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Title: A prospective cohort study on the role of appearance ideals in adolescents’ use of social networking sites
Authors: Vandenbosch, Laura
Eggermont, Steven
Issue Date: Feb-2014
Conference: Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap location:Wageningen, Nederland date:3-4 februari 2014
Abstract: Mass media, such as music videos and fashion magazines, have been criticized for disseminating a restricted view on appearance ideals and attractiveness (Thompson & Stice, 2001). Exposure to such sexualizing content (APA, 2007; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) may lead to the internalization of the promoted ideals (Tiggemann, 2005) and, consequently, also to self-objectification and body surveillance. The latter factors are related to various mental and physical health risks (Moradi & Huang, 2008).
The internalization of appearance ideals promoted in mass media is also likely to affect how adolescents behave in online social networks (de Vries & Peter, 2013). Adolescents who have internalized mass media ideals may be more focused on the outer appearance of members of their online social network. Such sexualized use of social networking sites may, subsequently, enhance adolescents’ tendency to self-objectify and monitor their own body. However, although such relationships are not unlikely in adolescents who frequently use social networking sites (Livingstone, 2008) and are increasingly aware of their bodies (APA, 2007), they have hardly been studied.
The current study tests an integrative model that examines (a) how internalization of sexualized appearance ideals in mass media relate to an appearance focused use of social networking sites, and (b) whether an appearance focused use of social networking sites serves as an additional pathway to explain the relationship between the use of sexualizing mass media and an objectified self-concept. This study expands prior research by investigating the association between traditional mass media and social networking sites within the framework of sexualization. It thus builds on objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997), literature on the internalization of appearance ideals (Thompson & Stice, 2001) and a limited number of studies that have suggested such a relationship (e.g., de Vries & Peter, 2013). Furthermore, the study explores how concentrating on the attractiveness of members of one's online network may affect self-objectification and body surveillance. The study thereby responds to a scholarly call to address the role of social networking sites in the process of self-objectification by using a specific appearance focused measure (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2012) that takes account of the importance of other-generated cues (Antheunis & Schouten, 2011).
A three-wave panel study was organized among 1,041 12- to 18-year-olds (M=15.35; SD = 1.47); 56.6% were boys. The structural equation model revealed that reading sexualizing magazines and watching sexualizing music television related to the internalization of traditional media appearance ideals (all Time 1). In turn, internalization (Time 1) positively predicted appearance focused use of social networking sites (Time 2). Appearance focused use of social networking sites (Time 2) subsequently predicted self-objectification (Time 3) and body surveillance (Time 3). The internalization of traditional media appearance ideals (Time 1) also positively predicted self-objectification (Time 3) and body surveillance (Time 3). Self-objectification (Time 3) positively related to body surveillance (Time 3). The discussion focuses on the use of social networking sites in media effects on adolescents’ objectified self-concept.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: AMa
Appears in Collections:Leuven School for Mass Communication Research
Formerly "Subfaculteit Antwerpen/Taal & Communicatie - TM A"

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