"It is about asking the right questions and acknowledging that younger children do have thoughts that previously, we don't give them credit for.
"We are beginning to acknowledge that young children have that mental capacity to think about themselves."
Dr Harding explained that she believed parents needed to "smarten up" and think about what they were saying in front of children, as well as talking in an age-appropriate way about how photographs are doctored.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said she was “shocked” by the findings. “We have a growing childhood obesity crisis in the UK and early years settings need greater training and guidance on how to promote positive body image in very young children,” she said.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England, a founding partner of the Be Real Campaign for body confidence, which PACEY is also working on, said the evidence suggests intervention at a young age is necessary.
The campaign will provide secondary schools with information and resources to help teenagers talk about body confidence.
“We know positive activities such as these will have an impact on this age group, however as this research shows, more work is needed across the sector to reach those in primary education or even younger,” she added.
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