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Spending more time online can lead to body-image issues says expert

Girls who spent more than 20 hours online per week were three times more likely to be unhappy with their body than those who were online less than one hour

About to take a selfie? You may want to rethink that decision, says one SFU study.

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About to take a selfie? You may want to rethink that decision, says one SFU study.

The more time girls and young women spend online, the more likely they are to have body image issues, according to a new SFU analysis.

Women ages 12 to 29 who spent more than 20 hours on the internet every week were three times more likely to be unhappy with how their body looked or their weight, compared to women who spent less than one hour on the internet, said lead author Allison Carter.

The PhD candidate at SFU’s Health Sciences department says her findings demonstrate how important it is for girls to rethink what ‘beauty’ means.

“The bigger conversation that we should be having about girls and young women is about what defines our worth,” she said.

“It’s about teaching young girls and women we are more than our physical bodies.”

Carter analyzed 3,000 responses from Statistics Canada 2011 data for the study.

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For parents looking for answers about how much time on the internet is too much, the less the better, she said.

“Anything above 10 hours a week, the data shows an association with feeling less satisfied with your body.”

The study does not include an explanation as to why increased internet usage results in body dissatisfaction but Carter says parents and young women should be mindful of the impact certain types of media have on self esteem.

“I would recommend perhaps un-following sites that don’t make you feel good and begin following website and groups and people that help you feel good about yourself,” she said.

She suggests people follow groups like Vancouver’s Raw Beauty or Beauty Redefined, which work to expand the current narrow definition of beauty.

But Carter was quick to add that media’s negative impact on body image is not a new problem.

In a comparison with 2003 data, she found levels of body dissatisfaction were similar more recent data, despite people using drastically less internet back then.

“The good news is that levels of body dissatisfaction have not increased from 2003 to 2011 but the ways in which we develop dissatisfaction with our bodies and the socio-cultural influences may have changed.”

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