There is more and more convincing evidence that media messages and images have harmful effects on children. Particularly on body image.
From television to newspapers, radio, and new technologies, the media is a predominant force in children’s lives today. New technologies are increasingly popular and access to all kind of information is easier than ever. There is also more and more convincing evidence that media messages and images have harmful effects on children. One point particularly analyzed is celebrity culture vehicle through the media and the effect on body image.
Unrealistic and unhealthy media portrayals of female sexuality can lead young girls to feel insecure about their own bodies.
Body image usually refers to how someone thinks about his or her physical appearance and the person feels about it. Body image is closely linked with self-esteem and having a negative body image can affect children’s lives.
However, it is not celebrity influence that may be negative but the way the media frames it and presents it as an ideal that must be achieved. While celebrity obsession is not something new, the increasing popularity of reality TV shows and social media among the younger generation turns them into an easily influenced target.
Celebrities are followed on Twitter and Instagram by millions of followers. They self-document their lives, which is in turn romanticized by the media and idealized by the youngest generation. Young girls are deluged by images of skinny models and young boys are exposed to unrealistic ideals of body shapes.
Body image and sexuality
The American Psychological Association estimated that teens are exposed to about 14, 000 references to sex each year in movies and other media. Most of these references fail to mention birth control, risk of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and other sexual-health related facts.
Music videos contain more sex per minute than any competing genre in the industry. TV shows and movies make it seem normal for teenagers to have sex and thus it gives them a misrepresented conception of reality. Unrealistic and unhealthy portrayals of female sexuality can lead young girls to feel insecure about their own bodies. It could provoke fears in them of being unattractive and lead them to extreme dieting.
Nevertheless, celebrity influence on kids’ body image is not always negative and on many occasions it can empower them. Celebrities can promote healthy eating habits and exercise. Michelle Obama is a great positive example of how to use fame to try to change and improve children’s daily lives. In 2010, the First Lady started the “Let’s Move Program,” to reduce child obesity so that children exercise more and feel good about themselves.
Finally, it’s mainly the role of parents to educate their children and protect them from the negative media influence by talking to them and creating a safe environment in which they can express freely concerns about their bodies.