Early puberty and body dissatisfaction: experts warn of the harm of networks in children

The precocious development in girls This is a behavior that has increased in recent years and is being repeated more and more. According to experts, there are several factors that can encourage early changes, such as genetics, environment and what happens in your family environment or at school. However, they noticed that one of the things that affected the most was the use of social networks.

The new generations look cut off from childhood by the digital world and to these new practices was added outbreak of the pandemic, which sped up many processes due to the need to resort to virtuality as a way to stay connected. Accounts are created on various apps, such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and this becomes even more intense if they have their own mobile phones.

Now, how can social networks affect precocious development? In apps, as in many fields, the ideal of beauty is reproduced based on the premise that “pretty is thin” and they begin to believe that this is the only possible discourse, resulting in more and more girls having a high dissatisfaction with their body image compared to others of the same age.

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Precocious Development: From Infancy to Adolescence

The age of development usually varies with each girl and can be given between 8 and 13 years. This stage is “represented by a series of events that mark the end of postnatal growth and the increase in reproductive capacity; all this is caused by a physiological increase in sex hormones”, says Natalia Zucci, obstetrician-gynecologist (MN 142108).

Angela Nakab, a pediatrician (MN 68722), adolescent specialist and president of the SAP Media and Communications Subcommittee concluded, “These ages are within the expected and usual range. Now it is important to know this It strongly influences everything that happens around. On the one hand, we report physical development where there are changes in the body, such as breast growth, but it is also very important Emotional development”.

As mentioned before, there is various factors which may predispose to the onset of puberty. In large percentage heredity and genetics; but they also influence environmental factors, among them “endocrine disruptors” found in some pesticides, cosmetics, lotions, shampoos and even medicines, their interaction with the context and the love they receive.

On this matter, Naqab emphasizes: “Mental health and relationships with other people are fundamental; it can be seen that this is heavily influenced by the environment and society. How is it affected? Through images, media and social networks”.

“It affects a lot because when a person grows is in search of its own identity and this identity is marked by people whom they can admire or can try to mirror. These can be members of their own family or people who for some reason are well known and influence the girls’ mental and emotional development,” noted the pediatrician.

“There’s a lot of democracy in the networks, but kids don’t care, they have access to ways to hurt themselves, articles and celebrity posts. There are many image overload and access to uncontrolled harmful information”, analyzed Javier Mandil, psychologist and member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation Team for Cognitive Therapy of Infants and Youth (ETCI).

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In turn, social distancing – a product of the pandemic – has led to “children growing up in the solitude of their homes”. “This transition must be in society, accompanied by peers, to understand the changes and be reflected in others,” Zucci said, arguing that one of the problems during this period led to “the inability to control screen time and quality of content consumed“.

Social networks and the culture of hypersexualization

“In pediatric clinics, there is a higher number of inquiries from families that are related to girl’s body image They notice that there is a very rapid transition from childhood to puberty,” Naqab said.

In this sense, Juana Pulisis (MN 97 898), a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders, expressed: “In girls, there is a greater dissatisfaction with the image. There is a growth of low self-perception of their figure and self-esteem, perception of “I’m ugly”, “I’m fat” or “I’m different”. In Argentina, there is a whole cult of the ideal of weakness, so logically it will generate more disagreement in comparison.

Early puberty and body dissatisfaction: experts warn of the harm of nets in girls

“If you add social media to that, hypersexualized environment It kind of speeds up development. If you see the photos or videos on Instagram or TikTok, you understand this there is a cult of eroticizing children. It leads to the idea that you have to show a certain shape of a woman,” he added.

Zucci agreed, noting, “Faced with uncontrollable information overload, it’s happened that girls who want imitate imposed patterns, they begin to dress after models not according to their age. We even see that the same relatives began to expose itself more girls when performing dances, or ‘challenge'”.

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“There is no common message in the networks that there are different contexts and when you’re young you don’t realize it. Those who begin to develop feel dissatisfaction with their image and do not want to show off. There are many accounts that promote anorexia, bulimia; In fact, there are a lot of terrible challenges, such as measuring the waist with the headphone cord,” warned Pulizis.

Mandil questioned in this context using filters: “They distort the image and give themselves pretty terrible messages about aesthetics because they come to believe that this must be their imageeven if I want to look good all the time.’

Although there are currently more famous or influencers who talk about him positive for the body and try to visualize the existence of different physical constitutions, it is not usually girls who consume this content.

In this regard, Zucci stated: “The pandemic has also changed schedules, sleep and eating patterns, another problem so related to puberty and so little controlled after the pandemic; increasing cases of eating disorders on the one hand and sedentary lifestyles or obesity on the other. Disorders that return with the theme of having before your eyes a model with a perfect body and face”.

Dissatisfaction with body image amid development from models they see on social media.  (Photo: IStock)
Dissatisfaction with body image amid development from models they see on social media. (Photo: IStock)from: SB Arts Media | Getty Images/iStockphoto

That’s why feeling ashamed of their image, changes in their body, what the networks show them and dissatisfaction with what the mirror gives them back can be an incentive to start change your habitsmake diets and predispose them to development -in the future- eating disorders (EDs).

behavior to watch out for

The psychiatrist explains that to develop an eating disorder, a person must have “a specific personality, certain contextual traits, a biological basis, traumatic family histories, premorbid situations such as anxiety or mood disorders,” among other variables.

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“One of the things that shouldn’t happen when they’re children or teenagers is going on a diet. It is one of the predictors of TCA, as internalization of the thinness ideal, perceived pressure to lose weight, preoccupation or dissatisfaction with weight, and restrictive dieting“, described Pulizis.

For this reason, Naqab emphasized that it is essential for families to pay attention to whether girls “they talk about their image all the timeif they need a lot of positive reinforcement from others to feel good, if they are looking for an identityif they isolate themselves, if they suddenly have moments when they eat a lot and moments when they don’t want to, if they hide in the bathroom to throw up”.

Prevention and communication

During the transition between childhood and puberty, the family is essential as a base of support. Those of us who have already gone through such a process know that we need support, to feel accompanied and to have someone listen and advise us.

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“First and foremost, parents need to look within themselves and see what their attitudes are about bodies, sizes, aging and aesthetics. they will have to be prevention models and learning not to talk about others’ bodiesPulizis suggested. Within the recommendations, the specialists emphasize the making prevention, promotion of healthy living and emotional regulation so that changes in the period of development affect as little as possible and protect him from something traumatic.

For his part, Nakab encouraged parents and/or guardians to “pay attention to whether or not boys have social networks.” “It is recommended not before the age of 12 and always with parental control,” he emphasized. In the same vein, the psychiatrist called for them to be taught what Photoshop is, the filters, so they can “issue own critical judgment to that”. Because no, not everything we see on social media is real.

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