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Body image and the media

Waist measure

Parent Info has partnered with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to offer parents advice and information to help children and young people build confidence and feel good about themselves.

In this article, we look at the influence of the media on and offline on how young people feel about themselves

Whether it is from what they see on TV, online or in magazines, young people are under pressure to look ‘perfect’ at all times. Your child may follow celebrities on social media, such as Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, celebrated for their narrow waists or big muscles. This may make them feel that they should look like their favourite actor or pop star.

‘Self-esteem among girls lowered by 80% just after 60 minutes of looking through magazines’

Studies, such as Body Image: An Introduction to Advertising and Body Image, found that self-esteem among girls lowered by 80% just after 60 minutes of looking through magazines. It also found that 6 out of 10 girls thought they would be happier if they were thinner.

It is a good idea to remind your child that the photos they see of their favourite celebrities, either in magazines or on their Instagram feeds, have been largely edited. Blemishes have been airbrushed and filters and professional lighting help accentuate certain facial and physical features.

Here is a quick checklist of activities you can do with your child to get them thinking about how celebrities are portrayed in the media and why it might be different for men and women.

  • Start a conversation – the next time you watch a film with your child or you see them viewing a music video online, ask them if they notice how ‘perfect’ everyone looked. Find out whether this bothers them and if it impacts their own self-esteem.
  • Redefine beauty – find examples of where TV shows, films or even beauty campaigns have celebrated everyone’s differences and done away with the conventional idea of beauty by celebrating people that come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Get critical – encourage your child to take every image they see in a magazine or online with a pinch of salt. Images are edited by professionals to look as perfect as possible and should never be taken at face value. Even images posted on Instagram can be edited using apps to make skin appear smoother or lighter.

Read more about how media stereotypes may affect your child's self-esteem 

Tip: Watch this video with your child. Discuss how appearance ideals have changed over the years. Do they notice any major difference between the two sexes? Find out what they think.

Download your FREE 40-page parent guide to boosting your child's self-esteem here

This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.  

Teachers: for free downloadable teaching resources, go to the Dove Self-Esteem Project area on

These pages are brought to you by Parent Zone and the Dove Self-Esteem Project


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: March 2018


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