Body image and social media: Escaping the comparison trap Lesson Plan

Grades: 9-12

Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours, plus time for the assessment activity

Author: MediaSmarts and TELUS

media representation

This lesson is part of USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools.


In this lesson, students consider the ways in which social media may prompt them to compare themselves with others, and the impacts that can have on body image and self-esteem. They analyze how the features, algorithms and culture of the social networks they use may affect them and will produce “paper prototypes” of redesigned social media apps that promote more healthful use. Finally, students reflect on how they can change how they use the existing apps to be more like their redesigned versions.

Learning outcomes

Students will understand the following key concepts:

Media are constructions

  • Our media experiences influence how we see both our own and other people’s lives and bodies

Digital media experiences are shaped by the tools we use

  • Different social media platforms’ features and designs influence how we use them and the impact they have on us
  • The algorithms used by social media platforms serve us content, which also influences the impact they have on us

Students will learn the following essential subject knowledge:

Reading media

  • What features of social media encourage us to compare ourselves to other people
  • The different ways that social media algorithms are optimized can make us more or less likely to compare ourselves to other people

Media representation

  • How social media represents our friends, peers and celebrities

Media health

  • How media representation of peers and celebrities affects our body image and self-esteem
  • How to manage the impact of social media on our well-being

Students will learn and demonstrate the following skills:


  • Redesign an app or an app’s features to mitigate or improve its impact on body image and self-esteem


  • Analyze either the design or the algorithm of a social media platform to identify its impact on body image and self-esteem


  • Advocate for changes to make digital media tools more healthful

This lesson and all associated documents (handouts, overheads, backgrounders) are available in an easy-print, pdf kit version.