Austin, TX (PRWEB) October 29, 2013
Whats a girl to do? Bullies, drugs and alcohol, and unrealistic images of women in the media top the list (80%, 75% and 74%, respectively) perceived by U.S. adults to be threats to girls under 18s positive self-image, according to an online national survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Girls Empowerment Network, also known as GENaustin, in October 2013. Alongside those familiar concerns, nearly seven-in-ten (69%) adults pointed to inappropriate use of technology such as social media and texting as damaging to a young girls self-image.
Nearly half (45%) of adults say a positive role model is the biggest asset to a girls healthy and positive self-image. Topping the list of positive role models for girls are First Lady Michelle Obama (50%), Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas (42%), Oprah Winfrey (41%) and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (36%). Other adults preferred business leaders and entrepreneurs as role models, including Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg (16%), Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer (23%), and fashion entrepreneurs Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen (10%). The least popular choice was singer Miley Cyrus (2%), though four percent of adults ages 18-34 believe she is a positive role model for girls under 18.
The survey, commissioned by GENaustin, which creates after-school programs and workshops for girls and parents, points to the importance of role models and social emotional skills, like having healthy friendships and setting goals. GENaustins upcoming We Are Girls conference on November 9, 2013, in Austin, Texas, provides a full-day of activities and workshops designed to support and guide girls as they navigate the unique pressures of girlhood.
We know that when girls have a healthy and positive self-image, they are more likely to do better in school, have supportive friendships, and are at lower risk for eating disorders and other self-injury behaviors, says Julia Cuba, LSW, executive director of GENaustin. Clearly, their social media use is a growing concern for the adults in their lives. We believe that creative and empowering programs like ours can help girls make wise choices in all areas of their lives, including social media.
Women largely agree (74%) that unrealistic images of women in media can affect girls positive self-image. However, younger men and women (ages 18-44) are miles apart on this point. Nearly four out of five women (77%) in this age range agree that medias images of women are harmful to girls, compared to less than two-thirds of men (60%).
GENaustin has been working with girls for sixteen years, and in our experience, a girls media literacy and her body image can be closely related, says Cuba. When girls understand that what they see on billboards, in catalogs and magazines, especially advertising, is manufactured and manipulated, they are relieved. They also get mad and thats empowering.
GENaustins Cuba observes that there may be a disconnect between our societys concern with bullying and its solutions. Eighty percent of adults see bullies as a threat, yet only 18 percent selected friendship skills as the biggest asset for a girls self-image.
Learning to cultivate healthy friendships prevents bullying going both ways, its not just a defensive strategy, says Cuba. Girls who learn the values of friendship make better choices and learn to change their own behavior this helps girls who may be targets and the girl who may be likely to taunt her peers.
Regarding the threats to girls positive self-image, additional survey insights include: