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Media Smarts

Page history last edited by Corinne Hansen 3 years, 7 months ago



Media Smarts




Information and resources for media literacy and body image. MediaSmarts has been developing digital and media literacy programs and resources for Canadian homes, schools and communities since 1996. Through our work we support adults with information and tools so they can help children and teens develop the critical thinking skills they need for interacting with the media they love.


Body Image: Introduction

The belief that "thin is beautiful" is pervasive in our culture. 

 Body Image – Girls

Images of female bodies are everywhere, with women and girls – and their body parts – selling everything from food to cars. Popular film and television actresses are becoming younger, taller and thinner. Women’s magazines are full of articles urging that if you can just lose those last twenty pounds, you will have it all: the perfect marriage, loving children, great sex, and a rewarding career.

Body Image – Boys

Traditionally, most of the concerns about media and body image have revolved around girls, but more and more, researchers and health professionals are turning their attention to boys as well. A growing body of research indicates that although boys are less likely to talk about their insecurities, they too experience anxiety about their bodies.[1]

Body Image – Film and TV

Despite the popularity of the Internet, movies and TV still dominate young people's media use (though they are increasingly watching both online). [1] Given this widespread appeal, these media may have an indirect effect by influencing how groups or cultures view body image.

Body Image – Advertising and Magazines

Advertising, particularly for fashion and cosmetics, has a powerful effect on how we see ourselves and how we think we should look. Women's magazines in particular have a tremendous influence on body image, with researchers reporting that teenage girls rely heavily on them for information on beauty and fashion [1], valuing their advice nearly as highly as that of their peers. [2]

Body Image – Music

Music is a significant medium in a young person's life, particularly during the teenage years. While other media may occupy a greater number of hours, it is most often from music that teenagers define their identities and draw cues about how to dress and to behave.


Body Image – The Internet and Video Games

Digital media such as the Internet and video games have become increasingly important in the lives of children and youth. Even when young people are consuming other media, such as TV, music and movies, they are likely to be doing it through the Internet. As well, nearly all the media they consume, from TV shows to toys, have Web pages, virtual worlds, video games or other digital spinoffs associated with them.

Body Image – Toys

There are few media to which youth are exposed to as early as toys, which make up an important part of their media consumption throughout childhood: despite competition from electronics, half of children 14 and younger asked for toys for Christmas in 2011, a number that likely rises for younger children. [1] As a result, the messages about body image that children get from toys may come at a time when they are still forming ideas about gender identity.

Body Image – Photo Manipulation

Photo manipulation, once the preserve of a small number of airbrush-equipped artists, has become commonplace in the fashion, publishing and advertising industries thanks to the introduction of photo-editing software such as Photoshop. (This program, first introduced in 1990, has become so widely used that “photoshopping” is often used as a synonym for photo manipulation.) As a result, heavily retouched photos – of men as well as women [1] – have become nearly universal: a single issue of Vogue was found to contain 144 manipulated images, including the cover. [2]

Media Education and Body Image

There's significant evidence that media education can counter unrealistic media representations of men’s and women's bodies. For example, a 2010 study found that showing the video Evolution (which was created by Dove to show how media images of women are manipulated) significantly reduced negative effects on confidence and body satisfaction of young girls when they looked at pictures of ultra-thin models afterwards. [1]


All resources listed here have been reviewed as meeting recommended practice guidelines and are listed in either  the Alberta Health Services Comprehensive School Health Listing and the Central Zone Health Resource List Addendum for Teachers, or have been recommended as a credible resource and reviewed. This is the  tool that we use for approval of resources - 2014 Criteria for Website Approval CZ School Health Wiki.docx (new).docx 


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