Selfies 'can fuel' body image worries says ChildLine

Selfie ChildLine in Scotland reports thousands of calls about self-image

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The craze for selfies - self-portraits taken on a phone - has been blamed for an increase in the number of young people contacting a leading children's charity.

ChildLine bases in Scotland received more than 2,000 calls from young people concerned about the pressure they were under to look good.

The charity said sending selfies can be a symptom of low self-esteem.

It said physical appearance is a leading cause of bullying.

NSPCC, which operates ChildLine, said in the year 2012-13 its call centres in Aberdeen and Glasgow received 2,098 calls from young people worried about their appearance.

'Unhealthy obsession'

It said mounting pressures to look good mean physical appearance is a top concern for young people.

Warmer months caused a spike in calls with 65% of counselling sessions over concerns about body image taking place during spring and summer.

Start Quote

When I take pictures with my friends I'll look at them and ask myself why I look so ugly next to them.”

End Quote Girl aged 16-18 Caller to ChildLine

Service manager Susan Dobson said young people face intense pressures from society's "unhealthy obsession" with appearance, and they contacted the helpline for support as they struggled to cope with perceived pressures from peers and society.

"In comparing themselves unfavourably to media ideals and indeed their peers, ChildLine counsellors found that young people often struggled to find anything positive about their skills, achievements or appearance," she said.

"Technology only magnifies these pressures, with social media facilitating 24/7 peer comparison and the selfie phenomenon fuelling society's obsession with appearance.

"We know that taking and sending countless selfies in the pursuit of social validation can often be a symptom of low self-esteem."

ChildLine said physical appearance was a leading cause of bullying and represented two-thirds of all counselling sessions with young people who were being bullied.

Many were left feeling too ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone about it - with 11% of young people affected not telling anyone about it before contacting ChildLine.

The charity published examples of the comments it had received.

Bullied

One girl aged 16-18 was bullied for her looks.

She said: "I feel under so much pressure to look a certain way but I can't change the fact that I'm ugly and fat.

"When I take pictures with my friends I'll look at them and ask myself why I look so ugly next to them.

"I have been bullied a lot in the past about how I look too so this knocks my confidence even more. I don't know how to stop comparing myself to other people."

Although seven times as many girls were counselled on this issue as boys, body image was still expressed by boys as a major worry.

One, aged 12-15, contacted the Aberdeen helpline after being bullied about his height.

"I haven't developed as quickly as some of my friends so I'm really short compared to them," he said.

"People make fun of me for it and think I am much younger than I am. I feel so down and it makes me just want to stay at home where I know I'm safe."

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