Still have questions?

Join Common Sense Media Plus for timely advice from a community of parents like you.

Join now

Back to topic overview

Sex, Gender, and Body Image

What is the effect of so much sexualized media on my daughter's self-image?

Overexposure to hypersexualized images has been linked to a variety of health concerns in girls, including poor self-image, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and even inability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

But parents and other adult mentors can mitigate these consequences by limiting exposure to highly sexualized and age-inappropriate content, offering positive role models, and helping kids -- boys and girls -- to think critically about the media they consume and interact with.

It's important for girls and boys to understand that they are inherently valuable as people. What's inside -- character, intelligence, ability, individuality -- rather than attractiveness or sexual desirability is what matters. Here are some ideas to combat the effects of super-sexy media:

Support a healthy self-image. Help teens figure out whether they're acting out of their own motivations or trying to be more popular by fitting someone else's ideal.

Seek out positive role models. Lots of little girls love to dress up as princesses. Help expand their horizons by finding role models in books, on TV, in movies, and in real life that show kids how they can be recognized for their talents and brains rather than their looks.

Talk to boys about real girls. When boys see sexy pictures or behavior, they naturally respond. But talk to your sons about how society sells girls short by over-valuing how sexy they look. Help boys understand that girls are human beings, not sexual objects.

Help kids realize how over-sexualized media limits them. Kids who are raised in a world that increasingly sexualizes them learn to view themselves only as objects for other people's sexual attention and not all the other things they could be.