Home Cyberpsychology & Technology Objectified Selfies on Instagram Increase Cyberbullying Risk, Particularly for Females

Objectified Selfies on Instagram Increase Cyberbullying Risk, Particularly for Females

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Instagram stands out, particularly among young people. The platform, which is primarily photo and video-driven, has become a significant arena where adolescents form and express their identities. The integration of information and communication technology (ICT) into daily life has transformed social interactions, with Instagram playing a pivotal role in the development of personal growth and identity formation during adolescence.

A new study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, has shed new light on the risks associated with self-objectified selfies among adolescents on Instagram. This research, conducted in two distinct parts, has delved deep into the social dynamics of online interaction and the growing concern of cyberbullying in the digital age.

Laura Villanueva-Moya, PhD of the University of Granada in Spain, one of the researchers of the study, explains the motivation behind this research: “When we decided to carry out these studies, we wanted to demonstrate how the violence that is exercised against women face-to-face is also reproduced in social networks through cyberbullying, where the fact of being a woman is also considered a risk factor for cyberviolence.”

Villanueva-Moya’s findings offer key insights: “The main findings of our work showed that adolescents perceived that a female uploading a self-objectified photo was more risky than a male uploading a self-objectified photo.”

While the study offers significant insights into adolescent behaviour on social media, it’s important to consider its limitations. The research focused on a specific demographic in southern Spain and employed a nonprobability convenience sampling method, which may limit the broader applicability of the findings.

The first part of the study relied on a hypothetical scenario methodology, which, while widely used, might impact the naturalness and accuracy of participants’ responses. But this limitation was somewhat addressed in the second study through the use of the critical incident technique, which sought to gather more comprehensive information about participants’ experiences and cognitions.

Villanueva-Moya further explains the implications of their findings: “As a consequence of the perceived risk in the behaviour of adolescent girls, adolescents considered that they were more likely to suffer cyberbullying. Specifically, it was adolescent girls, as opposed to adolescent boys, who perceived risk in this behaviour with the consequences of cyberbullying.”

The findings of this study underscore the urgent need for cyberbullying prevention programmes that are sensitive to gender differences and the unique challenges posed by social media platforms like Instagram. It is crucial for such programmes to address the nuances of self-objectification and the increased risks it poses, especially for female adolescents.

The study concludes that posting objectified selfies on Instagram, especially by females, is perceived as increasing the risk of cyberbullying. This perception is more pronounced among female adolescents, indicating a gendered awareness of the risks associated with online behaviours.

In light of these findings, it becomes imperative for educators, parents, and policymakers to understand the complex dynamics of online interaction among adolescents. The nuanced relationship between self-presentation, gender, and perceived risk on platforms like Instagram needs to be a focal point in discussions about digital literacy and online safety.

Villanueva-Moya points towards future research directions: “In the next studies, we would like to analyse how this process influences the lives of adolescent girls, given that it could be a factor that undermines their well-being and quality of life, with the consequences that this would entail for their academic life.”

This study not only contributes to a growing body of research on cyberbullying but also opens new avenues for exploring how social media influences adolescent behaviour and identity formation. As digital platforms continue to evolve, ongoing research in this area will be crucial in shaping effective strategies to safeguard young people in an increasingly connected world.

Other authors include M. Dolores Sánchez-Hernández, M. Carmen Herrera, and Francisca Expósito.

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