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Teens & Body Image...Changing the World

High school and college students share how they will change the world...

Teen Body Image Statistics"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him...we need not wait to see what others do."

--Gandhi

This is the summary report from the StageofLife.com Body Image and "Be the Change" national teen survey and writing contest. 

  • 4,000+ teens and college students visited the Stage of Life student writing contest during the month's writing prompt (December 2012) from across the US (all 50 states).
  • 377 students completed the national survey on body image (our highlighted "Be the Change" topic for the national StageofLife.com monthly teen survey).
  • 100+ student bloggers submitted a qualifying essay to the writing contest (see below links to the all of the body image and "Be the Change" essays).

Background:  In looking towards the New Year, we wanted to hear how teens and college students planned to "be the change."  This was an open-ended writing contest question that our teen bloggers and writers addressed in one of three ways:

1.  On a philosophical level, what needs to be changed in your community, city, state, country or the world?
2.  On a personal level, what will you do to make a change in yourself?
3.  Or...how have you already helped change the world and how can you spread your message to others?

This particular writing contest prompt was inspired by high school senior, Virginia Lafontant, from Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial High School in Miami, Florida, who was helping pre-teen girls in her community have a healthier body image.  Keeping community projects like Virginia's body-image initiative in mind along with Gandhi's words, we asked students to share a personal story about how they planned to "be the change," whether that was something about themselves, or a larger, more philosophical view on how something needs to change in your community or the world.


PART I - TEENS & BODY IMAGE SURVEY RESULTS

Statistics about teens' reading and buying habitsBefore submitting their essay, teens were asked to complete a survey about one issue many feel passionately about...body image.  Interesting teen body image statistics from Stage of Life student survey include (see all statistics in PDF download)...
  • 20% of teens are either "rarely" or "never" happy with their body image
  • Over half of all teens (52%) feel that the media pressures them to change their body image
  • 73% of teens feel their appearance affects their body image
  • 65% of teens are afraid of gaining weight
  • 44% of teens skip meals as a tactic to losing or controlling weight
  • 31% of teens have been on a diet in the last six months
  • 31% of teens have at least one body part on which they would like to get surgery
  • 56% of teens feel that the media's advertisements are the main cause of low self-esteem
Teens and Books - Reading and Purchasing Survey DataTo read the full national survey results on teens and body image, click the PDF icon to download.
 

PART II - TEENS & BE THE CHANGE ESSAY THEMES

StageofLife.com - Be the ChangeAfter taking the body image survey, students submitted their "Be the Change" essays to the StageofLife.com writing contest.  From the qualifying teen essay submissions, several themes and trends emerged about how students plan to change:

1. Change Myself:  Most people—especially teens—are looking to themselves to make a change the new year. Whether focusing on an internal flaw or honing their skills for good, these teens are motivated to better themselves and, as a consequence, their world.

2. Change Others: Teens that are looking to make a difference in others are promising to volunteer with non-profits, church groups, and other organizations that help and benefit the less fortunate. This effort hopes to result in changed lives—both for the recipient, and for the volunteer.

3. Change Society: Positivity seems to be the buzz word for these teens who are looking to positively transform their society into a more friendly, accepting, and tolerant space. A distinct focus on relationships, speaking up when someone is being bullied, and helping others when they need it are great places to start making society a friendlier place.

4. Change Institutions: These teens focused on changing American systems like education, prisons, foster care, and the availability of healthy foods and learning to the poor. Volunteering with national organizations or being vocal about these issues in your neighborhood are great ways to take a stand and make a change.

5. Change the World: These teens aimed to tackle worldwide issues like hunger, poverty, and war. The best way to see these changes through is to donate to a worldwide organization like UNICEF or volunteer to do some charity work overseas.


PART III - READ THE INSPIRATIONAL TEEN "BE THE CHANGE" ESSAYS

Teens Changing the World on StageofLife.comImmediately below, you'll find links to the StageofLife.com winning essay, our runners-up, semi-finalists and scores of other essays from college students and teenagers about making a difference and changing the world.  Please take a few moments to read an essay or two. If you have the time, make a comment on the responses you enjoyed the most.  We know the student writers will love hearing your positive input (they'll get an email notifying them if you comment on their writing contest entry).

Stage of Life writing contest winnerEssay Contest Winner(s):


Runners-Up (in no particular order):

StageofLife.com student essay writers - Runners Up
  1. Be the Change: I will be respected by boys by EmilyWatson10250 (This teen rightfully demands respect from the boys in her life)
  2.  Be the Change: I Will Reach Out to Others and Help them Read by Papples (This teen got involved with Reach Out and Read New Jersey)
  3. Be the Change: Focusing on the Future by Britttany_maria (This teen plans on volunteering with Promises2Kids)
  4. Be the Change: Love thy Family by wchung (This teen encourages others to love and get to know their families)
  5. Be the Change: Reaching Corners by missemify (Make friends with someone who is shy)
  6. Be the Change: Making a Difference to Those in Need by jordanb (She volunteers with the homeless)
  7. Be the Change: How I will help people focus on the “special” instead of the “needs” of those with disabilities by gsobol (Stop using the r-word)

Semi-Finalists (in no particular order):
  1. StageofLife.com teen essay writers - Semi-FinalistsBe the Change: I Will Stop Trying to be Perfect by cowsgomoo (This teen is tired of living in others’ shadows)
  2. Be the Change: Roller Coaster of Life by AshlenS (This teen wants to take chances and start living)
  3. Be the Change: I Will Carry Others by Inspired (“So while it’s small, and nothing like the essays I know I’ll read, this is my personal promise: I will be a better person. I will help others realize their self-worth, and their importance.”)
  4. Be the Change: Enlighten the World with Art by lookingforanswers (This teen will make art)
  5. Be the Change: I Discovered the Power of My Voice by waterssar (This teen joined Invisible Children in the fight against the LRA)
  6. Be the Change: I will help decrease and prevent elderly depression by betsynderson (This teen volunteers to assist the elderly at her church group)
  7. Be the Change: I will help change the outlook on life and give help to teenagers through music by Sadie Capri
  8. Be the Change: It Begins with You by jennyzhcl (Make an effort to make a change)
  9. Be the Change: Giving Simply Isn’t Helping by Mikki_Davis (She wants to see teens commit to helping others)
  10. Be the Change: I will help people in my local schools to learn more about health by semegne (This Ethiopian teen started a club at his school to educate society about health problems—a resource Ethiopia is sorely lacking)
  11. Be the Change: Rehabilitating Racehorses by laurenlove16 (This teen was touched by an injured racehorse)
  12. Be the Change: Teachers Count Too by rportenti (This teen strives to find more funds for teachers)
  13. Be the Change: How I will change my world with love and respect by racheljanie (This progressive teen will be doing charity work with a conservative Christian group in order to give to others)
  14. Be the Change: Our Environment Needs Us by Taylorleebar (She is vice president of her school’s Green Team)
  15. Be the Change: Banishing Hunger in 2013 and Beyond by rxing963 (This teen views the world via a rosy lens—but that is about to change)
  16. Be the Change: Hunger, Hope, and One Serious Tan Line by MariaRose (This teen wears a ring that says “be the change”)


StageofLIfe.com writing contest submissionsAll Qualifying Teen Essays - "How Will You Be the Change"

The essays below were written by Stage of Life teen writers for the December 2012 writing contest and are listed by "change" category:

Change Myself

  1. Be the Change: I Will Change my Outlook on Myself by EvanescentFelicity (The media bullies us into trying to be and look “perfect”)

  2. Be the Change: I Will Stop Trying to be Perfect by cowsgomoo (This teen is tired of living in others’ shadows)

  3. Be the Change: No worries! by krmurphy91 (She is learning that life is not predictable)

  4. Be the Change: Healthy Eating Habits by tdeckenbach16 (School cafeterias sell a lot of tempting junk food)

  5. Be the Change: Being Positive by ktodero15 (This teen is trying to change their pessimistic ways)

  6. Be the Change by kstewart15 (This teen is excited to start eating healthy)

  7. Be the Change: Changing the World by wtavakkol14 (Be kind to others)

  8. Be the Change: I Will Change How I See Myself by n0stalgic (This teen invented “Nice Notes” as a way to improve her self-image)

  9. Be the Change: Within Myself by Baseball101 (This teen wants to stop talking badly about himself)

  10. Be the Change: I Will Not Gossip by cee (Gossip-free means being guilt-free)

  11. Be the Change by jordan2013 (This teen is looking to finish high school on a high note)

  12. Be the Change: Finding My Passion by bschmidt (This teen plans on finding something to be passionate about)

  13. Be the Change: Take a Break by austinh (He plans on dedicating some time to himself next year)

  14. Be the Change: Revising Myself by extremlysarah (She wants to express her faith and find self-confidence)

  15. Be the Change: Priorities and My Social Life by srobinson (She hopes to reprioritize what’s important in her life)

  16. Be the Change: Waiting for a Reason by jordanhi (She is waiting for a cause from god)

  17. Be the Change: Roller Coaster of Life by AshlenS (This teen wants to take chances and start living)

  18. Be the Change: I’m Doing Me by Rosie_Frank2 (She is going to focus more on herself and her goals)

  19. Be the Change: Transform Yourself by september27 (This teen wants to focus on motivation)

  20. Be the Change: How I Plan on Changing Myself Within a Year by benhernandez14 (This teen wants to gain more self-confidence and be more active)

  21. Be the Change: Honesty is the Best Policy by ttasnim (This teen will try harder to be honest and to keep promises)

  22. Be the Change: Never Limit Yourself, Create Your Opportunities by phoppens (This teen will begin giving back)

  23. Be the Change: I Will Accept My Past by Medusa101 (This teen wants to accept her adoption)

  24. Be the Change: To Change Myself by Josiah_M (“The smallest kindness can turn a person’s whole day around”)

  25. Be the Change: I Need Change by saralindsayy (This teen wants control)

  26. Be the Change: I will be respected by boys by EmilyWatson10250 (This teen rightfully demands respect from the boys in her life)

  27. Be the Change: Small Changes in Time by BreannaMarie (She has started making small, positive changes in her life)

  28. Be the Change: Changes in 2013 by laceymarr (She needs to start living in the moment)

  29. Be the Change: A Splash of Niceness Doesn’t Hurt Anyone by LifeIsBeauty_ (This teen wants to perform one small act of kindness everyday)

  30. Be the Change: I Will Carry Others by Inspired (“So while it’s small, and nothing like the essays I know I’ll read, this is my personal promise: I will be a better person. I will help others realize their self-worth, and their importance.”)

  31. Be the Change: Taking a better look at the mirror’s reflection by bridgette1 (This teen will treat others and herself better)

  32. Be the Change: The Fight Against Mob Logic, or Being Reasonable by chris.zhang.3551 (This teen will think for himself)

  33. Be the Change: Enlighten the World with Art by lookingforanswers (This teen will make art)

  34. Be the Change: I Discovered the Power of My Voice by waterssar (This teen joined Invisible Children in the fight against the LRA)

  35. Be the Change: I will make decisions that will yield to the greater good by riyamajumdar (This teen will begin making decisions based on moral obligation)

  36. Be the Change: Changing Myself into the Image of Loyalty by PHILosophical (This teen wants to be seen as a positive example for others)

  37. Be the Change: Going My Own Way by badwillhunting (This teen wants to break free)

  38. Be the Change: I am going to continue to take steps to find my inner peace and happiness by singh_eshan (This teen is looking to find happiness)

Change Others

  1. Be the Change: I Will Reach Out to Others and Help them Read by Papples (This teen got involved with Reach Out and Read New Jersey)

  2. Be the Change: I will help decrease and prevent elderly depression by betsynderson (This teen volunteers to assist the elderly at her church group)

  3. Be the Change: In 2013 by echen16 (This teen plans on volunteering with non-profit organizations, among other things)

  4. Be the Change: I will be the change by bringing it back by pineapplefrenzy (This teens want to resort back to a “kinder” way of speaking)

  5. Be the Change: Positive Opinions by bdignes16 (Put your ego aside to help others)

  6. Be the Change: I want to help my peers realize that we all have a broad and open future by CorvetteCaptain (There is more to life than high school)

  7. Be the Change: I will help change the outlook on life and give help to teenagers through music by Sadie Capri

  8. Be the Change: Be the Change of 2013 by tlorand16 (This teen wants to volunteer once a month)

  9. Be the Change: To change the eyes of society by angelicamariesd (This teen aims to change her classmates’ minds about suicide)

  10. Be the Change: Focusing on the Future by Britttany_maria (This teen plans on volunteering with Promises2Kids)

  11. Be the Change: The Change of a Life by carloscafe (This teen plans on donating to help the less fortunate in Africa)

  12. Be the Change: Donating Life by mmoore (This teen will donate to the American Red Cross)

  13. Be the Change: By being a nice person by Christisump (Even the smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference)

  14. Be the Change: I will raise awareness on self-injury in teens, why they do it, and how to help them by strawberrygrl1999 (She will help others understand self-harm)

  15. Be the Change: Love thy Family by wchung (This teen encourages others to love and get to know their families)

  16. Be the Change: Salvation of Motivation in Changing the World by AlexPark (This teen wants to help others make changes)

  17. Be the Change: Reaching Corners by missemify (Make friends with someone who is shy)

  18. Be the Change: Parents should be better role models by Nelu96 (Parents should better protect their children from outside dangers)

  19. Be the Change: I Will Help Children to Become Less Dependent on Technology by lvest (This teen wants to see kids less focused on their smart phones)

  20. Be the Change: Helping Students with Issues Concerning Friendship by MYPOV (This teen made friends with a loner and will encourage others to do the same)

  21. Be the Change: It Begins with You by jennyzhcl (Make an effort to make a change)

  22. Be the Change: Help people accept themselves for who they are by sf_2012 (She is both Muslim and gay)

Change Society

  1. Be the Change: Anti-Bullying by LaurenEW16 (We need stricter laws regarding bullying)

  2. Be the Change: Helping fellow students be comfortable with their sexuality by emmalinehoffman (This teen plans on joining her school’s GSA chapter to make her school, and society, more GLBTQIA-friendly)

  3. Be the Change: Suicide will no longer be a way out by DreamBig1996 (She lost someone close to her to suicide)

  4. Be the Change: Causes of Mental Illness by BAMenas (This teen researched the causes of mental illness to better educate herself)

  5. Be the Change: I will help teens overcome society’s “rules” by Deanna (She wants to become a psychologist)

  6. Be the Change: Making a Difference to Those in Need by jordanb (She volunteers with the homeless)

  7. Be the Change: Climbing the Staircase to Success by clairedrotman (No teen should be peer pressured into drinking)

  8. Be the Change: Healthy Habits by AccioNiffler11095 (Reduce obesity by keeping active)

  9. Be the Change: Bullying by Cookiecrumbs31 (This teen will reach out to help those being bullied)

  10. Be the Change: Appreciating the Small Things by jvandermerwe15 (This teen learned a lot during their powerless time during Hurricane Sandy)

  11. Be the Change: The Golden Rule by jozieg (Everyone should treat others like they want to be treated)

  12. Be the Change: Habitat Creation by Eugene (He hopes to create a habitat for game birds)

  13. Be the Change: What Needs to be Done to Change Our World by cvorel16 (Focus more on relationships with others and less on the daily grind)

  14. Be the Change: Giving Simply Isn’t Helping by Mikki_Davis (She wants to see teens commit to helping others)

  15. Be the Change: From Obesity to Self-Destruction; it has to change by student1 (This teen wants to change how we view body image)

  16. Be the Change: Racism by fsiddiqui14 (This teen wants to see an end to racism)

  17. Be the Change: My Work to Improve the Wellness of All Creatures by SRodeo (This teen will continue already humanitarian work)

  18. Be the Change: Save Lives by Linale91 (She wants to see more people armed)

  19. Be the Change: I will help people in my local schools to learn more about health by semegne (This Ethiopian teen started a club at his school to educate society about health problems—a resource Ethiopia is sorely lacking)

  20. Be the Change: Rehabilitating Racehorses by laurenlove16 (This teen was touched by an injured racehorse)

  21. Be the Change: Forging a New Future, Today by CatherineT (We must use technology for good)

  22. Be the Change: Spread Bullying Awareness and Encourage ‘Stay Strong’ by akhorana3 (This teen will spread awareness with school presentations on bullying)

  23. Be the Change: Breaking the Molds by MikkiB326 (Stop stereotyping)

  24. Be the Change: Helping Stop Environmental Racism by sweet-ayi (Minorities often live in areas with higher concentrations of pollution)

  25. Be the Change: I will empower the youth by shashankraop (This teen plans on creating a Facebook page for others to vent)

  26. Be the Change: How I will help people focus on the “special” instead of the “needs” of those with disabilities by gsobol (Stop using the r-word)

  27. Be the Change: I Will Decrease the Amount of Alcohol Abusers by EricaMeline (This teen will join her SADD club to protest drunk driving)

  28. Be the Change: A Word on the Speechless and Outcasts by mrcoolerthancool (One in twelve teens self-harms)

Change Institutions

  1. Be the Change: The Foster Care System by bellarm (This teen experienced firsthand the neglect of the foster care system)

  2. Be the Change: A Balance of Food by fmike26 (This teen wants to set an example by purchasing healthy foods)

  3. Be the Change: I will help to change our failing public education system by Samkin (Students need more time to better understand what they are learning)

  4. Be the Change: Change in 2013 by zm6j8 (This teen hopes to see the penny abolished in 2013)

  5. Be the Change: Offering my Writing by riserthinking (She wants to offer her writing skills to organizations for the greater good)

  6. Be the Change: Teachers Count Too by rportenti (This teen strives to find more funds for teachers)

  7. Be the Change: Time for Change by kittybutts (Take a stand and refuse to be a pawn)

  8. Be the Change: Education vs. Prison by mushtary (Some states spend more money on prisons than education)

  9. Be the Change: What is Education? by Winwinhh (This teen is a tutor who firmly believes in the importance of education)

Change the World

  1. Be the Change: How I will change my world with love and respect by racheljanie (This progressive teen will be doing charity work with a conservative Christian group in order to give to others)

  2. Be the Change: Poverty and Hunger by svirga16 (Donate to your local UNICEF chapter)

  3. Be the Change: Our Environment Needs Us by Taylorleebar (She is vice president of her school’s Green Team)

  4. Be the Change: The Problems in the World by daniel kifer (A poem about making big changes in the world)

  5. Be the Change: Banishing Hunger in 2013 and Beyond by rxing963 (This teen views the world via a rosy lens—but that is about to change)

  6. Be the Change: For a More Moral World by Belest (Morality must rule our decisions)

  7. Be the Change: World Peace by Arman (Killing must end)

  8. Be the Change: Hunger, Hope, and One Serious Tan Line by MariaRose (This teen wears a ring that says “be the change”)




Resources:  

To help the teens start thinking about areas where they could make a difference, we provided the following list of "Be the Change" topics as a resource...several of them have been addressed by StageofLife.com teen writing and blogging contests in the past (see links to those summary reports)...

  • Self esteem / body image topics
  • PTSD in soldiers / military issues
  • Divorce issues / step-families
  • The workings of the teenage brain
  • Why teenagers take risks
  • Cutting, Burning, Self-inflicted harm
  • Suicide
  • Various types of drug / alcohol abuse
  • Underage drinking on college campuses
  • Curfew laws
  • School dress codes
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Family relationships
  • Incest
  • Child Abuse
  • Foster care
  • Poverty / Homelessness in teenagers
  • Cyber bullying
  • Steroid usage in sports
  • Concussions in sports
  • The Importance of extra-curricular activities
  • Arts in schools
  • The failure of public education
  • No Child Left Behind / state mandated tests / SATs
  • Pre-marital sex / love / crushes
  • Running away from home
  • Late start time for schools
  • Obesity / health related topics
  • Career related topics
  • Homophobia / Gay / Lesbian / Transgender issues
  • Media effects on girls / boys
  • Violence in video games / video game addiction
  • Title IX (girls in sports)
  • Drinking and driving
  • Stress in teenagers
  • Goals, happiness, coping mechanisms
  • Success in school / life / future (7 principals of highly effective teenagers)Illnesses (mental / physical)
  • Human Trafficking



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