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Communication Essay

I. Mass Media Effect on Children’s and Teens’ Body Image Outline Mass media outlets of all forms effect adolescent girls’ and young women’s body image negatively. Be it via magazine, television, movies, advertisement, or other sources, girls and young women are bombarded with mass media constantly that contain hidden messages about the “ideal” woman, and messages on ways to attain the attributes required to be socially accepted by these unspoken standards. Common attitudes acquired by children and teens from the media of what is acceptable physically, related eating disorders, media literacy’s effect on whether an individual will be easily influenced or not by subliminal mass media messages on body image will be discussed accordingly.

A. Mass Media Effects on Children’s

Attitudes towards overweight individuals and/or obesity 1. According to Bissell K. and Hays, H. (2011), in the article, “Understanding Anti-Fat Bias in Children: The Role of Media and Appearance Anxiety in Third to Sixth Graders’ Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Toward Obesity” children develop attitudes about acceptable body weight from media such as television. Children view television close to 6 hours a day according to Bissell and Hays (2011). The subliminal content on acceptable body fat and physical appearance abounds. Bissell and Hays state that, “Given this amount of exposure, it seems likely children are exposed to television and images that reinforce notions about the importance of thinness and attractiveness (p. 116-7)”. Bissell and Hays also say “. . . The media’s influence on the body image of children that the media perpetuate beliefs about the importance of thinness and that a negative stigma associated with being overweight is then possibly formed (p. 117).” 2. The Social Learning Theory closely relates to the attitudes of other children towards individuals, and can be applied to this point.

B. Mass media effects on eating disorders

1. In the article, “Influence of Mass Media on Body Image and Eating Disorder Attitudes and Behaviors in Females: A Review of Effects and Processes”, by Lopez, et al. (2010), direct effects of magazine and television on adolescent girls and young women. According to Lopez et al, “Undeniably, a substantial portion of media content consumed by children and adolescents is replete with unhealthy messages about the beauty ideal, body size, food, weight control, and the gender roles of women and girls, as well as use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances for managing one’s emotions and self-presentation (pg. 388).” Lopez et al goes on to discuss the way that the mass media effects adolescents without their realizing it; “People are often unaware—and mass media work hard to keep it that way—of the extent to which, and just exactly how mass media play an important role in promoting consumerism, body objectification, and internalization of the current beauty ideal (Lopez et al., 2010).

2. According to Rieves, S. (2011) “Models weigh 23% less than the average woman, while a generation ago the gap was 8%”. This ideal sets an impractical role model for young girls. Rieves (2011) also points out the startling fact that, “At the start of puberty, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat” (p. 123). Rieves also alludes to the evidence of studies, and said “Researchers consistently find a strong relationship between media exposure and the epidemiology of eating disorders at the aggregate population level” (p. 123).

3. Social Comparison Theory relates to eating disorder development and mass media influence. According to Rieves (2011), “Moreover, celebrity images contribute to unrealistic weight through social comparison (p. 124).”

C. Mass Media effects regarding Media Literacy 1. In the article, “Idealism: Factors Affecting the Body Image of College Students” by Pitura A., college students participated in a study to determine the degree mass media effected body image and which media sources were more influential. Pitura says that media literacy is a crucial quality in whether or not an individual’s body image will be negatively affected by media exposure. According to Pitura (2010), “In order to become media literate one must be able to sort through the information given by the media and determine fact from fiction (p. 63). 2. According to Meng, J. and Bissell, K., (2009) “As young girls look to television and movie stars such as Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) or Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), they see the glamorized images, to a large degree, of very thin girls (p. 7).” What viewers can distinguish between what is real and what is glamorized relates to each viewers level of media literacy. If a viewer has a low media literacy, the images that viewer regards as realistic and acceptable outweigh the views of viewers who hold a more realistic outlook when consuming media such as the television shows mentioned.

D. Mass Media Effects Factors Contributing to Body Image

1. Several factors contribute to mass media effects on an individual. The degree of consumption of media, the media form, and peer pressure all play a role in the internalization of body image; often these ideals are excessively thin due to media images. 2. A study of girls ages 9 through 12, by Clark and Tiggerman (2006), concluded that media does in facts effects one’s body image and self-worth from adolescents and earlier; “There is no doubt, however, that the mass media are powerful transmitters of societal ideals for children, just as for adults (Clark and Tiggerman).”


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