What's Newsworthy

The following articles emphasize the great need for North Star's programs:
Sports and physical activity decreases risk-taking behaviors

At North Star Youth Partnership, we're committed to helping teens avoid risk-taking behaviors. But what is newsworthy about our approach? Lots!

Girls receive 250,000 commercial messages by the time they are 17 years old, telling them what to eat and what to look like, but not encouraging them to be physically active and participating in sports (Girls, Inc., 2008). Girls who feel good about themselves are much less likely to participate in behaviors that are health risks.

Our programs integrate all the keys to building a supportive community for healthy youth development and ensuring that young people avoid risk-taking behaviors:

  • Refusal Skills
  • Empowerment
  • Leadership
  • Community Service
  • Physical Health & Exercise
  • Asset Building
  • Positive Peer Relationships

Other positive benefits

There are also social benefits to playing sports. Besides building good friendships, girls learn teamwork and how to set and strive toward goals. The YMCA of the USA defined the developmental needs for adolescents that are critical for healthy development and survival:

(1) physical activity
(2) competence and achievement
(3) self-definition
(4) creative expression
(5) structure and clear limits
(6) meaningful participation.

Organized sports, like those at North Star, provide opportunities for girls to develop all six. Studies indicate that adolescent girls who are involved in sports are healthier, have higher academic achievement, and are less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors or use tobacco, drugs or alcohol than teenage girls who are not involved in sports (Riegle-Crumb, Pearson & Crissey, 2005; Girls, Inc., 2002; and Wellesley Centers for Women, 2005).

More Teens Text than Talk On Cell Phones; 58% of 12-Year-Olds Have Cells

Cell phone ownership among young teens has skyrocketed in the past six years, according to a Pew Research Center report. Researchers found that 58% of 12-year-olds owned a cell phone in 2009, compared to 18% in 2004. By age 17, 83% of teens now own cell phones.

Another Pew study found that teens use their cell phones more often to text than to talk. Half of teens send 50 or more text messages daily and one in three sends more than 100 daily messages. The typical teen makes or receives five daily voice calls. Pew researchers also found that blogging has declined among teens, dropping to 14% in 2009 from 28% just three years earlier.

Only 8% of internet users age 12-17 were using Twitter in 2009, compared to 66% who use or receive text messages and 62% who go online for news and political information.

Help Her Like Her Body

In today’s media climate, girls often need their parents’ help to feel good about themselves.

For years teenagers have felt pressure to look thin and sexy, but today, girls as young as seven talk about dieting and ask for mini-skirts with suggestive slogans.

With girls’ clothing stores selling thongs for 10-year olds, skinny child celebrities and ads for dolls in skimpy clothes, the pressure to look thin and sexy is trickling down to our daughters. Are sexy styles for young girls harmless or dangerous?

The Dangers

“This trend can cause young girls to believe that they are not pretty enough or thin enough unless they dress, look, or behave a certain way,” says Susan Kleinman, a dance/movement therapist at The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment center with locations in Philadelphia and Radnor, PA. “It also pulls children into roles they are not developmentally prepared for and may cause emotional conflict and confusion.”

Dr. Jane Shure, psychotherapist at A Chance to Heal, a Jenkintown, PA eating disorder education and advocacy organization, explains that being looked at as a sexual being can be uncomfortable even for adults. Young girls who are taught to look sexy often become numb to their feelings of what’s comfortable and what’s not because they think they should be viewed as sexy. Shutting down these feelings makes girls more vulnerable to disorders.

According to the American Psychological Association, researchers have found a connection between the sexualization of kids and depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.

Whether it’s looking sexy or thin, too much emphasis on how a child looks in general can be dangerous. When children derive their sense of worth from their appearance, problems can develop.

Poor Body Image Signs

Children might have a poor physical self-image if they:

  • Make self-critical comments about their bodies.
  • Seek a lot of reassurance about how they look.
  • Diet, talk about dieting or visit dieting websites.
  • Engage in sexual or flirtatious behavior to get attention and compensate for not feeling good.
  • Over-exercise.

Foster a Healthy Image

“Looking good is important,” says Dr. D’Arcy Lyness, a child and adolescent psychologist in Wayne, PA and behavioral health editor for KidsHealth.org. “It feels good. But there isn’t only one way to look good. And looking good isn’t the only way of measuring up.”

How can parents help their children understand that they don’t need to look sexy or super thin to look good and that appearance isn’t the most important measure of worth?Here are some suggestions.

  • Emphasize qualities other than appearance. Focus on the importance of abilities and personality. Help kids develop interests other than appearance.
  • Give compliments. Bolster your child’s self-esteem with compliments about her beautiful smile, generous heart, athletic or artistic abilities, etc.
  • Help children identify positive role models who are admirable for things they’re doing, not for what they look like.
  • Set consistent limits, but avoid critical comments. Criticism about body type or taste in clothes can breed insecurity. Explain why you’re saying no to an outfit and help your child find an alternative that she likes and feels good in. Rather than saying, “That shirt looks terrible on you,” say, “I like the color of that shirt, but the neckline is a little too revealing.”
  • Model healthy habits and a positive attitude. Kids notice how you talk about and care for your own body. Avoid self-critical comments.
  • Teach children how to have a healthy body. Explain that all foods are okay in moderation and exercise together for fun.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or withholding food as a punishment.
  • Talk about the media. Help your child understand that TV and magazine messages help companies make money and few people look like these images. When you can, watch movies and TV shows and discuss them with your child.