(For instance, check out her spot-on post on the Vogue Paris controversy.)
Yesterday, we talked about bullying, body image and stress.
Below, Debbie discusses how teens can have a positive body image, become media literate and get empowered and so much more!
Q: What are some powerful ways that teens can build a positive body image?
A: Providing teens with positive experiences where they can appreciate their bodies as more than just something to be studied, critiqued, or admired for their physical appearance goes a long way in improving body image.
When teens participate in sports or take healthy, physical risks (like rock climbing or doing a ropes challenge course), they can learn to see and enjoy their bodies for all they do for them – support them, help them get from point A to point B, keep them safe, and so on.
As parents, we can also have a tremendous impact on our children’s body image by modeling a positive relationship with our own bodies.
Q: As a media expert, you teach girls how to become smarter consumers of magazines, ads and other media outlets. When talking to girls about media literacy, what’s surprised you the most about their reactions?
A: Despite the fact that the curtain has been lifted when it comes to what actually goes into a photo shoot or advertisement that a girl might see in a magazine, the extent to which the media images we encounter have been altered and enhanced still shocks even the most media savvy girl.
While girls may realize ads have been super photoshopped, they don’t necessarily realize that the pictures filling gossip magazines of celebrities on the red carpet or at parties have also been doctored.
To watch girls truly understand this and realize that the women considered to be the most “beautiful” often get their looks from a combination of plastic surgery and retouching is a powerful thing to witness.
Q: Can you talk about some of the ways girls can become media literate?
A: To become media literate, one needs to become a critical consumer of media. It’s like that age-old saying, “Don’t believe everything you read (or see, or hear).”
If we can teach teens to question what they’re seeing and not accept it as truth, we can encourage them to dig deeper and view the media itself for what it is – a means of communicating a message from a certain person or organization’s point of view.
I also encourage girls to learn more about what goes on behind-the-scenes in creating media, by watching things like the eye-opening videos created by the DOVE Campaign for Real Beauty or Jean Kilbourne’s famous documentary, Killing Us Softly, which is about the way women are objectified in advertising.
Q: How can parents empower their daughters?
A: The language which parents use when addressing or talking about their daughter can have a direct impact on how their daughter sees herself.
For example, many parents, without even realizing it, make comments about their daughters’ strengths and weaknesses (she’s not very good with numbers or she may be smart, but she doesn’t have an ounce of common sense) that may send messages which ultimately limit their daughters’ perception about what possibilities are open for her.
Likewise, girls who are highly valued for their beauty or looks may determine that this is where their worth lies.
When parents encourage their girls to take healthy risks, explore their various passions, and appreciate their girls for their values and qualities (I like the way you committed yourself to that project), their daughters will feel empowered and gain the confidence to tackle any challenge or reach any goal.
Q: What are some of your favorite resources for teens?
A: There are too many to list here! I love the book Real Girl, Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self by Heather Gray and Samantha Phillips, as well as Jess Weiner’s website, which empowers girls to be Actionists® in their own lives.
I’m also a fan of YouthNoise, FreshBrain and Girls With Dreams, as well as a new website for teen girls who want to take charge of their lives in the arenas of entrepreneurism, social activism, and volunteerism I’m co-developing called Heart of Gold.
For a complete list of my recommended books and sites for girls, check out my blog Smart Girls Know.
Thank you, Debbie, so much for speaking with me and providing your insight!
What are your favorite positive resources for teens or women? What specifically resonated with you from Debbie’s interview? What’s surprised you about our media?
P.S., Just a reminder that if you’re writing a post or paragraph on creativity, please email me by January 18th at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com. Thank you!
Also, I’m so honored to have been voted as a runner-up in Ashley’s Nourishing Body Image Awards. Read the post here. You might find some new awesome resources to check out.
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Last reviewed: 12 Jan 2011