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Mirror, Mirror

Giving girls the confidence to see their beauty

Dazzling bright smiles. Flawless faces. Seemingly impossible thin bodies. Tabloid headlines screaming out which celebrities have the best and worst beach bodies or who wore it better. Reality TV shows encouraging plastic surgery because you could always look better with a nip or tuck. It can all be overwhelming – for adults. Just imagine how intimidating it can be for a young woman.

Today’s youth are bombarded with images of beauty as defined by the media. So, what are the effects of these images on kids as they develop their identities?

A study released in 2006, found that nearly half of all preadolescent girls would like to be thinner and have been on a diet or are aware of the concept of dieting in an attempt to change their bodies. Teen magazine reported in 2003 that 50 to 70 percent of girls of a normal weight have the self-perception that they are overweight. A Girl Scout Research Institute study released this year found that nearly 90 percent of girls surveyed say the fashion industry (89 percent) and/or the media (88 percent) place a lot of pressure on them to be thin.

However, it’s not just girls who are affected by these media images. According to the 2000 study Body Image and Advertising, there is growing awareness regarding the pressure boys are under to appear muscular. The results of this pressure can include an increase in obsessive weight training, and the use of anabolic steroids and dietary supplements.

It’s time to put an end to these unhealthy images blasted through the media. And there is hope. There are organizations, programs and trainings out there that build self-esteem and provide the tools for kids to feel confident in their own bodies and appreciate differences. There also are tools and training for parents to help them communicate with their children.

This spring, Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA, introduced the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925). The bill supports media literacy programs and youth empowerment groups; facilitates research on how images of women and girls impact youth; and establishes a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media to develop voluntary standards that promote healthy, balanced and positive images of girls and women.

The Healthy Media for Youth Act still needs support. Please visit to send a message to your member of Congress asking her/him to sign on to the bill and be a voice for today’s youth. It literally takes less than 30 seconds and all ages can participate.

Four things you can do today as a parent:

  • Look for organizations in your area that offer parent trainings to address body image and self-esteem issues, and sign up. Visit to find a list.
  • Monitor the media your children are exposed to; discuss the images in an open conversation.
  • Tell your children they’re beautiful as they are.
  • Support the Healthy Media for Youth Act.

The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida offers specialized training on youth issues and serves nearly 24,000 girls in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter counties. For information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate, visit

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