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Dove campaign examines ‘cost of beauty’ for youth mental health

The brand’s research has revealed that nine in ten children are being exposed to toxic beauty content on social media, which is having a ‘heart-breaking’ impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.  

Renowned for championing self-esteem, Dove has just debuted a report titled ‘The Real Cost of Beauty Ideals’ examining the impact of our image-obsessed world on young people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Investigating both body dissatisfaction and appearance-based discrimination, it found social media to be largely at fault of exacerbating these two issues amongst children and teenagers.

According to the research, which was conducted in partnership with STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), nine in ten young people are being exposed to toxic beauty content online – making it one in two whose mental health is being affected as a result.

Not only this, but in the UK, more young people than ever have been receiving treatment for eating disorders, some 10,000 children and teenagers between April and December 2021 with record demand for services (up by almost two thirds since before the pandemic) as uncovered by the NHS.

‘Over the past decade, as social media has exploded, we have witnessed a youth mental health crisis — rising suicide rates, hospitalisations for self-harm, and depression among children and teens,’ explains Sonja Graham, CEO of Global Action Plan, an NGO that’s teamed up with Dove to work towards creating a digital experience that’s a great deal safer for kids.

‘Real change requires action from those with the power to make social media safer by design. We are proud to partner with Dove to advance this mission and ensure social media is a safer place for children and young people.’

To really get the message across, Dove – in addition – has released a video featuring a 12-year-old girl who becomes more aware of societal expectations to look a certain way after watching influencers measure their thigh gaps and exercise on her phone.

This visual proof of how easily young people can access content encouraging weight loss is made worse by the fact that, as revealed by Dove’s findings, more than 50 per cent of young people say social media makes them and their peers feel anxious.

Now, alongside generating awareness, the film urges viewers to sign a petition supporting the U.S. Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which seeks to establish standards, safeguards, and tools to protect children and limit their exposure to toxic beauty content.

This is highly necessary considering that Gen Z alone spends half its waking hours watching videos.

‘While certain aspects of social media can promote creativity and connection for young people, data has shown toxic beauty content online is harming our kids’ mental health. If there isn’t real change, young people will continue to pay with their wellbeing,’ says Alessandro Manfredi, chief marketing officer for Dove.

‘We have a responsibility to act and support a safer environment on social media, helping protect young people’s mental health.’