Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Body Image - it's all about perception

Young people have always been concerned about their appearance, but this generation is under greater pressure to look good than ever before. On average British children are spending between six and eight hours a day looking at screens, during much of which they are being bombarded with images of the "beautiful". Men's and women's magazines present distorted images of human perfection. At present the average model weighs 23% less than the average British woman, so it is no surprise that at any one time 1 in 4 women in this country are dieting and that the UK has the highest rate of cosmetic surgery in Europe.

Poor body image is not just an issue for adults. It is now an acute problem, not only for teenagers, but also for children. Age 9 to 10 is a crucial time for developing poor body image. By age of 10, 1 in 3 British girls say they want to be thinner: by 13 half have a dissatisfaction in body image. And it is not just an issue for girls, boys are increasingly feeling pressure to look good. A recent survey found that 22% of boys are concerned about their body image. 

So how are parents and schools to respond to this challenge? Parents and schools need to equip young people to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth that enables them to resist the social and media pressures that they face.

Reflections based in a presentation by Nicky Hutchinson and Chris Calland, authors of Body Image and the Primary School, at the GSA Annual Conference. www.notjustbehaviour.co.uk

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