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Body image

Ways to have a healthy body image

Your body image is about much more than how you feel about your appearance. It’s also how you feel in your body, your sense of control over your body as you go about your day, how you think others perceive it and whether or not you believe it’s “good” enough. Keep reading to learn what shapes your body image and what you can do to have a healthier relationship with your body.

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What affects your body image?

Unfortunately, many people believe their bodies and appearance aren’t attractive enough. These thoughts can be formed by messages you receive from your family, friends, the media and other people. If you grow up hearing negative messages about your body or how you don’t measure up, you may internalize these messages and have a poor self-image.

The commercials, advertisements, TV shows, magazines and social media posts you see can affect how you feel about yourself. For centuries, the beauty and diet industries have tried to convince us that we’re not good enough and need to buy their products to look better.

These tactics make these industries a lot of money: The diet industry makes more than $70 billion each year by targeting people’s insecurities about their weight and size. The beauty industry brings in more than $100 billion.

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How to improve your body image

Having a better relationship with your body doesn’t start with losing weight or changing your appearance – it begins on the inside. It’s about your willingness to question what’s being presented to you. Consider these three questions next time you feel like you don’t measure up to an Instagram influencer, celebrity or even a friend:

  • Is this image real? In many cases, photos are edited or filtered. Photoshopping images is standard practice in many magazines and advertisements. Apps that change your appearance – such as the size of your lips or eyes – and add filters are also popular. That means the selfie you see isn’t necessarily what that person looks like in real life.
  • Who decides the beauty “ideal”? The answer: You do! Your body and looks aren’t something that needs to be fixed. Trends come and go. Sometimes the “in” look is super curvy, while other times, it’s tall and thin. If you try to fit in with every trend, you’ll always be chasing something new.
  • Is this image attainable and maintainable? Each of our bodies comes with a genetic blueprint that determines our shape, eye color, hair color and height, among other characteristics. Suppose you can’t achieve your “ideal” image without extreme measures, such as surgery, a strict diet or expensive products. In that case, this image is most likely not in your genetic makeup – and it can be harmful to your mental and physical health to pursue it.

Once you’ve considered these questions, try these tips to improve your body image:

  • Clean up your newsfeed: Unfollow and unlike any pages or profiles that trigger negative thoughts about your looks. Instead, choose to follow people who encourage you to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.
  • Celebrate what makes you “you”: Write down 10 things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance. Maybe you’re really funny, a good listener or excellent at math. Post this list on your mirror where you can see it every day.
  • Avoid unhealthy conversations: If your friends or family members obsess over their weight, appearance or diet, you can change the subject. Ask them about a special event that’s coming up or the latest book they read. Or maybe you spend less time around these people. You don’t have to participate in the body talk of others.
  • Speak kindly to yourself: We all have an inner dialogue. Would you say to a friend the things you say to yourself? Probably not. It’s normal to have days where you struggle with your body image and inner critic. Be especially gentle with yourself on those days, focus on what you like about yourself and practice self-care.

You deserve to feel good about yourself, inside and out. By taking these steps, you can make big strides in having a healthier body image and relationship with yourself.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.


For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

National Eating Disorders Association

Dove Self-Esteem Project

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Cyberbullying and Digital Abuse

What is cyberbullying?

While the internet and social media can be a great way to learn new information, stay in touch with your friends and watch your favorite shows, they can also open the doors to cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that occurs through technology, like social media, texts and emails. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is common: 59% of teens in the United States report being harassed or bullied online, according to the Pew Research Center.

A bully may target their victim through online messaging and social platforms, including:

  • Instant messaging or direct messaging
  • Texts or group texts
  • Online gaming
  • Online chatrooms, message boards and forums
  • Emails
  • Tik Tok
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat

Cyberbullying can be hard to escape for both the victim and the bully because:

  • Cyberbullies can attack at any time of day or night.
  • Once information is posted online, it can be hard to remove.

The different types of cyberbullying

How do you know if you’re being cyberbullied? Here are some common types of bullying a person may experience:

  • Cyberstalking: Continuously harassing someone online, including threatening to harm them physically.
  • Disparaging: Publishing posts or sending messages that target someone mainly based on their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Exclusion: Leaving someone out of a social media activity, game or group chat.
  • Flaming: Name-calling and online fights.
  • Harassment: Repeatedly sending mean or threatening messages.
  • Impersonation: Pretending to be someone they’re not. Also called “catfishing.”
  • Outing: Publicly sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
  • Trickery: Convincing someone to tell them something personal and then sharing it publicly.

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Consequences of cyberbullying

Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying can have negative consequences for both the victim and the bully. These include:

  • Legal consequences: Someone who bullies others online can face legal ramifications, depending on where you live. Some states have anti-cyberbullying laws, while others do not.
  • School consequences: Cyberbullying can affect the victim’s academic performance. Some schools have policies to punish bullies.
  • Mental health: Being bullied can increase a person’s risk of depression, drug or alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior, and suicidal thoughts. The risk is even higher in LGBTQIA+ young people.

If you’re the bully, cyberbullying can affect your future. Anything you post online can be used against you. It can affect your future relationships and college and career opportunities.

What to do if you’re being cyberbullied

You have the right to be safe and respected. You don’t deserve to be bullied or harassed, whether in-person or online. If you’re being cyberbullied:

  • Don’t respond to the messages.
  • Talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, principal or guidance counselor.
  • Block the number on your phone. Block or unfriend the user on the website or social media platform.
  • Document the bullying with a screenshot and share it with the site’s administrators, a trusted adult and, if necessary, the authorities.
  • Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
  • If you’re thinking of hurting yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8355 or Centerstone’s crisis line:

You never deserve to be bullied and it’s not your fault. Don’t stay silent. Get help right away if it’s happening to you.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Sources: What Is Bullying?

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Internet and social media safety

Internet and social media safety for teens

The internet can be a good thing: It lets you stay in touch with your friends, do research for schoolwork, connect with other like-minded people, play games, share your music or artwork, and stay up to date on the news and your favorite celebrities. But it can also have some downsides. Keep reading to learn more about how social media and the internet can affect your life and what you can do to stay safe online.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Potential risks of using social media

While using the internet has many benefits, it also has some downsides, such as:

  • Cyberbullying, which can increase the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Exposure to online predators
  • Distraction from schoolwork, sleep, exercise and in-person social activities
  • Privacy concerns, including the collection of data about you
  • Expose you to frequent advertisements and images that can affect your body image
  • Risk of being hacked or having personal information stolen

Staying safe online

Here are some tips to stay safe when spending time online:

  • Be aware that once you click “send,” your message or photo is in the hands of someone else and is no longer in your control. Even with videos or photos that “disappear,” people can still screenshot or save them and they may never truly go away. If someone publicly shares what you send privately, there’s no way for you to delete what they post.
  • Be mindful of the future consequences of what you post online. Many employers screen candidates on social media. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t want your grandparent to see it, or wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it.
  • If you are being bullied online, tell a trusted adult, like a parent, guardian, teacher, guidance counselor, coach or school nurse. Cyberbullying is harmful and can lead to anxiety, depression or self-harm.
  • Don’t accept a connection or “friend” request from someone you don’t know. For your safety, don’t email, call, agree to meet in person or send photos to them. Some people are dishonest about who they are online and are looking for people to exploit.
  • Never share personal information online, such as your password, location, social security number, age, address or phone number. Sometimes personal information is used in negative ways. If someone asks for this information, end the conversation and tell an adult right away.
  • Set your social media privacy settings to where only your friends can see your profile or account.
  • Know that social media sites have legal access to whatever you post and to access your location. If hackers access these sites, they can easily see what you’ve posted online.
  • Take regular breaks from your device. Too much screen time can affect your sleep, concentration and mental health. Put your phone, computer or tablet away for at least an hour or two each night, keep them on silent and turn off notifications. Be sure to make time for in-person activities with family and friends – doing so can help you feel more connected.

Using the internet and social media can be a good thing as long as you do so safely. By taking breaks, staying safe and making time for real-life interactions, you can protect your mental and physical well-being.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.


For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

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Pornography: What teens should know

It’s perfectly normal to be curious about sex. This is what leads some people to look at or watch pornography. Pornography is any printed or visual material that shows explicit images or descriptions of sexual organs or practices. One report indicated that as many as 60% of teens have looked at porn to learn more about sex. The problem is pornography is far from an accurate depiction of sex – it’s just a fantasy. Keep reading to learn more about how watching pornography can affect you and your relationships and how to learn more about sex in a healthy way.
Need more info? Ask an Expert.

The problem with pornography

The problem with pornography is that it is not realistic and can lead to inaccurate ideas of what sex is really like. It’s a production or show designed to draw you in. Most people who are shown in pornography are paid actors.

In addition, many people in the pornography industry have had either enhancements done to their bodies (like plastic surgery) or have been photoshopped, making things look exaggerated compared to the average person. Watching or looking at porn can cause you to have a poor body image if you feel like you don’t measure up or fit that image.

It can also lead to unhealthy relationships. In heterosexual porn (between members of the opposite sex), women are often portrayed as objects for male satisfaction. Often, they may be shown in non-consenting roles. Consent is extremely important in all sexual relationships. And pornography focuses on sex, not the other essential aspects of a relationship, like respect and trust.

Healthy ways to learn about sex

Here are some healthier ways to learn about sex:

  • Talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, guardian, health care provider, . It’s good to ask questions – that’s how you learn.
  • Find a book or online resource, such as Centerstone, Sex, Etc. or AMAZE.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.


For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

Healthy Teen Network
Sex, Etc.

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Is sexting ever OK when you’re a teen?

When you have romantic feelings toward someone, you may want to express how you feel. Some people do this by “sexting.” But is it ever a good idea if you’re a teen?

What is sexting?

Sexting is sharing a sexual message or photo through a phone, email account or social media site. While sexting can seem like no big deal because it doesn’t carry the risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can still have some pretty serious consequences.

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Sexting consequences

Sexting can negatively affect your mental health, relationships and future. It can even have legal consequences.

Before sending an explicit photo, remember that once an image is out there, you can’t get it back. What if you and the other person break up? What if they share your message or photo with their friends or social media networks? What if your parents or teachers found out? In some cases, the image could even end up in the hands of a sexual predator.

Here are some tips to avoid serious consequences from sexting:

  • Never take photos of yourself you wouldn’t want everyone to see, including your family, classmates and teachers.
  • Never forward someone else’s sex-related photos or messages. You could get in serious trouble, especially if a person involved is under age 18.

Sexting can affect your mental health and relationships

Sexting can have potential emotional consequences like:

  • Regret
  • Objectification/victimization
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Sadness
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of friendships
  • Loss of respect for yourself
  • Thinking about or actually hurting yourself or others

Sexting can negatively impact your future

Sexting can also negatively affect your future, such as your:

  • Employment
  • College admission
  • Military admission
  • Spot on a sports team
  • Scholarships
  • Future relationships
  • Mental health if you have to re-live the consequences of your decision

Employers and colleges often look at candidates’ social media profiles and online presence. Having nude images or photos of alcohol or drug use could hinder your ability to get a job or into college one day.

Legal consequences of sexting

If a person involved in sexting is under age 18, it’s considered child pornography. The legal consequences can vary depending on the state where you live. Some states consider it a felony to both send and receive the photo (even if you didn’t ask the person to send the photo). If the person in the image is under 18, you may face legal consequences if you’re the:

  • Photo taker
  • Person in the picture
  • Sender
  • Receiver
  • In possession of the photo

Sexting could also put you at risk for placement on the Sex Offender Registry and possible jail time. Usually, the consequences are harshest for those who request or share the photo.

And even if you’re not breaking the law, your school can punish you and others involved, even if you’re legal adults.

What to do if someone pressures you to sext

If someone asks you to send a nude photo or explicit message, you may be afraid to turn them down because you don’t want them to stop liking you. But if someone truly cares about you, they won’t ask you to do something that puts your mental health and future at risk.

If someone sends you an unwanted message or pressures you to sext, tell a trusted adult. That’s sexual harassment and it’s not OK.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Sources: Sexting: What Should You Do?

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