Media literacy interventions provide education about the way media influence attitudes to tanned skin and promote risky health-related behaviors (e.g., sun exposure). This study tested whether higher levels of media literacy can protect against the internalization of a tanned ideal and participation in appearance comparisons online. A total of 151 young Australians aged 18 to 29 years (61 males, 90 females) completed a measure of media literacy before being randomly assigned to view photos of models with either tanned (n = 77) or pale skin (n = 74) on social media. Participants completed measures of internalization of a tanned ideal and tendency to make appearance comparisons following exposure to the photos. There were significant negative relationships between level of media literacy skills and both internalization of a tanned ideal and appearance comparisons. Moreover, exposure to tanned models resulted in a higher tendency to make appearance comparisons than exposure to pale models. Results indicate that media literacy skills protect against skin cancer risk factors associated with media exposure. Future interventions to reduce skin cancer risk should address the role of social networking sites in proclaiming tanned skin as ideal and increase skepticism about photos of tanned models online.
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- body image
- media literacy
- skin cancer
- social media