This Is Why You Need To Know Who Your Daughter Follows On Social Media

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Parenting: Teens, Social Media, and ‘Thinspiration’

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

On the whole, teenage girls don’t like their bodies. They’re insecure, self-conscious and when they look in the mirror they body bash – I hate my body. My thighs are fat. My stomach isn’t flat. My hips are too wide. My body is disgusting.

How did we get here?

Teen girls are bombarded with pics like this on social media

Teen girls are bombarded with pics like this on social media

On a daily basis teenage girls are hit with images of rake thin models with photoshop-perfect butts, thighs, and abs. They read magazine articles about celebrities who are torn to pieces for not looking (god forbid) picture perfect and slammed for being too skinny or too fat (read anyone who isn’t a size 6). What teen girls learn from the media is that being skinny isn’t just important, it’s everything. The number on the bathroom scales doesn’t just tell you your weight – it tells you your worth. But it gets worse.

As if the unrealistically skinny models and digitally enhanced images seen in magazines aren’t bad enough, now there’s social media and thinspiration. Pages that ‘inspire’ weight loss with before and after pictures, pictures of girls with tiny waists and flat stomachs, box gap selfies and ‘inspirational’ quotes like

“Because the pain of looking in the mirror hurts more than starving” and “All of the pain that you go through today will be worth it on the scales tomorrow” or “Eat Junk. Look like Junk. Eat clean. Look lean”. It’s toxic to insecure teenage girl who are still learning to be body confident.

I have no doubt that the people who post thinspirational material believe that by inspiring others to achieve weight loss they’re helping others to be happy. I also have no doubt that these same people believe their attitude towards food, body shape, and weight is healthy. That’s the thing about eating disorders though, when you have one, you don’t think you do.

Let me be clear – there is no healthy way to maintain an unhealthy body weight.

For the record - you can't measure your worth metrically

For the record – you can’t measure your worth metrically – you’re worth more than that

If you are a thinspiration blogger be aware of the power of your words because once you publish content on the web, anyone can read it. I’m sure you don’t post maliciously or with the intent of teaching teenage girls that they’re only worthwhile if they’re skinny, but you can’t control your audience, only your words. Unintentionally, your thinspiration could be the difference between someone developing body confidence and someone developing an eating disorder. You will probably disagree with me, argue that I’m wrong, but what if I’m not wrong….what if I’m right and your words trigger an eating disorder in someone who might otherwise not have developed one?

Your words are powerful. Post responsibly.

And for the record – there’s far more interesting things about you than how many calories you’ve eaten or how many hours you’ve managed to go without food. You are worth so much more than a number on the scales. Try to remember that.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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