My Topics

5 September 2013

How Social Network Sites Influence Teens’ Body Image

Keywords: survey, teens, Western Europe, body image, internet, media, social media,

Social network sites (SNS) are extremely popular among teens and provide them with the unique potential to create an ideal version of themselves. However, little is known about the effect of SNS on teens’ body image. According to a study presented at the annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) teens who visit SNS often investment more time on their appearance and have a greater desire to have cosmetic surgery. 

Take aways

  • Frequent SNS use increases teens’ invested in how they look and their desire to have cosmetic surgery. 
  • Moreover, teens who invested more to optimize their appearance also use SNS more frequently. 
  • For policy makers and caregivers it is important to realize that SNS use may make teen boys and girls less satisfied with their bodies.

Study information

  • The question?

    How does SNS use affect teens’ body image?

  • Who?

    604 11- to 18-year olds (mean age: 15 years); 51% girls

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    This study used data from two waves (2008 and 2009) of the Netherlands Youth Institute and Rutgers WPF. Teens filled out an online survey including questions about their SNS use, time spent on their physical appearance, and desire to have cosmetic surgery.

Facts and findings

  • SNS use increased teens’ investment in their physical appearance. Thus, teens who visited SNS more frequently invested more in how he or she looks and undertakes more to optimize their appearance compared to those that visited SNS less frequently.
  • Investing more in their looks increased their desire to have cosmetic surgery to change something about their appearance.
  • Furthermore, there was a bidirectional effect of SNS use on appearance investment. Thus, teens who invested more on their looks to optimize their appearance reported using SNS more frequently, which in turn led to more investment in their appearance.
  • Remarkable fact: The influence of SNS on teens’ body image was the same for both teen boys and girls. However, teen girls visited SNS more frequently, invested more in how they looked, and had a greater desire to have cosmetic surgery than boys.