Healthy Media for Youth Act Legislative Advocacy

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Healthy Media for Youth Act

  • Legislative Advocacy

  • Lisa Beth Kurz, MD

The bill: #H.R. 4925

  • Introduced: 3/24/10 - Healthy Media for Youth Act

    • Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to nonprofit organizations to provide for the establishment, operation, coordination, and evaluation of programs to:
      • Increase the media literacy of girls and boys
      • Support the empowerment of girls and boys in a variety of ways
        • Permits giving priority grant applicants providing for non-federal matching funds.
        • Directs the Secretary, acting through the CDC and NIH, and in coordination with the Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, to review, synthesize, and conduct or support research on the depictions of girls and women in the media on psychological, sexual, physical, and interpersonal development of youth.
        • Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to convene a task force, to be known as the National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media, to develop voluntary steps and goals for promoting healthy and positive depictions of girls and women in the media for the benefit of all youth
  • Referred: 3/24/10 - The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Why is this so important?

  • According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Study, Generation M2 Media in Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds (2010), most 8- to 18-year-olds spend about 7-10 hours a day using just recreational media.

  • What percentage of girls report being dissatisfied with their bodies?

    • 15%
    • 30%
    • 65%
    • 85%

  • Girls feel pressure from mainstream media to have the “ideal” body type causing only 34% to be satisfied with their bodies. (Girl Scout Research Insitute’s, The New Normal, What Girls Say About Healthy Living (2006)).

  • This dissatisfaction increases risk for disordered eating, depressed mood, and low self-esteem

  • Up to 10% of girls suffer from disordered eating

Defining “normal”

  • A girl’s definition of “normal” varies based on age, race, household income, peer group, adult role models, and self-perception

  • African American and Latina girls are more satisfied with their bodies, but are also more overweight

  • White and asian girls have lower obesity rates, but less satisfied body perception

  • Older girls are more satisfied with their body image than younger girls


  • 60% of girls compare their bodies to fashion models and 90% say the fashion industry places a lot of pressure on girls to be thin

  • The Girl Scout research finds that this body dissatisfaction leads to unhealthy eating/dieting habits with over half of the girls (55%) admitting to diet to lose weight

  • Even 3rd - 5th graders worry about their appearance (54%) and specifically their weight (37%). (The Supergirl dilemma:Girls grapple with the Mounting Pressure of Expectations (2006)).

  • What percentage of overweight girls believe they are of normal weight?

    • 25%
    • 45%
    • 10%
    • 33%

At Odds with Reality

  • As many as 1/3 of girls age 8-17 have a distorted perception of their weight:

    • 45% who are overweight by BMI
    • believe they are normal weight
    • 14% of normal weight think they
    • are overweight
    • 30% of normal weight girls age 16-17
    • are trying to lose weight

Stress due to body image

  • Girls worry more than boys especially about appearance

  • Being teased and made fun of is one of the top worries for girls, especially if overweight

  • More than 1/3 of girls age 11-17 report eating more when stressed out

Physical activity

  • Physical activity is positively correlated to self-esteem regardless of a girl’s weight

  • 83% of very active girls report physical activity making them feel good about themselves

  • Many girls do not participate in sports:

    • 40% do not feel competent
    • 23% do not like the way they look

Influence of Fashion

  • 73% of girls with negative body image wish they were as skinny as the models (compared to 40% with positive body image)

  • Girls with neg. body images:

    • More likely to starve/refuse to eat (50% vs. 25%)
    • Vomit after eating (18% vs. 10%)
    • 19% have taken appetite suppressants
    • 15% have taken a laxative

What can fashion industry change?

  • “Real” models

    • 81% of girls would rather see natural photos
    • 75% are more likely to buy clothes on real sized models (85% African American)

  • The American Psychological Association’s report on the Sexualization of Girls (2007) describes that three of the most common mental health problems among girls: eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem are linked to the sexualization of girls/women in the media.

    • The report also shows frequent exposure to sexualized media can have negative consequences on sexual health and avoidance of sexual risk including sexting
    • These messages and images of girls impact boys as well
      • Boys develop unrealistic and unhealthy expectation’s of girls’ and women’s physical appearance.

  • Portrayal of women in the media

  • Women and girls are underrepresented in leadership roles in the media.

    • Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media reports less than 1 out of 3 speaking roles in children’s movies are female.
    • 57% of music videos feature women portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object.
    • Most adds of leadership or success display Caucasian women

  • This graph depicts a comparison of over 400 films from 1990 - 2006

  • Smith, S. L. (Annenberg School for Communication); Cook, Crystal A. (The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media): Gender Stereotypes: An Analysis of Popular Films and TV. p. 12-23

  • Disney's portrayal

  • Smith, S. L. (Annenberg School for Communication); Cook, Crystal A. (The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media): Gender Stereotypes: An Analysis of Popular Films and TV. p. 12-23

Healthy Media for Youth Act

  • Girl Scouts and the American Psychological Association worked with Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV)

  • Focus on improving youth’s media literacy and promoting healthy media messages

So what does the bill do?

  • Due to the alarming side effects of youths’ exposure to negative messages about girls/women in the media this bill is urging Congress to support efforts to ensure efforts to improve youths’ media literacy skills and youth empowerment programs

    • Education tools via critical thinking
    • Promoting positive depictions of girls/women in media
    • Countering the perpetuating and damaging effects of gender roles/stereotypes
    • Funding projects and organizations
    • Supporting further research

What’s being done now?

  • Much research is being done to combat these issues and get a better grasp of the effects of media

  • Dove has already begun their “real” model campaign

    • Dove Real Beauty


  • Do you think this bill can appropriately address the problem?

  • What can improve it?

  • What can we do as pediatricians?

How do we support the bill?

  • Support Healthy Media Images for Girls


  • American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualiza- tion of Girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from

  • Beauty Redefined
Girls and Body Image SurveyGirl Scouts of the USA (New York, N.Y.: Girl Scouts of the USA and The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2010)

  • Rrrl Girls. “Girls, Sexuality and the Media” 2006.

  • Smith, S. L. (Annenberg School for Communication); Cook, Crystal A. (The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media): Gender Stereotypes: An Analysis of Popular Films and TV. p. 12-23

  • Victoria J. Rideout, M.A. Ulla G. Foehr, Ph.D. and Donald F. Roberts, Ph.D. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. 2010.

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