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The Effect of Media on Young Girls
One of the most sensitive stages of a human being are their youth, whilst growing up one is faced with numerous transitions that transform one into someone mature. Our society has been swamped by endless media around us coming in different formats, i.e. magazines, newspapers, TV, Internet, etc. Each one of these has managed to flood dominating messages that put one’s self-image into question. Within the context of this essay, it examines the effect of media on young girls. The fact young girls are at a vulnerable phase they are most likely to be impacted by what they watch on TV, read in the magazines and get pumped by the current social media. Unfortunately the media has put a great deal of stress and pressure on the minds of sensitive young girls who are compelled to accomplish a so called ‘perfect image’. When we refer to the term ‘ideal image’, it directly includes supermodels, models, singers, actresses and icons who seem to be the ideal of young girls. Media is clearly responsible for promoting fake images of models who undergo an airbrushed and edited image of themselves when presented in magazines. Furthermore, these supermodels undergo strict and dangerous diets where their health suffers to an extreme. There are issues of self-image which are seen to be the biggest concern. Within self-image it results in three destructive effects, namely; depression (physical and mental) and eating disorders (Schlegel, n.d)
York (2012) exposes the shocking figures from 2011 at 16% highlights there has been a boom in eating disorders. One of the biggest increase was mainly girls who were aged from 10 to 15 up at 69% in 2011. It could further be elaborated that eating disorders have the highest morality rates of any mental illness which were accounted at 20%. Interestingly, the depiction of the so called ‘ideal’ body kinds portrayed by Western media has been perceived as a major factor in inseminating eating disorders. It can be highlighted how social media has rapidly promoting these diseases. Shockingly, the research points out eating disorders were becoming widespread just like a virus due to social networks, whereas pro-anorexic websites would offer tips, guidance and an online community was designed for unhealthy weight management. One fine example demonstrating the widespread search conducted online on eating disorders and losing weight unhealthily is the case of Pinterest who have taken an initiative to put an end to search words, i.e. ‘thininspiration’ that would provide users a list of results which were linked to eating disorders. Pinterest offered users to read warnings that would refer to the dangers of eating disorders and how they weren’t a part of lifestyle choices but were simply a mental disorder which if they left untreated could possibly result in major health problems and even pose a major threat to one’s life. One of the other social networks that is notorious with promoting self-consciousness is Facebook. Facebook has been pro-actively promoting ‘self-consciousness as being an extremely important issue where body image and weight are center of attention. Maree (n.d) believes media has been compelling numerous youth to commit suicide, it has brought youth suicide to the front row where there has been a boom in youth depression that results in a high rate of suicide in the recent years. Maree refers to the statistics taken from the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) back in 2011 which showed the suicide rates stood at four male to one female ratio. Furthermore, suicide amongst young girls was displayed in 2012 as a result of numerous tragic deaths. There were three major deaths that raised eye brows and outraged the public, the tragic deaths of Ciara Pugsley, Erin and Shannon Gallagher raised a very significant issue of why these deaths took place and scrutinizing the negative influence of media and promotion of self-image pushing these young souls to plunge to their own death. Their deaths resulted in organizations within the government along with the media instantly initiating work on fighting the lack of resources for the youth who were suffering from depression. It should be pointed youth depression has emerged due to numerous factors, where such a condition is simply complicated in nature. Self-esteem is said to be one of the main issues which emerge in youth depression. Unfortunately the media has been predominantly playing a negative role in promoting conflicting interest in itself also for the youth, where if bad exposure is restricted it can certainly make a major difference. The number of times the young girls view a super model, this makes them wonder if they could share a resemblance to their so called ‘media ideal’s and accomplish this by undergoing cruel diets at a tender age when their bodies are undergoing numerous kinds of changes. The fact the media is constantly flooding the TV channels, fashion magazines and social media with representing a so called ‘perfect woman’, this results in the creation of mental and emotional issues, this specially refers to the inability to remain joyful in their very own body. As per the comments by a counsellor, such a depiction clearly delivers a very impractical body image in the media which can have an extremely serious and deep impact on susceptible woman than one imagines.
Sanders (n.d) emphasizes how media marketing has simply depicted a very fake image of models, actresses and icons that becomes an impossible objective for young girls to accomplish. The fact the youth are highly influenced by celebrities and pick up the latest fashion, hair-style and lifestyle trends from their ideals, this results in a trend of being a copy-cat where one is compelled to imitate their ideals and feel a sense of dissatisfaction if they are unable to do so. If one takes into consideration how popular media has been progressively promoting a thinner and thinner body image as the so called ideal for women, this has become more like a competition for the youth where they feel it is necessary to maintain a thin image.
Being thin for today’s youth means being beautiful, here they are unable to distinguish between reality and what is digital editing in magazines, social media and online websites. Unfortunately, the youth are paying a heavy price at the expense of their health to be socially accepted by starving themselves on fad diets that will have a major side-effect on their health. In terms of self-confidence, the youth will feel out of place, lacking a sense of affinity and unable to confidently socialize if they do not fit the so called ideal criteria of being thin and beautiful. They feel their social group will reject them on basis of them being slightly fat or what is normal. There is this unpleasant bullying that comes into the picture where one is experiencing teasing from their counterparts on the basis of how they look like, i.e. fat. The fatter you are, the more unpleasant and disconnected you are from being a part of the popular group of girls.
Heubeck (n.d) takes the example of American girls who are facing the burden of being model like thin which seems like a real aspiration for them, however this starts off at a very young age which is extremely disappointing. There are countless bombardments of TV adverts featuring models with perfect lips, body, hair-style and the entire attractive physical appearance that seems a must achieve for these young minds. Unfortunately these young girls seems to consider these celebrities as role models even if these role models have a cruel bad reputation. According to Renee Hobbs, EdD, Associate Professor of Communications at the Temple Univesity she found in her research the exposure an average teen gets to media is nearly 180 minutes with only 10 minutes of interaction with their parents on a daily basis. This view is shared by Elissa Gittes, MD- a pediatrician at the adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, she believes young girls are obsessed with imitating the ideal image they watch in media, they end up taking harsh and desperate measures. There has been an increase in the number of young girls who comment on how unhappy they are with their body and are working obsessively hard to change this image of themselves.
As per the research conducted by Nancy Signorielli from the Kaiser Foundation, Nancy discovered one in every three articles in leading teen girl magazines also consisted a key focus on physical appearance, where majority of the advertisements (reported at 50%) used an appeal to beauty to market and sell their products. Furthermore, the TV adverts and commercials which were targeted at female viewers depicted frequently were regularly watched by young girls where beauty was seen as the central theme for product appeal. When examining the figures on eating disorders, it points how 1,000 women died annually as a result of anorexia nervosa. Nearly, five percent of adult women and adolescent along with one percent of men were suffering from binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. When comparing the figures on men to women suffering from depression and eating disorders, it clearly demonstrates it is young girls who are most affected and suffer from depression and eating disorders (Media’s effect on body image, n.d)
It can be concluded from the findings within this essay popular media is certainly responsible for influencing young girls in a negative way by making them self-conscious about looking perfect. There has been an artificial imagery of icons created, flashed and swamped in different mediums of media that has caught the eye and attention of young minds who take it in a positive manner. The fact more and more young girls are driven towards looking like their ‘role models’ they take up unhealthy options to look physically perfect even if it means it is a life threatening one. The issue of self-image is an umbrella which entails issues of mental and physical depression along with eating-disorders that have multiplied and compelled young girls to commit suicide. More and more young girls are drawn to look perfect starting from as young as the age of 5. It is the responsibility of media, government, health organizations and parents to intervene and deviate these young girls from taking an extreme measure which would result in a complete chaos. There is a strong need to tackle this matter as the rapid flow of information available online and easily accessed by anyone at the click of a button, i.e. mobile device, tablet, etc., it is truly concerned as to how there is an endless amount of literature available that attracts more and more young minds to imitate their favorite celebrities, icons and become just like them. Governments and health organizations need to implement strict codes that would ban media from promoting an unrealistic picture of what is a perfect woman as these young minds are vulnerable and capable of believing what they see on TV. Parents should be actively involved in monitoring on the habits, patterns and changes in behaviors of their children. The fact we are living in a modern world has meant we are suffering greatly with a fabricated image of what is considered perfect by the media and what is truly perfect in the real world, which obviously is a complete conflict. Schools and colleges should promote an awareness of accepting oneself rather hating one’s own image. Successful media campaigns conducted like the one by Dove was an impressive and attention grabbing one which demonstrated how beauty in women is not limited to any form of perfection of being thin but rather accepting oneself the way they are. It truly celebrates natural beauty and promotes this image by featuring a group of women in different colors, sizes, heights and empowers female beauty in a natural way. There is a strong need for more and more media campaigns similar to this that should be created and promoted to wash away the wrong image depicted of perfection into the young minds of girls.
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