An average teenager spends about nine hours a day using the media for your enjoyment, according to a Common Sense Media report. It isIt’s awful that the same teenagers spend less than an average of 10 minutes a day talking to their parents. .
During the nine hours of media consumption, your teen will probably be bombarded with thousands of messages about the «ideal» body. These unrealistic and untouchable representations of beauty can wreak havoc on your teen’s body image if you’re not careful. .
Messages received by teenagers
Movies, commercials, magazines and websites present beautiful people as ideals. Lightweight templates and perfect Photoshop images are everywhere. Health and beauty products send the message that being thinner and more attractive is the key to happiness and success.
The effect can be seen in children at an early age. Research shows that children up to the age of 3 prefer play pieces that represent thin people instead of those that represent heavier people. 4 By the age of 10, 80% of American girls were on a diet.
Social networks and perfection
It’s not just traditional media that makes teenagers thin and beautiful. Social networks they can have an even stronger effect on your teen’s body image. .
Immediate feedback from colleagues can be addictive for those whose self-esteem depends on the demands of social networks.
Many teens want validation from their peers, and social media is a quick way to get feedback. Whether a teenager posts a selfie on Instagram or sees photos of other people bragging about the «thigh gap» on Tumblr , social influences can be very strong. .
Some teenagers spend hours trying to take a selfie at a right angle. Others measure their appearance based on the number of likes they receive on the latest photo on Facebook.
Unfortunately, many teenagers receive harsh criticism and rude comments on social media. Cyberbullying can be quite harmful to a teenager’s body image.
The consequences of a bad body image
Pressure to be thin can have serious consequences. Research has linked the exposure of airborne underweight images of female bodies to unhealthy eating habits and low self-esteem. .
Poor body image can have even more serious consequences. While some teens develop eating disorders, others experience depression. A 2009 study found that girls who were dissatisfied with their appearance had a significantly higher risk of suicide.
Children and body image
Not only girls are subjected to unrealistic beauty presentations in the media. Superheroes and action figures are unrealistic body types and start sending the wrong messages to children from an early age. Male teens can fight for a perfect body through compulsive exercise or diet. They may also develop eating disorders or mental health problems derived from a bad image of the body.
Harmful effects of the media
It’s impossible to stop your teen from being bombarded with harmful media images all the time. Smartphones and the rise of electronic devices mean that your teenager will see idealized versions of beauty everywhere. But you can teach your teen to learn to use media. .
- Use real examples . Watch TV together and pause shows and commercials to talk about the messages that are being sent. Look at magazines together and discuss unrealistic images.
- Talk about marketing efforts . Analyze the tactics that advertisers use to sell products. Help your teen identify the underlying messages about how a product will make you more attractive.
- Have conversations about unhealthy body images . Discuss the harsh realities of underweight models and the experience of overly muscular stars. Talk about the drastic and unhealthy steps that many people take to get this type of body, despite the costs to their health.
Make these topics part of your ongoing home conversations. Help your teen develop a healthy body image and you will reduce the negative impact that media and social media will have.
If your child has suicidal thoughts, contact National Helpline for Suicide Prevention to 1-800-273-8255 receive support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or someone dear is in immediate danger, call 911.