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Too much time on Facebook may trigger depression in teen girls

July 3, 2012 - London

Teenage girls who actively use social media are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, a new study has revealed.

New data shows that girls who spend long periods on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace are far more likely to dislike their body and their weight.

The university research - which surveyed 1,096 girls aged between 12 and 16 - found that 40 percent were dissatisfied with their bodies, and half were terrified of gaining weight.

It also discovered that the more girls use the Internet and social media the more likely they were to succumb to these feelings.

Dr Amy Slater, who undertook the research alongside Professor Marika Tiggemann - both from the School of Psychology at Flinders University, Australia - said that the results pointed to a worrying correlation.

"We set out to investigate the role of media in adolescent girls' self image," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying.

"We were interested to find out how adolescent girls were spending their free time and how different activities related to how they felt about themselves and their bodies.

"Our findings demonstrate a worrying correlation between excessive media use, particularly social media and the internet, and lower self-esteem, body-esteem and sense of identity and higher depression," she said.

The study also revealed that of the 96 percent of girls who had access to the Internet at home, 72 percent uploaded pictures of themselves and 12 percent uploaded videos.

Of these girls - where the average screen time they spent per day amounted to three and a half hours - only 35 percent of parents set rules about when and what their daughters can look at on the Internet.

Dr Slater stated that further research, which analysed the content of over 600 advertisements found on 14 of the most popular websites targeting teen girls, featured cosmetics and beauty products most frequently.

She also said that the models used in adverts - often promoting products such as weight loss products and dating sites and deemed inappropriate for the intended audience - were generally female, young, thin and attractive.

"A content analysis of adverts found on sites that appeal to adolescent girls showed likely exposure to those reinforcing the importance of beauty and thinness," she added.

The findings, undertaken as part of the NetGirls project, were presented at the Appearance Matters 5 conference held at the University of West England, Bristol.


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