eNewsletter - March 2022

Body-Positive Social Media and Adolescents
By: Kim Reyes, LSW

As a Behavioral Health Navigator at Linden Oaks, I encounter many adolescents that deal with eating disorders and hear from their parents just how social media minded these teens are. They often fall into the habit of comparing themselves with others they see in person or on social, and this can lead to unrealistic expectations and disordered eating. And while there’s no shortage of literature detailing the potential negative impact that social media can have on body image, a growing amount of evidence is demonstrating that body-positive and fitness-focused media can contribute to a healthier mindset.

Social media is here to stay and plays a significant role in teen’s lives. Providing guidance that helps them identify safe social sources is more powerful and supportive than suggesting they steer clear of social all together. Here are some steps for helping ensure your adolescent clients and their parents are on the right track with health- and fitness-focused social.

Watch for red flags. First and foremost, it’s important to encourage parents to watch out for disordered eating and exercising. Does their teen seemed hyper-focused or obsessive about food or working out? If so, it’s time to investigate further. Even if disordered behavior isn’t witnessed, ask about their favorite social media accounts or influencers, and check them out. Do these pages encourage a realistic body view? Do they motivate followers to be healthy and fit, or do they idolize thinness? One of my favorite body-positive health Instagram influencers is former Ms. Olympian Courtney Kiing.

Finding a fitness-focused community.
Parents can also support adolescents by involving the family physician for healthy guidance, and to ensure their teenis ready to begin a new eating or exercise plan. Connecting with a local dietician or body-positive athletic trainer is a good idea as well. Finally, online forums that offer community and support for anyone focused on a healthy lifestyle can help teens understand they’re not alone and find some external support from others with similar interests. You can find a group for almost any type of exercise, just be sure to read the community rules to make sure it’s supportive and positive in nature.

Share your recommendations. Finally, as a professional, it’s important to spend some time online creating your list of recommended fitness influencers so you have examples on hand when discussing the topic with teens. Reach out locally to fitness clubs or park districts to determine what community options may exist and pass those along to clients as well. Armed with your recommendations, they’ll soon be experts at finding the right fitness folks to follow and creating a healthy and supportive community of their own. 

Find more resources. Linden Oaks has behavioral health professionals available for consult that specialize in identifying and treating disordered eating. Our behavioral health assessment will help determine if an adolescent may benefit from regular therapy at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. To connect with a certified therapist, please call the Linden Oaks Help Line 24 hours a day at (630) 305-5027 and one of our assessment professionals will assist.