The effect media has on teenagers’ body image is immeasurable. Each year thousands of teenagers use diet and exercise to conform to an image that has been created by the media. For many teens, becoming a model is the ultimate goal. Being worshiped for beauty is more important than scholarship or being true to oneself.
No one in high school can deny that how you look has much to do with your popularity status. While parents often reject that looks matter, their teen children know the score. No one wants to be known as the teen that has a great personality, as those are often the keywords to describe someone who is unattractive.
How did the media gain such control over our lives? Perhaps it began during Hollywood’s glamour years when the public yearned to look as beautiful as the pin up girls and as handsome as the leading men on the silver screen. Today, the magazines that line the shelves of our book and retail stores speak to our infatuation of looking like Hollywood actors and actresses. Maxim, Interview, Elle and Cosmopolitan all feature young and beautiful people from the big screen. It is no wonder that teens who consume these magazines try to strive for this type of fleeting beauty. They believe that the key to success is looking beautiful on the outside.
Diet or Die Trying
Jennifer Love-Hewitt was panned for her revealing pictures in a bathing suit while on vacation with her fiancé. Ms. Love-Hewitt is a size 2, which many would agree is rather small. Yet the public’s fascination with everything perfect and Barbie-like has clouded our judgment. Instead of applauding someone who feels comfortable enough with their body to wear a bikini, we skewer them for not meeting our perceptions of a perfect body. To her credit, Jennifer defended her body and the right to wear a bikini on her website. She also encouraged every woman to defend their right to wear what they wish proudly and without fear of other people’s opinions.
If only it were that easy for the majority of teenagers who feel they don’t live up to Hollywood’s standards.
Bulemia and Anorexia
Bulemia and anorexia are two diseases that have plagued young people for decades. Each year thousands of impressionable teens, both girls and boys, fall victim to these eating disorders, and many die from them. In some people, the desire to have the perfect body is so strong that they are willing to trade their health in exchange for fitting into size zero jeans. Many teens are unaware of the long-term health issues caused by these diseases. Tooth and hair loss, cancer of the stomach and esophagus, heart problems and even death can result.
Fad diets are problematic for teens that are still growing. Dieting without medical supervision can result in stunted growth and a compromised immune system that is unable to fight off minor illnesses. A fad diet is one that promises great weight loss results quickly. The problem with fad diets is that they rarely incorporate good nutrition and almost guarantee that once you quit the diet, the weight that you lost will quickly return.
The Effects Media has on Teenagers Body Image
Today, the effect media has on teenagers’ body image is mostly negative. The constant parade of beautiful people on television and in print has fostered negative body images for teens. Unless we look like those actors and actresses we admire, we just aren’t living up to society’s standards. What can teens do?
If you are a teen and are struggling with your own body image, take heart. The modeling industry has even begun to wake up to the fact that waif thin models are usually ill. This past year, runway models had to meet certain weight standards in order to be allowed to model in European fashion shows. More actresses are looking like real people do (fact: the average woman in the United States is a size 16), such as America Ferrera and Drew Barrymore.
Parents can help their teens combat negative body images by acknowledging models and actors or actresses are not the standard by which we measure our children. Fad diets are unhealthy and proper nutrition is more important than weight loss. If parents encourage and accept teens for the way they look right now, it can go a long way in creating a positive self-image that will last a lifetime..