Does media affect kids’ body image?

Children, Teens, Media and Body Image is a research brief led by Common Sense Media that looks at the role of media in the developments of body image attitudes and behaviours among pre-teens and teens.

Although the piece stresses the need for continued research on the impact of media on children, it does highlight that exposure to media may have negative effects on the way children view themselves and those around them.

Some of the key findings include:

  •  Media both reflects and forms societal norms around gender, sexuality and body types. Thus suggesting that the consumption of mainstream media puts kids at risk of developing an unhealthy body image.
  •  Unrealistic, sexualized and stereotypical images and messages about bodies and gender are extensive in the media children consume.
  •  Media representations of what a desirable body type is, is often highly unrealistic. For example, women are typically represented as young, beautiful and thin where men are typically represented as fit, strong and attractive.  
  •  By looking at various studies, this research paper looks at examples whereby young teens have implied that they are dissatisfied with the way they look due to popular portrayal of what is beautiful, desirable and attractive.  
  •  Body image concerns have been reported to start at a younger age than may be expected. The report suggests that children as young as 5 years start to notice body image and apply ”norms” they see in the media to themselves. 

The Common Sense Media report, in reviewing the influential power of media, calls attention to the importance of ensuring that your children are consuming information that encourages self-confidence as well as a healthy body image.

If you are worried that your child is beginning to form an unhealthy body image, or is being exposed to unrealistic and stereotypical content, here are a few tips to keeping her or him confident and happy with who they are:

  •  Promote a healthy and positive attitude to your own body,
  • Avoid commenting on peoples appearances around your children,
  • Encourage active healthy lifestyles rather than good looks,
  • Be aware of what your children are consuming in the media.
  • Encourage critical thinking about the stereotypes being portrayed in their favourite TV programmes or movies.
  • Ensure that your children consume media that encourages diversity and inclusivity in its programming.


Find the full Children, Teens, Media and Body Image report here.