Adolescents are shaped by what they consume

Sally Thorp looks at the media’s impact: “Adolescence is a time of experimentation and managing the “in between” stage. They experiment with beliefs, images, experiences and relationships. Having left childhood behind, but not yet having reached adulthood, there is a period when loss of identity can occur, thus making them more impressionable and vulnerable to influence. It is during this stage when searching for their identity, the media, through entertainment and advertising, can play a significant role in shaping beliefs, perceptions and behaviour, both negative and positive.

Physical Perfection and Materialism

Specific focus is often on the physical, leading adolescents to strive for a perceived ideal image which suggests will bring about happiness, success, beauty and popularity, unfortunately resulting in the rejection of self. Millions are spent annually on advertisements depicting what you should ‘wear’ to be in; where you need to be ‘seen’ to be popular; what you need to ‘drink’ to feel good; the car you need to ‘drive’ to feel successful etc. The models used are generally skinny, good looking and appear to be happy which leaves one begging the question: “what do I need to do to be like that?” Image manipulation is used widely, creating the belief that physical perfection is the norm. Airbrushing removes wrinkles and blemishes; even cellulite can be removed and teeth whitened and straightened; body shapes are changed! These messages subtly shape our adolescents’ thinking and feelings of self-worth, and don’t encourage celebration of self, individual uniqueness or indeed being in touch with reality. Are our adolescents being encouraged to pursue the unattainable and if so, what impact does this have on their self-esteem and body image?

Learning to love, appreciate and nurture our bodies is an important aspect of high self-esteem. Being unable to create or sustain this healthy relationship with ourselves can lead us to wishing we looked like somebody else at the cost of self rejection. Unhappiness in this area may cause one to become obsessed with food, exercise and body image – all in pursuit of that illusive goal of ‘perfection’.

Where can I learn more?

To learn more about how to address similar issues, check out our Life Talk and Tug-of-Life book series’ over here.




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