Schools to teach pre-teens image retouching in advertising

Apprentice creative agency

Flicking through the news this morning I read that the government are planning to introduce a new lesson plan which exposes and explains airbrushing into UK schools. The idea is to help primary schoolchildren realise that most ads display unrealistic images and set standards that are impossible to achieve.

The initiative follows a review, commissioned by the UK government, which found out that many children are exposed to sexualised material on music videos and men’s magazine covers. The initiative is aimed at children aged 11 and 12 and will explain how reading magazines and looking at celebrities’ photographs may have a negative influence on children’s self-confidence.

The pupils will be shown a slide show of 14 photographs and teachers will explain how the ads have been manipulated and try to raise awareness of the media’s influence over the perception of the human body. Some of the images show models and celebrities looking noticeably slimmer or having bigger busts than they actually have. However, the slides will also feature examples of successful brands, such as United Colours of Benetton and Dove, which use anti-racist and anti-airbrushing ad campaigns.

The pack was created by non-profit organisation Media Smart and, according to the makers, was funded by the UK advertising industry and by the UK and EU governments. Seems like a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure that proving something is fake actually makes it less desirable, and it’s important to remember that the perfect body shape does change slightly with each passing decade. Just look at the difference in the perceived perfect female body today compared to the 80’s.