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A third of girls ‘won’t post on social media without image enhancement’

A third of girls won’t post pictures of themselves without some kind of image enhancement, the Girlguiding’s annual survey has found.

Additionally, 39% of young women surveyed said they feel upset that they cannot look the same in real life as they do online – with 44% saying the fear others will criticise their body stops them from having their picture taken.

Girlguiding surveyed 2,186 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 across the UK for its annual Girls’ Attitudes report. It was found that older participants were more likely to edit their images.

Apps which allow users to edit their appearance have become increasingly sophisticated – enabling individuals to alter their body shape in pictures to appear slimmer, or airbrush and retouch their facial features.

The survey also found that 33% of the participants had deleted pictures if they had not received what they deemed as a 'positive enough' reaction. 

The survey points to lockdown having intensified the pressures girls and women face in a digital world, with increased time spent online and constant exposure to ‘unrealistic’ images of women. Girlguiding chief executive Angela Salt said: “Young people are an important part of our recovery, but they are undoubtedly one of society's hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic.”

Phoebe Kent, a Girlguiding advocate from Reading, has warned that influencer culture is one of the most damaging phenomenons to emerge from social media. She said: “I think now because I'm older I'm able to critique the things I see online, and overcome it, but for younger girls and young women it just absolutely knocks your self-esteem.”

Some positive trends did emerge from the survey. The majority of the young respondents (75%) said they would like to see cosmetic procedures, such as lip-fillers and Botox, banned for under-18s, while 68% want new legislation that will prevent them from being exposed to adverts for diets or weight loss.

Jameela Jamil’s I WEIGH movement achieved a major victory in this arena when, in September 2019, Instagram announced a new policy which meant that posts that sell products related to weight loss would be hidden from all users under 18.

Other instagrammers are challenging this trend towards Instagram perfection. The body positivity movement had flourished in the last few years. Activists and influencers like Megan Crabbe and Danae Mercer are encouraging young people to have a better relationship with themselves, and to see the ‘reality’ behind seemingly flawless instagram posts. You can watch Megan’s work with Parent Zone and the Dove Self Esteem project here.

Despite some positive developments, Girlguiding’s work remains as vital as ever, in supporting girls to feel empowered about body image.

Angela Salt said: “We are proud to be able to offer girls and young women help and support to navigate these relentless pressures and aim to extend our reach further, so even more can benefit from the support Girlguiding provides.”

The Girlguiding survey has been submitted to this year's Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into body image. The full report will be released in September.



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