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How Social Media Affects Teens Body Image

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Being a teenager is notoriously difficult, especially today. Teenagers are in the midst of vast changes, both physically and mentally, are developing rapidly during those years. Because of this, they are also susceptible at this age. External influences and factors can cause a variety of mental health issues if not handled properly.

What is Body Image? 

Body image is a general term for how we see ourselves in regards to features like weight, height, skin tone, build, facial features, and more. People can get ideas of what a body should look like from their peers or outside media, such as magazines, television, and social media. People who don’t internalize these outside messages of body image tend to have a more positive body image of themselves. However, people who do internalize those messages of what their body “should” look like tend to have a more negative body image

How Social Media Affects Body Image

Social media does not cause a negative body image in and of itself. For example, people who use social media to consume content exclusively from family members don’t seem to have an altered body image. However, if your teen is consuming certain content, they may be at risk of negative body image. Social media can increase the risk for negative body image in the following ways: 

  • Influencers: Influencers are people hand-picked by companies to market their products or messages. Oftentimes, influencers are attractive, and thus pick up a large following. Teens are very likely to engage in content created by influencers. Unfortunately, people who consume content from attractive peers are found to have higher rates of negative body image. 
  • Thin-ideal: Messages that promote and portray the thin-ideal are also associated with developing negative body image because it promotes unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, those who consume content more related to health and fitness on social media tend to have more positive body image as these results are more realistic and attainable. 
  • Photo alterations: Photo alterations through filters, photo editing apps, and photoshop tend to continue to permeate the thin-ideal message and make it much easier for individuals to alter their appearance to be more attractive. This makes it even more common for teens to come into contact with social media content that is likely to negatively impact their body image. 

Body Image and Mental Health

Being aware of the way in which social media affects teens’ body image is imperative. Social media is more accessible than ever and has been found to be associated with negative body image. Negative body image has been associated with a higher risk of developing mental health conditions, such as depression and eating disorders. 

Depression is a serious issue for many teenagers but becomes more common every year. Read more here on signs your teenager is depressed and what to do if they are depressed. 

Unsure of how to talk with your teen about their social media use? Learn more here

How Thrive Treatment Can Help

Thrive Treatment offers comprehensive services to clients experiencing mental health or substance use concerns. We have expert clinicians available that provide case management services, individual therapy, group therapy, and incorporation of family support. Each client has an individualized treatment plan unique to their recovery. We offer different levels of care, including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, sober living houses, and aftercare. Contact us today to find out how we can help you through your recovery!

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