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Beauty and fashion trends have always changed with the season. But with social media, the pressures to conform have increased among adults and impact younger and younger kids. At what point do we intervene to minimize the dangerous effects that arbitrary beauty standards have on kids and teens? How do we discourage the consumption of damaging content surrounding body image? If you are concerned about the damaging content your family could be exposed to, check out our Screen Safety Essentials Course. This course provides you with the tools necessary to navigate the Internet more safely and avoid digital injury. Even better, it will bring you closer to your kids! Today’s GKIS article covers the controversies of trending body types, the damage they can do to young people, and creative ideas to keep your family safe. 

Heroin chic is back!

Popularized in the early 1990s, heroin chic refers to the ideal female body type with defining features that include a very thin frame and an emaciated appearance. 

In November 2022, the New York Post published an article titled ‘Bye-bye booty: Heroin chic is back,’ and it immediately sparked controversy online. The article claimed that the much thinner physique was “trendy” and celebrities like Bella Hadid and Kim Kardashian who have publicized radical weight loss sparked the recent shift in body trends. 

The Shortened Lifespan of Online Trends

Media has a major impact on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.[3] With the increasing use of social media, the lifespan of trends has drastically shortened. Instead of trends lasting for a couple of years, they now last for a couple of months. That means many women whiplash between fashion fads, radical diets, and costly beauty regimens. Just when it seems that we are making progress with body positivity, the return of heroin chic only proves that within industrialized countries such as the U.S., slender women tend to be seen as more attractive.[2]

Trends have fluctuated throughout the years, coming and going and coming back again. Before the most recent return of heroin chic was the ‘slim thick’ trend from the late 2010s. Slim thick means very curvy. It’s often only achieved through plastic surgery like breast and buttock enhancement surgery. Recently social media sites have also promoted filters that make one’s face fit the trending beauty standard. A small, upturned nose, full lips, and “fox eye” eye makeup are what are considered most attractive recently on apps such as TikTok and Instagram. Another GKIS article, Influencers Hurt Child Self-Esteem by Overusing Filters, touches on how filters that dramatically alter your face can have similar effects. Check it out to learn more. 

What is the damage?

Body dissatisfaction is a major source of suffering among women of all ages.[1] The intense fluctuation of beauty standards and trends can lead to self-esteem issues, lack of motivation, depression, body dysmorphia and other eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide. All genders are at risk of becoming insecure about their physical appearance. However, the risk is higher for young girls because of rapid pubertal body change and because society has deemed a woman’s attractiveness to be integral to her self-worth and value.[1]

To avoid the potential development of body image insecurities, check out our Social Media Readiness Course. This course can help prepare your tween or teen to more safely navigate the Internet and avoid damaging content. 

How can we protect our teens?

  • Talking with your children is one way to protect them against internalizing unrealistic trends and developing insecurities. Creating a safe space to hold conversations surrounding confidence and self-esteem can help. To help guide you through these sometimes difficult conversations, we’ve developed our free Connected Family Screen Agreement. Offered in short, easy chunks, our agreement will help you become your child’s ally when it comes to screen media and family safety.
  • Setting smart and justifiable parameters is also key for protection. If you are lost as to how to set up the rules and maintain cooperation, our Screen Safety Essentials Course has everything you need to be your family’s go-to expert.
  • Social media requires a whole new set of tools for child safety. For smart management, our Screen Safety Toolkit can help. 
  • And for tweens and teens, our Social Media Readiness Course offers the red flags of digital injury and the psychological wellness tools that Dr. Bennett teaches in her practice. With a mastery quiz at the end of each module, you can be sure that the GKIS certification your teen earns at the end really means sometimes.

Thanks to CSUCI intern Tracy Pizano for researching the risks of beauty standards and trends and for co-authoring this article. 

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe. 

Onward to More Awesome Parenting, 

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

                                                                                                           Works Cited

[1] Stapleton, P., Crighton, G. J., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (2017). Self-esteem and body image in females: The mediating role of self-compassion and appearance contingent self-worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238–257. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1037/hum0000059 

[2] Frederick, D. A., & Reynolds, T. A. (2022). The value of integrating evolutionary and sociocultural perspectives on body image. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 51(1), 57–66. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1007/s10508-021-01947-4 

[3] Monks, H., Costello, L., Dare, J., & Reid Boyd, E. (2021). ‘We’re continually comparing ourselves to something’: Navigating body image, media, and social media ideals at the nexus of appearance, health, and wellness. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 84(3–4), 221–237. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1007/s11199-020-01162-w 

                                                                                                         Photo Credits

[1] https://www.istockphoto.com/search/2/image?phrase=skinny+teen 

[2] https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/tamaraismael/2016/01/03/heroin-chic-and-tumblr-girls/ 

[3] https://www.istockphoto.com/search/2/image?phrase=sad+teen+on+phone 

[4] https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/mid-adult-mom-has-important-conversation-with-daughter-gm1163038244-319232672?phrase=parent%20and%20teen%20girl

Tracy Pizano
Tracy Pizano