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Social Media Effects on Teen Self Esteem

A new study from York University suggests that social media effects teens in a negative way. “It is accepted that social media can blur the lines of what’s real and what’s fantasy. But, for some people, social media can damage body image.”

What are the Negative Social Media Effects on Teens?

When young women actively engage with social media images of friends who they think are more attractive than themselves, they report feeling worse about their own appearance afterward.”

Dr. Jennifer Mills and Jacqueline Hogue, PhD student, are leading the research. They “focused on women, aged 18-27 years old, who liked or commented on photos of people they deemed to be more attractive than themselves.”

social media effects
Social Media Effects on Self-Esteem: Results

Investigators studied 188 female undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds.”

Participants filled out a questionnaire, which asked:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Whether English was their first language
  • Years of post-secondary education

Participants then indicated, “How satisfied or dissatisfied they were with their appearance or body image.”

Researchers found:

  • These young adult women felt more dissatisfied with their bodies.
  • Participants looked at various social media pages. They chose profiles of women they perceived to be more attractive than them. They then felt worse about their own appearance.
  • Some participants felt bad about themselves before they came into the study. But, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task.
Social Media Effects: Experiment

Researchers conducted two experimental conditions:

  • One group of participants logged on to Facebook and Instagram for a period of five or more minutes. They had to find one peer that was the same age. And, whom they felt was more attractive than themselves.
  • After looking at photos, each participant had to leave a comment of their choice.
  • In the control group, participants had to do the same task. Except, this time they had to comment on a family member’s post. These were family members whom they did not find more attractive than themselves.
  • Data showed that family member interaction was different. Their own appearance was not affected when interacting with family members.
Social Media Effects on Body Image: Findings

Mills said, “I think in a lot of cases, young women who post to social media are hoping to get positive reinforcement for what they’re posting. And the way in which women use social media is more appearance-based than it is for men.”

Researchers concluded:

  • Appearance is very important to 18 to mid-20-year-olds. Women care a great deal about how they are perceived by other people.
  • This group is also more likely to use social media.
  • Comparing ourselves to others has “the potential to affect the valuation of ourselves.”

Mills wants to “educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves.” It could be linked to “stringent dieting, eating disorders, and excessive exercise.”

To learn more about treatment options to help your teen, click here