Campaign aims to get boys talking about body image and advertising pressure

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Boys are being encouraged to talk about body image and the impact it can have on their mental wellbeing with the launch of a new campaign and resources for schools.

Body image issues are often discussed in relation to girls, but recent research shows that more than half of male secondary school students feel pressure from advertising and social media to “look good”.

The Boys’ Biggest Conversation has been launched by young people’s newspaper First News and Media Smart, a non-profit media literacy programme for seven to 16-year-olds. As part of the campaign a short film has been published fronted by youth specialist Dr Ranj Singh and featuring boys from schools around the country talking about body image and the media.

Free educational materials accredited by the PSHE Association have also been published. These aim to help teach core media literacy skills so young people can “evaluate the advertising they come across in their daily lives and talk about their body insecurities openly”.

There is concern that boys are much less likely to talk about issues such as mental health and body image. Childline figures from 2015/16 show that girls are almost seven times more likely to seek help over mental health issues than boys.

Last year, research by EdComs and commissioned by Credos – a think-tank in the advertising sector – found that 53 per cent of secondary school boys believe advertising puts pressure on them to look good, along with friends, social media and celebrities. A similar number said they found it difficult to talk about their looks.

The most common actions boys will consider to change the way they look are eating more healthily (55 per cent) and playing more sport (50 per cent). However, when asked, some thought they might try more extreme measures. Notably, the 35 per cent of secondary school pupils who have suffered from bullying were more likely to consider using steroids, skipping meals and even undergoing cosmetic surgery.

Nicky Cox, editor of First News, said: “We live in a world where young people are surrounded by images in advertising – on TV, online, on their SmartPhones and in magazines. Those images can have a big impact on young minds, so it’s important we make sure children understand how images are created and the processes the industry use. We want teachers and guardians, to watch the film with their students, and download the resources to help stimulate more critical-thinking and discussions about body image and advertising in classrooms across the country.”

The campaign’s short film can be viewed at
The educational resources can be found via


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