Teens today spend an average of eight hours per day on screens, and this has raised concerns about the impact on their mental health. However, a recent study by the American Psychological Association has found that limiting screen time can have a positive effect on young people's self-esteem and body image. The lead author of the study, Helen Thai, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill University, noticed that her own experiences with social media led to feelings of inferiority and self-comparison. This prompted her to conduct research to test whether reducing social media usage could improve body image.
The study involved hundreds of participants aged 17-25, who had symptoms of anxiety or depression and were considered vulnerable to the effects of social media. Half of the participants were instructed to limit their social media use to 60 minutes per day for three weeks, while the other half continued to use social media as usual, which averaged three hours per day. The participants were given surveys at the beginning and end of the study, which included statements about their appearance and weight satisfaction. The results showed that among those who reduced their social media use, the overall score on appearance improved from 2.95 to 3.15 on a 5-point scale.
Andrea Graham, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention at Northwestern University, reviewed the results of the study and found the results promising. She noted that it was encouraging that college students were willing to reduce their screen time, even for a short period, and that this approach could potentially be applied to other groups, such as those with or at risk of eating disorders.
The study highlights the importance of adapting to the digital world in a way that does not negatively impact young people's mental health. Some suggestions for reducing screen time and improving mental well-being include unfollowing social media pages that make them feel bad, scheduling regular breaks from devices, turning off notifications and setting limits on social media use, investing in real-life activities, and connecting with people who share their interests and values. The study provides evidence that reducing social media use can have a positive impact on young people's self-esteem and body image and suggests that it may be feasible to encourage young people to reduce their screen time.
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