Is Social Media Promoting a Negative Body Image for Your Teen?

A couple of decades ago, teenage girls worried about being ‘bikini-ready’ when summer vacation came. They poured through magazines and judged themselves harshly on how their looks compared to the supermodels on the pages. Today, things are a bit different, but the same negative body image issues remain. This time, however, social media may be the culprit.

Social media websites, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, help bridge the gap between the virtual world and reality. You can no longer tell your teen, ‘Oh, that’s airbrushed and photoshopped’ like when they were just reading magazines. Today’s teenage girls have the opportunity to see several different body types, and if theirs doesn’t fit the requirement of ‘beautiful,’ their self-confidence and self-esteem can go down.

Social Media Trends That Promote Negative Body Images

Certain trends in social media can actually promote a negative body image that can result in eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Some of the most common trends include:

  1. #fitspiration- This hashtag may have been designed to help inspire healthy weight loss and fitness, but became something else entirely. Girls use this hashtag to show off their thin (and sometimes too thin) bodies in an effort to gain hearts, likes and retweets.
  2. #thinspiration- Thinspiration is a hashtag devoted to those who promote anorexia and bulimia. Those that post it often talks about dieting, guilt about weight gain and food avoidance.
  3. #tbh- TBH stands for ‘to be honest.’ Girls post this on their social media selfies in hopes that others will view their pictures and rate her prettiness honestly.
  4. #thighbrow- The thighbrow craze is relatively recent, but describes the folds between the top of your thighs and your butt that is only visible from the front of the body when a girl sits down, kneels or bends forwards. Girls want to get rid of this crease to look better in high-cut swimsuits.
  5. #thighgap- This trend involves the gap between your thighs. Focusing on this area could result in eating disorder and unintentional but dangerous weight loss.
  6. Collarbone Challenge- This social media challenge states that if you can’t balance a row of pennies on your collarbone, you aren’t skinny enough or sexy enough.
  7. Belly Button Challenge- This dangerous game first began in China, but is now gaining popularity across the US. The game is simple- reach your arm around your back and then try to reach around to touch your belly button. Supposedly, those thin enough can do this. Those that are unhealthy or overweight are body shamed.
  8. Ribcage Bragging- One of the newest social media beauty trends is ribcage bragging. To do it, you lean back with your shirt up and then take a picture of your ribs. This trend is dangerous as well, as it can lead to a negative body image and eating disorders.

What’s a Parent to Do?

If you’re concerned that your teen may have a negative body image, take steps now to help her. Discuss body image and let her know that the images she views on social media aren’t always healthy. You can also monitor her social media use or limit the exposure she has to certain places online. Be on the lookout for signs of an eating disorder and do your best to promote healthy eating habits and proper exercise.

If you need more help, consider a therapeutic girls school like Greenbrier. Our boarding school for girls features trained therapists who understand body image and eating disorders. We also limit the use of the internet to protect our girls from dangerous trends on social media as they heal.


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