Tale as old as time - every era has its own representatives, normative of looks and behaviour, carries style and ballad changes, that after some time look ridiculous, or even inconceivable when we suffer from an inevitable blast from the past. The Zeitgeist, or the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place, is usually the one that dictates our self-perception and expectations, especially in teenage years.
The body-image is probably the most tangible area that slingshots us straight to the development of self-esteem and forecasts of our future relationships. It comes into play during the early childhood years, yet it develops its most profound impact during the teens and it also continues having an impact during the rest of our lives.
From the infinite amount of TV channels, over-sexualized magazines to the Internet’s vast ocean of diverse content, we are faced with a bombardment of unrealistic or distorted models, which are represented as the normal or “ideal” look often causing anxiety in young minds who don't match up. If a person, no matter the age or gender, creates his or her body expectations based on such looks, this could potentially have serious and unhealthy consequences. In order to achieve the “perfect” or strived to the look, one could resort to drastic changes in dieting and exercising, try and cut corners via drugs or get hooked on plastic surgeries.
It should be noted that girls (women) are far more likely to be impacted by this compared to boys (men). During puberty, girls experience faster changes, both intellectually and physically, and are hence more prone to body-image issues.
Professor at the Melbourne University, Louis Newman, has opened this important topic in 2010, and stated that “There is growing evidence that premature exposure to adult sexual images and values has a negative impact on the psychological development of children". She went on to say "particularly on self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships”.
Two separate studies were done by the research organization RAND also had some interesting results. The key findings were as follows:
- Teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate intercourse in the following year. Television in which characters talk about sex affect teens just as much as the television that actually shows sexual activity. Shows that portray the risks of sex can help educate teens.
Hence, this shows that we ought to limit sexual content as such, yet use the power of television shows and pop-culture to educate our teens about sex and all the risks involved when sex is not approached in the right way.
Sexuality has always been a bit of a taboo topic that is inevitable to avoid when you are a parent. The timing is usually in their teens, but it is observed that due to an increasing percentage of exposure to sexual content, the bar is getting lower each day. Unfortunately, sex has been converted from something that is private and between two individuals, into something that is at our fingertips, all of the time. How this will reflect upon the understanding of relationships, is yet to be discovered.
Over sexualisation can depersonalize people and sex and make teens think of others as objects rather than people; with feelings, emotions and complexities. As parents and caregivers, we need to remind our teens that these people we see on tv and the internet are actors. This is not what they are like in real life; they are not sex objects, 'symbols' or simple characters. Often actors or Insta famous people are the complete opposite of what they portray on tv or the internet. It's this re-humanising on people that will make it harder to look at them as objects and help us look at them as people, sons, daughters and friends. This is turn will help us realise what is "Real" vs Fake. I'm sure if we unfollowed stars on Instagram and "Followed" them in real life we would see they look, dress and act very differently which would help us realise there's no such thing as 'perfect' and - maybe give us a more realistic, grounded goal on which to inspire too.
For more information about current studies, please click here;