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australia’s children: physical dissatisfaction beginning at eight


Image: Brian Boulos via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Brian Boulos via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, dissatisfactions of the physical appearance of the body have been discovered to be evident in children as young as eight years old.

These kinds of body image issues, affecting both men and women, are perfect representations of the impact of the media on people of all ages and sizes. As a teenager myself with even younger siblings, I have been party to the very heart of the problem and have first hand experience with living under the pressure of trying to conform into what society views as ‘the perfect person’. I believe this is the underlying factor behind why our youngest members of society are already beginning to find emotionally harmful faults and flaws in their bodies.

To truly understand how devastating these findings are, it’s important to realise at the stage children are at in their lives. Most commonly, an eight year old would be found in grades two and three. A crucial learning stage in a person’s life, these are the first moments when a child is introduced to the world. While they might have been ‘sheltered’ by their parents in the past, the child is now given the first chance to begin to become their own person. It might seem extreme to believe that such an early stage in life is so crucial to a person’s independence, but the greatest learning curves are crafted at these ages. New friends are met in vast numbers, life experiences are increased, and the media and consumerism is introduced.

Mental disorders such as depression and anorexia, commonly associated with teenagers, are proven to be heavily related to self-hatred, extreme weight concerns, and unhealthy obsessions with achieving beauty and perfection. The study found that half of the children who admitted to worrying about their bodies, were actually taking steps to control it. Most of these children do not have the experience or the knowledge to effectively gain or lose weight that will still maintain their health. Abstaining from food, while being a normal weight or even under, can cause serious eating problems further on in life.  Not to mention, how much of an effect insecurities decrease mental and physical abilities.

Finding only faults in the body compared to what society thinks is acceptable, is as common as technology nowadays. Although being “perfect” is actually an impossibly unachievable goal, the will to be viewed as such, to strive to be so, is extremely damaging. This vision has been imprinted into the youth of today with blatant methods and for the sole purpose of marketing. Even just having only skinny models convinces children that to be successful and beautiful, it is paramount to have the newest clothes, gadgets and to maintain a strict, miniature physique. To be anything else in our society is to be a failure, incomplete and ugly.

The best strategy to deal with these problems before they grow even more extreme is for parents to realise that weight and beauty concerns do not necessarily start with puberty or the teenage years. It is paramount that parents get to talk with their children about body struggles and self-image. Even just complimenting the child every day on their strengths can markedly improve one’s self-esteem and belief in their worth. Nothing is more harmful than the doubts of the mind.

What is your view on this subject, Lipsters?

How would you deal with helping a child through fears about weight image?

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