By KATIE STEWART
In today’s media, outer beauty has become more important than what a person thinks or feels.
The need for character and morals has been cast aside. Instead, we value role models for being skinny and pretty, or buff and handsome.
This emphasis on physical beauty comes with a price. Children and young adults are feeling the effects.
Being bombarded with ideals of bodily appearance can lead to many psychological problems, including self-loathing and low self-esteem. Striving to a have a “perfect” body can cause depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation and even suicide.
In a 2009 interview, model Kate Moss was asked whether she had a motto. Her reply: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
What does this say to her young audience?
It presents the idea that size 0 is your only option for happiness. It tells a young viewer that being different is not acceptable.
In 2011, actress/singer Demi Lovato revealed her history of being bullied by other children when she was growing up.
“I literally didn’t know why they were being so mean to me,” Lovato said. “When I would ask them why, they would just say, ‘Well, you’re fat.’”
At age 11, Lovato started self-mutilating to deal with the pain of bullying.
“It was a way of expressing my own shame, of myself, on my own body,” she said.
Even as celebrities share their bullying experiences, the media continues to negatively contribute to ideas about body imagine and outer beauty.
And it doesn’t only happen to girls. Body image also affects the male population.
In an article, “Beauty and the Boy: The Impact of Negative Body Image on Our Boy,” Peggy Drexler cited a study from the journal Pediatrics.
The study found that 40 percent of boys in middle and high school exercise regularly and 90 percent at least occasionally, with the specific goal of bulking up.
Numerous studies have explored how media affects young audiences. Some key findings:
· Forty percent of girls ages 9 and 10 have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
· In a study of fifth graders, 10-year-old girls and boys told researchers they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears.
· Another study found that 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies at age 13. The percentage grows to 78 percent by the time girls reach 17.
· On television shows watched by teen girls, 56 percent of commercials aimed at female viewers used beauty as a product appeal. By comparison, this is true of just 3 percent of television commercials aimed at men.
· Up to 10 million adolescent girls and women struggle with eating disorders and borderline eating conditions.
· Ninety percent of those who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25, according to the Center for Mental Health Services.
· Each year, millions of U.S. residents are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. More than 90 percent of those afflicted are adolescent and young adult women.
When growing up, we learn and begin to form ideas from the world around us. The media gives us a sense of what is acceptable and what is not.
As long as movies and music concentrate on the biological attractiveness of people rather than their moral character, problems such as bullying, eating disorders and other psychological problems will continue.
Measuring people by how cute they are or how many push-ups they can do only contributes to the negative images and ideas portrayed by the media.
Instead, we should teach young people to place greater respect on inner beauty, intelligence, personality and morals.
We can only hope that sometime in the future, people will be valued and praised because they have something meaningful to contribute.