The pressure of looking good on social media for children

The pressure of looking good on social media for children

Body positivity is extremely crucial and must be taught in school so that children learn to accept and love themselves for who they are and not simply focus on their physical appearance

Rajeev Vijayan

In today’s world, children are constantly bombarded with images of unrealistic body ideals. This can lead to negative body image and self-esteem issues, especially for girls. Schools can play a role in promoting body positivity by teaching students about the importance of accepting and celebrating all body types. Body positivity is the belief that all body types are beautiful and worthy of respect. It is about accepting your body for what it is, flaws and all. Body positivity is not about being overweight or obese, it is about accepting your body and loving yourself for who you are.

Why it matters

Body positivity is important for a number of reasons. First, it can help to improve overall individual mental health. Studies have shown that people with positive body image have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Second, body positivity can help to increase self-esteem. When you accept your body, you are more likely to feel good about yourself and your capabilities. Third, body positivity can help to promote healthy habits. When you feel good about your body, you are more likely to take care of it by eating healthy and exercising.

Social media has become an integral part of many children’s lives. They use it to stay connected with friends, share their thoughts and experiences, and even build their own personal brands. However, social media can also be a source of pressure for children, to look good through promotion of unrealistic body ideals – e.g. thin and fair = beautiful, and these images can make children feel like they need to look a certain way in order to be accepted or popular.

The pressure to look good on social media can have a number of negative effects on children. It can lead to low self-esteem, body image issues, and eating disorders. It can also make children more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as excessive dieting or exercise, which would be harmful to their overall development.

What schools can do to promote body positivity

  • Encourage students to participate in activities that promote physical health and fitness, regardless of their body size or shape.
  • Provide sensitivity training for teachers. Schools and teachers should use diverse teaching materials that feature people of all body sizes and shapes. They should also avoid referring to children by their body shape or size, such as ‘Motu’, ‘Patlu’, or ‘Lambu’ or any terms that refer to skin. These terms are extremely hurtful and damaging to children’s self-esteem. Teachers should be taught to be sensitive to this topic and to use language that is respectful of all body types.  
  • Create awareness.  Provide opportunities for students to learn about different cultures and body types and teach students about the importance of critical thinking about the media.
    • Help students understand how images are edited and manipulated. This can be done by showing students before-and-after photos of models and celebrities, or by discussing how filters and editing software can be used to change the appearance of a person’s body. What you see may not entirely be real, after all.
    • Teach students about the different types of beauty standards that are portrayed in the media. This includes unrealistic standards of beauty, such as being thin or having a certain body type, as well as more subjective standards, such as having clear skin or long hair.
    • Encourage students to question the beauty standards that they see in the media. This can be done by asking students to think about why certain beauty standards are considered to be desirable, or by challenging them to find examples of people who are beautiful but do not conform to traditional beauty standards.
  • Teach self-acceptance. Help students develop a positive body image by educating them about the importance of self-acceptance, or by providing them with positive role models who have a healthy body image.
  • Support healthy habits. By emphasising the value of a balanced diet, frequent physical activity, and self-care, schools should encourage healthy habits and overall well-being. 
  • Celebrate diversity in the school community, including diversity of body size, shape, and ability.
  • Enforce anti-bullying policies. Implementing and enforcing robust anti-bullying policies in schools, can help address body-shaming and appearance-related bullying. Schools should offer safe areas where students can voice their concerns and seek support without fear of being judged or harassed.
  • Provide counselling support.  Counselling can also provide a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. Counsellors can help individuals to feel understood and validated, and they can provide guidance and support as individuals work towards developing a positive body image.

Finally, teachers and school representatives should be role models for body positivity by accepting and celebrating their own body. Building positive body image takes time and effort, but it is possible.