Social Media Filters Impacting Children’s Body Image

Summary: A majority of parents believe that social media image editing apps and appearance-related trends negatively affect their children’s body image, according to a survey. The survey reports 69% of parents believe filters have a negative impact, while 65% are concerned about trends related to diet or exercise.

To counteract this, On Our Sleeves urges parents to have open conversations about body positivity. The organization also offers resources and conversation starters to facilitate dialogue and support positive body image in children.

Key Facts:

  1. The national survey found that 69% of parents believe social media filters negatively affect their children’s body image.
  2. The survey further indicated that 65% of parents think social media trends related to appearance harm their children’s body image.
  3. To counter this, On Our Sleeves provides resources for parents to foster open discussions about body positivity and promote healthy perspectives on food and body image.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital

With children more plugged in to social media than ever before, a wave of new image editing apps and filters along with trends related to appearance have parents concerned about damage to body image. According to a new national survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health, 69% of parents of children younger than 18 think social media image editing apps and filters have a negative influence on their child(ren)’s body image.

In addition, 65% of parents agree that social media trends related to appearance — like diet or exercise — have a negative influence on their child(ren)’s body image.

On Our Sleeves encourages parents and caregivers to check in regularly and have conversations with their children about the importance of body positivity. Open and honest dialogue can be critical to understanding how a child feels about their body, which can be exacerbated by external factors like media consumption.

This shows a sad little girl.
Conversations about body image can be challenging, even for confident parents. Credit: Neuroscience News

Dr. Erin McTiernan, an On Our Sleeves contributor and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said it’s important to talk to kids about food and their bodies, and suggests asking questions to build self-esteem such as, “What are some things you like about yourself?”. When your child starts to join social media platforms, she said it’s important to pay attention to the content they’re consuming and how it’s impacting them.

“A child’s feelings about their body can affect their mental health,” said McTiernan.

“We know that social media can affect everything from purchasing choices to perception of beauty, and unfortunately children are the most vulnerable to unrealistic body image expectations set by these platforms. Children on social media can be exposed to thousands of messages every day about how to look, what to do, and who to be.”

Conversations about body image can be challenging, even for confident parents. That’s why On Our Sleeves offers parents resources with information and helpful tips about body image and food, as well as a variety of conversation starters that can help open and maintain a dialogue with children.

These resources can help reframe conversations about food and bodies in a way that eases communication and lessens damage. For instance, experts suggest instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” take a more neutral stance and encourage adding foods from a variety of food groups to create balanced, nourishing meals. ” 

Tips for parents include:

  • Focusing on overall health, not weight.
  • Modeling positive body image.
  • Recognizing your child’s positive traits or qualities that don’t have to do with their appearance. 

The balance between allowing children to explore social media while avoiding potentially dangerous aspects, such as harmful “trends” or messages, can be difficult. Through On Our Sleeves, parents can work to build trusting relationships that allow their children to reap the benefits of social media while minimizing the risk of negative outcomes.

Visit for resources to help start conversations around safe social media use and support positive body image in kids.

Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of On Our Sleeves from March 30-April 3, 2023, among 2,035 U.S. adults ages 18+, among whom 711 are parents of kids younger than 18. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval.

For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Molly Devaney at [email protected].

To ensure that our survey questions are well-designed, we sought the expertise of clinical psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the largest provider of pediatric mental health services in the nation. They also reviewed the final results. This involvement of a clinical psychologist adds credibility to the survey. 

About this neurodevelopment and psychology research news

Author: Molly Devaney
Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Contact: Molly Devaney – Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

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