Modern pressures leaving girls with crippling fears about how they look

ChildLine reveals girls as young as 9 are worried about body image and 'looking perfect' 

Girl on bed feeling worried

Mounting pressures to ‘look good’ resulted in our ChildLine service receiving 1,596 contacts from girls worried about body image last year (2015/16), a 17% increase on the previous year.

Girls are 8 times more likely to contact ChildLine with body image worries than boys.

The majority of girls who contacted ChildLine about body image were aged between 12 and 15. However there were also 77 counselling sessions to girls aged 11 and under.

Many said they struggled to cope with the intense pressure to look like the women they saw in the media, stating they felt ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting’ in comparison. Worryingly, some girls said they searched for images of ‘skinny’ women to inspire them to stop eating.

New obsession

"It has been getting worse for a while now. There are so many pictures of perfect women on social media and I want to look like them. I just don’t feel like I can compete."
Young person calling ChildLine

When ChildLine launched 30 years ago girls were mostly concerned about pregnancy, bullying and physical and sexual abuse. But today, modern society’s obsession with appearance is impacting on their confidence and self-esteem. Constant access to the online world also means they are more exposed than ever before to a deluge of images of the so-called ‘perfect body’.

During the summer girls are likely to feel more self-conscious about how they look, as the media is flooded with images of women in bikinis, leading them to further scrutinise their own appearance.

"Young people face intense pressures, often bombarded by society’s unhealthy obsession with appearance and unrealistic images of the ‘norm’. “It’s important to remind them that the images they see online are often heavily edited. Chasing these airbrushed ideals can result in the destruction of body image and confidence."
Peter Wanless / NSPCC CEO

How you can help

If you're a parent, knowing your child is having issues with how they look can be worrying. But there are a few things you can do to support them through it. 

  • Don’t compare: remind your child not to compare themselves to other people - everyone is different.
  • Remember positives: talk to them about what they like about themselves and what you like about them. Focus on things other than appearance, like the hobbies they enjoy or things they are good at. This can help build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Get support: tell them to talk to you about any negative or mean comments from other people. Remind them that they can contact ChildLine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Teach online safety: talk to your children about what they do online and agree what times they should go online. Explain that you think it's important they do a variety of activities. Recognise that they enjoy being online, but you think it's important they do other things as well.

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