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Social media and Teens: Obtaining the Perfect Body

Updated: May 8, 2023

For decades, magazines, television, and runway models were blamed for presenting a body image considered ideal. Over the years, studies have successfully linked these mediums to adolescents’ low self-esteem and poor body image. Now, psychologists are finding a new culprit for poor body image. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed social media, you are correct.

Social media has become integrated into many aspects of our lives, and the same is true for many teens. Unfortunately, as wonderful as the internet and social media can be, there are also some dangers to be aware of as you let your teens engage online. The more informed you are as a parent, the easier it will be for you to spot warning signs and get your teen the help they need. That is why we are launching a four-part blog series: Social Media and Teens. Today, we are focusing on obtaining the perfect body.

Social Media and the Perfect Body

Recently, documents were leaked from Facebook showing that the company is aware of growing teen body image issues due to Instagram. Many teens may not realize that some of the images portrayed on sites like Facebook and Instagram may be edited. Lighting, angles, and photoshop all contribute to the perfect post and the perfect body. Teens are left comparing themselves with their favorite influencers and may feel they fall short. This has led many teens to strive for the ideal body through excessive exercise and unhealthy dieting, which may lead to eating disorders.

Social media content focusing on fitness and healthy diets may appear positive and harmless. However, they can sometimes invoke negative feelings and views about one’s body. Teens are developing physically, mentally, and emotionally. The teenage years can be some of the most difficult with the hormonal and body changes that occur. Because of this, your teenager may not be fully equipped to analyze the images they see and notice that the perfect bodies they view are unattainable for all humans. Even the person posting the photo.

How can I Help my Teen?

If you notice your teen exhibiting any of the behaviors listed below, they may be struggling with their body image:

  • Obsession with their physical appearance and concerns about weight gain

  • Extreme diets and eating behaviors

  • Skipping meals

  • Excessive workouts or exercising multiple times per day

  • Workouts become a priority over school and family

  • Comparing their body to influencers or friends

Regularly engaging with your teen about what they see on social media is a crucial first step in addressing body image disorders before they take root. Explaining the nuances around lighting, photoshop, and angles will help them to understand that the “perfect” body is a myth. Likewise, excessive workouts and extreme diets should also be discussed. There should be a balance between healthy fitness levels and balanced diets for your teenager. It isn’t always easy to talk about these topics, but our Children’s Wellness Center pediatric providers and medical staff are here to help and support you. If you notice that social media is harming your teen’s self-esteem, please schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center so that we can address any potential concerns in a safe space for you and your teen. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for more health tips, and stay tuned for part two of our series, where we explore cyberbullying.

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