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Children, the media, and Body Image - tell us what you think?

(31 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 30-Sep-11 12:12:29

Hello all
 
Today, as part of the Government's campaign on Body Confidence, Lynne Featherstone (Equalities Minister) is launching a lesson on Body Image for 10-11 year olds. 
 
The lesson has been developed by Media Smart, the ad industry's non-profit media literacy programme, and the overarching aim is to help children think more critically about the images they see in the media.  They'll learn about the techniques used in post-production, and discuss how these images make them feel about themselves - you can have a peek at the lesson here.
 
There will also be parent support materials to accompany the Body Image lesson, and Lynne Featherstone and Media Smart have asked if we could contribute our thoughts.
 
So, do you think that Body Image is an important issue?  Do you ever worry that your DCs might be aspiring to impossibly idealised body types - and if so, do you discuss this with them?  Any top tips to help other parents to talk about the issue with their own DCs?
 
If you'd like more info, the Government's Body Confidence campaign is here, and Media Smart's site is here.
 
Thanks,
 
MNHQ

Sofabitch Fri 30-Sep-11 16:37:02

.

PrettyCandles Fri 30-Sep-11 17:38:28

This morning my 8yo dd peered at herself in the mirror and announced in surprise "Wow, my eyelashes are really long and visible, even though I'm not wearing any mascara!"

Itsjustafleshwound Fri 30-Sep-11 17:50:54

Dress them appropriately in age-appropriate clothing
Stop buying the red top magazines and other 'Hello', 'OK'-type magazines
Give them a healthy diet and an outdoors hobby
Be a mean mum and stick to it - you are the adult

You show by example and no amount of 'look at this' 'isn't this terrible' is going to change behaviour - it is monkey see, monkey do ..

LeninGrad Fri 30-Sep-11 17:53:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Itsjustafleshwound Fri 30-Sep-11 17:59:01

Also poor body image is a very vague term .... it is a bit like telling a depressive to 'cheer up' or morbidly obese person not to have a 2nd helping of dessert ..

Itsjustafleshwound Fri 30-Sep-11 18:01:50

And why would anyone believe that a campaign funded by the actual people who profit from such things would be able to be objective ??

PrettyCandles Fri 30-Sep-11 18:02:53

itsjustafleshwound we do all that, and I don't wear makeup either, yet somehow dd has already absorbed the message that you need to wear makeup in order to look beautiful.

GertieGooseBoots Fri 30-Sep-11 19:11:08

I think by the time they are 10-11 it's too late. PrettyCandles comment is anecdotal but bears out my feeling that kids pick up on this much earlier than age 10.

GertieGooseBoots Fri 30-Sep-11 19:15:17

By the way, I can't see the lesson without registering, which I don't want to do. Is there any time spent discussing how eating disorders can arise from trying to live up to unrealistic images? Are B-eat involved?

Madlizzy Fri 30-Sep-11 19:28:12

I have a 12 year old daughter, and I have had many discussions with her about airbrushing and photoshopping of pictures. I've also shown her pictures of celebrities with no make up on and she's starting to realise that there is no such thing as perfection. We now mock the adverts. She's also got the message that with make up, less is more and has moved away from the smudged black look to subtle browns.

CalatalieSisters Fri 30-Sep-11 21:20:55

Tend to agree with Lenin and Itsjustafleshwound. A prime lesson of media literacy in relation to advertising should be that truth is manipulated to create demand, and that consumerist capitalism has an interest in battering us with false images of our own inadequacy in order that it can sell us the cure. A media literacy agency funded by the advertisers can't really teach that in a trustworthy or radical way. Self-regulation doesn't inspire confidence in me here any more than in the drinks and food industries.

Media Smart is a bit like getting weapons manufacturers to teach us how to dodge bullets?

Tortington Fri 30-Sep-11 23:06:10

this is a parental issue and something that should not use precious dwindelling school resources.

at this rate with all the extra stuff teachers have to teach these days it really is no wonder kids fall through the cracks.

personally id rather this time, the time on healthy eating, the time on phse/citizanship bollocks and no doubt other things i have missed - was spent teaching children academia - this is a plaster on qa wider societal issue. what is needed is some real investment in parenting and parenting techniques. kids dot come with a handbook and we need help. mumsnet is proof of this. if there really was a campaign to bang on about mumsnet, it would be to invest in parents and parenting classes. changing societal norms doesn;t work this way. you can't change a culture ina school and expect that to permeate the kids home life, becuase it doesn't.

you can teach healthy eating at school - but if the parents cook chips.....yadda

you can teach body image in small bursts - no doubt interesting, but costing lots, taking time and affecting little change. then the boys can go home to dads/stepdads/mums boyfriend with page 3 of the sun and "look at the tits on that son"

the cause is a good cause no doubt about it and one which PARENTS shoudl tackle.

i absolutley resent teaching time being taken up for this, becuase this isn't the only thing that takes up time, its whatever fits the govt agenda of the day. Schools are at teh whim of govt agenda and quick fix societal propaganda.

startail Sat 01-Oct-11 00:33:17

I hate the title picture of the little girl measuring her waist. Just what I don't want my DD2 doing.

DD1 (13) is heartily sick of PHSE. At primary they waffled on about puberty, but never mentioned that this was to prepare your body for sex and babies hmm
At senior school they had a huge bit about bullying and being nice to each other. DD said that sitting there hearing the teacher drone on about not doing what is done to her day in day out was not cheering. (she's had it all her life, she just doesn't quite fit in)

piprabbit Sat 01-Oct-11 01:09:40

I like Lenin's curriculum.

I also think that adults should be educated about the impact of their attitudes on the children they raise. There are a lot of parents who seem to think their children are blind and deaf to the behaviours that go on in their homes.

weevilswobble Sat 01-Oct-11 06:45:53

Agree with justafleshwound.
A lesson on body image is fair enough, but its only a sticking plaster.
Giving Mothers and the job of Mothers more respect would help the mental health of all children. Coming home to an empty house, feeling like your parents work is more important than you are make a child feel pretty rubbish. (but i fear i'm going off on one)
How about lessons on banking????? If you borrow £100 at 10% interest how much do you pay back??? Most kids will think the answer is £110. But the way the bank works it out means that over a 10 year term you'd pay back £200.
Now theres a useful life lesson, baffles me why thats not taught.

SuchProspects Sat 01-Oct-11 08:09:30

I think media literacy is a very valid skill for schools to teach. It's an important life skill and an important skill for work.

I had a look at the teaching materials they made available on the website. My major concern with them though is that they will do more harm than good. The emphasis is on sexualized images - not entirely surprising given that that is the major concern - but I think if you're just going to focus on it for an hour you aren't going to change attitudes. Instead you will have an hour long class that is putting sexualized images in front of the children and then they'll go off to break and the girls in particular will be compared to a lot of those images. Maybe some of the issues about image alteration will get through to some of them too, but I think it's going to be a painful way of doing it.

I think it would be better starting with images that aren't to do with body image (what about food advertising, isn't that often significantly altered?), so that children could focus on the way they are being manipulated without the same emotive feelings of not living up to expectations. Then introduce body images so that they can apply the techniques to that issue.

I personally dislike the use of "airbrushing" as a catch all phrase for image manipulation. "Photoshopping" might be a bit too brand specific but it covers the cut and paste side of things and I would have thought it's one the audience will understand better. Alternatively "image manipulation" is more accurate.

Finally, the materials looked rather shoddily thrown together to me and did not seem to include much information on what the techniques used in post-production actually are (some before and after photos, but actual explanation of what;s been done). Since this is supposedly something the children are supposed to be learning from this I think that it is quite concerning there's nothing explicitly described. Maybe some teachers on here could give a better critique of these aspects of the materials though.

Like others on here, I am somewhat sceptical of an advertising industry sponsored approach to teaching media literacy of any type. I think teachers who use these tools would do well to also use the example of an industry sponsoring curriculum to teach people to protect themselves from that industry as a lesson in media literacy too - Why would they do that? What do they want you to think? What don't they want you to think? How does this allow them to set the agenda? etc.

SuchProspects Sat 01-Oct-11 08:11:48

That should be "...no actual explanation of what's been done".

CalatalieSisters Sat 01-Oct-11 08:33:44

Brilliant last paragraph, SuchProspects. Yes, Media Smart is an advert, and schools should point to it as an example of advertisers getting another toehold in schools.

Ask the children "Why would they produce this material?" To avoid tougher regulation and contribute to a positive image of advertising in your mind. "What do they want you to think?" That if only they can fine-tune the message and you can fine-tune your response, it is not problematic that, compared with just a few decades ago, the average woman's whole appearance is massively more dependent in dozens of ways on purchased products that batter its reality out of shape. "What don't they want you to think?" That we should buy less stuff. "How does this let them set the agenda?" By contributing to a culture of self-regulation ... etc

ThePosieParker Sat 01-Oct-11 10:26:23

Hmmm.....so the government wants to repair poor body image without legislating TV advertising/media advertising aimed at children, objectification of women and pornification of culture in general, riiiiii iiiight.

Nice one.

I agree TPP. Teaching people to basically resist advertising rather than regulating the advertising and changing society's attitudes generally to the objectification of women, just sounds like tokenism. And it doesn't/won't even touch the sides of the problem.

RoundOrangeHead Sat 01-Oct-11 17:06:47

well, we have had the opposite end of negative body image - dd was told that if she was any skinnier she would die by her 'friends'

she has never had an issue with how she looked up until now

sfxmum Sat 01-Oct-11 20:08:58

Like Lenin and Custardo have said and a few others too
I is more about how parents view themselves how they value themselves and how what they value, it is not a school issue, although dealing with the aftermath may have impact on the school.

I often tell my 6yr old that advertising is not not stating facts to help you love better out of the goodness of their hearts, it is trying to convince us to buy their product

ByTheWay Sat 01-Oct-11 20:23:26

We were watching an old ads program with the kids - Bran Flakes - they're tasty, tasty, very very tasty etc..... when eldest dd10 turns round and said - well they wouldn't sell much if they told the truth would they!!! LOL

She said they should modify the ditty to be "They're tasty, tasty, very, very tasty, they're very tasty - but actually they're really dry and taste awful." So perhaps they pick up on the ads anyhow.....

twotesttickles Sun 02-Oct-11 19:36:04

Too late. Not good and too late. My four year old is able to differentiate between adverts and programmes on TV and we've discussed how the adverts are there to persuade us that somethings are desirable and some things not.

It's hugely problematic area though, kids just want to fit in, of course they do (apart from that troublesome year when they want to be emo/goth/vampire/death metal wink). And all they see from the media is this unnatural idea of what it is to be a man or woman.

Agree with all those who say you should raise your children to be confident generally and active rather than 'cute' and 'pretty'.

But has this got bugger all to do with school, I'm not sure it does. Teach them science instead FFS - at least then they can decode the weird skin cream adverts with codscience claims in.

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