Parents, take a note. Researchers have found that excessive use of social media, particularly platforms with a strong focus on image posting and viewing such as Snapchat and Instagram, is associated with eating disorder in young adolescents.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers examined data on 996 grade 7 and 8 adolescents.
“While a range of studies have focused on the impact of social media on body image, this is the first to examine the relationship between specific social media platforms and disordered eating behaviours and thoughts,” said study lead author Simon Wilksch from Flinders University in Australia.
Also, most other studies had focused on older adolescents or young-adult women, he said.
The study on associations between disordered eating and social media use among young adolescent girls and boys suggested that much more needed to be done to increase resilience in young people to become less adversely impacted by social media pressures, Wilksch added.
During the study, the research team found behaviours related to disordered eating were reported by 51.7 per cent of girls and 45 per cent of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping being the most common.
Of these, 75.4 per cent girls and 69.9 per cent boys had at least one social media account, and Instagram was the most common.
According to the study, greater number of social media accounts and greater time spent on them were associated with a higher likelihood of disordered eating, thoughts and behaviours.
The researchers are launching an Australia-wide trial of the Media Smart Online programme designed to combat such pressures.