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Kids taught to filter the media to accept their body image

(NC) Due to bullying, the suicides of Reetah Parsons, Amanda Todd and Jamie Hubley were met with an appropriate battle cry in the media.

Yet, the same media obsess about how Kate Middleton hasn't lost her 'baby bump' two minutes after giving birth – and about the 'horrifying' fact that Jennifer Lawrence may have 'cellulite', and so on.

This all-too-frequent body-shaming in popular culture is insidious, say specialists in this field. It creates a hierarchy of what is an acceptable body and contributes to the more overt bullying that happens in the schoolyard, in social media and in the workplace.

Media stories suggest – subtly and often not so subtly – that we should look a particular way and that if we don't, it's a choice, and it's because we are lazy, undisciplined and stupid. These cultural messages creep into our everyday beliefs and behaviours. More than one out of two children report that they are bullied because of their appearance. Poor body image and low self-esteem can lead to children dropping out of school, fearing social events, and not voicing an opinion. While these consequences of bullying may be less obvious, these children live lives of quiet hell and with the long-term consequences of being marginalized.

The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) is rolling out their Beyond Images media literacy curriculum for Grades 4 – 8 (www.beyondimages.ca) to address this problem.

Filling a gap in school curricula, the free lessons help teachers and those working in youth services and public health to engage young people in talking about why media messages are produced and how they work.

“Helping youth to understand how media messages work is key to building critical thinking and undermining bullying,” says Merryl Bear, director of NEDIC. “Healthy relationships, career success and overall well-being all have strong self-esteem at their root. Beyond Images teaches kids how to decode media messages, and to take what is positive and resist what is harmful. It helps students construct their own media messages, telling their versions of how appearance affects their lives. We encourage anyone working with children or youth to use this free, fun and well researched resource.”

More information is available at www.nedic.ca.

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