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How to Help Your Daughter Stop Comparing Herself to Others and Love Herself
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  • A Wi-Fi connection is all you need to access photos on social media showing different representations of beauty. Most of the time, these are unrealistic and would lead one to develop a low self-esteem and a negative body image.

    Body image pertains to one's perceptions, feelings, and behaviors toward one's body. It develops early in childhood and is influenced by family and culture. Our kids' exposure to traditional media has become a risk factor for developing body dissatisfaction. More than half of girls age 6 to 8 indicate their ideal body is thinner than their current body as 87% of female characters age 10 to 17 on the most popular kids' TV shows are below average in weight.

    To develop a positive body image, it's important to teach your daughter (and son) how to identify unrealistic representations of beauty

    Our media and culture are obsessed with women's looks

    You regularly have stories and blogs that criticize female celebrities for being too heavy or too thin. TV and movie stars showcase unrealistic body types that most girls can't copy without hurting themselves. There are advertisements that tell girls that, with the right beauty products, they can look picture-perfect. And female characters in family films, on prime-time TV, and on kids' shows are nearly twice as likely to have uncharacteristically small waists as compared to their male counterparts.

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    With the advent of social media, older girls are no longer passive consumers of these messages; they're creating and sharing images of their own. But, as we know, online culture is full of judgment, too. Girls often imitate celebrities by posing provocatively in selfies. They see their photos ranked for attractiveness on apps such as Hot or Not and in online beauty pageants on Instagram. They're told they can "improve" their images with editing apps that whiten their teeth or put a sparkle in their eyes.

    Body image matters for girls

    The pressure to live up to such narrow beauty standards and always be "camera-ready" can affect both physical and mental health. Online communities dedicated to promoting unhealthy behavior, such as "thinspo" (for "thin-spiration") and "pro-ana" (pro-anorexia) sites, urge followers to starve themselves.

    When girls compare themselves to their favorite stars, they usually feel that they don't measure up. Lowered self-confidence and self-esteem can lead to depression, poor school performance, and risky choices.

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    You can do something to help your child develop a healthy and positive body image

    Watch what you say

    Body image isn't shaped by media alone. Families have a big influence on kids' self-perception. Focus on what bodies can do rather than what kids look like.

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    Look for alternative media

    Avoid TV, movies, and  magazines that promote stereotypes and outdated gender roles. Seek out unconventional role models and talk about people from media and real life who have different body types and say why you find them beautiful (for example, they're kind or wise).

    Know and expose the myths

    Point out that pictures have been altered to make models look flawless  and impossibly thin.

    Keep your kids active

    Get them involved in sports, fitness, and other physical pursuits so they discover what healthy bodies can do.

    Monitor social networks

    Today's kids are living in a constant feedback loop of criticism. Help them put comments in perspective. Is your child keen on starting a Youtube channel? Guide him through the process with these tips.

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    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out its ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for its newsletter to read more articles like this.

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