Browse all articles

Research: What Parents Need to Know About Kids, Media, and Body Image

Common Sense Media's new report highlights media's impact on kids and body image.

How kids think, feel, and act about their bodies is a critical piece of their self-esteem and overall healthy development. Common Sense Media's new research report, Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image, examines the role of traditional and digital media in the development of children's and teens' body image. This review of existing research reveals some surprising trends -- such as that half of 6- to 8-year-old girls feel their ideal body size is thinner than their current one -- but it also shows evidence that parents play a huge part in shaping how kids relate to their bodies. Some key findings:

  • Many kids are dissatisfied with their bodies, and society's body appearance ideals are highly unrealistic.
  • Body-image concerns start early; even preschoolers learn that society judges people by how they look.
  • Parents' attitudes toward their own bodies are a big influence on how kids feel about their bodies.
  • Unrealistic, sexualized, and stereotypical images and messages about bodies and gender are rampant in the media kids consume.
  • Teens feel pressure to look good and cool online but also feel that social media helps their friendships and connections with like-minded peers.
  • Although young girls are most susceptible, boys have issues with body image too.

Our report uncovers large gaps in research on body image and media. Several groups -- young children, boys, kids of color, LGBTQ youth -- are not well-studied, and research on online, digital media has yet to keep pace with the explosion in their use by kids and teens.

For Q&As about body image, plus advice for parents of preschoolers, tweens, and teens on how to immunize kids against an unhealthy body image and support kids who are struggling with body-image issues, check out our collection of parent advice at Sex, Gender, and Body Image. And for a shareable collection of stats and advice about body image, check out our body image infographic.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age.