A CHILDREN'S charity has warned that alarming numbers of young people have called its phone line because they are worried about their body shape because of the predominance of airbrushed models and celebrities in the media.
NSPCC Scotland said there had been more than 2,000 calls to its Childline services in Glasgow and Aberdeen from children worried about their appearance who were struggling to cope with the pressure of living up to the images they see on TV and social media.
Many also raised concerns about pressure from their peers, and ChildLine counsellors found young people who contacted them often struggled to find anything positive about their skills, achievements or appearance after comparing themselves to celebrities, models and pop stars.
Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has led a campaign against the use of images that have been deliberately altered to enhance the subject's looks, and succeeded in having adverts by Lancome and Maybelline, starring Julia Roberts and supermodel Christy Turlington, banned.
However, ChildLine service manager Susan Dobson said the confidence of many teenagers in how they look was being destroyed by "airbrushed ideals".
She said: "Young people face intense pressures and are bombarded by society's unhealthy obsession with appearance and unrealistic images of the "norm" to which we should all apparently aspire. Through the images we portray on television, in magazines, advertising and the wider media, our society is saturated by skewed portrayals of what constitutes 'normal' or acceptable shape, size and appearance.
"Social networks facilitate image and video sharing on a global scale, which can lead young people to make comparisons about whether their body and appearance 'measures up'."
Physical appearance was revealed as a leading cause of bullying, cropping up in two-thirds of all counselling sessions.
Many children were left feeling too embarrassed to talk about their problem, with 11 per cent of those affected not telling anyone about it before contacting ChildLine.
One girl aged 12-15 contacted the Aberdeen base because she was so unhappy with her appearance she avoided activities for fear of drawing attention to herself:
She said: "I hate the way I look and feel fat and ugly all the time. It has stopped me from doing things I enjoy because I just don't feel confident in front of people."
Ms Dobson added: "Many young people are bullied about their appearance, with some feeling so ashamed and embarrassed that they hide themselves away from society - rarely leaving their bedrooms, going out or socialising. We're talking about experiences and feelings which can blight not just their childhood but their entire life."