Study shows that most young girls don’t feel good about how they look

Yes, we live in a digital age where people put their best selves forward and simply delete those less than flattering angles. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist — right?

As most of us know, spending too much time on social media tends to have a negative effect on our overall mood. We start comparing our lovely selves to those filtered lives we see on Instagram and ultimately start to feel bad ourselves. If this everyday pastime is having such a negative effect on us as grown adults, then you’d wonder what it’s doing to young, impressionable girls. 

According to in-depth research by Dove, the social media usage of young girls in Ireland between the ages of 10 and 17 years is quite high (75%), with 77% spending more than an hour a day on a social platform. The study has shown that girls compare themselves with others on social media and look for validation, leading them to feel bad about themselves.  

45% of girls in Ireland feel that spending time on social media makes them feel worse about how they look. With the rise of social media comes the inherent need for validation from friends across these platforms. Girls will seek a form of ‘approval’ through likes on their photos. The research found that 56% of girls in Ireland think getting many likes or comments on social media is important for their self-confidence and this increases to 85% for girls with low body esteem.

This need for validation can lead girls wanting to change their appearance by using editing apps from a young age. Dove research tells us that 39% of girls in Ireland have already downloaded a photo editing app and they were on average 12 years old the first time they applied a filter/used an app to change the way they looked. Shockingly, 79% of girls in Ireland try to change or hide at least one body part/ feature before posting a photo of themselves.

It’s clear from this research that we need to support girls in Ireland to navigate social media in a positive way, focusing more on self-expression and less on validation. The Dove Self-Esteem Project, which is available in Ireland, is designed to arm the next generation with the tools they need to grow up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look. 

The resources cover a wide range of topics for young people, including ‘Digital Distortion vs. Reality’, ‘The Selfie Talk’, workshops, online articles, and digital games, all of which can boost their body esteem and provide skills to navigate social media in a healthier, positive way.

Speaking about the Dove Self-Esteem Project, Author, Chef and Wellness Advocate, Trisha Lewis said: “I was really sad to see the effects social media and filters are having on the younger generation. This research from Dove highlights the need for action as it is clearly a growing problem among young people. As someone who has struggled with body confidence and self-esteem all my life, it is my mission to help curb the trend around validation seeking on social media and the use of photo editing apps and filters.”

“Equipped with the right tools, like the Dove Self-Esteem Project, parents, teachers, mentors, and guardians can teach their children how to emerge from unhealthy social media habits and digital distortion and find freedom in self-acceptance. It is important they understand that their social media feed can be a positive space to curate as they please and grow into the people they want to be”.

Despite all these pressures, girls in Ireland still feel social media can be a place where they can be themselves and feel good about who they are. 60% like the way they look on social media and over 50% think social media is a positive thing in their life. However, self-expression needs to trump the need for validation on social media with 55% of girls in Ireland wishing they could share anything on social media without worrying about what others might think.  It’s time to take action against this and the Dove Self-Esteem Project ‘Confidence Kit’ is a dedicated online tool which empowers parents to help young people navigate the world around them.

To get access to the tools or to register your school check out our online learning hub at