The Media’s Impact On Kids And Body Image And What You Can Do To Help

kids and body image
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Media has a huge impact on our everyday lives.

It’s impossible to escape the in-your-face photo-shopped images everywhere we turn, on magazine covers in the grocery store, on billboards, commercials, T.V., and movies.

And these unattainable images are especially confusing and unhealthy to the younger generation.

Kids And Body Image

In fact, kids are quite perceptive of the images they see on magazine covers, as well as the impossibly thin models on t.v., in the movies and music videos.

Kids are young and impressionable and they internalize so much of what they see presented as the “ideal”.

To show you what I mean, check out these alarming statistics:

  • 81% of 10-year-olds are scared of being “fat”.
  • 51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls say they feel better about themselves when they’re dieting.
  • 13% of 15 to 17-year-old girls acknowledge having an eating disorder.
  • One study found adolescent girls were more fearful of gaining weight than getting cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents.
  • By the time they’re 17, girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve.

    kids and body image
    Though not discussed as much, boys are also affected by impossible “ideal” body shapes they see in the media.
  • Nearly 18 percent of adolescent boys have concerns about their bodies and their weight. Among those boys, half wanted to gain more muscle and a third wanted to gain muscle and get thinner.

Troubling, right?

Fortunately, there are ways you can help safeguard your child’s body image.

Protect Your Child’s Body Image

As you probably already know, as parents (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) we can’t protect our children from everything. But there are steps we can take to lessen the amount of exposure our kids have to these unrealistic, airbrushed images. and help protect their body image. Here are some ideas  that we’ve used with our kids that might help:

  • If you enjoy subscribing to magazines, focus on purchasing educational or hobby-related ones. Our daughter loves Outdoor Photographer. We also get Bicycling and Popular Science. We have them in a basket in the living room for easy access.  Try to avoid having gossip and fashion magazines lying around because they tend to be full of photo-shopped images.
  • Talk to your kids and make sure they know they can come and talk to you about anything. Encouraging free communication opens the door to many fun conversations! Admittedly, some can be awkward, but we’ve survived, even with 4 teenagers! The bottom line is to keep talking because even if you don’t think your kids hear a word you’re saying, they are listening!
  • Be aware who your child is friends with. I always wanted our house to be a place
    kids and body image
    Get to know your child’s friends.

    where our kids’ friends could hang out.  This allows you to get to know their friends better, observe interactions and offer a safe environment. After our boys left for college, things have quieted down a bit. But the girls enjoy having their friends over, playing ukuleles or ping-pong.

  • Model  a positive self body image. I realize for some of us this may be a struggle, especially if we have our own body image issues to contend with. But, you can do it! Try to avoid the words “fat” and “diet” in your house. If you’re constantly on a diet and counting calories your kids will notice, especially if you have girls. And they may think that’s what you’re supposed to do. In fact, an alarming number of very young girls are dieting these days. And it’s unhealthy for their developing bodies.
  • Avoid labeling foods as “bad” or “good”. Focus on foods you eat anytime or often (such as fruits and veggies) and foods you eat on occasion or rarely (such as dessert).

The Takeaway

Constant exposure to photo-shopped images in the media can have a negative impact on body image, especially for young children. Adults can help kids by modeling a good self body image, being involved in their child’s life through active and frequent conversations and being aware of who their child’s friends are.


What is your opinion about media’s impact on society? What tips would you add to this list?

Please post your comments below in the comment section. I love hearing from you!


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