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WELLNESS CHECK: Omaha therapist discusses rise of body image issues triggered by social media

Posted at 7:37 AM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 08:37:24-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Last year, Facebook was under scrutiny after a whistleblower went public with internal documents that revealed the company knew its app, Instagram, was toxic for teenage girls.

After the information was leaked, Facebook pushed back, claiming that was not true.

While Congress investigates, 3 News Now anchor Vanessa Villafuerte examines how parents can help their teenagers dodge body image issues brought on by social media.

"The filters people are using create a false reality and teenagers,” Tim Hron, mental health therapist with CHI Health said. “Even sometimes as young as middle school students, don't recognize that, they think it's real. And so, they compare themselves to what's on social media."

Hron said he’s seen an increase in teens seeking help because of images they see on social media.

"I see quite a few teenagers that are struggling with their self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and potential eating disorders,” Hron said. “It's a real concern."

If a teen seems to be struggling, Hron said parents should address the issue of social media directly.

"Be involved,” Hron said. “Look at any noticeable changes. If you are recognizing your child is not acting typical of themselves, whether it's their mood, whether it's their eating habits, their physical activities, check in with them."

Hron also suggests annual doctor checkups, and parents should always model healthy habits kids can follow.

"A big piece of a parent's responsibility is to be a role model,” Hron said. “So, if they're role modeling those healthy habits, whether it's with nutrition or physical activity, that's a great place to start."

Some might hear this advice often but limit a teen’s screen time. The longer they scroll, the more likely images on the app might promote eating disorders and self-harm.

And lastly, encourage your teen to discover their own strengths. Embracing what makes them unique prevents harmful habits of comparison.

"Focus on yourself, focus on the things you enjoy about yourself,” Hron said. “The strengths that you have, we all have individual strengths, strengths and talents.”

Hron said the silver lining is seeing the increase in support area schools are offering to teens. Many offer “healthy living classes,” which educate students on adopting healthier habits and normalizing a well-balanced lifestyle.

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