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Social media use may lead to eating disorder in children

Parents, take a note. Researchers have found that excessive use of social media, particularly platforms with a strong focus on image posting and viewing such as Snapchat and Instagram, is associated with eating disorders in young adolescents. For the study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers examined data on 996 grade 7 and 8 adolescents.

“While a range of studies has focused on the impact of social media on body image, this is the first to examine the relationship between specific social media platforms and disordered eating behaviors and thoughts,” said study lead author Simon Wilksch from Flinders University in Australia.

Also, most other studies had focused on older adolescents or young-adult women, he said.

The study on associations between disordered eating and social media use among young adolescent girls and boys suggested that much more needed to be done to increase resilience in young people to become less adversely impacted by social media pressures, Wilksch added.

During the study, the research team found behaviors related to disordered eating were reported by 51.7 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping being the most common.

Of these, 75.4 percent of girls and 69.9 percent of boys had at least one social media account, and Instagram was the most common.

According to the study, a greater number of social media accounts and greater time spent on them were associated with a higher likelihood of disordered eating, thoughts, and behaviors.

The researchers are launching an Australia-wide trial of the Media Smart Online program designed to combat such pressures.

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