Cover of ‘Body Image In The Primary School’ by Nikki Hutchinson and Chris Calland

A prominent headteacher has recently declared that children from as young as four should be given lessons on body image, in a bid to control the daily, dangerous influence of media imagery, especially fashion imagery.

Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girl’s School Association believes that girls should be aware of this pressure “soon after they are born”, to achieve maximum results, hopefully leading to a breakthrough on body confidence issues.

Although some may argue against this opinion – believing that young children should stick to learning their alphabet and enjoy their innocence for as long as possible – it is worryingly the case that girls this age are already influenced by what they see around them. It is certainly true that children are far more alert than they are sometimes given credit for. All Walks founder and fashion commentator Caryn Franklin shares a similar view to Dr Wright.

“We need conscious teachers who can help young girls and boys understand the pressures they are experiencing around body image, if done in the right way I see nothing wrong with discussing this subject amongst young children, as it affects them too.

“Students I currently lecture, from Leeds to Plymouth, all express unease about the current body ideals, having internalised the messaging around bodies over the years. Tackling this cultural pressure earlier than university can only be a good thing”.

By making young girls aware of the stereotypical media image of the ‘body beautiful’, and by showing them that there are many more diverse body ideals that are simply not made mainstream, we would be allowing them to grow up in a world where there is a plurality of beauty, not just one rigid and unattainable image.
Instead of creating a false aspiration, air brushing would be actively looked out for, the creativity of fashion designs could then be the focus as opposed to the bodies and perhaps a realisation that everybody will one day get old might even signal the beginning of the end of botox!

Girls need to grow up with self-assurance, so when they are subjected (even more) to the fantasy world of media imagery in their later years, they will be able to hold their heads up high, with the knowledge that they hold body confidence – be it at size 0 or 16.

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Words by Hanna Fillingham
Hanna Fillingham is a second year Journalism student at Cardiff University. During the summer of 2011, Hanna worked as an intern for Caryn Franklin. Hanna has a blog here, and is on Twitter @hannafillingham
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Editor Charlotte Gush, on Twitter @CavaCharlotte