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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.