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Boys worry about eating disorders – but do not talk to teachers about it

Teenage boys now see eating disorders as a problem that affects them as much as their female classmates, a new survey has found

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Teenage boys now see eating disorders as a problem that affects them as much as their female classmates, a new survey has found

But the majority say that they would struggle to talk to a teacher about any difficulties they were experiencing.

A survey of 1,005 boys, aged between eight and 18, found that the secondary pupils saw eating disorders and body image as issues that affected boys as much as girls.

Fifty-six per cent said that dieting was now a gender-neutral problem,  48 per cent said the same about extreme exercising and 56 per cent said that eating disorders affected boys as well as girls.

In addition, 57 per cent said that social media made them feel that they needed to look good. The survey found that 23 per cent believed that there was such a thing as a perfect male body.

A similar number – 22 per cent – said that celebrities’ bodies made them feel under pressure to look good.

Caroline Dineage, Department for Education junior minister, said: “We live in a world where advertising surrounds us – on billboards, on our TV screens and on our smartphones. Those images can have a big impact on young minds.”

However, the survey, which was conducted by thinktank Credos, revealed that 56 per cent of boys would find it difficult to talk to a teacher about body-image issues.

Media Smart, a media-literacy programme – hosted on the TES resources website – offers five tips to help teachers discuss body image with children and teenagers:

  1. Model a positive body image Promote a body ideal based on health and acceptance of different sizes and shapes.
  2. Emphasise the importance of other skills and attributes Praise children for qualities such as sense of humour, helpfulness or thoughtful behaviour. Encourage them to pursue activities that make them feel good.
  3. Be open about the media Engage children in conversations about the portrayal of body image in the media.
  4. Talk about the importance of a balanced diet Help pupils to understand that their body and brain needs a balance diet in order to work properly.
  5. Set up a non-judgmental space where pupils can talk about what is worrying them Listen, acknowledge worries, and help pupils to recognise and challenge unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

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