Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are popular with adolescent girls. Girls between the ages of 12 and 16 spend an average of 3.5 hours per day on these sites. (Moore 2012) While many parents and educators are aware that these girls are at risk of online bullying or being targeted by sexual predators, new research demonstrates another threat to young women who spend excessive amounts of time online: it can damage their self-esteem.

July 11, 2012 (RosemaryDo.com) — Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are popular with adolescent girls. Girls between the ages of 12 and 16 spend an average of 3.5 hours per day on these sites. While many parents and educators are aware that these girls are at risk of online bullying or being targeted by sexual predators, new research demonstrates another threat to young women who spend excessive amounts of time online: it can damage their self-esteem.

Body Image Problems
Young women who spend the majority of their free time online tend to have more body image problems than those who do not. These young women see themselves as too fat even if they are at a healthy weight and obsess over their weight and appearance.

This may be partially due to the targeted advertising on many social media sites. Ads targeted towards adolescent girls may show extremely thin women. A second study analyzed over 600 advertisements and found that this was the case; in addition, advertisements often focused on beauty products. Other advertisements targeted towards adolescent girls were inappropriate for them, such as advertisements for dating sites. These advertisements might influence young women towards inappropriate behaviors or cause them to worry about being attractive earlier than they should be concerned about it.

Lack of Parental Guidance
Social media may influence young women more because the majority of these Internet users go online without parental supervision. Only 34 percent of teenage girls studied reported having to follow parental rules regarding online use, while 96 percent had access to social media and the vast majority uploaded photos of themselves.

Parental guidance is important because teenage girls may form incorrect conclusions based on social media advertisements if they don’t get input from adults. For example, if parents monitor their children’s Internet use, they can discuss potentially disturbing ads as well as their children’s feelings about their body.

Balance is Key
The study focused on excessive social media use, finding that girls who spend too much time online are more likely to have low self-esteem. There is currently no data available on how moderate social media use affects self-esteem; however, it does seem that the more time a young woman spends on social media, the more likely she is to be influenced negatively by advertisements.

References
MedicalXPress. (July 3, 2012). Adolescent Girls Who Over Use Internet and Social Media Suffer Lower Self-Esteem and Negative Body Image. In Medical Xpress.

Moore, A. (July 3, 2012). The Internet Lowers Self-Esteem in Teen Girls. In Medical Daily.

 

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