Improving girls' body satisfaction and well-being through social media literacy

Body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls can lead to serious negative consequences including depressive symptoms and low self-esteem and eating disorders.  Consequently, classroom based prevention interventions have been developed.

Interventions target sociocultural risk factors for body dissatisfaction. These include peer-related factors (e.g., appearance comparison) and media-related factors (e.g., internalisation of media appearance ideals). Exposure to the thin ideal media, including on the internet, increases body dissatisfaction.

Prevention interventions that use a media literacy approach to counter the effect of media exposure by reducing the tendency to engage in appearance comparisons and internalisation of media ideals have been found to be effective. We are taking this research to the next step, using media approaches to prevention to focus on social media. Recent research indicates that time spent on social media, rather than internet use in general, is associated with body dissatisfaction.  Furthermore, Facebook users have been found to have significantly higher body dissatisfaction than non-users. Clearly, social media is an important target for prevention.

Our project develops  and evaluates a social media prevention intervention for body dissatisfaction for young adolescent girls. This intervention will use a media literacy approach; change in body dissatisfaction following the intervention and the media literacy processes that are related to mental health outcomes for participants are being evaluated.

The project will significantly improve research in this area by evaluating change in media literacy, and whether this change mediates outcomes.


Further information

For more information about this project please contact Professor Susan Paxton.