Did you know...

The connection between social media use and well- being differs from teen to teen, highlighting the importance of taking your teen's unique personality into account when guiding their healthy media use behaviors

Thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds are changing how they think, feel, and interact with others. Adolescent bodies undergo rapid physical changes, and many teens begin to pay even greater attention to how they look, often comparing themselves to the body “ideals” they see in media. Teens develop closer friendships and romantic relationships, often using media as ways to strengthen these connections. Despite teens’ healthy drive to distance themselves from family, parents remain their most important influence and must stay involved, helping them navigate their media use, balance their time, and stay healthy.

Science Says...

...from social media to wearables, media are powerful tools, and how teens use them affects their health and development
teen with parent watching tv

Ask the Mediatrician

What parents ask most about their preschooler
teen studying reflection

Can media use cause teens to be unhappy with their bodies and contribute to eating disorders?

Here’s what we know about the complicated relationship between media and teen body image:

  • Many beauty and lifestyle media contain content focused on how their audience (regardless of gender identity) can “improve” themselves. What teens take away from this content is that they are inadequate– their thighs are too thick, or not muscular enough, etc. Research shows that some teens feel measurably worse about themselves after consuming these media.
  • Numerous filters, photo and video editing apps make it easy for teens to alter their appearance. As a result, many teens manipulate their selfies and photos to look more like advertised beauty ideals. Teens are constantly bombarded with this altered reality on social media, and research shows that teens who compare themselves to the images they see online experience low self-esteem and body image issues.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are driven by a desire to take control of lives that feel out of control. Disordered eating behaviors can be the response to body dissatisfaction, and can be triggered by social media use, particularly when social media focuses on unrealistic beauty ideals.

Talk about the media messages and images your teen consumes, including the images they share of themselves. Encourage your teen to present their authentic (unfiltered) self online, and check in with them and their doctor if you notice any unhealthy or disordered eating behaviors.

Ice Breakers

When you see something concerning, here are ways to get the conversation going.

How to talk to your teen

Start conversations when you and your child are in good moods (not feeling angry or hurt) and when you're both open to listening. Be sure to say exactly what you mean, encourage your child to take turns talking and listening, and give them your full attention. Let them know that you love them and that you value what they say.

three teens on couch with devices

If you see that...

Your teen is spending time on their phone late at night and is having trouble waking up in the morning…

Say this...

“I noticed that mornings are tough. Let’s try a new routine, where we all charge our phones in the kitchen at night, and do something to screen-free to unwind before bed, like taking a bath, writing in a journal, or reading a book.”

If you see that...

You see your teen looking at pornography online…

Say this...

“It’s perfectly natural and ok to want to look at that. But remember that those are real people in the videos and sometimes the people making them aren’t treated very well. Also, what they show you might be really violent and not at all what sex is actually like.”

If you see that...

The music your teen has been listening to lately is mellow and filled with sad, emotional lyrics….

Say this...

“That song you were listening to had some pretty heavy lyrics and made me concerned that you may be feeling down. How are you feeling, and what do you like about that music?”