The Government ‘Body Confidence’ project was launched last year. This is a campaign about pushing back against the overwhelming pressure on all of us to conform to one, impossibly perfect body image.
One part of the project is about helping children deconstruct the images used by the media and advertising.
Media Smart – a not for profit organisation – yesterday launched a learning package for teachers to help children understand how the media can and does alter images to make them unrealistic – as well as the impact of these images on self-esteem. Obviously – working with quite young children (10 and 11) the ‘lesson’ has been very carefully worked out.
This media literacy tool will help young people critically appraise and gain more realistic perceptions of the images they see. It explores how and why idealised images in advertising and the media are used to construct particular messages.
Media Smart develops and provides, free of charge and on request, educational materials to primary schools. They developed this particular program to support the Government campaign on Body Confidence – and yesterday I went to the launch at Surrey Square Primary School.
It was absolutely amazing. The children were so genuinely engaged and interested and very vocal on the lesson. It was clear that many had never realised that what they saw in magazines was not real. It was equally clear that they wanted ‘truth’ in what they saw. Advertisers take note!
It will clearly spark many a conversation between the children and with their parents about image, beauty and what is it that matters. There is a homework project to bring in pictures of people that the children love. Of course – they will bring in pictures of parents – and parents of every shape, size and colour! That enables a conversation about what makes you love someone. Is it their appearance? Should appearance be the only way to value someone? What makes us like someone and so on.
It’s gentle – but it raises key issues and helps children understand the images they are seeing in a different way. It starts the conversation and it raises awareness. That is the purpose.
Children are confronted with thousands of images every year through media and advertising. These images create a culture of conformity, not individuality and don’t reflect the real society we live in. Children need the tools to be able to critically analyse these images to counter the negative impact they can have on body image and self esteem.
We want children to have healthier and happier futures and recognise that their value is worth so much more than just their physical appearance.
And of course – it’s not just children – it’s all of us.
But this part of the Body Confidence project was about the impact of idealised images on children and the launch of the Media Smart literacy tool for Body Confidence.