40% young people blame body image worries on social media
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus on Body Image has uncovered that 40% of young people blame social media for concerns about their body image, and 25% point the finger at celebrity culture.
The Mental Health Foundation’s (MHF) awareness week was kicked off with Price William joining the likes of Stephen Fry and Katy Perry to interrupt hundreds of radio stations across the UK.
The royals and celebs joined forces to share a message emphasising the importance of talking about mental health, a subject that the Duke of Cambridge is dedicated to keeping in the limelight. With the theme of this week being body image.
Research from a survey conducted by body confidence campaigners, Be Real found that more than half (52%) of 11-16 year-olds ofter worry about how they look, and 35% of 13-19 year-olds claim their body image causes them to ‘often’ or ‘always’ worry.
A 2018 study on body image stated that symptoms of depression and anxiety have been linked to image dissatisfaction and the apparent pressure to be ‘thin’.
The MHF report suggests that a common contributor to poor body image is a pressure to have the ‘ideal’ body type or appearance. This was paired with a feeling of shame or of being uncomfortable when we perceive our appearance as not meeting certain standards, with 37% of young people saying they felt upset and 31% ashamed regarding their body image.
These supposed body image standards have been largely influenced by the “unrealistic ideal bodies” depicted on social media and wider media outlets such as film, advertising and magazines.
40% of the young people who participated in the study claimed that images viewed on social media have caused them to worry about how they look, and the frequency of these appearance-comparisons only worsens the dissatisfaction.
Social media is such a difficult medium to police for parents, guardians and educators. Not so much the usage time of young people, as devices can be confiscated and time limited - but the content that is viewed via these platforms.
The social media powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter are arguably held as accountable as they can be for certain types of content that slips through the net and subsequently consumed by the young audience members. But with the connectivity of today’s youth they are unfortunately bound to stumble across potentially harmful things at one point or another.
Baring in mind the unavoidable beast of social media and the unpredictability of the internet and all whom reside on it, we shouldn’t place all the blame and responsibility on the providers - mainly because this won’t change a thing.
Rather we could encourage more body positivity amongst friends and family. Practice confidence building techniques with our peers and/or children.
Friends are reportedly the cause of body confidence issues for 40 per cent of young people, and bullying is a whole other topic that deserves its own focus. But if we do encourage such positivity amongst young people about appearance, then that is one step towards potentially prevailing over the negative messages glaring through our screens.
When we mentioned the conversation about mental health and wellness (and yes, I know we mention it a lot), we are not just talking about being happy or sad, but all that mental health encompasses.
The MHF states: “Creating a less shaming culture can also start at a community level with grassroots action to encourage more inclusive and accepting cultural norms around bodily appearance.”
The report went on to say: “teach children that people have value and deserve respect regardless of their body shape or size; support children to express emotions and communicate their feelings about their bodies; help children develop strategies for coping with comments about appearance; and avoid placing unrealistic expectations on appearance or conveying that they would be more likeable if they changed their weight or shape.”
Don’t forget, we are offering *schools the chance to receive a free copy of Book of Beasties: The Mental Wellness Card Game, the Beastie Guide (and lesson plans) PLUS a short training session with its creators.
(*dependent on location)
If you would like to take advantage of this, contact us via our website or send us a message with your name, school, location and job title to email@example.com.