Stories about: body image

Ask the Mediatrician: How does social media affect body image?

Michael RichQ: I am a 7th grader working on an independent research project about whether using social media can be addictive and how using social media affects adolescent girls’ body image. What does the scientific research show? And how can I learn more about this?

~ Scrutinizing Social Media, Wellesley, MA

Dear Scrutinizing,

As a seventh grader, this is an important topic for you to research and to teach your friends about, since you are turning 13, the age at which you are legally able to be using social media. First, let’s address whether social media are “addictive”. We need to be careful about using stigmatizing terms such as “addiction” when discussing behaviors, such as using social media, as they are not exactly the same as addictions to substances, such as alcohol or drugs. While there are social media behaviors that can be compulsive and excessive, such as constantly checking updates, counting “likes” or changing what you have posted, even late into the night, they are qualitatively different. Physical changes occur in the body of a heroin or alcohol addict which cause them to need more of the substance all the time to feel okay and which cause them to be really sick and need medical intervention when they cannot get heroin or alcohol. The psychological need to be on social media more and more, and the anxiety that may occur when not online, are not physical and can be overcome without medical care. Nevertheless, there are many young people who have an attachment to their online lives, whether it be to social media or gaming, that is unhealthy and can cause them significant problems with school performance, social life, and even physical health. They need help to regain balance in their lives, but I am concerned that using the negative term “addiction”, will only lead to denial (most addicts don’t think they have a problem) and not seeking the care and support that they need.

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Eating disorders affect boys, gay and lesbian youth

“When asked to conjure an image of a patient living with an eating disorder, I imagine many people picture a young, thin woman. This reflects two common stereotypes: that eating disorders only affect women, and that all people with eating disorders are low-weighted. In fact, clinical experience and an evolving field of research show that many males struggle with eating disorders,” says Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, fellow in Adolescent Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Similarly, parents and health care providers may see gay, lesbian and bisexual youth in terms of their sexual identities and forget that these teens may face body image and weight control issues as well.

Two recent studies published by researchers at Boston Children’s debunk these stereotypes and may change the way parents and providers think about eating disorders and risky weight control behaviors in all teens.

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Viral video exposes extreme airbrushing that could impact body image

The “BodyEvolution” video, posted in 2011 and 2012, has gone viral, again. The video captures the extent and ease of airbrushing in popular media and may reminds parents of its detrimental effects on kids.

Teens are bombarded with images of perfectly sculpted models, and it’s not uncommon for them to crave a similar look and physique. “[It’s] completely unattainable, because the photos have been extensively altered,” says Alison Field, ScD, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Adolescent Medicine.

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Sexy ads sell–to little girls?

Have you heard about Thylane Blondeau, the 10-year-old model who caused such a stir this summer with her pictures in French Vogue?

In the pictures, she is made up to the hilt, in provocative poses, vamping for the camera. It caused outrage in the media and blogosphere, with people saying that it is wrong for a child to be so sexualized.

I showed the video to my 10-year-old daughter to get her reaction. “That’s horrible,” she said. When I asked her why, she said it was because Thylane was dressed like a grown-up.  The clothing and the makeup she was wearing in the pictures were not okay, according to Natasha. “She’s only ten!” she said.

(Click here to see an ABC News clip on the shoot.)

Well, okay then. This is so wrong that even a 10-year-old sees it immediately.

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