Boys are increasingly worried about their body image, a new survey reveals — with 23% believing there is a perfect male body.
According to the survey, the biggest influences on boys to look good come from:
- Friends (68%)
- Social media (57%)
- Advertising (53%)
- Celebrities (49%).
Boys are also far more likely to talk to their friends about their looks than to their teachers or parents, but are quite likely to laugh off any issues they have, as they are worried they will be made fun of or even bullied.
The Picture of Health poll also showed that, while they were aware of the digital manipulation of images, they were shocked at to what degree the looks of models were altered — with many boys aware of airbrushing but associating it with female images only.
Some 67% of them said it was unacceptable to use digital techniques to manipulate body shapes in advertising.
The survey also showed that 42% of boys who think male images are realistic also believe there is a ‘perfect body’ to strive for, compared with 16% of those who think male images are unrealistic.
Two thirds of those who believe there is a ‘perfect body’ also think they can achieve it if they work at it.
The research has just published alongside a government-supported media literacy toolkit, Media Smart, to help parents and teachers talk to children about how adverts are made and how they can affect self-perception.
Karen Fraser, of the Credos advertising industry think tank that conducted the survey, said: ‘Boys are increasingly worried about their appearance. The relatively low awareness of boys’ body image issues amongst parents and teachers, coupled with a culture of boys not discussing their worries, makes it a tough environment for boys to seek support.’
The team reports: ‘Our research suggests, for example, that although the views of girls are often indirectly stated — such as an offhand comment about the attractiveness of a male celebrity’s body — older boys are very aware of girls’ views and expectations and are keen to impress them. The desire to conform and fit in with peers means dressing a certain way becomes much more important as boys progress to age 18.
‘However, our research suggests that parents and teachers tend to be slower in recognising that body image issues impact upon both genders. For both parents and teachers, it can be difficult to distinguish whether the driving force behind behaviour change in a boy is a desire to get healthier or issues related to body confidence. Youth leaders, who spend time with boys in more informal settings, say they have noticed an increase in boys’ concern over their image, which they largely attribute to the pervasive influence of social media.’
Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage agreed advertising could have a big impact on young minds and said it was important to empower young people to take a more critical view of it.
The report recommends:
- Advice and education for boys, parents and teachers on identifying extreme body issues
- Initiatives to raise awareness of digital enhancement of male images in advertising
- A more diverse range of male body shapes and sizes in advertising.
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