The Dove Self-Esteem Project calls for action

Youth mental health crisis caused by social media must be addressed

Youth mental health crisis caused by social media must be addressed

To make systemic change, The Dove Self-Esteem Project is partnering with cultural icon & people's advocate, Lizzo, Common Sense Media and ParentsTogether Action to advance legislation around social media safety for kids

The Dove Self-Esteem Project announced new actions to address the current rise in youth mental health issues linked to social media use with the Campaign for Kids Online Safety. While social media can be a force for good, it is also one of the biggest threats to young people's mental health today. Presently, social media is primarily left to self-regulation for youth and their guardians, and studies show its inherent link to negative youth mental wellness outcomes. In fact, NEW 2023 Dove Self-Esteem Project Research shows 8 in 10 youth mental health specialists say social media is fueling a mental health crisis. 

Additional statistics from the NEW 2023 Dove Self-Esteem Project Research for Kids Online Safety1 found:

  • 80% of young people believe that people their age are addicted to social media

  • More than 50% of young people say social media makes them and their peers feel anxious

  • 7 in 10 young people (ages 10-17) have been exposed to content encouraging weight loss/body transformation on social media

  • 76% of young people in the U.S. say social media can make young people want to change their appearance

  • 51% of young people (ages 14-17) have been exposed to content encouraging restricted eating or disordered eating behaviors

  • Over half of youth mental health specialists say exposure to harmful beauty content on social media can lead to physical consequences like disordered eating or self-harm

  • Over half (58%) of American parents believe the only way to get social media platforms to change is to implement legislation in the space

Since 2004, Dove has been building body confidence and self-esteem in young people through the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and to-date, has educated more than 94 million youth globally. In 2023, the Dove Self-Esteem Project is evolving its mission to help make social media a more positive place by standing for safer social media design with the Campaign for Kids' Online Safety.

READ MORE: Our girls are not okay—but they are reachable

"Dove has a long-term commitment to bringing positive change in beauty and taking action towards making social media a more positive place with campaigns like #NoDigitalDistortion, Reverse Selfie/Selfie Talk, and #DetoxYourFeed. While certain aspects of social media can promote creativity and connection for young people, data has shown toxic content online is harming the mental health of today's youth. If there isn't real change, young people will continue to pay with their wellbeing." explains Alessandro Manfredi, Chief Marketing Officer for Dove. "We have a responsibility to act and support a safer environment on social media, helping protect young people's mental health. This means going beyond individual interventions to drive systemic change."

Despite bi-partisan efforts from lawmakers to advance legislation that protects kids' exposure to things like harmful content and addictive algorithms, progress is not being made fast enough.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project is partnering with Cultural Icon & People's Advocate Lizzo, Common Sense Media and ParentsTogether Action to advance the 2023 Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which supports updated design standards, safeguards and tools that protect kids' overall experiences online, and would limit their exposure to toxic beauty content proven to erode their self-esteem. The KOSA bill outlines more transparency on social media design and black box algorithms, including: 

  • Disabling addictive product features and opt-out of algorithmic recommendations

  • Creating a duty for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as content promoting of self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, and sexual exploitation

  • Requiring social media platforms to perform an annual independent audit assessing risks to minors

  • Providing experts access to critical data to foster research regarding harms to the safety and well-being of minors.

"Over the past decade, we have witnessed a youth mental health crisis —skyrocketing suicide rates, hospitalizations for self-harm, and depression among children and teens," Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. "Real change requires partnership, advocacy, and a commitment to do the work on the ground.  We are proud to partner with Dove to advance our mission to require platforms to make safety the default and ensure social media is a safer place for today's generation."

To drive awareness of this issue and call on lawmakers to act now, the Dove Self-Esteem Project convened voices of authority in ethical tech and youth mental health for a powerful live event in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 11, 'A Call for Kids' Online Safety: A Forum for Change,' centering youth and parents to share their stories. Sharers were supported by influential voices, including Cultural Icon & People's Advocate, Lizzo, CEO of Common Sense Media, Jim Steyer, Digital Media Expert, Dr. Safiya U. Noble, and Stanford Psychiatrist & Social Design Expert Dr. Nina Vasan. A recording of the live event streamed on Dove US YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok channels is now available to view on

READ MORE: How to prevent cyberbullying with technology

"Social media is supposed to be a place where people can express themselves and be a source for beauty confidence, not anxiety, that's why I'm partnering with Dove again and calling on platforms to do more to make social media safe for young people," Cultural Icon and People's Advocate, Lizzo says. "Seeing the negative impact social media is having on youth mental health today is devastating and has to stop. Join us and use your voice to help make change."

As part of the Campaign for Kids' Online Safety, Dove is releasing a new campaign film, "Cost of Beauty: A Dove Film," chronicling the real story of a young person whose mental health has been impacted by social media. The film, intended to illustrate the scale and impact of the issue and drive urgent action to protect the next generation, was developed in consultation with mental health and disordered eating experts at National Alliance for Eating Disorders and Project HEAL.

Without real change to social media platforms, kids will continue to pay the price with their wellbeing. Join the Dove Self-Esteem Project to help make social media a safer experience for kids.

Learn more and sign the petition here.  #KidsOnlineSafety #LetsChangeBeauty

About the Research:
NEW 2023 Dove Self-Esteem Project Research for Kids Online Safety was conducted via online survey by Edelman DXI, a global, multidisciplinary research, analytics, and data consultancy, in the USA, UK and Canada between January – February 2023 with 1,318 girls, 556 boys, 1,520 parents, 4,046 of the general population and 154 youth mental health specialists (total sample size of 7,594 respondents.

About Dove  
Dove started its life in 1957 in the US, with the launch of the Beauty Bar, with its patented blend of mild cleansers and ¼ moisturizing cream. Dove's heritage is based on moisturization, and it is proof not promises that enabled Dove to grow from a Beauty Bar into one of the world's most beloved beauty brands. Women have always been our inspiration and since the beginning, we have been wholly committed to providing superior care to all women and to championing real beauty in our advertising. Dove believes that beauty is for everyone. That beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. Dove's mission is to inspire women everywhere to develop a positive relationship with the way they look and realize their personal potential for beauty. 

For 60 years, Dove has been committed to broadening the narrow definition of beauty in the work they do. With the 'Dove Real Beauty Pledge,' Dove vows to: 

  • Portray women with honesty, diversity and respect. We feature women of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair color, type, and style.

  • Portray women as they are in real life, with zero digital distortion and all images approved by the women they feature.

  • Help young people build body confidence and self-esteem through the Dove Self-Esteem Project, the biggest provider of self-esteem education in the world.

About Unilever
Unilever is one of the world's leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products, with sales in over 190 countries and products used by 2.5 billion people every day. We have 149,000 employees and generated sales of €50.7 billion in 2020. Over half of our footprint is in developing and emerging markets. We have around 400 brands found in homes all over the world – including iconic global brands like Dove, Lifebuoy, Knorr, Magnum, OMO and Surf; and other brands such as Love Beauty & Planet, Hourglass, Seventh Generation and The Vegetarian Butcher.

Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how our purpose-led, future-fit business model drives superior performance. We have a long tradition of being a progressive, responsible business. It goes back to the days of our founder William Lever, who launched the world's first purposeful brand, Sunlight Soap, more than 100 years ago, and it is at the heart of how we run our company today.

The Unilever Compass, our sustainable business strategy, is set out to help us deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth, while:

  • Improving the health of the planet

  • Improving people's health, confidence, and wellbeing

  • Contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world

While there is still more to do, we are proud to have been recognized in 2020 as a sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and - for the tenth-consecutive year - as the top ranked company in the 2020 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders survey.

For more information about Unilever and our brands, please visit

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