While media has come a long way in its portrayal of body image, we are still far from fully embracing images that represent every ‘body.’ Teens and younger tweens are faced with images daily that impact the way they view their own bodies…and contribute to what they perceive as the ideal for beauty.
In the 90s, Kate Moss’ thin aesthetic gave way to the waif ideal. However, the grunge movement and the Riot Grrrl musicians in that same decade helped teens and younger women see other ideas of what it meant to be female.
Today’s teens, however, are faced with curated and contrived images of beauty. Thanks to Instagram filters and the wonders of photoshop, bodies can be tweaked, faces can be glossed over and a look can be flawlessly transformed. Reality, it seems, is virtually blurred.
According to DoSomething.org, “95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.” This statistic plants teens in the most vulnerable demographic.
But teen girls aren’t the only ones reevaluating their own self-worth through beauty standards. HealthResearchFunding.org reports that girls as young as first grade want to lose weight. According to the site’s statistics, more than 40 percent of young girls (first through third grade) “want to be thinner.”
Unfortunately, social media may steer impressionable teens to disturbing ways to lose weight, and social sites also may be a source of unsafe dialogue–including taunts from cyberbullies who target teens that may be struggling with their appearance. Parents need to be aware of any sites or hashtags in social media that emphasize dangerous disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Teens often use terms like “promia” or “proana” when promoting eating disorders (promia means pro-bulimia and proana means pro-anorexia). Any discussions that embrace eating disorders need to be addressed immediately.
Self-esteem begins at home, and parents can be their child’s best resource for body positivity. So what can parents do? Make sure teens understand that good health is the goal. Embrace good health—like making smart food choices and modeling positive health behaviors. Never berate or judge a teen’s body…this doesn’t help! Your teen’s pediatrician also may be your best resource; talk to your child’s pediatrician to find other ways to encourage body positivity. However, parents should call their teen’s doctor ASAP regarding any health concerns like eating disorders.
All bodies are different, and teens and tweens need to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect body—or the perfect person. The infographic contains additional statistics about body positivity and ways parents can detect body image concerns in teens.