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6 June 2013

How Peers Influence Teens’ Responses To YouTube Videos

Keywords: aggression, media, moral, peers, teens, Western Europe, computer, experiment, internet, self-esteem, social media, survey, young adults,

The video-sharing website YouTube is extremely popular among adolescents. A study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking shows that YouTube is a valuable source for insights on teens’ preferences and responses to media content. One of these insights is that the comments of peers on videos that show thin, good-looking models influence girls’ body perceptions. Another insight is that teens who feel rejected by their peers, have increased preferences for anti-social videos.  

Take aways

  • Online comments of peers on YouTube videos that show thin models can influence girls’ body image. 
  • Girls tend to feel more happy with their own body when their peers perceive the shown models as heavily underweight. 
  • Perhaps weight information labels about the actual underweight of the models shown in videos can redirect girls’ body dissatisfaction. 
  • Teens who feel rejected by their peers have increased preferences for anti-social (e.g., aggressive) videos.
  • This is an important insight for youth therapists working with socially-rejected teenagers. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Study 1: Do online peer comments about the weight of (thin) models shown in videos influence girls’ body perceptions?

    Study 2: Does peer rejection influence teens’ and young adults’ preferences, and responses to anti-social media content?

  • Who?

    Study 1: 216 girls (mean age: 14 years old)

    Study 2: 74 teens (mean age: 13 years old), and 75 young adults (mean age: 21 years old)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    This study used the popular video-sharing website YouTube as a research tool in two different ways:

    In Study 1, different YouTube videos of models varying in three body shapes (i.e., extremely thin, thin or normal) were shown to the girls, together with ten different online peer comments in order to study the influence of peer feedback on girls’ body perception. These ten fictitious comments contained feedback about the models’ weight (i.e., someone commenting that the model looked extremely thin (6 kg underweight), thin (3 kg underweight) or normally weighted), supplemented with other regular comments (i.e., tatidaiada, nice weather). Afterwards, girls completed an online questionnaire with questions about their own body perception.

    In Study 2, YouTube was used to study teens’ and young adults’ feelings of rejection by their peers, in relation to their preferences, and responses to particular media content. These feelings of rejection were manipulated by the online ball-tossing game Cyberball, where for instance inclusion/exclusion during game play was manipulated by the programmer. Afterwards, descriptions of popular anti-social YouTube videos were given (e.g., “youngsters scolding at a police officer and pushing him of his motorbike”), supplemented with questions about their video preference (“how much would you like to watch the clip?”), and their moral judgment (“how ok do you think the behavior in the clip is?”). 

Facts and findings

Study 1:


  • The online comments of peers about the shape of (thin) models presented in YouTube videos seemed to influence girls’ level of body dissatisfaction:
    • Girls who watched YouTube videos of extremely thin models, felt more dissatisfied about their own body when they saw online comments of peers saying that the model looked a bit underweight (i.e., 3 kg) than when they saw comments saying that the model looked very underweight (i.e., 6 kg).
    • Unexpectedly, girls felt more happy with their body after reading comments saying that the model had a normal weight as well. 
  • It is unclear why girls’ body image is more positive after reading the ‘normal weight’ peer comments. Perhaps girls felt this perception was too far from reality, and therefore took the comment less serious. 

Study 2:



  • Teens who felt rejected by their peers (due to playing the Cyberball-game, see Study Information), were more positive about anti-social YouTube videos, and showed higher preference for it than teens who felt less rejected. 
  • This was not the case for young adults.