CHILDLINE ADVICE: Children need to be reminded that every person is different

As always, the summer holidays will see many children enjoying the sunshine, but others will use the break from school to spend more time online, particularly on social media sites.

"Children told us they felt self-conscious about their weight or looks."
"Children told us they felt self-conscious about their weight or looks."

At this time of year, they’re likely to see more online content which could make them feel negatively about their body image.

From April 2021 to March 2022, our Childline counsellors delivered 5,085 counselling sessions on body image and eating disorders - up six per cent from 4,787 in 2019/20.

Children told us they felt self-conscious about their weight or looks, were calorie counting, becoming obsessed with exercise and worried what others thought of their eating habits.

Some of these negative feelings came from seeing images of other people on social media, which is sadly full of images and content that could make a child feel like they aren’t good enough.

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Features such as filters and body shaping tools can warp a child’s view of someone’s body and make them feel inadequate, and they might not realise some images aren’t real.

Our counsellors are always there to help young people who are struggling to feel good about themselves, but there are also conversations that families can have at home which will help.

It’s vital to remind children that everyone is different.

They shouldn’t compare themselves to other people, and we all have the right to be treated with respect.

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To boost their confidence, get them to write down three things they like about themselves and read it every morning, and suggest they can focus on hobbies or things they enjoy to build their confidence and self-esteem.

As children grow, it’s natural they might worry about the way they look.

But no child should feel like they have to change their body to fit in.

Remind your child that they can share their thoughts and worries with other young people on Childline’s message boards and find out how others have dealt with similar worries.

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The Childline website also has advice on any concerns or questions children may have on body image and eating disorders, and young people can also speak to our counsellors on the phone or online at any time.