COLUMBUS, Ohio (May 23, 2023) — With children more plugged in to social media than ever before, a wave of new image editing apps and filters along with trends related to appearance have parents concerned about damage to body image. According to a new national survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health, 69% of parents of children younger than 18 think social media image editing apps and filters have a negative influence on their child(ren)’s body image. In addition, 65% of parents agree that social media trends related to appearance — like diet or exercise — have a negative influence on their child(ren)’s body image.
On Our Sleeves encourages parents and caregivers to check in regularly and have conversations with their children about the importance of body positivity. Open and honest dialogue can be critical to understanding how a child feels about their body, which can be exacerbated by external factors like media consumption. Dr. Erin McTiernan, an On Our Sleeves contributor and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said it’s important to talk to kids about food and their bodies, and suggests asking questions to build self-esteem such as, “What are some things you like about yourself?”. When your child starts to join social media platforms, she said it’s important to pay attention to the content they're consuming and how it's impacting them.
“A child’s feelings about their body can affect their mental health,” said McTiernan. “We know that social media can affect everything from purchasing choices to perception of beauty, and unfortunately children are the most vulnerable to unrealistic body image expectations set by these platforms. Children on social media can be exposed to thousands of messages every day about how to look, what to do, and who to be.”
Conversations about body image can be challenging, even for confident parents. That’s why On Our Sleeves offers parents resources with information and helpful tips about body image and food, as well as a variety of conversation starters that can help open and maintain a dialogue with children. These resources can help reframe conversations about food and bodies in a way that eases communication and lessens damage. For instance, experts suggest instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” take a more neutral stance and encourage adding foods from a variety of food groups to create balanced, nourishing meals. ”
Tips for parents include:
- Focusing on overall health, not weight.
- Modeling positive body image.
- Recognizing your child’s positive traits or qualities that don’t have to do with their appearance.
The balance between allowing children to explore social media while avoiding potentially dangerous aspects, such as harmful “trends” or messages, can be difficult. Through On Our Sleeves, parents can work to build trusting relationships that allow their children to reap the benefits of social media while minimizing the risk of negative outcomes.
Visit OnOurSleeves.org for resources to help start conversations around safe social media use and support positive body image in kids.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of On Our Sleeves from March 30-April 3, 2023, among 2,035 U.S. adults ages 18+, among whom 711 are parents of kids younger than 18. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Molly Devaney at email@example.com.
To ensure that our survey questions are well-designed, we sought the expertise of clinical psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the largest provider of pediatric mental health services in the nation. They also reviewed the final results. This involvement of a clinical psychologist adds credibility to the survey.
About The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health
Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health, created by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, one of the United States’ largest network of pediatric behavioral health treatment providers and researchers, is on a mission to give expert-created resources to all U.S. communities so everyone can understand and promote mental health for children. On Our Sleeves’ vision is to build a world where mental health is a part of the upbringing of every single child. Nearly 1,000 mental health professionals and researchers at Nationwide Children’s, in partnership with other trusted experts, provide their real-world knowledge and expertise to power On Our Sleeves.
Since the inception of On Our Sleeves in 2018, more than 6 million people in every state across the United States have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health education resources at OnOurSleeves.org.