Teachers and some parents are noticing a disturbing trend in elementary schools. Children as young as six years old are starting to identify adult beauty habits as something ideal, something to be lived up to – even if their bodies can't handle it.
Some researchers are looking into this, and child psychologists and developmental experts are a little worried. They've identified a couple of key areas that children have been exposed to that influence their health and safety.
You're probably not going to like it.
It's In The Advertising
Advertising on television, in magazines, and across social media has a massive impact on young children. And most of it them don't even realize – most of it, you don't realize.
Although the government limited the type of advertising across children-oriented television shows, children are seeing adult advertisements more than ever. For example, they see ads for weight loss, make-up, and clothing targeted to adults far too often.
What they are seeing is not good.
They see that skinny and dieting as normal, ideal, and what 'popular' people do.
Standards of beauty have been changing, and this body image directly relates to self-esteem and health.
Children are finding idealization taking over beauty standards and it's having a significant impact on their ideas of acceptance and self-image.
"The participants recognized the existence of a standard of physical appearance considered by society to be the ideal, and described it in detail. Thus, the perfect male body was reported to be tall, muscular and tanned, with broad shoulders, defined biceps and a "6-pack" stomach. The idealized female body was slim yet curvy, and of medium height," states the results found in the study.
Because of the predominance of weight loss advertisements in beauty products, children tended to be more critical of being overweight. And as the research found more magazines and advertising focus on diet and exercise aimed at women, it's no surprise that female children were more critical.
What was nearly universal among the children was the failure to recognize the way media manipulates body image through retouching programs and plastic surgery.
Apps & Cellphone Use Drives Unrealistic Standards
The situation got worse in the past couple of years, with the advent of various apps downloaded onto cell phones that adjust appearances. Professionals used to be the only ones to use these types of programs, although today, many of these apps are free and very easy to use.
Depending on how they use them and how often can significantly impact a child or adolescent self-esteem.
In one aspect, it may help improve confidence on social media. It helps adjust images so a person could bring their best self forward.
For adults that understand what they're looking at, it's a big benefit.
However, it's noted that many children and adolescents do not realize the photos they are looking at have been modified. They routinely look at the altered photographs and begin to develop an unrealistic expectation of beauty.
When they look at themselves, they compare the altered photo to their mirror image, which can hurt self-esteem.
When they look at others, they see idealized versions of a person and believe that's all that there is to see. They don't realize the same disparagements exist for everyone else.
Using some of these apps can make children and adolescents developed an over-reliance on social media friendships rather than in-person friendships, leading to unidentified depression, isolationism, and other mental health issues.
What You As A Parent Can Do About It
The biggest aspect of parenting is helping your children understand the use of photo editing software and how to apply it appropriately. Unfortunately, it may be hard to find examples of original and touched-up images, that provide an example so parents can point out how certain features appear edited.
Some of the biggest tip-offs of editing is:
- Smooth, unblemished skin
- Clothing that lays unnaturally
- Shadows that appear in different directions, or no shadows at all
- Inconsistent body size
Many edited body images increase breast size and muscles, smooth out skin blemishes, remove wrinkles and folds in clothing, eliminate excess flesh around the waist, hips, and legs, and provide highlighting or shadow where it wasn't naturally.
You can use the same techniques on social media, highlighting how certain people have edited their photos to give better appearances. These may be easier to spot.
As a parent, it is your choice if you allow your child to have some of these apps, but like with all other social media, it should be limited until the child fully understands the ramifications of social media and how to apply it appropriately.
Because of being in school and interacting with other children, it'll be challenging to remove those influences from your child completely. But, you can help them understand what they were looking at and make decisions for themselves that improve their self-esteem.