But are teens losing their identity, in this biased branded media world?
Research clearly shows it’s not all likes, hearts and smiling emojis. The link between social media usage and negative body image is a reality, with teen girls (15–17yrs) almost twice as likely to have a probable serious mental illness than young males*. If our teens are seeing the world through a rose tinted filter, it’s clearly having some negative impact.
Teens are at risk of losing their own identity, or even not getting the opportunity to discover it in the first place. In particular, teen girls. Social media feeds display the highlight reels of insta-celebs and influencers. Just recently Jennifer Anniston spoke out about the constant scrutiny of women through the ‘”toxic messages” on social media and the “sport-like scrutiny and body shaming.”
“The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing,” she wrote. This “warped way we calculate a woman’s worth” is taking its toll.
Studies show the more time girls spend on social media each day the more they self-objectify and become unsatisfied with their bodies*.
As consumers of media we all know how images are airbrushed and altered to perfection. Thankfully, younger audiences are learning too. Megan Trainer is keeping it real with her fans when recently she took down her Me Too video because “they photoshopped the crap out of me. And I’m sick of it.”
Awareness is just the start. Just because girls know what they see isn’t always real doesn’t guarantee it isn’t negatively impacting them. As part of research for the book GirlTribes, The Teen Girls Guide to Surviving and Thriving in our Media Marketing World, author Helen Roe surveyed girls on their perceptions of how girls are portrayed in advertising and media. Although all girls admitted to not believing everything they saw or heard in advertising they were still impacted by the messaging. Here are just some of their comments.
“The messages I see in the media are that happy successful girls are thin and dress to show off their figure. Successful girls look a ‘certain way’ and listen to a certain type of cool music. Sometimes I feel like I want to be them, but then later I think I shouldn’t do that. I should be myself and believe in myself.”
“When I see advertisements with girls my age in them it makes me feel disgusted and jealous. The pictures look so perfect. But they have been Photoshopped. Everything is edited and fake.”
“When I see advertisements with girls my age in them I automatically compare myself. I end up feeling deflated or not good enough.”
Feelings of ‘not good enough’ ‘deflated’ ‘too fat’ ‘disgusted’ ‘compare’ and ‘jealous’ were all too common. So what can we do as parents, teachers and caring adults to ensure our teenagers continue to see the real unfiltered world? Here are some suggestions.
Our teen girls can’t be what they can’t see. It’s up to us to lead by example and exercise our choice, challenge the norm and not buy into the stereotypes, hype and heresay that media and marketing create.
Research: *Mission Australia, Youth Survey 2015
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