More than half (55%) of young people have been bullied about the way they look, with two fifths of those experiencing this bullying at least once a week, new findings from youth charity YMCA revealed today.
Most of the bullying focuses on weight and body shape, with 60% of young people admitting they tried to change their appearance after being bullied and 24% said they reduced the amount they ate or went on a diet. In some cases the effect was more severe with one in ten of those being bullied about their looks having suicidal thoughts and 9% saying they self-harmed as a result.
YMCA spoke to more than 1,000 young people aged 11 to 16 years old as part of its new research report ‘In Your Face’, which is part of the charity’s Be Real Campaign with Dove.
Highlighting the devastating effects appearance-based bullying has on young people, the research also revealed that, contrary to popular belief, most young people experience this bullying in person (72%) and not online. A staggering 80% of those getting bullied about the way they look say it takes place in school or college.
The charity is calling on schools and education professionals to be at the forefront in tackling the issue and become a Be Real School by using the campaign’s free Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools, which has already been downloaded by over 700 schools and colleges across the country.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive for YMCA England & Wales, said:
“Bullying has always existed among young people, but this generation face increasing pressure to live up to unrealistic beauty ideals which they say come from celebrities, social media and the media.
“It’s crucial that we teach young people how to feel comfortable in their own body and that looking different isn’t a bad thing. Educating young people about the effects of bullying alongside body confidence will help to tackle this issue where it’s most prevalent, schools.
“We know from previous research that young people who have learned about body confidence at school feel better about their bodies. We want schools across the country to use the Be Real Campaign’s Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools to help their pupils navigate this image obsessed society we live in.”
Jemima Arthur-Amponsah, Science Teacher at Phoenix Academy in London, said:
“It’s extremely vital for young people to learn about body confidence, especially in a time when their bodies are changing and they are constantly bombarded with idealised images telling them what they should look like.
“If pupils feel negatively about their bodies, it has an impact on their behaviour in the classroom, with some pupils being passive and not taking part out of fear for drawing attention to the way they look.
“The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools is extremely simple to use and we’ve seen the positive impact it has had on our pupils. Students have told us how useful they found the lessons and that there was a positive change in how they saw themselves and the images that surround them every day.”
Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s ‘In Your Face’ research include:
- 54% of young people who experience bullying about the way they look, do so by the age of 10
- 1 in 2 of young people reported becoming anxious as a result of being bullied about the way they look
- 53% of young people think bullies have insecurities about themselves / their own appearance
The Be Real Campaign is a national campaign run by YMCA and Dove and was formed in 2014 in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image.
The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools is part of the Be Real Campaign’s mission to tackle body image anxiety in young people to enable them to grow up into body confident adults.Download the Toolkit