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Airbrushed images putting too much pressure on kids, says Caroline Nokes
IT’S a crusade that pits her against the might of celebrity culture and the beauty industry.
Caroline Nokes has launched a campaign on body image in a drive to “give children their childhood back”.
The Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North says that children as young as five feel they are too fat, thin, ugly, or just do not look right – and it is Britain’s culture of idolising airbrushed images of A-listers like Cheryl Cole that is partly to blame.
Ms Nokes has been appointed head of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, which is lobbying for advertisers to reflect “authenticity and diversity” and better controls on the cosmetic surgery industry.
Ms Nokes’ appointment came as a result of David Cameron’s reshuffle, which saw the former head, Lib Dem Jo Swinson, promoted.
Ms Nokes said: “It’s something I have quite an interest in, because representations in the media and advertising are just so unrealistic.
“Children are under a lot of pressure to try to conform to ideals that the media dream up.”
The group’s report says there is a need for a wider range of body images in adverts.
Ms Nokes insists that, although it might seem harmless, every time Cheryl Cole beams out from a shampoo advert, it is sending the wrong message.
“Celebrities have a big influence on our young people,” she added.
“When I see young girls starving themselves because they want to look like their favourite celebrity or children upset because they don’t have the same glorious bouncing hair as Cheryl Cole, I think celebrity culture has an awful lot to answer for.”
Central to the group’s campaign is the view that society needs to be tolerant of people’s shapes and sizes – because the consequences of our current attitudes can be deadly.
The flip-side to the glamorous images we see on screen was brought home when Ms Nokes visited Southampton eating disorder clinic April House.
She said: “It made an enormous impression. They’re doing absolutely phenomenal work in helping a whole range of people, both male and female teenagers to recover from very serious disorders.”
Parents, too, have a key role to play, she added.
“There is a massive responsibility on parents and peer groups. Mothers often ask things like ‘does my bum look big in this?’ – but children are often not ready to process that in a way that an adult would.”
She also believes the cosmetic surgery industry is given a free reign “to stick all sorts of products into people’s bodies”, as demonstrated by the PIP breast implants scandal earlier this year.
Another change Ms Nokes wants to see is the use of the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measure of good health, which she feels sends out the wrong message.
She has also backed a growing campaign to stop the Sun newspaper’s use of topless models.
Now the group’s report has been published, the MPs will try to pressurise the Government into acting on their recommendations.
“This is a major issue – and it’s time we started taking it seriously”, Ms Nokes said