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Media’s Influence on Body Image and Eating Disorders

There is no denying that the media plays a role in giving adolescents a certain perception about body image. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, nearly 70 percent of young females in grades 5 through 12 are influenced by the media on their opinion of a desirable body image. The potential influence that media has on young audiences, coupled with their desire to “fit in” and be socially accepted, has many negative consequences. Over 30 million Americans deal with an eating disorder during their lifetime, and children as young as seven have admitted having negative feelings about their weight. How can the media have such an influence? It could be because children are being exposed at a much younger age than previous generations. It could also be the many ways media can influence, whether it’s through television, social media or movies. Because the media continually portrays desirable characters as slimmer than their peers in top children’s shows, it creates an overall assumption that acceptance is achieved only through meeting a certain stereotype. Parents are faced with the difficult task of installing confidence in their children, which can be contradicted every time they turn on their favorite television show. The solution may seem as simple as pulling the plug, but if they are not seeing it on a television screen, there are countless other ways such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Media is playing a larger role for younger generations, whose self-confidence is built in a much different way than the generations before them. Historically, social acceptance and behavior was gained by face to face interactions. Today, children are interacting more through the computer screen with “likes” and texts. It’s easy to understand how messages that convey self-confidence are harder to come by. It’s clear that the media influences adolescents. What’s less clear is how to combat the constant messages. Child psychologists have weighed in on the topic and state that parents play an important role. Parents who are active in their children’s lives, monitor their television and media exposure and have regular conversations with their children have just as much influence. Education on the signs and symptoms, as well as what resources are available for rehabilitation are widely available. Parents are encouraged to seek help for their children if they fear they may be facing negative feelings about their body image.

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