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Teen Body Image: Sculpting It Outside the Media

Being a teenager in this digital time is tough. The constant influence of technology is overwhelming and presents a set of problems that parents have a difficult time relating to. Here are some conversations to encourage girls to have a more wholesome, healthy opinion of themselves.

The media is not an accurate portrayal of the human body.
Models are called models for a reason; they are meant to represent a product or brand and are selected for marketing reasons. However, in order to achieve a standard look they are heavily, almost brutally, edited to fit the mold. The message this sends to teenagers is that flaws are meant to be erased, when in reality the opposite is true.

TIP: Instead of focusing on a person’s physical attributes, pay attention to the ones whose actions define their fame (positively, of course!) Look at historical figures, or the artists and activists of the past for your next chat. Often, those subjects are more interesting to discuss.

It’s easier than ever to edit oneself on social media.
Popular apps such as Instagram and Snapchat have “filter” settings that can hide blemishes, enhance lighting, or even cover entire faces with cartoonish images of animals or advertisements. This makes it easy to escape the reality of teenage insecurities, but only for a brief moment.

TIP: If your teenager is worried about acne or bodily imperfections, consider investing in more long-term solutions to increase confidence, such as getting enough sleep and hobbies that promote health over beauty. Sports and clubs are healthy outlets for personal development, and the more time spent devoted to honing a talent or passion takes away from an unhealthy obsession with looks.

There is a distinct lack of diversity in the media…
…but it’s getting better. Clothing companies are beginning to use models with more relatable body types, to send a different message to a larger demographic of teens, especially girls.

Often, teens have questions they are too afraid to ask.
Therefore, they turn to their friends or the Internet to satisfy their curiosities. This is not only dangerous but misconstrued, as they can receive shoddy advice that can do more harm than good.

TIP: Encourage them to check out informative websites, like the “Especially for Teens” section under the “For Patient” tab on the ACOG website that appeal to maturity,  answer some hard-to-ask questions, and respect their apprehension to open up.

Remember, teenagers are sensitive to change, especially when it occurs within their own bodies. Be a positive force and remind them that health and happiness take precedence, and teach them to take care of themselves to the best of their abilities. After all, teens won’t be teens forever, so work to make this an enjoyable time in their lives.