Media is a powerful tool whose effect can be felt virtually in entire society especially girls. This is because media portrays and broadcast unrealistic images of beauty, which has led many girls to try life threatening imitation. Adolescent girls often go to the extreme measures of imitating what is presented in media despite such portrayals being impractical. The end result of imitation is uncontrolled use of diet pills, eating disorders and cosmetic surgeries as girls try to keep up with changing nature of beauty present in the media. The paper examines the effect of media on body image of adolescent girls.
Effects of Media on Body Image
Today, most adolescents are heavily influenced by myriad external factors that include family, religion, education and media. Studies have established that media influences adolescents more than other factors because it is pervasive and powerful (Palad, 2009). Media is a type of technology that was designed to reach many people and thus influence the market. Media channels that reach adolescents in society include radio, newspapers, magazines, television and the internet. Due to its varied channels and capability to reach many people, media has profound and powerful effects on adolescent girls in society.
Young girls are constantly being shelled with distorted images every passing day, the message that is usually disseminating comprises on beauty and what makes beautiful female. Studies have found this to be false representation of reality and thus media plays a major role in deceiving adolescent girls to engage into dangerous activities in the name of improving beauty (Palad, 2009). This prompts young girls to try and look like the images they see in newspapers, magazines, television and billboards. This effectively distorts the image of what it should actually look since natural body image is distorted. Psychologists have revealed that body image of people is often perceptions and emotions that people have on their bodies and significantly affect self-esteem, self-confidence and self- worth of adolescent girls (Palad, 2009). Body appearance and attractiveness through beauty has been one factor to determine self-worth. Today, it has been revealed that western culture has consistently cultivated the notion that beauty is determined by the desire to reduce weight (Peltzman, 2007). This coupled with peer pressure generally fuels the desire of girls to transform body image and embrace the western culture of beauty and thinness. Female members of society watch many beauty advertisements throughout their life. Remarkably, commercial images then expose them to the beauty world and they become self-conscious, and become obsessed with their physical body structure.
Body image of adolescent girls is determined by brain development. Scientists have effectively identified a part of the brain that is responsible for the way people view their body image (Peltzman, 2007). Parietal cortex is that part which generates image of the body and thus disruption of this part may substantially affect how people view their bodies. Studies conducted on volunteers revealed that their brains carried the illusion which made them believe that beauty is achieved when they believe that their waists are shrinking (Peltzman, 2007). Other studies conducted in the area have confirmed that damage to the parietal cortex can make people feel their shape has changed (Peltzman, 2007). Distorted images that adolescent girls watch in media channels affect their mental and brain development. An example is Barbie doll that children are introduced to at tender ages. She is an epitome of beauty because the doll is tall, thin, having large breast and a very thin waist. Media in the process tell young girls that beauty is determined by various features and characteristics that Barbie doll possess. Many people have criticized the depiction of the doll as it causes adolescents to experience low-esteem. To the extreme, depiction of Barbie doll has been known to cause and promote insecurity of girls about their image. Conway (2013) asserts that body ideals portrayed through the media has direct impact on body images of girls.
Adolescents at times may not feel positive about their body image and size. As media portrays ideal body size and shape, youth may engage themselves in dangerous activities that may affect the quality of life. One of these dangerous activities is development of eating disorders as they try to look more beautiful and attractive. Research studies have established that eating disorder is serious and complex mental illness that arises due to low self-esteem and negative view about their body images (Wykes & Gunter, 2005). This is always after viewing distorted images and videos presented in the media. Accordingly, eating disorders can potentially affect girls no matter the shape and size that they have. Eating disorder may be as a result where adolescent girls are trying to avoid certain food that they deem are responsible for their bad body shape and size. Media advertisements and campaigns have made it impossible for adolescent girls to discover the end result of eating disorders. Apart from affecting menstrual cycle in girls, it can cause stress and ultimately death. Studies have asserted that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (Gunter, Blades & Oates, 2005). Internet has also promoted eating disorders since girls find information on thin models and how to promote true beauty. Psychologists assert that young girls exposed to such websites promoting poor eating been exposed (Wykes & Gunter, 2005).
Mass media has influenced body image as youth groups are currently involved in cosmetic surgery to attain preferred body image. Images that they watch in the media can only be achieved through quick fix of cosmetic surgery. Through this the media has succeeded in portraying to the adolescent youths that they are not beautiful the way they are. Media suggests that they need to go through surgical procedures to obtain true beauty (Wykes & Gunter, 2005). This is also fuelled by peer pressure that subject girls to unnecessary pressures in trying to attain beautiful body shape and size. Therefore, it is safe to say that media has influenced adolescent girls and encouraged those to undergo cosmetic procedures whose end result may be fatal. Moreover, the media promote campaigns assuring people that surgical procedures are painless while we know that surgeries are often accompanied by unprecedented pains and side effects.
Media has myriad influences on body images of people. Specifically, media has presented distorted messages to adolescent girls and in the process influenced their perceptions of true beauty. This has prompted girls to change their eating habits, undergo cosmetic surgical procedures that impacts negatively on mental development and growth. Advertisements presented by media channels make girls to have low self-esteem and self-worth. It is important to encourage people especially girls to learn to like their own bodies and should not be swayed by information they get from the media.
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