Kids And Body Image And How To Help

body image and kids

Last Updated on June 14, 2022 by Lori Geurin

Media has a huge impact on our everyday lives. It’s impossible to escape the in-your-face photo-shopped images everywhere we turn. And these unattainable photos are especially confusing and unhealthy to the younger generation. So, what can you do to help your kids with their body image?

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Kids And Body Image

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

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

To show you what I mean, look at the alarming statistics below.

Body Image Facts

  • 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. Though not discussed as much, boys are also affected by the impossible “ideal” body shapes they see in the media.
  • Nearly 18 percent of adolescent boys have anxieties 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?

The New York Times recently reported that many young girls have started taking laxatives because they want to be thinner. And boys are taking products to build muscle and bulk up. Clearly, these trends are potentially dangerous for developing bodies.

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

How To 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 reduce the amount of susceptibility our kids have to these unrealistic, airbrushed images and better protect their body image.

Below 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.  Consider avoiding gossip and fashion magazines because they tend to be full of photo-shopped images. If you subscribe to them yourself you may want to consider keeping them put up away from your children to minimize their exposure. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.
  • Talk to your kids and make sure they know they can 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!
  • Know who your child is friends with. I always wanted our house to be a safe place for our kids’ friends to hang out.  This allows you to get to know your child’s friends better, observe interactions, and offer a supervised environment. After our boys left for college, things have quieted down a bit. But the girls continue having their friends over, playing ukuleles or ping-pong till all hours of the night.
  • Model a positive self-body image for your child. I realize for some of us this may be a challenge, 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. If they observe you dieting enough they may think that’s simply normal and 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).

Learn how the media negatively impacts kids and body image perceptions. Also learn how your can help your child develop a healthy body image.

Summary – Kids And Body Image

Constant exposure to photo-shopped images in the media can have a negative impact on body image. And as we’ve seen above, this is notably true for young children.

Adults can help kids by modeling a good self-body image, staying involved in their child’s lives through active and daily conversations, and being aware of who their child’s friends are.

I hope these tips have given you some ideas that will help you and your child. It’s never too early to start teaching a positive self-concept and promoting a healthy body image for everyone in your family.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Body Image

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

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

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10 thoughts on “Kids And Body Image And How To Help”

  1. The media definitely has such a negative impact on a child’s identity. One thing I love is the I am loveable, important and valueable statement. It’s something I definitely want to instill in my children

  2. Such an important post and so glad that you are bringing more awareness to it. It saddens me to read about some of those stats. 🙁 I definitely think that as a parent you need to be hyper aware of what your children are exposed to. So much emphasis is put on the body and obtaining perfection on media.

  3. It really is so scary how many kids are affected by negative body image, especially at such a young age! We try to be really careful about focusing too much on looks with our kids and more about their other qualities so they will see those things in themselves and others.

  4. These are great tip for young girls who probably are more influenced by social media than their own parents. My eight year old watches very little TV, has almost no access to the internet, and isn’t even allowed to watch commercials. We focus on nature, outings, family, community friends, and the like. We also homeschool so our community of friends are all like-minded. So yeah, I’m right there with you.

    1. Thank you, Maya. It’s great that you’re making this a priority with your family. It can be challenging, especially when they’re pre-teens and teenagers. It’s wonderful that you have a supportive community – that helps so much!

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