Media images are setting impossible standards for children and hitting their self-esteem, a Government Minister warned yesterday.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone spoke out as she backed a new guide for parents on how to tackle issues surrounding body confidence.
The publication came the day after a West coroner laid the blame for the death of 14-year-old Fiona Geraghty at the door of the fashion industry.
Ms Featherstone said the Body Image Parent Pack, developed by not-for-profit group Media Smart, would help parents of six to 11-year-olds educate their children about how the media alter images and the effect this can have on self-esteem.
“As parents, we are often aware of these issues, but may not have the advice and guidance which can we need to talk to our children,” she said.
“I want the pack to empower parents to have those difficult conversations and open the door to discussion.”
The Western Daily Press told this week how West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose called on magazines and catwalks to stop using thin models, after what he described as one of the most tragic cases he had seen.
Fiona Geraghty was found dead at her home near Taunton last year.
She had been suffering from bulimia and confided to health staff she had been taunted by other girls because of her weight.
Mr Rose said: “The one class of person not here who I feel directly responsible for what happened is the fashion industry.
“I do ask, particularly the magazines in the fashion industry, to stop publishing photographs of wafer thin girls.”
The Government launched its body confidence campaign in 2010, and published a review, called Letting Children Be Children, last June.
It found growing numbers of parents worried and unsure of how to take action over their children being exposed to inappropriate material.
Yesterday’s publication follows the launch last year of a teaching pack for primary schools that has been downloaded by more than 1,500 teachers.
Paul Jackson of Media Smart said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response we have had to the body image teacher pack.
“We have found that children respond really well when they realise that most of the images they see have been altered in some way and are aspirational but not realistic.”
The pack will enable parents to download materials, including digitally enhanced pictures of celebrities, to help their children gain more realistic perceptions.
It shows how Keira Knightley’s bust was digitally enhanced in images for the film King Arthur in the US, but UK posters kept her natural physique.
There are pictures of The Tudors actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers showing changes made to his skin colour and texture, and an altered image of singer Britney Spears.
The pack relates body image to poor self-esteem, which can cause eating disorders, and it offers parents tips on talking to children about the issue, including being positive about their own body size and shape, and not teasing them about their weight or looks.