New Government Guidelines on Air Brushed Images for Children

Keira Knightly in the British poster for King Arthur 2004 (left) and the US poster (right) 2004

The UK government has issued new guidelines today to inform parents on how to educate their children about airbrushing – and advises them not to comment on their looks or weight. The Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone has launched the guide which is aimed at teaching body confidence to young children, and warns parents that remarks about their child’s appearance can have a negative impact on their self-esteem. The new guide for parents will help them educate children about how the media alter images and the impact this can have on self-esteem, will also be available as a teaching pack free to schools. The body image parent pack, which has been specifically developed for 6-11-year-olds by not-for-profit organisation Media Smart, is part of the government’s Body Confidence campaign. This campaign seeks to encourage children to think about how and why images may have been altered and the effect this can have on their own body image. It also explores how ideas about the ‘perfect’ body have changed through the ages and offers tips for parents on how to talk to their child about the subject.

A digitally altered Ralph Lauren advert of model Filippa Hamilton (left) compared to a runway photo of Hamilton (right).

In the guide, it is recommended that parents or guardians do not give criticism – or even too much praise – about a young person’s appearance, as doing so can place too much focus on physical appearances and cause them to feel pressure. Parents are encouraged to make sure that youngsters know that many pictures of celebrities and models are enhanced in some way through airbrushing technology. The guide stresses the notion that the so-called perfect body, and the emphasis on skinniness, is a “socially and culturally constructed ideal”. The pack contains before-and-after touched-up images of celebrities such as Britney Spears and Keira Knightly.

A natural shot of Jessica Alba (left) posing for Campari in a limited edition calendar. Right shows the airbrushed altered shot.

Lynne Featherstone said of the campaign “Young people are being set an impossible standard by the images they are confronted with on a daily basis from the media and advertising and there is evidence to suggest this has a negative impact on self-esteem. I want children to recognise from an early age that their value is worth so much more than just their physical appearance. I am delighted to have worked with Media Smart to produce this important work.” This pack is in a similar vein to the guide for primary school teachers, which has been downloaded 1,500 times since its launch last year. Both are produced by Media Smart, which is a non-profit organisation that aims to teach 6 to 11-year-olds to think critically about what they see in the media.

Model Valentina Zelyaeva modelled for Ralph Lauren Australia. The picture on the left shows the original image and on the right is the airbrushed image with slimmer waist and hips.

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