Dove Joins Efforts To Protect Kids From Social Media

Dove’s Real Beauty positioning may be pushing into its 20th year, but it’s championing a new movement against toxic social media posts that undermine kids’ mental health, even promoting eating disorders.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project is teaming up with Lizzo, Common Sense Media and ParentsTogether to promote KOSA, the 2023 Kids Online Safety Act.

Acknowledging that social media, a major component of Unilever’s marketing efforts, can still be helpful, the company says its research also reveals how much  harm social platforms promote.

That’s hardly a secret. “For teen girls, Instagram is a cesspool,” wrote a Meta whistleblower in a scorching 2021 New York Times editorial.

But Unilever has unearthed scary amounts of new data about how foul that cesspool is. Its research shows that eight in 10 youth mental health specialists are convinced social media is responsible for a mental health crisis. About 80% of young people believe their peers are addicted to social media, and 70% of those between the ages of 10 and 17 have been exposed to content encouraging weight loss. And 51% of the young have seen content that promotes disordered eating.



Dove thinks it’s time to do more to make social media safer. “Dove’s mission is to ensure that a positive relationship with beauty is accessible to all, and this purpose drives us to take action,” says Leandro Barreto, global vice president of Dove masterbrand and skin care.

But sometimes asking individuals to do something isn’t enough, he tells Marketing Daily in an email. “We have to go beyond individual interventions with real actions that disarm societal issues that structurally impact people -- including changing laws.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dove campaign without a video that requires Kleenex, and this is no exception. "Cost of Beauty: A Dove Film" follows a young girl from her first cell phone to near death from an eating disorder. Dove developed it with mental health experts at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders and Project HEAL.

It’s not the first time Dove has pushed for legislation. Thanks to its efforts, the CROWN Act, which ensures protection from hair discrimination in schools and workplaces, has passed in 20 states and 40 municipalities. “We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made to help pass The CROWN Act,” Barreto says.

Dove hopes KOSA can have a similar impact on social media.

Commonsense Media, a nonprofit that provides families with information, education and reviews, and Parents Together, a nonprofit family news organization, also worked on the bill.

It aims to protect kids from exposure to harmful content and addictive algorithms. It calls for more transparency in site design, including the ability to disable addictive product features and opt out of algorithmic recommendations. It also requires platforms to conduct audits once a year, assessing the risks they pose to minors.

Lizzo, a reigning queen on Instagram with more than 13 million followers, is joining the effort.

“We know we have to support young people with tools to build confidence and resilience in face of toxic beauty threats,” says Barreto.

All that, he says, plays into the brand’s larger purpose. “Our commitment is to shape a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety, and it runs through everything we do.”

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