| Trends

Your body is not a trend: How to navigate your children through the world of online influence

Alžbeta Kovaľová | 27 Oct 2023

Social media has been the place to find the latest trends, the hippest restaurants or the next in fashion clothing style. And as with places and things, bodies and lifestyles can also be trends.

This all started with traditional media showcasing specific body types and lifestyles, before migrating to social media and chat rooms. Female body standards have always been discussed, frequently with objectification and judgment. Unfortunately, since this phenomena is nothing new, multiple generations of young girls have had to go through feelings of inadequacy due to images portrayed in films, magazines and social media. The last of which remains, at least for the time being, as the most preferred space for young viewers to consume content.

You´re not in style!

Do you have freckles? Does your hair curl in a specific pattern? Do you have a tiny waist? What kind of clothes do you wear? Don’t you go on “hot girl walks”?

Feeling confused? Rightfully so. These are just a few of the questions young girls are confronted with on a daily basis on social media. These trends go far beyond physical beauty, and include productivity, fitness and nutritional trends. Let´s look at a few and see why they should all be taken with a grain of salt.

1) “That girl” trend

The “that girl” trend hit every major social media platforms, and even though it has passed its peak, it has not disappeared. This trend may appear good, and look like a healthy lifestyle with its primary focus on eating clean foods, being productive, working out and reaching goals. All this seems quite excellent, but the problem lies in plain sight. If you search the term on social media, you will be confronted with a particular type of person promoting it: an athletic, fair-skinned, long-haired girl with all the newest tech and gadgets that “that girl” may want. The image portrayed and the message conveyed is that if you do not look like “her” and have the things “she” has, you are doing it wrong. And since the trend is so widespread, you are regularly confronted with feelings of inadequacy.

2) “Small waist” trend

Yes, it is just as problematic as the name suggests. Also known as the “Big Bank” challenge, this trend involves girls showing off their small waists to a popular song. Not only does this trend promote an unattainable body image, it also sexualizing girls and women of all ages. The message that is communicated to young girls is that having a small waist is desirable, and that no other body shape is acceptable online. And since their lives largely happen online, this can have a negative impact on a girl's self-esteem as well as her future development and self-image.

3) Body checks

This concept may be familiar to some. It was widespread on “pro-ana” forums in the early 2000s and is now back on modern social media. The trend is encapsulated within its name. Those who participate in the trend usually have the same body type and show their body to the audience from different angles. It may mask itself as an OOTD (outfit of the day) video, but also, it often has #bodycheck in the caption. The usage of hashtags on social media is very useful and dangerous online, as this is one of the ways content types get promoted to users or how users may come across them when searching for something specific.

Girls are again and continually confronted with images of an “ideal” body type, which may result in them trying the following trend.

4) #What I eat in a day

No, this is not an aesthetically pleasing photo of a coffee and a cake, but rather a video of a girl explaining what she ate that day. These may or may not be their real meals, but the videos almost always promote unhealthy eating habits and a certain body type. This creates comparisons on the receiver´s side. They might want to look like that girl from the video, so they try to eat as the video suggests. What they do not consider is that we all have different nutritional needs and exercise routines. The amount of food and calories portrayed in these videos is often unrealistic and harmful, especially for the growing and changing body of a young girl.

These are only a few of the trends that have gained massive popularity on social media. Content creators may not even realize that the content they are creating can mean potential harm to someone across the world. 

Creators’ responsibility?

Certain celebrities, influencers and content creators have a massive following, and so they also have the social responsibility to consider their audience and what impact their content may have on their followers. A recent study found that over half of all influencers promote unhealthy lifestyles, and over-sexualize their content instead of the intended “fitspirational” or lifestyle content.

One problem with many fitness influencers, or any other influencer who promotes lifestyle content, is that they promote an illusion of perfection that is impossible for the average person to achieve. Children who view this content might feel as though they have failed in life, as they can never achieve this supposedly desirable way to look and live.

How do you spot a potentially harmful content creator? Look for those who

  • Show unrealistic workouts and meal plans
  • Only post posed photos
  • Edit their photos
  • Make you feel anxious and self-conscious
  • Make claims not backed by science


You have a chance to show your kids who to follow and why

When you are aware of the types of content your kids follow online, you cannot understand what impact it might have on them. So the first step in making sure they are not consuming potentially harmful content is to have a look, to educate yourself and be present in their online lives. You can only talk with them about the beauties and the dangers of their online experience if you share it with them. Talk to them about what they can learn and what to look out for. Explain to them that what they see online is not always real and that content creators only post a tiny part of their lives, and that social media is often just their job. 

Make sure your children feel safe talking to you about how what they see online makes them feel. Be the parent, guardian or adult who brings clarity and offers guidance. And remember, always try to create a safer online space for kids.


About the author

Alžbeta Kovaľová /
Security writer

Alžbeta has worked at ESET for two years...

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