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Sex, Gender, and Body Image

How can media affect kids' body image?

Media of all kinds, from TV to magazines and more, can impact body image, just as those closest to us, from our parents to our peers, also can.

When the media celebrates certain types of behaviors and appearances, it can leave a strong impression on kids, shaping their ideas of what will make them popular, attractive, and happy (or the opposite: unpopular, unattractive, and unhappy). How often are characters with larger body types, for example, portrayed in movies in romantic situations compared to thin characters? Kids may compare their own appearances to those of celebrities, models, animated TV characters, or toys -- body shapes that may be unrealistic or just plain unattainable. This kind of comparison can lead to body shame and low body esteem, which can lead to serious behaviors.

It's also important to remember that kids today not only are consumers of media but also are active creators. This presents both opportunities and pitfalls. On one hand, kids may grapple with how to present themselves online and manage their online appearances, or they may find themselves comparing the way they look to how their friends look, or they may get a boost of confidence from friends' reactions to their personal photos. On the other hand, kids may see friends, celebrities, and others who use online media to challenge harmful stereotypes about appearance ideals.

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Adult written by Kei T.

Be sure to know that body image doesn't mean your child always wants to be thinner to become like a model. Today the popular image is being curvy, being thin in the middle and bigger "where it counts". I just wanted to add this because I know for some adults that when they were younger it was about being thin as a model, but that isn't the case now days.
Teen, 14 years old written by Common sense LST

media can affect kids body images greatly. the pictures in magazines of super skinny and beautiful models in popular young females magazines can affect them greatly and may cause them to have a high chance for developing an eating disorder. in a lot of popular magazines for males, there are a lot of very muscular, chiseled, and sexy hot bodies featured on the cover, and in the magazine. so, talk to your kids why it is nearly impossible to get these types of bodies, and just promote a healthy lifestyle.
Adult written by Alveera M.

I have always been made fun of for being petite and underweight, middle school helped me alot, as people realized my athleticness. I may be tiny but i've got talent. Same thing for larger people. They have something they are good at, they don't have to be smaller to be better! The people with perfect bodies are only a pretty face. Would you rather have talent over beauty? Because your talents and personality are what make you beautiful
Teen, 15 years old written by 00skid

I was always wondering why I was never affected by this (even though I was not treated kindly due to my petite size) but now I understand why. Why would anyone let media decide their lives in the first place?
Teen, 13 years old written by mavrc31027

The media basically controls peoples minds, especially teenagers. They make everyone think that you have to be skinny and full of plastic to be beautiful, handsome, ect.
Adult written by RettCosmos

It is a very good thing to have a clean, handsome or beautiful appearance. It's very desirable. Some people know how to attain that the correct and healthy way. That is done through liking yourself for who you are, for your own body type, personality, hair color, eye color, etc. The things that make you YOU. Enhancing your own natural beauty is good, if done with the good intention of representing your best self. It is a concern that some messages in media are portraying that there is only one body type or face structure or look that is beautiful. We see only that type in magazines, advertisements, and images in clothing stores. Many people seek that image for themselves and seek it in order to feel like they fit in or belong. They feel they have to appear and be what society is asking for. They feel they won't fit in or have as much value if they don't have that portrayed body image. That is damaging and can lead to severe emotional/mental issues.
Teen, 16 years old written by Sir Darry Koenig

I really like your answer. I agree with you. I think that a lot of children should learn how to love themselves and enhance their own beauty. See that they're unique and they're beautiful in many different ways. I really like parents that help their children represent their personalities.
Parent of a 7 and 7-year-old written by Helene K.

I don't think we should aspire to be pretty or handsome. For whom? To whom? To please somebody? Who? Everything these days is about image, what do I look like, will they think I look nice? In my opinion, it's far more important to be happy with ourselves, to know how to use our brains, and to be the best we can be, learn how to respect others for everything they are, not for their looks.