There is a range of games available on iPhones and Android devices targeting very young girls with bright colors and fairytale characters. This nothing new. You look at the "Tinkerbell" looking game and walk away thinking your daughter is playing a cute fairy princess game. It may not be the harmless game you think it is. There is a growing list of games aimed at children, as young as three, teaching them to critique their bodies and appearance through “dangerous” cosmetic surgery apps.
Google Play’s Plastic Surgery Simulator, for example, promises to turn you “into a Victoria’s Secret model at once.” They allow kids to perform serious cosmetic procedures including rhinoplasty, liposuction, eyelid surgery and cosmetic injections on a cartoon character. The game's description reads, “No one could resist the temptation of beauty! Every girl dreams of a delicate face and stunning figure. If makeup can’t give the beauty you want, then come to join this amazing plastic surgery game! You can turn into a Victoria’s Secret model at once!”
Psychologist and director of BodyMatters Australasia, Sarah McMahon, said, “Being exposed to these sorts of apps grooms kids to trivialize cosmetic surgery. They are growing up critiquing their bodies and seeing a very narrow idea of what beauty actually is. We are living in a society where body image continues to be an increasing issue of concern."
Body image perception is a real concern for both male and female young people, especially female teens and young adults. Sadly, nine in ten teenage girls say they are unhappy with their bodies. With 200 million active monthly users on Instagram, who are uploading 60 million new pictures daily, young people have seemingly endless opportunities to be drawn into appearance-based comparisons with others online. One study also found that after spending time on Facebook, girls expressed a heightened desire to change the appearance of their face, hair and/or skin.
Our popular culture through games, music, and television is telling our children, "you are not beautiful or not beautiful enough, but if you change yourself, maybe you can be loved." This is a very dangerous message, and the only person who can successfully counter this message is a PARENT.
PARENT ACTION PLAN
1. PASSWORD PROTECT THE APP STORE
Use parental controls to password protect the app store so your child cannot download any app they want. Before you download an app/game for your child, check reviews meant for parents at my website, www.cybersafetycop.com, and at www.commonsensemedia.org. You can find detailed instructions in my book.
2. CHARGE YOUR TEEN'S MOBILE DEVICES IN YOUR ROOM AT NIGHT
When your children go to bed, take their mobile devices out of their rooms and charge them in your room. Electronic devices in a bedroom after lights out is a distraction from a good night's sleep. Many teens have reported to me that merely having an electronic device in their bedroom, even one they know they should not use, causes anxiety. They know it's there, and they are wondering what is going on.
3. LIKES SHOULD NOT EQUAL SELF-ESTEEM.
When a teen posts an image on their social network, they get instant feedback in the form of "Likes" or positive comments. Research has shown us that once the teenage brain has linked a behavior to a reward, it continues to seek the reward again and again. Talk to your child about why they are posting images. Is it to share something they are proud of, or to garner validation from others?
4. GET EDUCATED AND STAY ON TOP OF YOUR CHILD'S DIGITAL WORLD
Your child's digital world is intimately linked to their well-being. American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending pediatricians include questions about a child's social media use in routine check-up visits. Technology is a moving target, and the typical parent is too busy to follow every development. I have resources for you:
- Attend a Parenting in the Digital World seminar near you.
- Request information on how you can host a parent or student talk at your school.
- Get the book I wrote for you, Parenting in the Digital World: A Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Safety.
- Subscribe to my newsletter, if you haven't already.
- Follow my articles on Facebook and share them in your network. Share internet safety with your friends.
Carrey, A. (2018, February 27). Petition calls for ban on ‘dangerous’ cosmetic surgery games and apps aimed at kids. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/technology/petition-calls-for-ban-on-dangerous-cosmetic-surgery-games-and-apps-aimed-at-kids/news-story/89c705b8eb2a28320a2e0d34a2aa92ba
Lamb, B. 2015. Human diversity: Its nature, extent, causes, and effects on people. Singapore. World Scientific Publishing.
Carolyn Edgecomb, Do's and Don'ts of Instagram: Take a Picture, It Reaches Further, [Accessed Mar 17] Available from: https://www.impactbnd.com/dos-and-donts-of-instagram
Fardouly, J. Diedrichs, P. C. Vartanian, L. Halliwell, E. 2015. Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women's body image concerns and mood. Body Image, 13. pp. 38-45. ISSN 1740-1445 Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/24574