It’s fun to scroll through Instagram, but it can have a negative impact on body image in girls. Instagram is not inherently bad, but research suggests that people who use Instagram – particularly young women – need to be cautious about managing what they see on their feeds.
Curated feeds and sexy poses
The greatest danger for young women on Instagram is images of other women. These images are typically highly curated, Photoshopped or otherwise edited, and staged.
Furthermore, Instagram provides a platform that directly rewards women for posting sexy poses that focus on the body’s shape. This leads to something called “self-objectification,” a dangerous condition linked to eating disorders. We created a video showing how this works:
“Body image disturbance is one of the most common clinical features attributed to eating disorders.” (Eating Disorder Hope)
Instagram use has been directly correlated with poor body image in young women. Monitoring social media use may be very helpful in preventing and reducing the impact of eating disorders. This is why we believe it is critical for parents to talk to their daughters about the dangers of Instagram.
10 facts about Instagram and body image in girls
Here are 10 facts about Instagram and its impact on young women’s body image and therefore potential for disordered eating:
1. Instagram ranked the worst app for mental health and body image, especially for young women. 
2. Instagram encourages young women to compare themselves against unrealistic versions of reality 
3. Instagram makes it easy for girls and women to feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as they ar.e 
4. Young women who spend more than 2 hours on Instagram and other social networking sites report poor mental health. 
5. As little as 30 minutes per day on Instagram can make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance. 
6. The more frequently that young women look at #fitspo images, the unhappier they felt about their own bodies. 
7. Looking at fitness influencers and models on Instagram has a negative influence on self-esteem, which could predict eating disorders. 
8. Women are less satisfied with their bodies after looking at #fitspo images compared to travel images on Instagram. 
9. When a teenager’s post gets a lot of “likes” on Instagram, her brain responds in a similar way to seeing loved ones or winning money. 
10. When young women make social media comparisons, they report being more likely to start unhealthy weight-loss activities. 
What parents can do to help
Parents can help reduce the impact of Instagram on girls’ body image by doing the following:
Keep an eye on how much time your child spends on Instagram. Try to keep total social media time to an hour or less per day. Your child will grumble, but it’s important to stand strong. Every half hour spent on Instagram can decrease body satisfaction.
Monitor who your child follows on Instagram. Talk about the content you see. Are women being treated as objects? Have they been airbrushed, filtered, and perfected? Are all women very thin with shapely breasts and butts? Encourage your child to follow people who don’t make her feel bad about herself.
Be especially aware of #fitspo accounts that promote weight loss methods and “healthy lifestyles.” These are often diets in disguise, and they can be very damaging. Obsession with weight and food are both symptoms of disordered eating. And eating disorders related to following social media influencers are on the rise.
Talk to your daughter about what she’s posting on social media. Is her content highly curated and heavily filtered? Is she posting photos of herself in sexy, pouty poses? Does she post photos that expose her body in ways that make you uncomfortable?
It’s OK to talk to her about what is and is not acceptable to you. You don’t need to be draconian or a sexist about this. It’s not about her “tempting pedophiles,” it’s about learning healthy boundaries in a society that objectifies women.
Pay attention to how your daughter behaves after consuming social media. Does she seem upset? Maybe she spends more time looking in the mirror. Talk to your daughter about how she feels. Let her know that a lot of people notice that they feel bad about themselves after going through their feed. This is a natural response to seeing a false world in which perfection rules.
It’s very common for people to clean out their Instagram accounts of anyone they follow who doesn’t make them feel good. If someone doesn’t make your daughter feel good about herself, they don’t belong in her feed!
This is serious parenting
Putting limits on a girl’s social media is not for the faint of heart. This is serious parenting. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself confused, tripped up, and frustrated when you’re trying to set boundaries on social media. Social media can be fun, but it needs boundaries to be safe. Stay strong!
Consider reading the book Getting to Yes for help with negotiating difficult conversations with your child.
Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders.