Parenting Resource Organization Releases Book About Healthy Body Image For Young Boys

A recent survey on body image conducted by Men’s Health, looking specifically into the effects of social media, found that 1 in 3 men ages 18-34 (33%) feel pressure to look good on social platforms. They surveyed 501 men in total who use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram social media platforms. Given that Men’s Health is the largest multiplatform men’s brand in the world, with a monthly audience of 13.8 million, it’s important the publication is looking into this issue.

“The survey answers reveal that almost half of 18-34 year-old men make a concerted effort to appear more attractive on social media. Nearly half of them (45%) have edited or cropped a photo to make themselves look better before posting it, while 1 in 3 men ages 18+ (33%) have done the same. In addition, close to half of 18-34 year-old men (46%) (vs. 32% of men 18+) have taken multiple ‘selfies’ before choosing one to post on social media,” explained a press release about the findings.

“These results show just how much social media has accelerated the pressures on men. We parse all of the data in our November issue, showing guys how to make this proliferation of content and always-on sharing work for them, rather than against them,” said Men’s Health Editor-in-Chief Matt Bean.

It’s become a well-established fact that body image issues don’t just affect women. When we see how a significant percentage of young adult men are already feeling pressure to look a certain way physically, it seems like the right time to start talking about how society can start sending the right messages to boys as well as girls from an even younger age. That is exactly what one organization based out of Texas is aiming to do.

Educate Empower Kids was founded by Dina Alexander, a recreational therapist and a mom of three kids. EEK is known for creating powerful resources for parents tackling a range of issues that affect children such as sexuality, pornography, confidence, technology and body image (to name just a few). They have released two new books specifically tackling body image in young girls and boys, which we were impressed with, as many books about body image and confidence are aimed at girls and not enough are created for boys.

The two books are ‘Messages about Me: Wade’s Story: A Boy’s Quest for Healthy Body Image’, and ‘Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story’.

“Our kids receive hundreds, possibly thousands of messages every day from friends, family members, acquaintances, advertisements, social media, TV, and elsewhere. So many of these messages are about our bodies and can alter the way we see ourselves. It is so important for us to teach our kids to filter out negative messages and develop a healthy body image. And that is the purpose of these books!” said Dina in a blog post about the books.

They are written by parents and professionals who have struggled with body image issues themselves and understand the magnitude of cultural, familial and media messaging. EEK says these books are a great way to combat the barrage of negative messages continually saturating kids, and can potentially break the cycle of pressure that gets passed from on generation to another.

At the end of each story in the books, there is a workbook section which parents can complete with their child, containing meaningful discussion questions, activities, and tips which provides parents and teachers ample opportunities to teach and reinforce positive body image practices.

“These resources focus on messages we receive from peers, adults and media, how to combat unhealthy messages and how to develop a truly healthy body image. Parents can pick and choose from various discussion questions, reread the books during different phases of life and engage in other important discussions when their child is ready,” said Dina.

A great organization which provides resources to help parents analyze media impact and messages with their children is Common Sense Media, who have created a webpage with tips and information on how parents can identify problems and talk to young boys about body image. They say it is crucial for parents to recognize that this is not just a problem among girls.

“Although research on boys lags behind that on girls, it’s clear that negative self-image can affect boys’ physical and mental health. Boys are encouraged at an early age to think that being a man and being physically strong go hand in hand. As they grow older, the pressure to “man up” can sometimes lead to crash diets, over-exercising, smoking, or even taking dangerous supplements. Exposure to highly sexualized material can impact men’s self-esteem and relationships. And in a culture that discourages boys from talking about their feelings, it can be that much harder for parents to detect a son’s body dissatisfaction,” says the website.

Common Sense Media points out that body image develops in early childhood, and is influenced by family and culture. They also shared a couple of startling facts:

  • The proportion of undressed males in advertising has been rising steadily since the 1980s.
  • 33–35% of boys age 6–8 indicate their ideal body is thinner than their current body.

This means that by the time we read surveys like the one conducted by Men’s Health, the damage of negative messages from youth has already been done. Just as girls grow up being told nearly everywhere they look in mainstream media and fashion that they need to lose weight, appeal to a certain kind of aesthetic, and that happiness in other areas of life stem from conforming to unrealistic standards, men are told they need to be more muscular, and that being masculine means conforming to one very narrow and unrealistic ideal. Body image messages aimed at men in particular can also have a dangerous, far-reaching impact in society.

“Researchers have found a significant relationship between men’s exposure to muscular-ideal media and negative self-image. With the advent of social media, online forums and blogs make it easy to seek and share information about diet and fitness. And some boys are going to extreme efforts to get a muscular, chiseled physique. Finally, frequent exposure to sexual material can impact men’s self-consciousness about their own appearance, as well as lead them to view women as sex objects,” says Common Sense Media.

This is why EEK’s book for young boys is an important resource more parents and teachers need to know about. When young boys and men are given just as much permission and opportunity to be vulnerable about body image as girls, it can play a part in the greater quest for gender equality.

“These fun, extremely relatable stories help kids see they are not alone in feeling confused and sometimes bombarded by “messages” all around them. Join Sydney and Wade on their journeys as they first struggle and then–with the help of parents and friends–come to understand they are happy to be themselves and are truly beautiful the way they are,” says Dina.

A great resource we highly recommend in terms of outlining greater media impact on masculinity and fostering healthy ideals in young men is a documentary called ‘The Mask You Live In’, created by the same team behind ‘Miss Representation’. The film is available on iTunes and shares some powerful and timely information about raising boys in a world (although it is based in the United States) where the definition of “masculine” is going through a major change.

Resources and conversations are part of making healthy changes, and we’re glad to see more organizations and campaigns targeting boys. You can buy a copy of ‘Messages About Me’ on Amazon, and we encourage parents and teachers to take a look through the other products and resources available on EEK’s website.




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