Dr. Robyn On Radio June 15th: Discussing Body Image

smarttalk banner

Hi everyone!

Join me via the web or on the radio in Harrisburg, PA, for an hour long discussion on body image.  I’ll be on the radio show “Smart Talk” on the station WITF, an affiliate of NPR.

Host Craig Cohen will lead the discussion on Body Image. From the shows and ads on TV, to the models in newspapers and magazines, to storefront windows, to…well…anywhere you look – images bombard us that tell us what we’re supposed to look like. And many of those images are not only utterly unrealistic, they can do great harm – to adolescents especially – who grow concerned about their body image. Vanity also has led to a booming cosmetic surgery industry. But where’s the line between reasonable, appropriate efforts to look one’s best, and unreasonable, unrealistic efforts to reach some sort of ideal? And what does it say about us that we feel so compelled to always look “better?”

If you’d like to hear the full show at a later date/time, audio will be archived that afternoon at witf.org. Click on the SmartTalk icon and look for Monday’s blog entry on Body Image.

Would love to hear from you!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dear Dr. Robyn: I think my child’s depressed

depression teenDr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’m worried that my daughter is depressed.  She always loved to go to her classes and right now she doesn’t want to do much of anything.  I’ve had her teachers talk to her and she just seems lethargic.  She’s always been one to talk about commitment and other “Powerful Words” like perseverance and goal-setting.  I don’t know what happened. She doesn’t seem happy at all and whenever I ask her about it she tells me she doesn’t know why she’s sad.  What should I do?

–Shawna P, Massachusetts

Dear Shawna,

It might surprise you that the diagnosis of depression has been becoming more frequent among young people. Teen Depression.org states that as many as 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 teens may have depression. They also are experiencing more and more stress which can lead to feelings of frustration and sadness.

There are two kinds of depression.Depending on what the source of depression is, will help you to determine what to do:

If your child has situational depression, it means that she is sad for a reason. Examples of reasons would be: a fight with her best friend, a bad grade at school, or problems with parents can cause her to feel sad or hurt. These feelings usually go away in minutes, hours, or days.

On the other hand, clinical depression, is when a traumatic event or the chemical makeup of the brain causes prolonged feelings of sadness, worthlessness, irritability, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, or even thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Events that can be a source of depression for your child might be: being a victim of a violent crime or watching one occur, parents divorcing or someone stable in your daughter’s life has left, the death of a family member, or recurring bullying at school.

In other cases, clinical depression seems to have no reason at all—it’s caused by the imbalance of the chemicals that run through your child’s brain. This type of depression is often passed down genetically through families.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad or irritable mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Significant change in appetite or body weight
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

On of the big problems with clinical depression and preteens or teens is that many adults regard the signs of depression as typical mood swings.  After all, many preteens and teens are moody! Parents might regard the signs as a phase and doctors might not want to prematurely label a child who may simply be going through a developmental stage. But parents are important in the fight against depression. You have to listen to your gut– early diagnosis and treatment of clinical depression are very important to healthy social and emotional development as well as to performance in school and friendship relations.

Continue to encourage your child to go out with friends, get exercise, eat a healthy diet, and do all the things she loves– surround her with positive, supportive people like those she loves at her Powerful Words member school.  Of course, many children need much more so…

If you think your child may be suffering from clinical depression, it’s important to get help for her. Clinical depression doesn’t just “go away.” Talk to your child and be honest with your concerns. You can then take her to a doctor so she can get help.  Her doctor can discuss a course of action and a treatment plan that may include therapy and/or medication.

There is no shame in getting help!

Best regards,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Diabulimia: Does my friend have Diabulimia?

Ask Dr. Robyn: Does my friend have Diabulimia?  Is Diabulimia a “big deal?”

I received a question from Jennifer in NJ whose friend has Diabetes and is currently losing a lot of weight.  Jennifer is concerned about whether her friend might have Diabulimia and if her behaviors might be causing a real problem.  This video answers, “What is Diabulimia?” and “How do I know if someone might be having a problem with Diabulimia?”

If you or someone you know is having a problem with Diabulimia, please get help.

Please comment below about Diabulimia, your take on the problem, or your stories. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn is Guest Editor for Dove Self Esteem Fund!

dove self esteem fund

Dr. Robyn Silverman

How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Joining Dove Self Esteem Embassador, Jessica Weiner and psychologist and author, Ann Kearney Cooke, I am honored to have been asked to be the guest editor for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Do you know about the great efforts of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, workshops, and education for girls, moms and anyone who loves or works with girls.

The question I was asked to answer for preteen and teen girls was: How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Here’s the full article and bio.

Highlights from the article include:

If you asked me about real beauty, you might be surprised by what I say…when I was 14 years old, there was an enormous billboard in our town center of a woman in an expensive dress looking down on the street through heavily made up eyes.  I thought she was perfect; unblemished, flawless, and yes, a real beauty. As I look back, I realize how wrong I was to think that way…she was digitally modified, primped, preened, puffed up and paired down…what’s really beautiful about someone who doesn’t really exist?

We want girls to realize that real beauty is in their best friend– their mom– and in themselves.  So I included passages such as this one:

Real beauty doesn’t need to be all made up or dressed in fancy clothes. It’s imperfectly perfect. It’s your best friend’s contagious zest for life that you see every time she pretends to pose for glamour shots while wearing a fuzzy bathroom and hippo-patterned pajamas. It’s the two of you singing into a hairbrush and dancing to some ridiculous song on the radio– just because it’s fun. Just because you can. Yes, real beauty is in your best friend…

Read the rest of the article!

What do you think real beauty is all about?  How would you explain it to your daughter, your niece, your student, or other girls you love?

Please comment below– we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

The Weight of School Culture

I’m not sure how many of you know, but I’ve been studying girls, body image, confidence and success for quite a long time.  In fact, a good chunk of my work at Tufts University was on how girls feel they “fit in” to a culture that tends to sensationalize thinness and to reject people the more they deviate from the thin ideal. This cultural issue has a high cost. It isn’t only a problem because it creates a hotbed for eating disordered behavior and poor self worth, but also because it can cultivate social problems such as bullying, social rejection, and academic challenges.

A new study shows that a supportive, respectful peer culture, which makes children feel as though they “fit in” is just as important to a student’s success as high academic expectations.  Specifically, those students who were categorized as clinically “obese” were less likely to go to college than those students who were considered of medically “normal” weight. This finding was much more severe for girls than for boys.

Who did it? Robert Crosnoe, University of Texas, with colleague, Chandra Muller

You can have the best curriculum in the world, and if there’s something messed up in the culture, then you set out to fail…anytime you put 1,000 kids together, you’re creating a culture. (Crosnoe)

Where was it published? July issue of Sociology of Education

Where did the data come from? Crosnoe used data collected on nearly 11,000 teens from 128 schools from around the U.S. as part of the ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest and most comprehensive survey of health-related behavior among teens between 7th and 12th grade, which started in 1994.

What did he find?

Teens who were categorized as “obese” tended to have to cope with more social isolation.

They were less likely to go to college or take advanced math and science classes even though their peers were doing so. (Crosnoe)

Gender Issues

Girls who were considered obese were less likely to attend college than thin girls.

“The more it makes you stand out from the crowd, the worse it is,” says Crosnoe.

  • How do I measure up? Girls are more likely to compare themselves to their female classmates and peers around them than are boys. Because body appearance is more central to girls’ self-concept than to boys’, it’s likely that this gender difference implies that weight has a more powerful effect on the lives of girls and their academic careers.
  • Fitting in and Standing Out: In school cultures in which students were less likely to be considered clinically obese and overweight, 61% of “obese” girls didn’t continue school.  However, in a school in which at least 1/3 of students were indeed considered medically obese, only 17% of “obese” girls did not go on.

“Your school and your culture affects how you view academics and your future.  Social ups and downs are a big distraction…many of the kids said it’s hard to sit and do your homework when you’re worried about what will happen in school the next day.” (Crosnoe)

Beating the Odds: Resilient Kids

  • How did some socially isolated students do well despite their social problems?  Key characteristics: very supportive parents, at least one good friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and finding a niche in an extracurricular activity.

Again, it’s underscored: Enrolling your child in a positive extracurricular activity where character, confidence, connection, individual competence, caring and compassion are stressed, such as in an academy that is using Powerful Words Character Development, is more important than ever.  Children who may not be socially thriving in school can still be extremely successful if they receive the support, education, and chance to succeed in an extracurricular activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, dance, cheer, or other powerful after-school opportunity.  Parents who need a recommendation, please contact our team.

How did you fit into your school culture?  How has your child found his or her place within the school culture?  How do you see a powerful extracurricular helping this situation? Please share your “secrets” so we can spread the ideas to all those who can use them!

Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Day!

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving Up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

In 7th grade, one of my best friends complained that she needed a nose job. “It’s too big!” I thought she was beautiful. But I’ll never forget what she told me; “Every time I look in the mirror, all I see is this nose. Beautiful people have little noses. Have you ever seen a model with a nose like mine?”

Seventh grade was my real induction into the world of “beauty.” Or shall I say, “manufacturing beauty” from natural beauty. Make-up, hair, tanning, shaving (thank goodness we didn’t know much about waxing during the preteen years), clothes and plastic surgery—it became apparent that scuffed up jeans, a t-shirt, and a little dirt on my face was no longer going to cut it. I had been a bit of a tomboy—having 2 older brothers who I wanted desperately to be like—and a tomboy wasn’t the best thing to be once you entered middle school.

We got a bit ridiculous. We’d put on our mother’s make-up and dress up like Madonna. We actually thought we looked good. We’d spend hours looking in the mirror brushing our teeth, pinching non-existent fat and searching for flaws to complain about. We bought trinkets and bobbles and fluorescent purses (mine was pink).

I remember saving up to buy at least 50 of those rubber bracelets—yes, I realize they were simply car parts and vacuum cleaner components now—but we all wanted them. I even remember my friends and myself slathering ourselves with tanning oil and literally lying down on tin foil to get that “natural glow.” Years later I realized that I could use the same procedure to cook shrimp.

As bad as we were, it’s worse these days. How much do girls and women spend on all those products that promises “more beauty than our creator could ever provide?”

It turns out, probably more than we care to know. The YMCA released a report on the Consequences of America’s Beauty Obsession on Women and Girls to illustrate that we’ve been buying into a “Beauty at Any Cost philosophy.

Economic Costs:

  1. 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure in 2007
  2. A survey of young people showed that 69% of responders, 18 or older, are in favor of cosmetic surgery.
  3. ¼ of cosmetic surgery was performed on women of color, up 13% from the previous year.
  4. Workers with “below average looks tended to earn about 9% less money than those with “above average” looks

Beauty or brains?

One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. Five years of beauty products costs $6,423

Health Costs:

  1. 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight
  2. 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight
  3. 37% of women are concerned about what they’re eating
  4. 13% of women actually smoke in order to lose weight!
  5. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in the US
  6. 40% of newly-diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls only 15-19 years old. Symptoms can start as early as kindergarten.
  7. Over ½ of teen girls engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, smoking, and taking laxative

What’s the real cost of all that make-up?

Several ingredients found in US cosmetics have been linked to damage to the liver and reproductive system in animals. Europe has banned these ingredients. The US has not. In fact, in Europe, substances that can be used currently in the US have been called “carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction and should be prohibited from use in cosmetic products.” –European Union Cosmetics Directive, 2003

Happiness Cost

  1. Studies have found that girls who watch TV commercials with underweight models in them lost self confidence and were dissatisfied with their own bodies.
  2. Sexualization of girls have been linked with eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
  3. Aggressive bullying between girls has been on the rise since the 1990s.
  4. Relational aggression, a form of bullying, is related to their roles in culture. Women want to be attractive and men want to have attractive partners.

In a study of women, 80% of interviewed participants said that they competed with other women over physical appearance. These women are driven by an unhealthy belief that winning the looks competition will somehow gain them a husband, “the” career, or the self they desire.

So, should we dare to think about it? How much are we paying for beauty? How much are our children—many of whom are going back to school—going to spend on clothes, make-up, hair, weight loss and skin to ensure that they look “their best?” And how is it that we’ve all been fooled to believe that “our best” means slathering ourselves with manufactured, unnatural products that are made in a factory?

So much for telling children and teens to just be themselves.

Please comment below. We’re really interested in what you have to say.

Girls Feel Pressure to Grow Up Too Fast, Study Says

Girls Feel Anxiety about Pressure to Fast-Track Their Development

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Between the magazine articles telling girls to lose weight, glossies telling her that she’ll never measure up , young celebrities withering away along with their clothes, models getting thinner and thinner, and the massive pressures in school and among friends to look the best, a generation of girls are being affected. Poor body image, poor body esteem, mental health issues, and low self worth abound.

Negative messages are everywhere. Even our daughter’s clothes and favorite dolls and toys are getting a boost, a lift, a pout, and a “push” to grow up sooner and sexier than ever before. Some, you just have to wonder, are the retailers kidding?

So who could be surprised that girls are showing some wear and tear from today’s sexualized, body-bashing culture? A recent study out of the UK reveals that the pressure to grow up too soon is one the greatest influences on girls’ well being, according to the girls themselves! The pressure to wear clothes that make them look older, entertain sexual advances from boys, lose weight according to the directions in the media, and even consider plastic surgery to “improve looks” were identified as pressures that were particularly damaging.

One participant explained: “When I was eleven I read a teenage magazine for the first time and that is when it kind of clicked, ‘I should be like this.’”

Here’s the scoop:

Who was studied? Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. Qualitative (descriptive) information was collected through focus groups consisting of 54 girls, divided by age. Quantitative (the numbers and percents) data were collected through polls online, in which 350 girls participated.

By Whom: Girlguiding UK, the Mental Health Foundation, and leading researchers Opinion Leader.

What was studied? The report considers a new generation of potential triggers for mental health problems in girls – premature sexualization, commercialization and alcohol misuse – and also some of the more longstanding issues like bullying and family breakdown. It examines the impact of such factors on girls’ feelings and behavior at home and in their communities, and asks young women themselves what might be done to help.

What did they find?

§ Mental Health Issues: Many girls reported that they had direct experience with friends and people who they knew who were suffering from some kind of mental health problem.

o Two-fifths know someone who has self-harmed

o One third of the girls have a friend who has suffered from an eating disorder

o Half new girls who were suffering from depression

o Almost two in five had friends who had experienced panic attacks.

o Many girls felt strongly that self-harm was within the spectrum of normal teenage behavior – as long as it happened infrequently– and was not necessarily an indication of a mental health issue.

o A sixth of those surveyed often feel angry

o Half admit they find anger hard to manage.

o Around a quarter often worry (28%) and feel like no-one understands them (25%) while around half find both emotions hard to handle.

§ Gotta Have It! Increased pressure to have money for the latest electronics and clothes means pressure for the girls.

o One-in-five girls report feeling anger and sadness

o A quarter of the girls feel worried or bad about themselves.

§ Fodder for Bullies? Girls felt that the growing check-list of “ideals” for young girls was giving bullies additional excuses to single them out – leading to stress, unhappiness and anxiety.

As one girl admitted: “If I get bored then I start becoming really aggressive.”

§ Is my body OK? Media is a major culprit.

o Looking at pictures of models, pop-stars and actresses makes a fifth feel sad, two-fifths feel bad about themselves and 12 per cent feel angry.

o Media stories that portray young people in a bad light make half the girls who took part angry (50 per cent), a quarter worried (23 per cent) and almost two-fifths sad.

· Read the full study: A Generation Under Stress

Study after study is showing that girls are under stress…and duress in their normal, everyday lives. Yet, our culture continues to churn out manufactured, thinned-out celebrities, sexualized play-things, inappropriate clothes, and media to deliver the 1-2 punch.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we provide our girls with positive role models, positive body messages, and positive activities and powerful environments that show them they are so much more than a 2-dimensional object there to be critiqued, criticized, and put-down.

What are your thoughts on this recent study? Any ideas with regard to what to do next? Yes, we need these girls to have a pivotal moment when they know they’re worthwhile—but even more than that—we need to promote positive development in these girls from the start so that this problem is markedly reduced in the first place. Otherwise, we are simply averting our eyes…aren’t we? I mean, how bad does it have to get before we pay attention?

Here’s to Making Our Girls Feel and Become Powerful–

Body Image and Boys: The Adonis Complex and Steroid Abuse among Teens

Steroid Use in Boys…furthering the discussion.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Powerful Parents are certainly a passionate bunch. I guess my article on steroid abuse among teens stirred up some good discussion yesterday in light of the cultural response to body image problems among our youth. Perhaps you were surprised that boys were affected just as girls have been affected. What else can we expect?

With so much concentrated focus on the war against obesity, it shapes up the insecurities in children who say to themselves, “I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be cast aside, put down, or put out, so I will do whatever it takes, even if it means putting my health as risk, to be thin, muscular, and admired. Is this the message we want to send to our youth—spooned to mouth by Hollywood starlets, He-man Gladiators, and appearance-driven magazines? To be thin, muscular and unhealthy rather than risk being called “overweight” or worse yet…“average?”

Research has shown that dieting and attending to one’s physique in negative ways has become so prevalent that the behavior of in a way, has become normalized. That means that those people who are NOT dieting, participating in some abnormal or disordered eating patterns, or trying to alter their body through surgery, drugs, or laxative abuse, are in affect, abnormal. One preteen in one of my Sassy Sisterhood Girls Groups said it clearly a few summers ago, “if you’re not dieting or something like it, you’re considered weird, snobby, kind of stuck on yourself, or like, NOT normal.” Great. What youth, whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, wants to be abnormal?

So they reach out for assistance. They restrict food, they purge, they take laxatives, or they dope up with steroids. Well, what did we expect? Do you ever hear societal reverb recalibrated to say, “lose weight but don’t go too far?” Of “eat healthily, exercise wisely, and then accept yourself at the size your at? No. We hear…be better, faster, bigger! Be More! More! More!

I did an interview a few month’s back for a teen website in which I was asked about boys and body image. Here is a part of my answer:

Boys are dealing with something that is now informally being called “The Adonis Complex”—named after the Greek mythology figure Adonis who was half man and half god—he was considered the ultimate in masculine good looks and ideal physique for men. And, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, Adonis had a body that was so perfectly beautiful that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, fell in love with the site of him.

So what parents need to know is that while it’s not as common as it is for girls, (in fact, girls are 3 times as likely to feel bad about their bodies than boys) boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. In fact, according to a study done in Australia, about 45 per cent of men were unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent of men only 25 years ago. Remember, Boys are changing too—they also want to look good and desirable to others—they value the opinions of others, and they recognize that there is a connection between positive attention and how they look.

Research into boy’s body image has shown males are concerned with having that lean muscular look and of course, this makes them want to lose weight and increase their muscle mass- often in unhealthy ways. And the bottom line here is that again, messages that come from parents and the media have a strong influence on body image for teen boys as well as teen girls—but while it may be a large concern—and it deserves a lot of attention, we can do something about it—we can help our kids feel confident, healthy, happy and worthwhile-and that is what I am trying to do with my work with children, teens, parents, and educators.

So we must expect teens to come up with ways that make them “the best.” Because we tend to pay attention to the best. Who pays attention to mediocre? In our society we want it all—even if it means that we chisel away at ourselves, our health, and our self worth to get there. Yes, I’m talking abut the teens…but you know as well as I do, we’re also talking about adults. And somehow, we’re supposed to serve as examples.

In a world in need of role models that don’t come in retouched slinky dresses or couched in pumped up doped-filled muscles, we ask those who are truly trying to make a difference to scream the loudest. So go ahead…scream!

One of our resident role models, Amy Jussel, Executive Director of Shaping Youth (an Organization for which I am an Advisory Board member and Body Image expert, piggybacked my article on Steroid use in boys, which I wanted to share, at least in part, with all of you:

Take it away…Amy!

Awhile back I wrote about body image issues offering “equal opportunity toxicity” as young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum.

Not getting alarmist, as we’re still in single digit growth percentages, but it’s worth the focus on BOYS who have been gaining on girls in eating disorders and tanked self-esteem as media and marketing serve up a quest for the almighty ‘hotness’ and adolescents end up with The Adonis Complex reverb.

This Sunday on our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Rona Renner’s radio show, you can hear the doctors tackle “adolescent body image” (podcasts archived too) as Rona and her guests help teens develop a healthier image of themselves beyond the media machine.

Gee, let’s start with Lightyear XSTREAM Energy. (and no, not the Buzz Lightyear kind) This energy drink contains Yohimbe, claiming to be an aphrodisiac and “natural sexual enhancer used for impotent males.” Or perhaps this new summer ’08 flavor of citrus “Crunk” which you may recall originated in ’04 with rapper/producer Lil John and the late Sidney Frank, of Jagermeister and Grey Goose libation fame.

Now, um, tell me, doctors…”Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

The media/marketing blitz selling kids ways to last longer, get stronger, “be hot with a shot” is complicit in the escalation of body image problems wreaking havoc on this appearance-obsessed generation of kids.

Girls may receive more press about disordered eating and such, but ‘Bigorexia’ (photo credit at left from Ditch Diets Live Light by blogger Cari Corbet-Owen) is on the rise. (See Cari’s primer called ‘Who Gets the Adonis Complex?” for a helpful snapshot of milestones in media moments for male context)

These media corollaries are backed up by researchers like Alison Field, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and lead researcher on the GUTS study [Growing Up Today]…

A synopsis of her outcomes with males?

“Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males.”

And it’s more common than once thought, with a direct correlation of risk factors between boys unhealthy means used to gain weight, (e.g. steroids) and girls unhealthy means lose weight, (e.g. bulimia, diet pills, etc.) tied to “wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media.”

Ahem. Causal link, anyone? When I have 5th graders in our counter-marketing sessions worried about dieting and muscle mass, (boys AND girls) I’d say Houston, we have a problem.

How would Shaping Youth “counter-market” the buffed boy/steroid bit? (and intake of supplements of all kinds promising the lean, mean teen machine?)

Point to articles like this from Parenting Teens.com for starters:

“Teens abusing steroids may suffer reduced sperm count, shrinking testicles, impotence and difficulty urinating. All of this intimately associated with the equipment most men value very highly.

Teens on steroids also risk losing their hair and inappropriate breast development. One has to wonder how many takers there would be for steroids if these side effects were listed alongside the much-vaunted ‘desirable’ effects. This is why education on the (in excess of 70) side effects of steroids is almost a sure way to deal with steroid abuse among teens. The fact is these young people are simply unaware of this.

Imagine a pack of steroids bearing this equation: “Enormous increases in brute strength” soon followed by the shrinking of testicles, impotence, lowered sperm count and hair loss. With the writing on the wall few teens can dispute the ill effects of steroid abuse. It is still true that the underlying problem of low self esteem and poor body image must be addressed. Rest assured that if it is allowed to lie there unattended it will not go away. Instead it will find another destructive outlet.”

Info on Rona Renner’s Radio Show for this Sunday:

(1-877-372-KIDS) or listen when posted on the website Details: The doctors will be talking about media and peer pressure to be thin or look sexy, as well as some of the ‘acting out’ that transpires with body insecurities in the form of cutting, eating disorders, depression or anxiety. Hey, maybe Dr. Robyn would call-in to Rona’s radio show and write us a guest editorial recap? Hmn…

Related Resources/Body Image/Boys

NIDA for Teens (Fact Sheets)

Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies, USA Today

The X/Y Factor by Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.Times

Tween Boys/Putting on the Spritz by Lori Aratani, L.A. Times

Shaping Youth Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Bigorexia & Muscle Building: Ditch Diets & Live Light.com

The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, & Prevent Body Obession in Men & Boys (book)

I’m, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating & Exercise (book)

Looking Good: Male Body Image in North America (book)

About-Face: Body Image Books/Tips on Body Acceptance

NIDA: Anabolic Steroid Use in Teens, 2005

Kids Health: Steroids/Human Growth Hormone

Steroid Use by Teens Soaring (CBS News, 2003)

Packaging Boyhood.com (upcoming book/survey here!)

Amy Jussel is the Founder & Executive Director of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium concerned with harmful media and marketing messages to children. Prior to founding Shaping Youth, Amy spent over 20 years as a writer/producer in print, broadcast and film in commercial advertising as well as journalism. Her media background makes her uniquely qualified to assess the impact of multi-channel marketing in children’s lives.

Thanks for your take on the situation, Amy! Now let’s hear what you have to say…comment below!

Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A.Silverman; http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com

Makeover Madness for Children’s Cartoons? Less belly fat, more muscles, and a cell phone

It appears that our yesterday’s favorite cartoon characters are getting extreme makeovers to cater to the modern tastes of today’s kids. According to the New York Times, these classic characters are being “freshened up” in order to add upward momentum to the rough sloping economy.

Apparently, the YouTube generation is interested in less belly fat and more muscles. Less “cutesy” and more streamline. Fewer calories and more cell phones. Seriously. What ever happened to nostalgia for days when we didn’t need to think about all that stuff?

Impossibly thin waists and the buff bods have been popular among fairy princesses and hulky princes, respectively, but how about the Care-bears and Little Miss Shortcake?

Strawberry Shortcake went under the figurative knife and was revealed this past Tuesday. Labeled a “fruit-forward” makeover, she was stripped of her bloomers, went on a diet (no more sweets, more fruit!), put down her cat, and picked up a cell phone. No more freckles and of course, more pink—now her signature color in place of her customary red. She looks a lot more “little mermaid” than “strawberry sweetie” from yesteryear.

Toys and toons aimed at boys are also getting a little nip-tuck. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are loosing a bit of their ‘tude and gaining more muscles. Think—turtles on steroids.

Other nostalgic characters getting a face—and body-lift? Bugs bunny, Scoobie Doo, and the Care bears, the latter getting a little lipo to loose the belly fat and eyelash extensions to enhance the eyes.

The companies are trying to appeal to the kids without going too far—attempting to stay away from the hypersexualized and increasingly violent media landscape ever-present today. Even Mickey Mouse will be getting into the action.

Companies like Disney are giving nostalgic characters an update in an attempt to appeal to both modern kids and today’s parents–parents who are trying to protect their youngsters from seeing too much, considering the recent Miley Cyrus exposure and other young stars who are becoming less predictable and more out of control. Not to mention other brands that have gone way to far towards sexualizing the most mundane toys to appeal to Paris-Hilton-like children such as the Disney HorsesStrutz (for girls who are on the cutting edge of what’s hot in fashion)

They’re also wary of changing their brand too much or sending out items that parents don’t like as Mattel did in 1993 when they spruced up the classic Ken doll with a poorly chosen purple mesh T-shirt, leather vest, earring, and high-lighted coif. Warner Brothers made a similar marketing mistake when they revamped Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in 2005, full with mohawks and crazy eyes in the series “Lunatics.”

Are cartoon portrayals such a big deal?

According to numerous studies, it may be.

“the depictions about gender roles seen by children could impact and interact with both the expectations they develop about relationships and appropriate behavior, and their future life decisions. It is important to keep in mind, too, that the concern about stereotyping is not less severe because these are cartoons and not “real life.” Although this issue has not been definitely settled by research, several studies have indicated that young children accept fantasy as reality and cannot always distinguish well between the two. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research by Thompson et al.

WEIGH IN

What do you think? Is it a good thing for these toy and cartoon companies to reflect a more streamline, beauty-oriented, techno-culture in our children’s cartoons or should they be leaving things the way they are? Are cartoons getting too sexed up for the kids or are people making too much of a big deal about the whole thing?

Please comment below!

Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Photo credits: New York Times, Google, Strutz Site, TOFC, themanbehindtheearring.com, wikipedia

Disney Princesses Sexualizing Your Daughters? Dr. Robyn Responds

It can be difficult to cope when it seems that our children are growing up too soon. Parents often have a love-hate relationship with much of the media when it comes to their children. Especially their daughters. On the one hand you have the hypersexualization of women and girls in music videos, magazines, internet games and advertisements, and on the other hand you have the classics we all used to love—like Sesame Street and Disney. But as adults, even are old favorites sometimes get on our nerves. Yes, as parents, we have a new perspective.

The following article is a guest post from Vicki, a parent, just like you, who just wants what’s best for her child. As Powerful Parents who know the importance of character education and values discussions in families, we’d love to hear your perspective. You can read her article as well as my response to her regarding at least some ways that she can deal with her frustrations with the Disney Princesses and Barbie, who have clearly gotten on her last nerve.

The Princesses Are Sexualizing My Daughter

Reagan has been “into” the Disney Princesses for years now. INTO them. She’s got reading books, coloring books, sticker books, puzzles, dress-up clothes, regular clothes, CDs, movies, toys, dolls, you name it she’s had one with a princess somewhere on it. We even went to Disney World in conjunction with her sixth birthday so she could enjoy meeting the princesses while she was still in that phase.

There was a time when we tried to ban the princesses. It was a couple years ago and we were idealistic thinking that if we told everyone that we weren’t “doing” the princesses that they would stop giving her things with princesses on them. That did not work. And the ban seemed to deepen her interest. Funny how that works. We couldn’t really express why we were banning them. That would lead to more questions.

“Why can’t I have that Princess coloring book?”
“Because we don’t do Princesses?”
“Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Because they promote the wrong image?”
“What’s an image?” “What’s promote?” “Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Here’s the coloring book.”

That’s not how it would end. She wouldn’t get the coloring book. But eventually we gave in and she did start acquiring that stuff again. At some time we thought we could counteract the Princesses. We introduced her to Veggie Tales, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Hello Kitty (I will never understand why someone finds princesses better than Hello Kitty. She is the best. The. End.), and many other characters. Her desire was always for the Princesses.

Now she knows practically everything about them. What is starting to bother me is that she’s starting to emulate them. Wanting to be more like them. For a while when she would put on a nightgown with a stretchy neck, she’d pull it off one shoulder and walk around with her head tilted towards that shoulder. And look at us with batting eyes. I would promptly ask her to

“Cover your shoulder, girls don’t dress like that.”
“So and so Princess does.”
“You’re not So and so Princess.”

We could live with that because there ain’t no way she’s exiting the house while under my supervision with a shoulder bare like that (visualize me doing the three snap). Unless she’s got a part in some 80s theater production and has on a super baggy sweatshirt and some type of covering underneath.

BUT NOW!!! THE REASON I’M BABBLING ON!!! Just the other night, after her dance recital, she had a friend spend the night. They were getting ready for bed in the bathroom and this is what I heard:

Reagan: “Do you know who my boyfriend is?”
Friend: “Who?”
R: “E****. It used to be S****, and then P****, but now it’s E****.”
F: Crickets
R: “I’d so kiss him. I really would. I really would kiss him.”

WHAT!!??!!??!!?? Where is she getting this stuff from?!?!? It took a couple of days to process. It’s from the freaking Princess characters. And Barbie, she’s not off the hook either. They all are lost in some way. They all need to be saved. They all find their knight in shining armor (or however he may be dressed). And they all kiss in the end with that stupid look of love between them. And what I’m just beginning to realize is this:

You can’t really tell how old the princesses are can you!?!? Or Barbie…

NO, you can’t. The only one, I believe, who mentions her age is Ariel. Disobeying her father at a ripe old age of 16. All of these Princesses look young and girls can totally see themselves playing the part. In fact, mentally picturing all of them, I couldn’t place an age on any of them. Heck, I could see myself playing the part. Girls are learning, ever so subtly, that at their young age they should be finding their one true love and kissing them and getting married.

I don’t think Reagan knows what she means when she says that she really would kiss this boy. She sees Mommy and Daddy kiss and hug, mind you not enough, but I doubt she actually has the moxie to go up and kiss a boy that she doesn’t even have the guts to tell that he’s her boyfriend. How do I know that? Sunday School. You know, the place they’re supposed to go and learn about Jesus? Reagan told a friend that E**** was her boyfriend. So this girl marches right up to him and tells him. His reaction. Nothing. I’m so glad.

So, what’s a Mom and Dad to do? We’re so deep into Princesses and Barbie. Will nightly conversations about this remedy the situation? Will banning the stuff with zero tolerance starting now work? Where is Dr. Dobson when you want to have a heart to heart with him right on the living room sofa? Pray for us please. And seriously, give suggestions.

Dear Vicki,

It’s frustrating to raise girls when media keeps telling them that they need to look a certain way in order to get attention. The Disney princess enterprise keeps growing, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s certainly something that many parents must deal with everyday.

I’ve got several ideas but let’s start here.

  • Ask her about them: What does she loves about the princesses? You may be surprised. There are always things we like and dislike about friends and other people in our lives– but we don’t shut them out even if we don’t agree with them. Perhaps what she likes about them could be something that you like about them to…which leads me to my next tip…
  • Go Positive: Take the Powerful Words approach and build from the positive side. Find something that you like about those princesses– do they have determination and go after something they really want? Do they have goals and dreams? Do they have nice singing voices? Do they show that they’re good friends to their friends? Are they kind? Grateful? Giving? Start focusing on the positive. Praise what you like.
  • Cite the Negative: You can also be very straightforward about what you don’t like about them so that your daughter is clear about your values. In the spirit of “honesty” month, be clear yet age appropriate. Is it their style of dress? Their choices? Their “pinkness?” We want our daughters to get out of the habit of thinking that girls can only look, act, and be one way. Let them know what bothers you and keep it simple.
  • Model What You Want to See: As you know, since I write a character curriculum and advise parents on instilling values in their children, I often talk about modeling and discussing what you would like to see in your children. Your example is stronger than any 2-dimensional character could ever be.
  • Expose Her to Fabulous 3-D Role Models: Have some great friends or local heroes that really show your daughter what a girl can become? Allow your daughter to have “tea” or lunch with them. The more we can expose our girls to powerful, positive women and teens, the more they will see that reality is much better than fantasy.
  • Get Her Into A Positive Activity: Challenge the stereotypes and ensure that your daughter is involved in activities that isn’t all pink and frills. Choose sports that make her feel powerful. Perhaps a martial arts, power tumbling or modern dance class would bring out a different side of her. Any of the Powerful Words Member Schools will also ensure that she’s learning strong character development—not just the physical—which will get her to thrive from the inside out.

If she knows what you like and what you don’t like, is challenging the stereotypes, and is exposed to powerful, positive women, you might be surprised the next time you pass by the bathroom filled with girls– she may just say something like “I like that she’s good to her friends but she doesn’t always make the best choices.”

Let me know how it goes.

Other articles or cites that deal with similar media topics:

Girls Media Maven

Corporate Babysitter:

Final Call

Packaging Girlhood

Shaping Youth