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The Relationship between the Use of Social Networking Sites and Sexually Explicit Material, the Internalization of Appearance Ideals and Body Self-Surveillance: Results from a Longitudinal Study of Male Adolescents

Abstract

Although there is now a substantial body of research suggesting a positive association between the exposure to sexualized content in the media and self-objectification/body surveillance, most of the studies have been cross-sectional, conducted in exclusively female samples, focused on the use of traditional media (e.g., printed magazines and TV), and have not assessed the role of the internalization of appearance ideals, which is potentially an important intervening variable in the relationship between media exposure and outcomes related to body concerns. Addressing the need for further assessments of self-objectification in more diverse samples, this study used five-wave longitudinal data to investigate the parallel changes in the use of social networking sites and sexually explicit material and the internalization of appearance ideals and body surveillance in Croatian adolescent men (Mage at baseline = 15.9, SD = 0.54; n= 743). Over a period of 22 months during the transition from middle to late adolescence, both the internalization of appearance ideals and body surveillance decreased. Furthermore, although the internalization of appearance ideals and body surveillance were associated both at baseline and over time, this study’s results did not indicate a longitudinal relationship between respectively the use of online social networking sites and sexually explicit material and either the internalization of appearance ideals or body surveillance among adolescent males. Overall, this study’s findings highlight the potential for a more specific assessment of the role of the use of social networking sites and sexually explicit material in self-objectification and body surveillance among young men. Future research may benefit from exploring the relationship between young men’s modes of engagement with and motives for the use of social networking sites and body surveillance, as well as the possible association between the use of sexually explicit material and competency-based self-objectification, in particular sexual body functionality.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Notes

  1. The longitudinal research project included six data collection waves (the final one was carried out in March 2018). Considering that two of the four key indicators (internalization of appearance ideals and body surveillance) were not measured at T6, the final data collection wave was omitted from the current study.

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Funding

This work has been funded by Croatian Science Foundation grant number 9221 awarded to the fourth author.

Authors’ Contributions

SS conceived of the study, contributed to the interpretation of the data, drafted the introduction and discussion sections, and helped draft the other sections of the manuscript; AC conceived of the study, contributed to the interpretation of the data, drafted the introduction and discussion sections and helped draft the other sections of the manuscript; VB conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, contributed to the interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript; AŠ conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analysis, drafted the method and results sections, and helped draft the other sections of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sandra Sevic.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Sevic, S., Ciprić, A., Buško, V. et al. The Relationship between the Use of Social Networking Sites and Sexually Explicit Material, the Internalization of Appearance Ideals and Body Self-Surveillance: Results from a Longitudinal Study of Male Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence 49, 383–398 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01172-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01172-2

Keywords

  • Social networking sites
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Internalization of appearance ideals
  • Adolescent men
  • Objectification theory
  • Body surveillance
  • Longitudinal design