The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has received an official response from the Government about their report on body image and the impact it has on the well-being of children and young people. The Government have stated body dissatisfaction is an issue of enormous concern to young people and their parents.
The comprehensive response from the Government Equalities Office comes following the committee’s inquiry, which concluded body dissatisfaction was causing long-lasting consequences for young people. In the response, the Government acknowledges the gaps which remain in its understanding of the many complex factors that contribute towards body dissatisfaction, including the specific challenges faced by young men, LGBT+ community, ethnic minorities, and those with disabilities or serious illnesses.
The response, which offers an answer to each of the Youth Select Committee’s recommendations, makes a commitment to further understand body image in specific groups as part of their broader endeavour to better understand the causes and impact of body dissatisfaction.
In November, the committee made it clear the Government needed to ensure young people, parents, and teachers knew where to go for support on body image. The Government has since pledged to undertake an audit of available resources.
Thomas Copeland, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee welcomes the Government’s response to the committee’s report ‘A Body Confident Future’.
“We are pleased to see the Government have not only recognised the importance of body image but have also acknowledged gaps in its understanding of the many complex factors that contribute towards body dissatisfaction.
“The Government have made a number of commitments in their response, including a commitment to further understand how body dissatisfaction affects different groups. We look forward to seeing how the Government goes on to ensure their commitments are implemented as soon as possible. Young people’s mental health and well-being must be taken seriously if we are to mitigate the detrimental effects of body dissatisfaction.”
The conclusions of the report has since influenced the launch of a separate inquiry by the Science and Technology Select Committee into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health. In response to the recommendations of the committee, NHS England has also been working with the NHS Youth Forum to raise awareness of body image through a new poster campaign.
Kath Evans, Experience of Care Lead for NHS England said “NHS England is delighted to have worked with the NHS Youth Forum to ensure a poster is developed to raise awareness about body image that can be displayed in a range of different settings as recommended by the Youth Select Committee inquiry.
“Young people themselves know what matters most to them and their peers, vitally they know how to capture the attention of other young people, they have led the way, demonstrating ongoing collaboration to keep improving experiences of care.”
The Youth Select Committee, who were aged 13-18, included Members of the Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Youth Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations. This year’s committee will investigate the barriers preventing young people from accessing work experience.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has launched a new report, ‘Life in Likes’, on the impact of social media on the lives of children before they become teenagers. Today’s report reveals many children are approaching a ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from primary to secondary school, with social media becoming much more important in their lives but causing them greater anxiety. The study suggests some children are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy and that many are increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’.
The British Youth Council welcome the report and its recommendations which echo the Youth Select Committee report launched in November 2017 on young people and body image. ‘A Body Confident Future’ was published following an inquiry which gathered evidence from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, social media companies, and health and education professionals.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “We welcome the research undertaken by the Children’s Commissioner into the impact of social media on children. Our own research through the Youth Select Committee highlighted that body dissatisfaction is the norm amongst young people in the UK. Social media can have both positive and negative impacts on body image, and whilst social media companies have taken some steps to mitigate the negative effects there is still more that can be done.
“It is good to see that the recommendations outlined in ‘Life in Likes’ reinforce the recommendations from the Youth Select Committee, specifically in calling for increased digital and media literacy within formal education, more support for teachers to understand the impact of social media on well being, and for social media companies to take more responsibility for the content on their platforms. We hope that this reinforces the need for action to protect children and young people.”
The Youth Select Committee report recommendations have been submitted to the Government for response, which is expected within the next few weeks.