The British government is on the forefront of body positive initiatives and eating disorder awareness, but their new plan to give parents a guide to building kids’ body confidence is my favorite by far. The UK has also banned ads for using too much photoshop, and even blamed the fashion industry for the recent death of a 14-year-old who killed herself after suffering bulimia, but educating young boys and girls has far more potential to nip the problem in the bud…and perhaps even transform the industry out of consumer demand, instead of government-enforced restrictions.
The guide offers support for parents trying to explain culturally-constructed beauty ideals, and includes before-and-after images to demonstrate how unrealistic retouched photos can be. Similar guides for primary schoolteachers have also been passed out, and are already been getting rave reviews from schools and kids. But going one step further to target families and foster a culture of confidence at home could be that much more effective. Britain’s equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, explained that the government-backed guide is part of their campaign to boost confidence among children, and is meant to empower parents to have “those difficult conversations” with their kids:
Young people are being set an impossible standard by images in media and advertising which can erode their self-esteem. As parents, we are often aware of these issues but may not have the advice and guidance we need to talk to our children.
Translating messages about the media, marketing, and body image isn’t easy, even for adults; I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for parents to decode these complicated issues for their kids. With kids getting exposed to media at younger and younger ages—and parents losing more and more control—it seems inevitable that families will need help controlling how this exposure impacts their kids’ confidence and ideas about body image.
Now if only they could start shipping some of those guides over to the U.S.