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Is social media harming women and girls? Experts say it's not unlikely

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With children using social media at younger and younger ages, the time they spend online can sometimes be concerning. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As lawmakers look to understand the impacts of Facebook and Instagram on kids, 2News sat down with a local expert on media and body image to better understand their affects.

With children using social media at younger and younger ages, the time they spend online can sometimes be concerning.

Ely Velez, from Logan, is in her 20s and only uses one platform.

“I’ve kind of basically stuck with Facebook, and that’s as deep as I go with social media,” Velez said.

She didn’t join the platform until high school, but her younger siblings started sooner.

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“I think it would have definitely changed how much I use media if I would have been younger," she said. "Just because I even see it with my younger siblings. They definitely have more social media networks that they use.”

Velez said she worries what impact that could potentially have.

“I think it definitely impacts women for sure,” she said

There may be good reason to be concerned. Doctor Lexie Kite has a PhD in media and body image from the University of Utah. She’s also co-author of the book "More Than a Body" and co-founder of the non-profit Beauty Redefined.

“Social media is harmful to kids and to adults," Kite said. "Especially Instagram — it is so visual.”

Kite said the impacts on body image can be considerable.

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“What we’ve found through all of our research, through the research of so many others, is that the more time people spend on social media, especially girls and women, the more likely they are to feel depressed, anxious. To feel really defined by their body and really self conscious of their bodies and their faces,” she said.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, but Kite said parents can try to better prepare their kids to handle what they’re seeing.

“It is incredibly important for parents to be active media consumers alongside their kids to really know what their kids are scrolling through and to have a conversations with them," she said. "So while you can’t be looking over your kid's shoulder all the time, you can absolutely equip them with some skills and strategies to be resilient in the face of these messages.”

And as far as social media companies, Kite said they could be doing a lot more to lessen the impact their platforms are having on body-image and self esteem.

“They could absolutely change the algorithm to make sure that especially for girls and women, that are right now being fed exclusively body-centric and beauty-centric content, to change that up," she said. "There is so much more out there on Instagram that they could be elevating.”

Kite added there can be positive content on social media, but platforms have algorithms more likely to promote beauty and body-centric content.

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