Negative Body Image in Pre-Adolescents: How Mass Media Affects Body Image in Pre-Adolescents

Negative Body Image in Pre-Adolescents: How Mass Media Affects Body Image in Pre-Adolescents and What Can Be Done To Reduce the Influence of Media Images on Children’s Body Image

From birth to maturity, one undergoes various changes sin physical, mental and emotional realms. For every individual, the changes that occur produce traits that can be used to gauge the level of maturity in an individual. Physical growth in most cases is affected by the environment in many ways. In pre-adolescents, physical image is affected by the environment, and particularly social media. This is because the social media has the power to instill negative self image in individuals. As individuals develop from childhood through puberty, self image is developed based on various physical perceptions that individuals develop in their minds. Self image is described as the feeling held by an individual concerning their physical appearance.

During puberty, adolescents have the image of an ideal person embedded in their minds. As such, all efforts are channeled towards development into this ideal person. During puberty which runs from 10-13 years of age, various physical changes appear in the human body. Each of the changes elicits certain response from the affected individual based on images imprinted by the media in the mind. The ideal image portrayed by the different types of media such as newspapers, televisions e.t.c is of tall, muscular or slender individuals.  This makes the adolescents develop the desire to be   tall and slender or muscular depending on the context. Since teenagers are still in the process of seeking that satisfactory self image, they worry about people’s opinions about them hence looking for role models in parents and/ or the media.

According to Beth and Dittmar (2011), the social media can propagate information through various ways. The impacts of the media’s actions are that the constantly presented images come to be viewed as social reality. This draws the interest of the adolescents who desire to emulate the physical images presented via media. Because of the constant comparison of the ideal and the physical appearance of the adolescents, discrepancies are bound to be found. A study by Tantleff- Dunn et al (2011) also shows that normative discontent about normal body changes during puberty are a result of media idealization.

Normative discontent in adolescents affects the psychology of victims immensely, resulting in corrective measures such as over-eating, over-slimming and depression (Steiner, 2007). According to Sender and Sullivan, girls are more likely to distort their bodies following the realization of discrepancies between the ideal and the real physical appearance. Another potential impact of bathe media on adolescent development comes through effects on the sexuality of adolescents. Most of the media adverts portray sexualization in a negative image and display women as objects of sexual satisfaction. Some of the youths pick this image from the media   which affects their lives adversely.

Because of the negative impacts of the media on development during adolescence, it is necessary to find ways of changing these impacts. First, media stake holders should make efforts to educate their viewers on aspects of emulating what is viewed on adverts. Schools should also make an effort to train children on the dangers of associating too much with the media. Finally, parents should take  responsibility for their children, keeping them away  from observing and being influenced by negative media images.



Beth, T. B., & Dittmar, H. (2011). Does media type matter? The role of identification in adolescent girls’ media consumption and the impact of different thin-ideal media on body image. Sex Roles, 65 (7-8), 478-490.

Sender, K., & Sullivan, M. (2008). Epidemics of will, failures of self-esteem: Responding to fat bodies in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 22 (4), 573-584.

Steiner A. (2007). The body politic: Normal female adolescent development and the development of eating disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14, 95-114.

Tantleff-Dunn, S., Barnes, D., & Gokee-Larose, J. (2011). It’s not just a “woman thing:” The current state of normative discontent. Eating Disorders, 19, 392-402.

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