Health Experts Aren’t The Authority On Body Image Issues, These Teen Girls Are

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We see plenty of expert research available discussing the issue of body image, eating disorders and what effects the self-esteem of young women. Speaker and author Jean Kilbourne, founder of the ‘Killing us Softly’ series on the damaging effects of advertising on the minds of women has conducted some groundbreaking studies on the link between advertising and certain health issues such as lung cancer (due to the effects of tobacco advertising) and eating disorders.

It’s great to read this type of research and be armed with the right information, but is it enough? No. We need to understand body images from teen girls and young women themselves. We can become too detached and clinical when we only rely on the authoritarian voices, but when we listen to the very people in society that advertising affects the most, that is where we start gaining empathy from an emotional point of view.

SheKnows media’s Hatch Kids program put together a video featuring a group of teen and tween girls talking about their personal struggles with body image. They were inspired by research conducted by Common Sense Media released in early 2015 which stated the media has an increasingly influential effect on young women, but parents have the power to combat some of this.

SheKnows wanted to show that research in action.

“This workshop’s mission was to discuss unrealistic beauty and body image standards perpetuated by the media, and explore ways kids can learn to love the way they look,” says the description of the video.

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“In the media you see all these images of the ideal body type and how you should be really skinny and look a certain way,” says one girl in a tone that suggests she is fed up with it.

“You can pick out all your flaws, and then society does that as well for you,” says another.

Another girl talks about remembering being in 3rd or 4th grade, posing for a picture in her bikini with her friends and sucking in their bellies to appear thinner. The next girl admits how scary it was that she and her friends were having a weighing contest at a birthday party in 6th grade.

To hear these statements from the girls themselves show it is the voice we need to hear more of.

After hearing from the teen girls, a group of 5th graders appear on camera and to hear girls of such a young age describe how sad it is to be worried about body image breaks our heart.

“It’s really bad for people who aren’t happy with their bodies and they get anorexic,” says one girl, speaking like she is beyond her years. “It’s really sad that they think whatever they look like is not good enough for them.”

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We think it is really admirable that SheKnows media created this video. While it is great to hear from these girls, we hope more than anything it will be a source of encouragement for parents and guardians to talk to the young men and women in their own lives about how media imagery is affecting them.

According to statistics from a national eating disorder association, in the US, 95% of people with eating disorders are aged between 12 and 25. And here’s how the media plays a huge part: 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures, 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape, and 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

We cannot erase the impact of the media, but we can counteract it and choose to be just a mighty a force when it comes to the battle for a healthy body image and self-esteem. It has to start young, because as the research overwhelmingly suggests, the media and advertising are wasting no time getting burned into the subconsciences of young men and women.

We hope this video will be a great conversation starter for you and your children when it comes to what they are dealing with in their bodies right now:

2 Comments

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