Teens Quitting Sports due to Social Media’s Body Image Influence: A Lighthearted Take

Youth Are Dropping Out of Athletic Activities Due to Social Media's Impact on Body Image

Teens ditching sports due to social media’s impact on body image.

News Picture: Teens Are Quitting Sports as Social Media Ups Body Image Concerns

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

Taking a Dive from the Field: The Effect of Social Media Body Ideals on Teenagers

Have you ever felt like quitting something because you didn’t look like the “poster child” for it? Well, according to a small study, some teens are dropping out of sports due to the perceived pressure of having the “right” body. And guess what’s to blame? Social media, the thought police of body image.

In this preliminary study of 70 sports-playing (or formerly playing) kids, researchers discovered that many gave up because they believed their bodies weren’t up to snuff. Surprisingly, most of them soaked up this notion from their beloved TikTok and Instagram feeds. Seriously, folks, it’s time to filter out the unrealistic standards!

Experts chimed in, confirming that these findings only add to the mounting evidence that social media can make some kids feel downright awful about their bodies. As if teenagers need more reasons to feel insecure, right? But what’s truly heartbreaking is that these body hang-ups lead some kids to renounce the joys and benefits of participating in sports altogether.

Dr. Cassidy Foley Davelaar, one of the researchers and a sports medicine physician at Nemours Children’s Health in Orlando, Florida, expressed how this outcome is nothing short of devastating. She emphasizes the importance of shaping sports to accommodate all body sizes and shapes. After all, sports offer physical health benefits, the chance to foster friendships, boost confidence and resilience, and so much more.

But this is where we scramble to insert our witty statement about real-life not being an Instagram filter. Cue Erin McTiernan, a pediatric psychologist, who points out that kids unknowingly compare themselves to the “best of the best” on social media—think elite athletes and heavily edited adults. Spoiler alert: Real people aren’t airbrushed.

Now, we come to the nitty-gritty details of the study, where we serve you the platter of facts with a dash of humor. The study involved 70 kids, ages 8 to 18, who were plucked from local athletic organizations or sports medicine clinics. These kids were either current or former sports players. Among those who quit, the main culprits were poor body image, coach issues, and competitive pressure. And what’s worse? Two-thirds of those who quit because they didn’t “look right” repeatedly compared themselves to media and social media images. News flash: Comparison is the thief of joy, kids!

In the gender battles of quitting sports, it appears that girls are (unfortunately) taking the biggest hit. Over 35% of girls decided to call it quits, while only 10% of boys did the same. Girls also expressed more concerns about their appearance, with nearly half feeling like they “looked worse than the ideal.” Boys got lucky this time, but true equality means everyone should be able to sweat it out on the field without feeling self-conscious.

So, what can we do to tackle this issue? Enter the superheroes in capes called coaches and parents. Coaches, you have the power to shape these kids’ lives, so focus on teamwork, skills, and FUN. Winning isn’t everything. Parents, follow suit and be good role models. Mind your body talk, people! Let’s be honest, banning social media isn’t the solution. But hey, you can set limits and rules. Just like life, it’s all about balance. Encourage your kids to immerse themselves in real-life experiences, engage in face-to-face time with friends and family, and remind them that the world outside of social media filters is pretty amazing.

And to our lovely readers, remember to keep things in perspective. Ask yourself: Who are you following, and why? And most importantly, how does your social media viewing spree leave you feeling afterward? In the words of Erin McTiernan, let’s be mindful of the impact social media has on our lives.

More Information:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on social media and mental health.


Cassidy Foley Davelaar, DO, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Nemours Children’s Health, Orlando, Fla.

Erin McTiernan, PsyD, Pediatric Psychologist, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.

Presentation, American Academy of Pediatrics Meeting, Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2023.

Note: This article is a creative adaptation and not a direct representation of the original content.