Parenting in a digital age: Body image and your child

Growing up in the 90s and 00s, body image concerns were mainly focussed on print media. Kate Moss was slammed for setting unrealistic body expectations, catwalk models for allegedly living on a diet of champagne and cocaine, while plastic surgery started to become mainstream, with the likes of Jordan and ‘Posh’ Victoria Beckham firmly in the lime light.  

I remember walking out of the cinema with my dad after watching Tomb Raider, and he made a big point of explaining that not all women look like that, and not all men want women to look like that. He was picking up, and carrying on, conversations that professionals and parents all over the world were having.

The influence of media on young people’s wellbeing has been a concern since I can remember and I’m sure that it was before. The main difference today, is the sheer volume of content children are confronted with, while the pressures to constantly be connected and interacting online add a whole new dimension.

However it’s not all bad. The internet is a place for everyone, people who would have hidden away now have a platform to share who they are and inspire others. Take Lizzie Velásquez for example, she was born with a rare congenital disease that, among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat. She might not look like Kylie Jenner but she has inspired people, given hope and helped empower people with physical differences all over the wold to be happy with who they are.

On the internet you can find your tribe, which can be great, but it can also be scary. Parents should be aware of some of the very negative spaces online such as pro-anorexia, self-harm and suicide forums.  Our very own Ken Corish wrote an excellent blog on the subject called Waving silently , and Dr Richard Grant from the Tavistock centre has also published this piece of research.

Users in these spaces can be fiercely supportive of each other, often swapping hints and tips to get what they desire; these can be dangerous places for young people. With young girls in particular being force-fed (often doctored) images of women looking “perfect”, and with thousands of likes and followers reinforcing this  ideal, I can’t help but think the growing influence of social media is linked to the increase in traffic to these sites. This picture of Kim Kardashian, with Blac Chyna, was famously photo-shopped by herself, as you can tell by the curve in the flooring tiles.

There is no magic fix to this issue, but as a parent or carer you can help lessen the impact of the internet on your child’s wellbeing and self-esteem.

Firstly, talking about it is a good place to start. Ask your child what they think a perfect body looks like and challenge them where necessary. Reassure children, like my dad did with me, that what they’re seeing might not only be fake, but is also not necessarily everyone’s idea of perfect.

Secondly, take an interest in what they’re doing and who they follow - it’s no good putting in all the work through conversations and then allowing them to spend hours unsupervised on Instagram every night.

Thirdly, try limiting their screen time. Being online is fun, but it’s not everything; encourage them to take part in offline activities like sport and craft, reinforcing the true message that there is more to life than what you look like.

Back to Magazine


Related Articles

Parenting in a digital age: Is removing access a solution?

Parenting in a digital age: Is removing access a solution?

Restricting young people’s online access in the home can be a real bone of contention. In a world where they have technology at their fingertips, is it realistic to set a deadline on when to switch off?

21 March 2017
Online Safety
Parenting in a digital age: 5 tips to keeping your child active

Parenting in a digital age: 5 tips to keeping your child active

Exercise levels in children are in decline as screen time rises. Here are 5 tips to making sure yours are getting the balance right

17 March 2017
South West Grid
Parenting in a Digital Age: What are the benefits for my child of using technology?

Parenting in a Digital Age: What are the benefits for my child of using technology?

With the advent of the Internet and mobile devices, computing has become so accessible, even a toddler can do it. But what benefit is this technology bringing? Or are we rotting their brains every time we hand them the tablet?

3 March 2017
Online Safety, South West Grid
Parenting in a digital age: it’s good to talk

Parenting in a digital age: it’s good to talk

You don’t need to be an expert on the internet. If you want to know what your child is doing online, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it.

27 February 2017
Education Services
Parenting in a digital age: Managing screen time

Parenting in a digital age: Managing screen time

As a parent I know that technology can be the cause of much stress in the family, but it can be the source of wonder and delight too. So, how do we avoid the battles and enjoy the very best of what tech can offer?

22 February 2017
Education Services