Global Youth Embassador Marushka Mujic asks you to remember what it’s like to be an adolescent. Was it transformative, especially around your attitude toward your body during puberty? With the onset of that momentous occasion coming earlier for today’s children, body image is becoming a big issue in middle school aged children and younger.
Not only are the foods our children eat making them face this challenge earlier on in life, but their environment isn’t helping either. With the rise in celebrity coverage, coupled with being connected 24/7, our children are deluged with images every second. Many of those images are due to product marketing or scripted shows designed to create a provocative angle. Jean Kilbourne, a social theorist, explains that many media outlets are influenced by advertisers. What does that mean? The magazine or show can’t relate all the facts if it means cutting off their revenue supply.
Body image and the media has always been a point of discussion and contention, as media portrayal of the female body has continuously resulted in body image disturbance for women, especially teens. For years, magazine and movie cover girls and guys were hailed as the way to be. They are beautiful, skinny, famous, and in most instances wealthy. Often this is still true, but editors and directors have paid attention to critics who wanted more real life examples. Though they still edge toward the tried-and-true standard, at least some changes have been made to give today’s kids a choice in their aspirations.
Recently store retailers have come under fire for depicting unfair body types. Their online advertising has come into question after public outcry over edited images that make models appear prettier and slim to the point of unhealthy. Not the best image when we can’t nip and tuck with an image editor. Radio stations, including the streaming variety, also cultivate masses by hooking listeners to music. However the music industry is full of questionable personal images. Many parents have balked at artists who promote sexualization with skimpy outfits or acts against the opposite sex when the singer has impressionable fans. Children don’t realize many times the star’s persona is due to the record label or manufacturer’s desire to boost sales.
With technology’s advent, viral videos expressing people’s reactions to media have skyrocketed. Social media is a catalyst for the uprising, and lends itself to this generation’s need for instant feedback. Want to check your outfit before you head out the door? Post a picture with results in seconds. However, along with the positive come negative results. Children often don’t know how to filter unflattering remarks, and take them to heart especially when what they’re being berated for isn’t easily changed. Criticism can lead to a number of problems including depression, mood swings, and in some cases end in suicide.
How can you combat the deluge of images? Wanda Yeatman says to reflect on your family values and talk about what your child is seeing. Encourage them to follow celebrities or everyday people who are like them. Tell them they’re beautiful. Lastly, author Kelly Townsend adds to use every opportunity as a teachable moment with your teen.