Social networks lead some young teenagers to develop body image problems and therefore eating disorders.
A new study sheds light on the harmful effects of social networks on the health of young people. While it has already been proven that social networks can have a very negative influence on the way young women perceive their bodies, new research shows that social networks lead some young adolescents, of all sexes, to develop problems body image and therefore eating disorders. The results of this study were published on Tuesday December 3 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders (Wiley).
To reach this disturbing conclusion, researchers from Flinders and Western Australia universities surveyed 996 teenagers about their use of Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Snapchat. In total, 74.5% of girls and 69% of boys had at least one social media account, Instagram being the most common. And half of the subjects were under 13, the recommended minimum age to use these platforms.
After asking participants about their eating habits, the researchers also found that 51.7% of girls suffered from eating disorders compared to 45% of boys. These young people tended to skip meals and exercise excessively to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. Instagram and Snapchat users seemed to be the most affected.
Make young people less affected by social media pressure
Thus, according to the researchers, increased use of social networks is associated with a greater risk of eating disorders. “Social media seems to encourage young people to focus heavily on their appearance and how they are judged or perceived by others (…) Finding these clear associations between eating disorders and social media use in young adolescents, girls and boys, suggests that much more needs to be done to increase the resilience of young people so that they become less affected by the pressures of social media,” comments Dr. Simon Wilksch, Senior Research Fellow in Psychology at Flinders University and lead author of the study.
“One of the key elements in preventing eating disorders is to get the message across that our self-esteem should be defined by a combination of our abilities, our values and our relationships, develops the researcher according to who call on parents to take responsibility. Parents have an important role to play in their children’s early use of social media: past research has shown that control over time spent on social media is associated with higher life satisfaction in pre-teen girls and boys .”
“This needs to be addressed given that 13 is the minimum age to access many social media accounts and early adolescence is a time of heightened risk for eating disorders. Additionally, given that media literacy is the primary risk reduction approach for young adolescents, if social media is associated with an increased risk of eating disorders, content targeting social media use could easily be integrated into such programs,” says Wilksch, who has started a program to help young girls form “their own opinion” of the relationship they want to have with social networks so that it is in agreement. with their personal values. This programme, which is inspired by the British project Media Smart Online, seems to have very encouraging initial results. So much so that the researchers now plan to offer it to boys as well, because “these concerns are not limited to women.”
Have the head of a little tiger
Faced with numerous criticisms of the harmful effects of social networks on the mental and physical health of young people, Instagram bosses recently announced that they intended to censor posts promoting cosmetic surgery or weight loss products. However, as long as the accounts of top-to-toe remade personalities, such as the Kardashian sisters, and followed by millions of Internet users are authorized, this is not likely to change much.
In 2016, a study appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, had previously associated social media addiction with anorexia, bulimia and other eating and body perception disorders. Based on the cross-analysis of two questionnaires completed by 1,765 adults aged 19 to 32, this work showed that people who connected the most every day to social networks were twice as at risk, regardless of their age. age, income or sex of the Internet user.
The following year, cosmetic surgeons sounded the alarm in the magazine JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery to warn against the increase in the “snapchat dysmorphia”. This phenomenon “designates patients who want to look like filtered versions of themselves [proposés par les réseaux sociaux et surtout Snapchat, NDLR]with fuller lips, larger eyes, or a slimmer nose,” the researchers explained.
“There are plenty of women who would like to have the face of a cat or a little tiger with drawn eyes and a triangular or round face, like with Snapchat filters. The demand for selfies is huge, it really plays into the addiction to cosmetic surgery, now we have to be much more vigilant, and do psychology before operating”, worried then Doctor Nader Saad, plastic surgeon in Lebanon, Dubai and Geneva in Paris Match.