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Too much social media hurts children's self-esteem, report suggests

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 12, 2024 - 15:57

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School-age children who frequently use social media to interact with others are more likely to develop negative perceptions of their bodies, a recent study found.

Researchers at Ewha Womans University analyzed the data of 1,412 elementary school students 2019 and 1,397 elementary school students in 2020 to determine the effects of social media on one's perception of body before and after the COVID-19 outbreak. Researchers categorized the children into three groups: "information seekers" who use social media mainly to find necessary information, "fun seekers" who use it for entertainment and "relationship seekers" who use services like Facebook, Instagram and KakaoTalk to interact with others.

Respondents were asked to rate how content they were with themselves physically, including height, body and overall appearance. Those who scored highly were assessed as having a positive perception of their body.

Researchers did not find a meaningful correlation between social media use and perception of one's body in information seekers for either year, but found relationship seekers in both 2019 and 2020 were more likely to have negative perceptions of their bodies the more they used social media. The study showed mixed results for fun seekers, whose own body perception was shown to be positively affected by social media in 2019, but was not effected substantially negatively or positively according to 2020 data.

A negative impact of social media was particularly prevalent among girls in the relationship seekers category in 2019 and among boys in the same group in 2020.

"There is a tendency among those in puberty to be overly aware of other people's perceptions, as their bodies go through rapid change. This makes them more susceptible to outside influence, such as by internet," the study wrote in "Association between Media Usage and Body Image of Elementary Students Before and After COVID-19: Focusing on Gender Comparison."

"Social media platforms have an excessive amount of content based on a person's body, and are simultaneously used for communication," the researchers noted. "Many using social media are exposed to images related to the body, and such images are likely to have a negative impact on students going through puberty, whose ability for reasoned thinking is still in the developing stage.