CANBERRA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Social media has been identified as a major contributor to body image issues and eating disorders among Australian teenagers.
According to a study published by Flinders University and the University of Western Australia (UWA) on Wednesday, the more social media sites a teenager uses -- and the more time spent on them -- leads to a higher risk of disordered eating.
Researchers surveyed 996 Australian secondary school students aged between year 7 and 8, finding that 51.7 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys have eating disorder behaviors, most commonly skipping meals to prevent weight gain.
Three quarters of girls surveyed and 69.9 percent of boys said they used at least one social media platform despite half the respondents being younger than 13 -- the minimum age for most platforms.
"A key component of preventing eating disorders is to give the message that our self-worth should be defined by a mix of our abilities, values and relationships," Simon Wilksch, a senior psychology researcher at Flinders University, said in a media release.
"Social media seems to encourage young people to focus strongly on their appearance and the way it is judged or perceived by others," he said.
"To find these clear associations between disordered eating and social media use in young adolescent girls and boys suggests that much more needs to be done to increase resilience in young people to become less adversely impacted by social media pressures."
The study identified Instagram and Snapchat, popular image-sharing social media platforms, as those most responsible for the heightened risk of body image issues.
It coincided with Wilksch launching an Australia-wide trial of Media Smart Online, a program designed to combat such pressures in Australians of any gender aged between 13 and 25.
An initial trial with women aged between 18 and 25 reduced the onset of eating disorders by 66 percent and increased recovery from eating disorders by 75 percent.