Detecting Body Image Issues in Teens

When it comes to raising young people in this day and age, you have to be aware of certain problems that they may face such as cyberbullying, ID theft, and online predators. But while such issues deserve your attention, so too does the problem of body image issues.

The 24-hour-a-day news media, tinsel town movie stars, and social-media-addicted socialites have all converged to tell our teens what the perfect body type is, and this can lead to problems for young people whose bodies don’t conform to what the majority deem to be desirable.

What follows is a body issues problem — and what you can do to address it if necessary.

Body Image & Self-Esteem

One of the problems with poor body image is that it can damage self-esteem, and this can lead to a wide range of problems that include the following: 

  • Eating disorders
  • Sleeping problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Early sexual activity
  • Suicidal thoughts

Body Image by Gender

When it comes to body image problems among teens, girls are more likely than boys to be adversely impacted. For instance, 54% of girls and 41% of boys report being dissatisfied with their bodies. As well 81% of girls fear being fat while 25% of boys say that they are underweight.

Unrealistic Ideal

One source says that between the ages of 14 and 18, girls’ body image gets worse while boys’ body image gets better. It’s also important to note that 91% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies and resort to diets. So, you need to recognize the warning signs early if you want to keep your young women from growing to become among the majority who have body image issues.

Social Media & Body Image

Teens use social media to determine how they feel about how they look. Many teens filter and edit their pics so that they look their best, but the flip side is that they then go on to compare themselves to other highly-edited pictures posted by others. As if this weren’t enough, many young people use the likes or comments that they get on social media to gauge their body image.

Detect Body Image Problems

It’s important that you monitor your teens’ use of social media to look for clues on any possible body issues that need to be addressed. Be particularly on the lookout for social media terms that are red flags such as #ed, #proed, #eatingdisorder, #thinspo, #thinspiration, #fat, and #skinny. As it relates to specific body image problems, here are social media terms to look for:

  • Anorexia: #ana, #proana, and #anorexia;
  • Bulimia: #mia, #promia, #bulimia, #lax, and #purge;
  • Binge Eating: #binge, #overeat, #bingefood, and #bingeeater; and
  • Self-Harm: #cuts, #cutting, #razor, #blades, #wounds, #depression, #depressed, #selfharm, and #selfhate.

How to Help

In order to stay on top of things, monitor your teens’ social media use, discuss with them what they see online, encourage healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle, and limit smartphone access so that there’s some online-offline balance. If necessary, don’t hesitate to reach out to outside help for some professional counselling.