Prospective Relationships Between Social Media Activities and Preadolescent Mental Health

Fardouly, J. (Macquarie University), Magson, N. (Macquarie University), Oar, E., (Macquarie University), Johnco, C. (Macquarie University), Forbes, M., (Macquarie University), Richardson, C., (Macquarie University), Rapee, R., (Macquarie University)

Social media use is common among preadolescents, despite them being under the minimum age limit to have an account. Social media use is linked to poorer mental health among this age group, but research is yet to investigate these relationships over time. In our study, preadolescent (10-12 year old) social media users (N = 308) completed surveys of their social media activities and mental health (Time 1), and again 1-year later (Time 2). There were bidirectional predictive relationships between making more appearance comparisons on social media and higher levels of anxiety and depression over time. Higher levels of body dissatisfaction prospectively predicted higher appearance comparison frequency but comparison frequency did not predict body dissatisfaction. There were bidirectional predictive relationships between engaging in more appearance enhancing behaviours (e.g., selectively posting images, editing images) and higher body dissatisfaction and anxiety, but not depression, over a 1-year period. These findings suggest that appearance-based social media activities may be an outcome and predictor of poor mental health among preadolescent girls and boys. However, social media appearance comparisons may be an outcome, not predictor, of poor body dissatisfaction among this young population. Further research is needed to investigate these relationships over longer periods of time.


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Body Image