While a negative body image may lead to teens choosing to diet and developing unhealthy eating habits, the root cause is a general lack of self-confidence ("What's eating the young ones"; last Sunday).
According to renowned psychologist Erik Erikson's stages of development, the focus of adolescence (ages 12 to 18) is finding identity. During this period, teens struggle to find out who they are and what they believe in. Confidence is very crucial as it determines whether they will develop a positive or negative self-image.
In other words, if the teen has enough confidence, what is advocated on social media or what their peers think of them will not be so influential. In fact, the very act of seeking confirmation about one's body through following the trends on social media is a sign of low confidence.
To solve this issue of teens developing eating disorders, the community should act on two fronts. First, schools and parents should continue to educate young people on the importance of healthy eating, emphasising the fact that only a healthy diet and regular exercise can help them lose weight.
Second, and more importantly, the community should be more inclusive. Schools, family members, relatives and even the online community should be more accepting of teens who may not have the kind of body that society deems "beautiful".
This will help to build up their self-confidence. This confidence is valuable because it not only helps to prevent eating disorders, but also instils a much healthier and positive mindset which, in turn, prevents many other psychological illnesses.
Chen Jiamin (Miss)