Children are exposed to many unrealistic images of both men’s and women’s bodies through media. TV shows, music videos, ads, movies, video games, and even social networks can communicate ideas about what their bodies “should” look like. Techniques for manipulating images – from old-fashioned techniques like airbrushing to modern technologies like Photoshop – even make it possible for media images to go beyond what’s possible in reality.
Media and communications technology play an important role in a student’s health and physical education, for better or for worse. The new Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum provides a spring board to start discussions related to health and media literacy.
The new Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum released this year by the Ontario Ministry of Education is the first major revision to the subject area in almost 30 years.
There has been a lot of discussion in the past couple years among scientists, the public health community and the media about the impact of smoking and tobacco images in movies.
In ancient times the Olympics were a time when all nations – all Greek nations, anyway – would put away their differences and compete in almost every human activity, from poetry to the ferocious no-rules wrestling event called pankration. Being the very best that humans could be was seen as the best way to honour the gods of Olympus. Though we’ve dropped the poetry and the blood sports, people watching the swimming or volleyball events might wonder if we’re on the way to bringing back the ancient tradition of competing in the nude. Revealing outfits – like those designed by Lululemon for the Canadian beach volleyball team – may be practical for those events, but they also shine a light on how dressing for sports can make us feel about ourselves. After all, it’s hard to feel good about your own body when you’ve just spent an hour watching the most perfect physiques in the world nearly naked.
The belief that “thin is beautiful” is pervasive in our culture.
From the tablet to the TV screen, media are a huge influence on how we see ourselves and our world. Nowhere, perhaps, is that more true than when it comes to gender: media provide many of our ideas of what “male” and “female” are, and many of our models of how to behave, what to avoid doing, and whom to emulate in order to play the role we’ve been assigned.
There’s significant evidence that media education can counter unrealistic media representations of men’s and women’s bodies. For example, a 2010 study found that showing the video Evolution (which was created by Dove to show how media images of women are manipulated) significantly reduced negative effects on confidence and body satisfaction of young girls when they looked at pictures of ultra-thin models afterwards.