Adolescents who are active on social media may be more likely to exercise excessively, skip meals or develop other forms of disordered eating, a US study suggests.
Researchers surveyed 996 seventh- and eighth-graders, age 13 on average, about their use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.
They also asked kids about disordered eating behaviors like worrying about their weight or shape, binge eating, skipping meals or strict exercise regimens.
According to the study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 75% of girls and 70% of boys had at least one social media account, and 52% of girls reported at least one disordered eating behavior along with 45% of the boys.
Compared to teens without any social media accounts, boys and girls on social media were more likely to report disordered eating behaviors. The frequency of these behaviors increased along with the number of social media accounts teens had.
Reuters cited study leader Simon Wilksch of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, as saying: "We suspect that social media use is encouraging young people to compare themselves to their peers and others, particularly on their appearance, at an age where adolescents are very vulnerable to peer influences."
The study wasn't designed to prove whether social media use directly contributes to body image problems or eating disorders.
Dr. Jason Nagata of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, advised parents who suspect teens are developing problem thoughts or behaviors related to food should get help from a health professional.
Parents should also try to keep open lines of communication about safe social media use, Nagata said by email.