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Study: Social Media Use Linked with Teen Eating Disorders

Study: Social Media Use Linked with Teen Eating Disorders

The Researchers Compared Number of Social Media Accounts to Characteristic Behaviors

A new study from psychologists at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia and the University of Western Australia in Crawley, Australia suggests the more often young teens turn to social media, the more prone they are to eating disorders. The study does not prove social media use causes eating disorders, but it certainly raises red flags.

The study looked at close to 1,000 middle school students and their use of four social media networks: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr. The teens favored Instagram and Snapchat, where they primarily communicate via video and photos.

Among the students studied, strict exercise, skipping meals and other behaviors associated with eating disorders were reported by almost 52% of girls and 45% of boys. Of all the teens, over 75% of girls and nearly 70% of boys had at least one social media account. A greater number of social media accounts was associated with higher scores for both thoughts and behaviors linked to eating disorders.

The researchers involved in the study made the following suggestions:

  • Parents need to monitor their young adolescents' social media use.
  • Parents should not allow their children to use social media before age 13, set time limits on that use, and a parent should be a friend or follower on their children's accounts.
  • Young people should be educated about social and other forms of media, so they can make informed decisions.

Eating disorders can start in childhood and persist or even become worse if youth are exposed to media that presents unhealthy or impossible beauty ideals. Many people assume these pressures solely affect girls, but nearly half the boys in this study participated in behaviors that may signal eating disorders.

Harmful media and imagery may be a health risk for youth of all ages. As parents, we are still navigating the world of youth social media use. Many networking apps rise and fade before scientists have the chance to determine their impacts on society. However, this study suggests any image-focused platform could impact teenagers’ self-esteem and body image.

As researchers further expand public knowledge regarding the factors behind eating disorder development, we will continue to use all the facts at our disposal to advocate for patients. Read the study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, published December 3, 2018 and keep up with more discoveries on our eating disorders blog.

Is your insurer refusing to cover treatment for eating disorders and other co-morbidities? We will help you challenge denied claims so you can access the care you need. Contact us onlineor call (877) 783-8686 to speak to our team.

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