Deep Bench: Body image and self-esteem in children

WAUSAU, Wis. (WZAW) -- We are bombarded every day with ads and commercials that promote a certain "look", to be skinny and tall, have perfectly placed hair and imperfection-free skin. While many adults are good at noticing an exaggerated model look, that can have a big influence on our kids.

The study suggests social media use may harm the mental health of teenagers by increasing their exposure to bullying. (Source: CNN)

Judy Lemke, a licensed professional counselor at Behavioral Health Clinic sat down for a conversation on NewsChannel 7 at 4 to discuss the impact of negative body image and self-esteem in young children and teens.

“It can do a real quick downhill slide, because if we take body image, which is our view of ourselves externally and self-esteem which is our internal examination of how we are of value to ourselves and others, and those are closely related, and things start to chip away at either one of those,” Lemke said. “Mood disorders can happen, but oftentimes we see lots of disturbing behaviors in adolescent girls who might have an eating disorder. Males will typically become more depressed.”

She said children and teens are more susceptible to be affected by outward influence and react to it, because the need to be accepted is really important.

“Their value is how they’re accepted by their peers. Then if you put that up against social media and what we expect ourselves to look like if we compare ourselves to social media, there’s just no realistic way that’s going to happen.”

Lemke referenced a study she recently read that said only 5% of society actually resembles what social media shows we should look like.

“That leaves 95% of us left to feel like we’re not measuring up.”

Because of all the negative influences, Lemke encouraged parents and other adults in a child’s life to be a good role models.

“I think they need to check their own body images. If you’re complaining about your fat thighs or your exercise program is too grueling or you’re not going to buy a certain dress, because it’s not the right size, kids pick up on those subtle images.”