potential for constant accessibility with peers and the groups teens seek out on social media, means that outside of school and extra-curricular activities they may not get a break to simply be and discover themselves without visual cues prompting criticism or comparison of themselves to others. For some this means there is constant exposure to a forum that generally appreciates and encourages a stereotypical and ultra-filtered and edited version of what beauty and success looks like. No longer are our teens influenced only by the TV shows and the glossy covers of magazines….they now have unlimited access to platforms that encourage validation of each other through ‘liking’ and commenting each others posts and photos, with an emphasis on quantity. It is through these constant comparisons teens may make between themselves and the celebrities or peers they interact with on social media and this validation-seeking behaviour that can lead to a downward spiral in perception of self worth and a negative attitude towards one’s body image.

If you are worried about changes in your own or your teen’s behaviours, performance at school, use of social media or lack of interest in activities that would usually be engaging, please feel free to contact us to find out more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners.

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