Exploring the effect of social media on teen girls’ mental health

September 14, 2023 – Exposure to videos and photos on social media platforms can contribute to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders among teen and adolescent girls, and can lead to serious mental health issues, including suicidal behavior, according to experts quoted in a September 13 article in The 19th.

Amanda Raffoul, an instructor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a researcher with STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), said, “The more teenage girls are on social media and exposed to image-based social media in particular, the more likely they are to have poor body image.”

Raffoul noted that images on platforms like Instagram and TikTok “can promote some really unrealistic appearance ideals.” She added that even if teens might be aware that the images aren’t real, “if you’re constantly bombarded with those images, it is going to alter your perceptions of yourself in some way, especially when you’re in adolescence.” Teens’ negative perceptions of their bodies may steer them toward extreme diets or harmful dieting trends, she said.

Experts quoted in the article recommended that parents and schools teach digital literacy, and at younger ages. Doing so could help young people understand how social media can impact their self-image, how to process those feelings, and how to pause or pull back from social platforms if necessary.

Read the 19th article: The complicated ties between teenage girls and social media—and what parents should know