Parental survey: The dark side of social media filters

Seven in ten parents agree they harm kids.

With children more plugged into social media than ever, a wave of new image editing apps, filters and trends related to appearance have parents concerned about damage to body image.

According to a new national survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health, 69% of parents of children younger than 18 think social media image editing apps and filters have a negative influence on their child(ren)’s body image [1].

In addition, 65% of parents agree that social media trends related to appearance – like diet or exercise – negatively influence their child(ren)’s body image.

On Our Sleeves encourages parents and caregivers to check in regularly and discuss the importance of body positivity with their children.

Open and honest dialogue can be critical to understanding how a child feels about their body, which external factors like media consumption can exacerbate.

Dr Erin McTiernan, an On Our Sleeves contributor and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said it’s important to talk to kids about food and their bodies and suggests asking questions to build self-esteem, such as, “What are some things you like about yourself?”

When your child joins social media platforms, she said it’s essential to pay attention to the content they’re consuming and how it’s impacting them [2].

“A child’s feelings about their body can affect their mental health,” said McTiernan. “We know that social media can affect everything from purchasing choices to a perception of beauty. Unfortunately, children are the most vulnerable to unrealistic body image expectations set by these platforms. Children on social media can be exposed to thousands of daily messages about how to look, what to do and who to be.”

Conversations about body image can be challenging, even for confident parents. That’s why On Our Sleeves offers parents resources with information and helpful tips about body image and food, as well as a variety of conversation starters that can help open and maintain a dialogue with children [3].

These resources can help reframe conversations about food and bodies in a way that eases communication and lessens damage.

For instance, experts suggest that instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” take a more neutral stance and encourage adding foods from various food groups to create balanced, nourishing meals. “

Tips for parents include:

  • Focusing on overall health, not weight.
  • Modeling positive body image.
  • Recognizing your child’s positive traits or qualities that don’t have to do with their appearance.

The balance between allowing children to explore social media while avoiding potentially dangerous aspects, such as harmful “trends” or messages, can be difficult.

Through On Our Sleeves, parents can work to build trusting relationships that allow their children to reap the benefits of social media while minimizing the risk of adverse outcomes.


The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.