By Megan Farnam
This year, Dove released a three-minute video of Mary’s destructive journey with media and body image. It begins with images and videos of a sweet, beautiful young girl looking happy playing with her friends and finding interest in reading. It continues on to show Mary being given a smartphone as a birthday present as an adolescent.
We are given insight into the media that Mary is looking at and interacting with on her phone. She pulls up videos and images of young, very thin, beautiful women and compares herself to them. We are shown a clip from social media of young women talking about how to achieve “thigh gaps” and how to create a smaller waistline. Mary takes pictures of herself in the mirror comparing herself to what she is seeing online. She makes notes in her journal of how to get herself thin and shows her interest in different weight loss methods. She writes that she overeats at lunch and needs to control her cravings, calling herself gross and ugly.
The video then cuts to Mary being admitted into a hospital for an eating disorder. It ends showing several young girls who are all in recovery- from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, and self-harm and with the message “social media is harming the mental health of 3 in 5 kids. Join us to support legislative change to make it safer.”
In recent years, Dove has done a much better job at showing that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They have had inclusive ad campaigns, defying what the beauty industry deems “beautiful” and are working now to help stop the harmful effects that social media and all media can have on children.
According to the American Psychological Association “reducing social media use significantly improves body image in teens, young adults”. “Teens and young adults who reduced their social media use by 50% for just a few weeks saw significant improvement in how they felt about both their weight and their overall appearance compared with peers who maintained consistent levels of social media use.”
Steps that you can take to limit media’s harmful effects:
- Hold conversations about unhealthy body images. Discuss body acceptance and that everybody is different and beautiful. Explain that the most important things about a body are what it can do and how healthy it is, not how it looks—and that it can be very unrealistic and unhealthy to strive for a so-called “perfect body.” Talk about the drastic, unsafe measures some people take to obtain these body types.
- Listen to your teen. Ask them how they feel when they see these images in the media. Ask them how they feel about their own body. Help them process their feelings. Seek help from a healthcare provider or therapist if they have body image issues that are bothering them or negatively impacting their self-image.
- Talk about marketing efforts. Discuss the sometimes unscrupulous tactics advertisers use to sell products. Help your teen spot underlying messages about how a product will make them more attractive.
- Use real examples. Watch TV together and pause shows and commercials to talk about the messages that are being sent. Look at magazines together and discuss unrealistic
- How often do you find yourself checking a social media app?
- Once on a social media app, how often do you think you stay on the app?
- How does being on, scrolling, and interacting with social media make you feel?
- What do you see on social media that you think is inappropriate?
- What are some of the dangers of too much social media use?
- What are some benefits of social media use?
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