October 27, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Padded bras and sexy MTV videos before the watershed have been blamed for sexualising kids. But are we all missing the point?

Is it really enough for a kid to see a WAG t –shirt to make them want to be one? Is it really these products that will give children negative body image and limited expectations of themselves when they grow up? Because someone somewhere is making the link between those images and self worth and it’s not the kids themselves.

Self- worth is the sense of inner value that you hold. According to psychologists it is part of your identity. Your sense of self is your idea of who you are and whether you are worthy of respect and love. Someone with a low feeling of self-worth will think they are not good enough as they are.

You develop your idea of self during a critical period; from birth to around 6 years and it is the quality of your relationships with other people that makes your idea of self-worth. Who you are and how you value yourself is judged by your relationships with others.

Let’s say a child is only praised and given special attention when she is looking pretty or attractive from an adult’s perspective.  That child will remember it and if repeated constantly and told to them by their family, teachers, other children, the media and society as a whole during their critical period, then they will ‘internalise’ it.

It is hearing an idea about yourself at a young age often enough and loudly enough then you will make it your own and believe that it’s true. That kid may grow up feeling that she only mattered when she looked pretty, physical appearance must therefore be paramount after all. This is what screws up your child, not Tesco selling padded bras.

To a kid these products will be seen as they are. To a five year old a tiara and sparkly high heels will be just that, it is adults who convince them that they are not worth anything without them. It is also an adult who will connect their sense of identity and worth to what they look like.

It is right that these things should be take off the shelves as inappropriate but it won’t be enough to stop children growing up with a negative body image. It is the people around kids who have a child’s self worth in their hands and it is they who will begin the problem that the media reinforces.