What does your teen see when he or she looks in the mirror? “Body image” is how we describe what people believe about their outward appearance, how they feel about their bodies and how they sense and control their movements.
Issues can occur when teens start showing signs of a negative body image, perceiving their bodies as something other than reality, convinced that their size or shape is a personal failure or feeling ashamed, anxious or awkward about their appearance.
To shed light on these issues, we at TeenSafe, a Santa Monica-based smartphone monitoring tool for parents, created this guide to help parents understand and detect red flags that may indicate their teen is struggling with body image issues. By monitoring children’s social media and online activity, parents can detect problems early and start a conversation with their child about self-worth.
When should I start looking for body image issues in my child?
Body image issues are cropping up earlier and earlier with both genders subjected to unrealistic body images from a young age. The best time to deal with these issues is when you begin noticing signs of a negative body image in your child. Children who are immediately brought into a discussion, reassured of their worth and taught ways of improving their self-esteem are far less likely to fall victim to any of the problems that can arise from seeing too many of the wrong images.
How does social media play into this issue?
As social media becomes increasingly influential in the lives of teens in this digital age, they often become consumed in the “cycle of selfies,” editing, sharing and comparing highly-filtered photos, creating a culture of comparing themselves to unrealistic photos of their peers. Measuring their appearance and self-worth on the amount of “likes” and comments they get is extremely unrealistic and can be detrimental to a teen’s psyche.
How might my teen be affected by body image issues?
Teens with negative body image have increased chances of developing eating disorders and more commonly suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss. If you notice your child using the following hashtags, it could be a sign that you need to start a conversation with your child about self-worth.
- Anorexia: #ana, #proana, #proanamia, #proed, #eatingdisorder, #thinspo, #thinspiration, #skinny, #anorexia, #fat, #diet, #thynspooo, #hipbones, #sue, #secretsociety123
- Binge Eating: #bingeeating, #bingefood, #overeating, #starving
- Bulimia: #bulimia, #bulimic, #lax, #purge
- Cutting: #blades, #bloody, #cutting, #knife, #razor, #selfharm, #selfhate, #suicide
- #sad, #ugly, #depression, #depressed, #mentalhealth, #anxiety, #pain, #mood, #imnotokay, #fakesmile, #worthless, #helpme, #paranoia, #useless, #tears, #broken, #killme
How can I help my children cope with these pressures?
- Talk to them about what they see online and reassure them of their self-worth and importance.
- Monitor their smartphone and social media activity to watch for red flags.
- Lead by example, Do active things together and encourage healthy habits and lifestyle.
- Limit smartphone use and screen-time to balance online with offline life.
Rawdon Messenger is CEO of TeenSafe, a National PTA partner and smartphone monitoring solution for parents. For more information, visit teensafe.com and check out their blog, Teenology.