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Frozen's Elsa Is Being Blamed For Harming Kids' Self Esteem, But We Need To Look Closer To Home

27/06/2016 16:35 | Updated 27 June 2016

When thinking of things likely to harm your children, the last thing on your mind is going to be Disney.

Am I right?

Wrong, apparently.

Today, a study has surfaced warning parents that rather than making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, these films - or more specifically the characters in these films - are harmful to young girls.

The study from Brigham Young University claims princesses like Elsa, Jasmine and the Little Mermaid harm young girls' self esteem because of their "thin waists". Not only that, but the author said there is a "long term impact of the princess culture", where girls are beginning to hate their own bodies because of it.

Conclusions from the study imply that while parents are doing their best to shelter their kids from obvious violent or inappropriate television programmes and films, they're failing to look in what seems to be the least likely place.

A photo posted by @princesa.disney_ on

Reading this study today, I immediately took my mind back to when I was a child and although I was insanely jealous of EVERY SINGLE DISNEY PRINCESS'S HAIR (things like that happens when you have thin hair, guys), I only have positive memories of the films.

They made me (and still make me) feel happy, nostalgic and comforted by the happy endings.

But looking at pictures of Disney princesses, you can see where the conclusions stem from. They do have thin waists. Their bodies are unrealistic. There are rarely any curves in sight. So in short: I guess no, they aren't great role models for body image when it comes to kids.

Does that mean you have to banish every glimpse of Disney from your child's toy box or DVD collection?

No. Not in my opinion, anyway.

Disney is never going away, let's be honest, and no parent has the ability to shelter their child from every single part of their life that will "potentially" harm their self esteem.

Whatever programme they watch, whatever film they see or advert on the tube (I'm looking at you Protein World), young girls are going to be constantly hit with images of unrealistic body types. Even as adults, it's something we may see on a day-to-day basis.

But what parents can do is build their child's resilience to be able to cope with such situations, to allow their children to talk positively about body image and how much it varies between women.

That means ensuring their kids see body image models beyond one source - so dolls of different colours, shapes and sizes, and TV programmes that have a wide range of characters.

And above all, to understand that while we can't control the media, we can control what goes on in our own homes, and most importantly, how we talk about ourselves.

Back in 2014, Tyra Banks summed this up perfectly when promoting Special K's 'Fight Fat Talk' campaign (which, by the way, found 93% of women 'fat talk' about themselves).

"They're saying: 'My body is disgusting', 'It makes me feel sick', and so on. And I'm thinking, your daughter is probably your size and she's hearing that?

"That stuff is crazy."

Banks was simply implying that talking unrealistically about your own body could lead to your daughter feeling the same about her body and in turn, reduce her self esteem.

And that's where the real problem lies.

How you speak about your own body around your daughter will have far more impact on how you shape her thoughts about body image than it will seeing the Little Mermaid prancing around on a TV screen in a fantasy world with Sebastian the lobster.

As the Centre for Gender Equity put it: "If parents have poor body image and comment on the fact in front of their kids, their kids are more likely to imitate that behaviour".

Let's face it, when it comes to idolising you or a Disney princess, you're going to win every time.
Yes, even above Elsa.

So let good body image start at home, and with any luck, your kid will have the smarts to know the difference between real beauty and an unrealistic dream drawn by an animator's pen.

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