'There are no ads on my phone'

10/08/16 . News

A new report suggests that boys are unaware of how much advertising they are exposed to and the degree of image manipulation.

Picture Of Health? from Credos, a think-tank which is part of the Advertising Association, also shows that while boys say they're not particulary bothered about how they look, they are aware of increasing pressure on them to look good.

The report, which is based on interviews with over 1,000 primary and secondary school boys, says that boys associate advertising with the more traditional forms such as TV, magazines and website pop-ups but are less aware of it on social media. The report concludes 'boys are largely unaware of less traditional advertising unless it is explicitly labelled as such'.

Boys have a high regard for advertising which might surprise adults who assume today's kids are all media-savvy: 73% of secondary boys agree that advertising plays an important role in letting them know about products and services and 69% of 16-18 year olds say they have tried new products after seeing an advert.

Similarly, boys are unaware of the degree of image manipulation that goes on in photographs of males. They knew it happened with images of females but were 'shocked to discover the extent to which changes are made to male photographs in advertising'.

20% have manipulated own social media images

This is surprising given how many had manipulated their own image. Around a fifth of secondary boys said they had changed images of themselves to look better (22%). They had added filters or changed the colouring/brightness/contrast of an image, removed blemishes, whitened teeth, made their body look more muscular or made it look slimmer.

Although only 9% of boys said that looking good made them happy, boys were aware of how they looked. Around a quarter (23%) of boys believe there is a ‘perfect male body’. Those who belived this were far more likely to worry what people thought of their body than those who did not believe in the ‘perfect body’ (36% vs 15%).

Over half of secondary boys see eating disorders (56%) as an issue for both boys and girls. One in ten boys said they had previously skipped meals to improve their physique and a further 19% would consider this. One in ten would consider taking steroids and 12% would consider cosmetic surgery. Almost half of secondary boys would consider exercising to bulk-up (48%) and 21% had already done so suggesting that 'a staggering 69% aspire to a muscular physique'. 

While many boys (71%) would feel able to talk to their friends about these issues, most (56%) feel it would be difficult to talk to a teacher in relation to their confidence about their looks with nearly one-third (29%) feeling it would be difficult talking to their parents.

The report proposes four specific actions:

  • raise awareness of the extent of advertising and image manipulation, especially in social media.
  • media literacy programmes in schools should include body issues
  • boys, teachers and parents should be educated about what it really is to be healthy
  • advertisers should use a diversity of male body shapes and sizes

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