Hinds: Social media gives pupils 'warped' body image

Education secretary says social media influencers give pupils a 'warped' understanding of a healthy body image

Catherine Lough

social media

Damian Hinds has said social media influencers are giving pupils a distorted view of a healthy body image.

Speaking on Stop Cyberbullying Day, the education secretary said that online celebrities need to be more transparent about how their social media posts are edited so that children are not misled by heavily filtered or enhanced images.

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He said he would like to see influencers use fewer selfies, as well as a #notedited hashtag on posts to promote realistic beauty standards to young followers.

In the latest data from the Mental Health Foundation, 40 per cent of teenagers said images on social media had made them worry about their body image, and 40 per cent said comments from friends had made them more anxious about their appearance.

The recent Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also found that hurtful information is posted online more frequently in England than in other countries.

In England, 14 per cent of headteachers said that parents or pupils reported hurtful information being posted online about pupils at least weekly, compared to the OECD average of 2 per cent.

Damian Hinds said: “Children are growing up with a warped view of what is normal because so much of what they see on social media is false.

“These days there’s a filter for everything, so much so that when something ‘real’ goes online it’s tagged as #nofilter but there should also be #notedited.

“I want social media influencers to think about what they are putting on their platform – is it honest? Is it authentic? Is it too image focused?”

“I have always been supportive of the benefits of the internet and for many children and young people it can open up worlds that would otherwise go unexplored. What I am asking online celebrities for is for fewer selfies and more travel, more nature, more honesty. Use your access to educate your young followers rather than focus on body image.”

“From 2020, every child in England will learn about the importance of mental wellbeing through the introduction of compulsory health education for every state-funded school. This sits alongside the introduction of compulsory relationships education for all pupils. We’re also investing in expert mental health support in schools so that pupils get the right help when they need it.”

“But these are only pieces of the puzzle – because no one seems to be immune from online cruelty, and while teachers and schools do their best to prepare and protect their students, the phone in someone’s pocket is with them 24/7 – not just in school hours.”

“All online influencers, social media companies, TV channels and streaming sites must take their responsibility more seriously because their world is one we spend so much time in. We need action now to stop today’s young people facing a lifetime of abuse online.”

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