For generations, media has had the power to inspire, educate, and entertain us. In recent years, this power has been bolstered by a wave of new technology that has enabled media to be immediate, interactive, and drastically more personal. This transformational shift in how we consume our media is literally changing the world.
For today’s youth, this means access to more media in more ways; research shows that kids consume upwards of 10 hours of recreational media a day! And this increased media consumption has consequences. The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has found that 9 in 10 girls say the fashion industry (89%) and/or the media (88%) place(s) a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin. Sixty percent say they compare their bodies to fashion models, and 32 percent of girls admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight. Clearly, messages and images in the media—particularly those regarding women and girls—are impacting girls’ confidence, body image, relationships, and leadership aspirations.
And it’s not just girls; boys are affected, too. Young boys’ expectations, realistic or not, of female bodies and women’s roles in society are shaped in large part by the media they consume—and unfortunately, negative, unbalanced portrayals of women and girls in the media often win out over more positive alternatives. As a member of Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls, a coalition developing and sharing concrete recommendations for promoting healthy images in the media, Girl Scouts of the USA is working to promote the positive.
Co-chaired by Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis and former FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, our commission seeks to ensure that female roles, images, and portrayals are authentic, balanced, and healthy. The Healthy MEdia Commission was born out of a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and the Creative Coalition (TCC), with the aim to create a blueprint for identifying and defining “healthy media’” and how can we achieve it.
Today marks the release of the Elements of Healthy Media, the first part of our report that elaborates on what we hope to achieve. Using research from Girl Scouts of the USA, the American Psychological Association, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, experts in the field of media and youth development—and the voices of girls themselves—the Healthy MEdia Commission has come up with suggestions for providing balanced, authentic depictions of women and girls. In brief, we believe that all forms of media should strive to increase representations of:
- Healthy body images
- Active and diverse female characters
- Equal and healthy relationships
- Increased number of roles for women and girls
You can read the full report here.
The intent of these specified elements is not to create a one-size-fits-all definition of healthy media or to create any sort of grading system, but rather to provide examples and inspire both creators and consumers.