Less social media improves teens’ body image: study


February 23, 2023 | 4:09 p.m

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — but young social media fans might feel better just not looking.

According to a study by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, halving the time spent on social media “significantly” improved the body image of some teens within a few weeks.

According to researchers working with the American Psychological Association, avoiding the constant barrage of airbrush influencers and gorgeous models helped teens feel better about their own weight and looks after just three weeks.

For the study, the scientists selected 220 undergraduate students between the ages of 17 and 25 who used social media apps for at least two hours a day and showed signs of depression or anxiety.

Participants were first asked to rate from one to five how they felt about their appearance. They were also asked to answer questions such as “I’m fairly happy with my appearance” and “I’m happy with my weight” on a scale from “never” to “always”.

After the first week, half of the participants’ social media time was reduced to 60 minutes per day; the other half scrolled an average of 188 minutes a day.

Teens who cut their social media use in half felt better within weeks. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Three weeks later, the participants rated their body satisfaction again — and the researchers found that the first group’s self-image had improved significantly.

Nothing changed for the unbraked group.

“Social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day, including those of celebrities and fashion or fitness models,” said lead author Gary Goldfield in a press release.

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Avoiding the constant barrage of airbrushed influencers and gorgeous models helped teens feel better about their own weight and looks. Getty Images

“[This] leads to an internalization of ideals of beauty that are unattainable for almost everyone, leading to greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape.”

“Reducing social media use is a viable way to have a short-term positive effect on body image in a vulnerable demographic,” he said.

The study comes just weeks after social media played a dark role in the suicide of New Jersey teenage girl Adriana Kuch, who took her own life after a video circulated on social media of her being attacked by thugs at school was beaten.

Of the study participants, 76% were women, 23% were men, and 1% were identified as “Other.”

The study’s researchers also found that teens spend an average of between six and eight hours a day in front of screens — much of it on social media.

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