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How can media images negatively impact my daughter?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrics
Many media images give unrealistic ideas on what it means to be a woman. There is an emphasis on thinness, sometimes to extremes. Young girls begin to think that this is the look for which they should strive. It is not a healthy environment for young girls to be exposed to these falsely idealized images.
Rather than having fashion magazine at home, try having healthy living and fitness magazines. Make the emphasis on healthy food and healthy exercise. Encourage your daughter to make her own healthy choices and give her credit when she does. You want the emphasis to be on health, not thinness.
Sheila Dunnells
Addiction Medicine
A mother expressed this concern about her daughter, Brooke. A classmate of her seventh-grade daughter make a negative comment about Brooke's pre-teen body. Apparently, it did not make the cut to appear on Victoria Secret's runway. On the food chain of breasts, Brooke was at the bottom. I had met her daughter, who was a dark-haired beauty and a very tall, thin, skater. It was unlikely that her body maturity would come sooner, rather than later, in life. Unfortunately, breasts arriving later was small consolation now.

The next day, mom took her daughter shopping. They visited an exclusive lingerie shop that only exists in very small and wealthy towns. The sales representative suggested "bra-implants," or "cookies." These are small, silicone, enhancers that slip into a bra to create an illusion of a bigger bust.  The daughter was thrilled. Suddenly, she was looking like Blake Lively, one of Hollywood's top fifteen HOTTIES. She took the cookies out for a trial run and wore them to school.

Brooke was on the bus when she dropped her books. As she bent over to pick up her things, out popped the "cookie." Naturally, some of her classmates saw what happened; Brooke swore she could not return to school.

 What this mother faced with her daughter’s insecurity about her breast size plays out all over the country. Hollywood images of how a woman is supposed to look is a tough act to follow. Young boys look at the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated and want nothing less than a girl whose body is like one of those models. Sadly, girls are set up just as deliberately in teen magazines, movies and MTV. By sixteen, girls who are trying to add voluminous breasts to young stick figures, descend on the plastic surgeon’s office for breast augmentation.  

Depending upon how fragile a teens self image is, many destructive behaviors can ensue. Teens cut themselves, start taking drugs, engage in promiscuous sexual encounters and lose their sense of self. If preoccupation with being admired for physical beauty takes over, striving for anything more meaningful in life becomes unimportant. That is a sad moment.
Michele Borba
Psychology
Watch and listen to magazines, books, videos, song lyrics. From television shows, video games, movies, music and Internet sites, stay involved in your daughter’s lifestyle choices. Monitor what she watches and listens to, and who she seems to admire.  Doing so will help you understand her values at that moment, as well as help guide your next discussions about your family values.

Find healthier outlooks for your daughter
Discover your daughter’s natural passion and talents–whether it be surfing, basketball, art, yoga, soccer–and then support her involvement. Those positive activities will help you focus more on her talents and interests, and show her that you value her for her strengths, not appearance.

Downplay popularity and appearance.
Always be the example you want your daughter to copy. She needs a strong, healthy example.

Walk the talk!
Your daughter may not be telling you that you’re influential in her life, so I’ll clue you in. You are! I swear kids come with recorders planted inside their heads. Don’t preach self-esteem–show your daughter what confidence looks like in your self!

Don’t forget your sons
Keeping your son in the mix will help to counter those messages by giving him the right view of how women do like to be treated.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.