More pre-teens have problems with body and looks

Your tween might be unhappy with her face and body… Help her (or him) nip the issue in the bud.


Girls as young as 6 years these days may be unhappy with their bodies or the way they look.

          A major reason is the unrealistic images and messages spread by the media — and social media ― of what their bodies and faces should look like. Another reason is that with children reaching puberty earlier, they are also more concerned about how their bodies are changing.

         “It confuses them about what they are supposed to think about their bodies,” says Esther Lam, one of four final-year media studies students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who created a “Love. Every. Body” campaign recently. Besides interviewing media and psychology experts, they conducted interviews and focus-group discussions ahead of the programme launch.

          The campaign, by NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information students, included three public drama workshops; followed by a theatrical performance at Woodlands Regional Library. The show also marked the launch of the four students’ e-book, How to Be a Hero.

           Natalie Lim, a psychologist at SMG Specialist Centre, a subsidiary of Singapore Medical Group, who treats mostly teenagers for body-image issues, notes that there are no current Singapore statistics. However, she noted that UK and US studies have found that 5 per cent of girls and 3 per cent of boys were dissatisfied with their body. This figure rose until the age of 14, when 32.3 per cent of girls and 16 per cent of boys were “moderately dissatisfied” with at least part of it.

          She adds, “The youngest [of my clients] was in early secondary school and she was unhappy with the way her body looked, even though she was certainly someone who looked good!”

          Singling out social-media websites where users “ask” the rest of the world to rank their pictures, she says that this has greatly impacts young people, “This has great effect on the self-esteem of many young people in the world today. People are not going to put ‘bad’ or ‘unglam’ pictures of themselves online.”       

          What this means is that we are creating generations who have an unrealistic perception of how people look. Lim adds, “When the kids fail to meet such ‘expectations’, they will go to great lengths to achieve them, and some of them become depressed and anxious when they do not get the results.”

          Other factors could include school, as if their peers tease them about size or weight, the child is likely feel insecure and less confident about his or her body. And when parents talk about their own dissatisfaction with their own or their child’s body, “it can negatively impact how the child feels about him/herself”.

So how do you prevent your child picking up body-image issues? Click next.