Less social media improves teens’ body image: study

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder — but young social media fans may feel better about themselves if they just don’t look.

Halving the time spent on social media “significantly” improved some teenagers’ body images within weeks, according to a study from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.

Avoiding the constant barrage of air-brushed influencers and gorgeous models helped teens feel better about their own weight and looks after just three weeks, according to the researchers, who partnered with the American Psychological Association.

For the study, scientists chose 220 undergraduate students between 17 and 25 who were on social media apps for at least two hours a day, and had signs of depression or anxiety.

Participants were first asked to rank, from one to five, how they felt their looks. They were also asked to answer questions like “I’m pretty happy about the way I look” and “I am satisfied with my weight” on a scale from “never” to “always.”

After the first week, half of the participants’ social media time was cut to 60 minutes per day; the other half continued scrolling at an average of 188 minutes daily.

Pictured is a girl staring at her phone.
Teens who reduced their social media use by half felt better about themselves in weeks.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Three weeks later, the participants again ranked their body satisfaction — and researchers found the first group’s self image had vastly improved.

Nothing changed for the unrestrained 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,” lead author Gary Goldfield said in a press release

pictured are young people using their phones.
Avoiding the constant barrage of air-brushed influencers and gorgeous models helped teens feel better about their own weight and looks.
Getty Images

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

“Reducing social media use is a feasible method of producing a short-term positive effect on body image among a vulnerable population,” he said. 

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

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

The study researchers also noted youngsters are spending, on average, between six to eight hours a day on screens — with much of it on social media.

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