UK Media Education Scheme Encourages Girls To Fill Their Social Media Feeds With Positive Role Models Like Michelle Obama

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Do these real life characters have anything in common? Queen Elizabeth, Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Beyoncé and Greta Thunberg.

Image: REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth

You got it; fame, wealth, and a glittering lifestyle, these ladies have among the biggest Instagram followings on mother earth – //CRIMOSN TAZVINZWA/

Together, they are certainly permanent fixtures in multi-social media feeds everyday. But the impact – largely negative; following a limited range of people can have on young people’s health and wellbeing is a growing cause of concern.

The problems social media use has been linked to – from eating disorders and negative body image to anxiety and lack of self-confidence – are well documented, but research to date has largely focused on limiting exposure and online safety.

COOL CHILD WITH UMBRELLA BY CRIMSON TAZVINZWA2

A new project soon to be rolled out to kids across the UK is aiming to change that.

Schools are being shown a study for which teenage girls were asked to follow at least four inspirational women. Some of them were famous, like lawyer, writer and former first lady Michelle Obama, climate change activist Greta Thunberg, and tennis star Serena Williams. Others were less well-known, doing inspirational work in science, engineering or the arts.

Needle and thread Leicester by CRIMSON TAZVINZWA1

Those participating in the study, Disrupting the Feed, overwhelmingly said their self-esteem had improved and their horizons expanded, setting themselves – and achieving – higher goals.

A more diverse feed

The study cites research into 2 million teenage social media accounts by data science company Starcount that found most girls limited their social media interests to beauty, fashion, and reality TV. Boys, meanwhile, had an average of 12 different interests.

By following new and inspiring people, teenagers can set their digital footprints on a new path, with social media algorithms showing a more diverse feed as a result.

Introducing more positive role models into teenage girls’ feeds resulted in more positive actions in the offline world, with girls having higher and more focused personal and career aspirations. But it also prompted more positive interactions with social media overall. Girls in the study chose to adopt healthier practices such as taking breaks from social media and rethinking who they followed, and removing those who had a negative impact on their self-esteem.

So, who do I follow?

Here are some of the positive role models suggested by the Female Lead, the charitable organization behind the study.

Callie Thorpe celebrates women’s bodies in all shapes and sizes. She promotes a positive attitude and acceptance and tries to help others overcome their insecurities.

Jess Megan also promotes body confidence and has worked as an ambassador for organizations such as breast cancer charity CoppaFeel to help normalize women’s bodies of all kinds.

Sophie Radcliffe is an endurance athlete and fitness blogger, who encourages young people to be active. She set up TrailBlazers, an initiative which aims to empower and build confidence in young girls.

Katherine Grainger is the most decorated female British Olympian of all time, and the chair of government Olympic and Paralympic investment agency UK Sport.

Kimberley Wilson is a chartered psychologist specializing in a “whole body” approach to mental health. She writes about the impact of eating well and lifestyle on mental wellbeing.

Stemettes says it wants to inspire the next generation of girls to get involved in STEM subjects, showing them that “girls do science, technology and maths too”.

For other suggestions of who to follow, click here.

Albert Bandura’s Role Modelling, Social Learning Theory

In social learning theory, Albert Bandura (1977) agrees with the behaviorist learning theories of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. However, he adds two important ideas: … Behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.

  1. Seeing an action portrayed in the media
  2. Viewer identifies with the actor
  3. The viewer imitates the actor
  4. Viewer gets motivated if the activity gets some rewards

Example

Movies, soap operas, and Advertisements play a major role in the modelling process of an individual. The celebrity endorsements, products used by actors through movies/soap operas, the character of actors in movies/soap operas may shape the attitudes and values of people who are exposed to them. A person observes/watches them and tends to copy them. Whatever they see through media, they imbibe those and reflects in their behavior and lifestyle.

“Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (Albert Bandura)

Nowadays mass media plays a major role in behavior modelling. If people are exposed to violent content, then they will inculcate violent behavior in their day to day life too. This can happen at any stage in life. We all come across different types of people with different behavior. Anyone can influence us and be a model for us. For students, teachers play the role of a model.

In short, modelling theory is about learning through imitation and identification.  Media dictates how we live our lives. What we possess, what we are, how we are perceived tells our social status and we modify it according to the media content and other external factors that we are exposed to.

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