Should I buy my daughter a full length mirror?

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 Photo: Getty Images

I was talking to a friend recently who suggested perhaps my 12-year-old daughter might like to have a full length mirror in her room. My girl has gone through a lot of physical changes lately, and I've seen her change from a lanky child into a womanly almost-teen. She is now as tall as me, and wears a larger bra.

That's quite a change to go through, suggested my friend. And she hasn't had a chance to really check herself out and to make friends with her new body. We have a small mirror at head height in the bathroom, and I have a full length mirror in my bedroom, but there's no privacy there. She can't get naked and really have a good look.

"Wouldn't you be curious?" asked my friend.

She had a point. But I'm also concerned about the over-critical eye that girls can bring to their own visage. Everywhere they look they're bombarded with images of the "perfect" body – and massive marketing machines ensure women of all ages are constantly reminded of their shortcomings, and what they should buy to solve all their problems.

Teens and tweens are especially susceptible to this kind of marketing. Brands jostle for position in a saturated market, trying to capture "cradle to grave" brand loyalty that will set them up with a customer for life. And how do they do that? By telling our kids they're imperfect, that they aren't pretty/thin/good enough.

Would a mirror help them to achieve that with my girl? Or would making friends with her body set her up to be more comfortable with what she's got?

Clinical psychologist from the University of Queensland Sasha Lynn says it's a complicated issue. "I think it really is an individual, case-by-case basis kind of thing," she says. "As a parent, you're the expert on your child, and you know what's going to work for them and what's not.

"If your child has vulnerabilities and body image issues, a full length mirror might be best kept for a public area, where you can talk together about positive body image, and focusing on being healthy as opposed to what's in the mirror."

Dr Lynn suggested the best course of action was to talk to my daughter about my concerns and see how she felt about the issue. (Talking to my daughter: what a revolutionary idea!)

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I started the conversation on a more hypothetical level, asking her what she thought of the issue in general.

"I think a full length mirror could be really good for girls who are just getting to know their bodies," she said. "It will help them to see how beautiful they really are."

Okay, one tick in the yes column.

But then she went on. "But for some maybe it might make them feel worse. They might analyse every little thing."

Quite right. One tick for the negative column.

My daughter shrugged. "I guess it depends on the person."

"So what about you?" I asked. "How would you feel about having a full length mirror in your room?"

She was cautious and pensive, before answering. "Sure, I guess. I think it would be interesting."

I sensed a "but" coming…

"But honestly, right now I don't care what I look like. Later on that may change and maybe I'll become insecure, but right now I know I'm a whole lot more than just my body. I'm a good person. I'm kind and smart, and I'm a good friend and a good sister. A mirror won't change any of that."

And just like that, decision made. This kid doesn't need a mirror – she knows who she is already.