By Xantha Leatham Deputy Science Editor For The Daily Mail
14:00 23 Feb 2023, updated 14:00 23 Feb 2023
- Experts studied 220 teens who spent at least two hours per day on their phones
- They found slashing this time in half helped to boost body image within a month
- Reducing social media could have a short-term positive effect on body image
Teenagers who cut their social media use in half see improvements in body image in just a month, a study suggests.
Young people in the UK spend hours every day looking at screens – much of it scrolling through the likes of Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.
Now, researchers have found slashing the amount of time spent on social media can improve how they feel about both their weight and the way that they look.
A team from the Eastern Ontario Research Institute conducted a study with 220 teenagers and young adults who spent at least two hours per day on their phones.
The cohort, aged between 17 and 25, also had symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Participants were asked to respond to a series of statements about their overall appearance and weight, and then completed a similar questionnaire at the end of the experiment.
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During the first week of the study, participants were told to use their social media as they normally would.
Then, half were instructed to try and reduce their social media use to no more than 60 minutes a day.
For the next three weeks, those who were instructed to restrict their social media use reduced it by approximately 50 per cent to an average of 78 minutes a day.
Meanwhile the control group, who were told to use it as normal, averaged over three hours a day online.
Analysis, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media, revealed those who reduced their time on social media had a ‘significant improvement’ in how they regarded both their overall appearance and body weight.
The control group, however, recorded no significant change.
Lead author Gary Goldfield said: ‘Adolescence is a vulnerable period for the development of body image issues, eating disorders and mental illness.
‘Youth are spending, on average, between six to eight hours per day on screens, much of it on social media.
‘Social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day, including those of celebrities and fashion or fitness models, which we know leads to an internalization of beauty ideals that are unattainable for almost everyone, resulting in greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape.’
The researchers said reducing social media use could be a way to produce a short-term positive effect on body image among vulnerable young people.
‘Our brief, four-week intervention using screentime trackers showed that reducing social media use yielded significant improvements in appearance and weight esteem in distressed youth with heavy social media use,’ Dr Goldfield added.