- learn and apply skills for critically reading media;
- understand the influence of media on their bodies and body images;
- acquire tools for resisting media messages that negatively portray body image and self esteem.
- What messages do different types of media send about how bodies should look, move, and be?
- How do media messages about body image shape our daily lives and behavior?
- What are the different ways that the time we spend using media influence the way we think about ourselves?
This lesson of part of the series, I See You, You See Me: Body Image and Social Justice, which helps students think about their bodies and body image as related to broader issues of social justice and the harm caused from stereotypes.
Children are exposed to media, ranging from advertisements they see in their neighborhoods, to shows they see on television, to characters in video games they play with their friends. Media exposure influences body image on at least two distinct levels: Often, time spent engaged with media precludes being physically active and aware of the importance of our own bodies. At the same time, the media sends so many messages to children of all ages about how bodies “should” look, move, and be.
media [ME-dee-uh] (noun) a way of communicating that reaches and affects a lot of people, including television, magazines, advertisements, movies, music videos, video games and more
body image [BOD-ee IM-ij] (noun) how someone thinks about their own body, or how someone thinks other people look at their own body
- Write the word “media” on the board and explain its definition to students. Ask students to brainstorm aloud what kinds of media they use most often. Chart their responses. If students are stuck, prompt them by asking what they do after school or on weekends. Do they watch television? Play video games? Encourage students to share with each other and talk about what they like and don’t like about different kinds of media.
- Explain to students that today they will be talking about how the time they spend with media affects their bodies and their body images. Project an image of the grade level appropriate handout and go over the categories with them. Ask students to follow along as you talk through the example. For each type of media on the list, students should think about how much time they spend engaged with it, what they ARE and are NOT doing with their body during that time, and how that type of media impacts their body image. (Note: The handout for younger students is simpler, and can also be used for students in higher grades as deemed appropriate based on language and literacy skills.)
- Break students up into pairs or small groups to work on the handout. As students work, circulate and make note of common themes that are coming up. If students are stuck, encourage them to talk openly with their partners for help. You can also prompt them with questions like: “When was the last time you used that type of media? What did most of the people look like? What do you like or not like about that?”
- When students are finished, bring them back together and allow each pair of students to share 1 or 2 rows from their chart. Keep track of common themes that come up and ask students for their own observations. As a class, discuss any conclusions about how the time we spend with media affects our bodies and our body images.
- Break students up into different partnerships and ask them to imagine that one person in the partnership is spending a lot of time engaged with a particular type of media. (Note: You may want to focus on the media your students named in step 1 to keep the exercise relevant.) Choose one student to help you model a role-play conversation in which you convince the student to use her time differently. Use arguments that focus on physical health as well as body image. Chart some possible ideas about physical health based on students’ prior knowledge—the importance of being active, for example, or of taking care of eyesight. Then, break students into partnerships to try similar role-plays on their own. Once they have role-played one way, have them switch roles. If time permits, allow each pair to share their role-plays with one other partnership.
- Bring students together and ask what they learned from those role-plays, including what was challenging about the exercise. To close the lessons, ask students what they might realistically do to lessen the negative impact of media on their bodies and body images. Ask each student to set a personal goal for resisting the negative impact of media. They may write down their goals or share them with partners. Be sure to check in with students periodically to see if they are working on these goals.
The Center on Media and Child Health provides detailed information about the impact of various media on children’s body image and self confidence. Web MD also provides ideas for getting past a blaming model to help children build positive body image. Several children’s books work to help children understand and improve their body image, including Shapesville by Andy Mills and Becky Osborn and Full Mouse, Empty Mouse by Dina Zeckhausen.
Activities address the following Common Core Anchor Standards for Language Arts and Social Studies: CCSS: RI.2.7, RI.3.7, RI.4.7, RI.4.9, W.3.1, SL.3.1a, SL.3.1b, SL.3.1c, SL.3.1d
Students are exposed to media every day, and sometimes they have nowhere to process its impacts. As an optional homework assignment, ask students to bring in an example of media that they think influences how they view their body image, positively or negatively. This could be a particular action figure, a printout from a website, a photograph of an advertisement, or even a description of a movie or TV episode. Have students share their example with the class and discuss the impact this media has on how they think about their bodies. Encourage students to offer advice about how to resist negative messages or make use of positive ones.
Role-plays are a great way to practice expressive language skills. If you have English language learners in your class, try to partner them with students who are not English language learners. Help these partnerships write down their dialogue and pay attention to particular uses of idiom or oral expression. Encourage English language learners to incorporate the vocabulary and phrasing they use in their role-plays into other aspects of their spoken language throughout the day, then report back on what they have tried out.