Is The Media Endangering Your Child’s Life? Here’s What You Need To Know

Today’s families are on high alert about what their children are exposed to in the media.

To say there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media is putting it mildly, and social media and even print publications are increasingly endangering our children with immoral messages and propaganda.

But there is one message that our kids are receiving from the media that can have long-lasting consequences – and may even be putting their lives in danger.

Western media is full of images and advertising that both mock people who are overweight and push the importance of physical appearance over character.

Women and young girls are affected by stereotypes of the “perfect woman,” always thin and well put together in regard to their clothing, hair, and makeup – or for our boys and young men, the “perfect man” who is strong, muscular, “tall, dark, and handsome.”

Diet companies make millions every year by preying on our self-worth claiming our lives will be better if only we can lose weight.

And studies have proven that these negative media stereotypes are actually a major cause of dangerous eating disorders in both women and men.

Our young girls are the most affected by these messages and the images of women they wish they looked like.

Even when parents combat this rhetoric at home, our young girls and teens are influenced by peers and other social norms that make them adopt the propaganda of perfection.

The causes of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are, of course, complex, but there is no doubt that the media has a major hand in the amount of diagnosed cases each year.

There can be a genetic component, especially with a family history of mental illness, anxiety, or depression.

These illnesses can compound the need to change one’s appearance in the hopes of finding something to make them feel better or whole inside.

Factors like being an overweight child who is teased or bullied, especially by family members, peer pressure, physical or sexual abuse as a child, or a lack of affection or support all come into play.

But by and large, it is the media’s barrage of commercials, flawless models, and movie and television stars that hit home with young girls.  It is an attack on our vulnerable girls who think, “If only that could be me…”

According to Very Well Mind, these media images are part of a targeted campaign known as “thinspiration” or “fitspiration.”

Medical research has shown that long-term exposure to these images results in teens restricting their daily caloric intake and increases low self-esteem.

Studies have also shown that social media use, especially in teen girls and women, increases risk for negative feelings about self-worth and lower confidence, even with no previous history of a concern over their body image.

Beauty, health, and lifestyle magazines – which almost always have an overwhelming majority of female readers – have been shown to increase feelings of dissatisfaction with their bodies or have been the catalyst for a major change in appearance.

Teen girls who read fashion magazines have been found to be three times more likely to go on a diet because of a specific article they read.

One study is alarming – 69 percent of kids in middle and high school say magazine images affect their body image, and 47 percent wanted to lose weight because of magazine images, according to the National Center for Eating Disorders.

The models are almost always photoshopped and push these kids into struggling to attain an almost impossible body type.

And a study into the marketing practices of weight loss companies found that more than half of the claims made in their advertising were false or unsubstantiated – more than half.

So what can parents do to combat these influences?

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again.  Parents must monitor their child’s social media use, what phone apps they use, and even the magazines they like to read.

When watching television or movies, keep up an open dialogue about the appearance of the characters.

Drive home the point that these are actors with a team of stylists doing their hair and makeup, they likely have trainers or dietitians keeping them on a restrictive routine that is often unhealthy — and they probably don’t look that way in their everyday life.

Talk to your child about how they feel and what they are interested in and be available and supportive.

Warning signs that your child may have an eating disorder include extreme fluctuations in weight, being overly concerned with counting calories, changes in the appearance of skin, hair, and nails, cavities, fainting or dizziness, and making negative comments about their appearance.

Other more concrete signs include children who begin dressing in baggy clothes or clothes not appropriate to the season (sweatpants and a hoodie in the summer, for example), large amounts of food suddenly disappearing, or an obsessive workout routine.

The media will never stop preying on our fears and weaknesses to make a buck, so it is up to parents to keep a watchful eye out.

We know our children best, and we know when something is wrong.

Talk to them, listen to them, and if you feel something is just not right, seek the advice of a medical professional.

Have you ever changed your appearance or gone on an unhealthy diet because of something you saw in the media?  Have you ever seen these images have a negative impact on your child?  Leave us your thoughts.

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