The makeover apps with names such as ‘Plastic Surgery Princess’ and ‘Pimp My Face’ – that are widely gaining popularity. (Screengrab)
By Eve Dugdale
How much attention do you pay to the apps your children play online?
If they’re brightly coloured and you see cartoon characters on the screen do you assume they’re kid-friendly and exercise little control?
Well it could be time to wise-up to the world of apps as a ‘shocking’ report revealed that children as young as nine are being targeted by online plastic surgery games and apps.
The makeover apps with names such as ‘Plastic Surgery Princess’ and ‘Pimp My Face’ – that are widely gaining popularity among kids in the Middle East – have been condemned by experts who want to see them banned.
The UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics has urged app stores to wake up to their responsibilities and clamp down on children’s cosmetic games.
Despite working in the ‘improvement’ industry, the call for an outlaw on these kind of apps is something Dubai-based aesthetician Rebecca Treston agrees with.
She says: “My husband and I always tell our daughters how beautiful they are and how we wouldn’t change a thing. They know what I do but only in so much as that I help people improve their skin and teach them to look after it themselves.
“I absolutely disagree with these apps. I think it’s terrible that people can be taught that it’s so easy to change their looks.”
Screengrab of the ‘Pimp My Face’ app.
But with the dramatic rise of cosmetic and plastic surgery in the Middle East, is it really apps that are going to be what gets under children’s skin rather than the real life modified mummies on the streets?
Web developer and dad-of-one Paul Hammond has a background in the computer game industry and says it’s good to try out the apps your children are using before panicking.
“When it comes to the specific apps in question, I’ve not actually seen any of them so I find it hard to comment without getting specific,” he explains. “Often there are hysterical responses to the perceived threats that video games pose, and in many cases when you actually go beyond the headlines you realise that the reality is somewhat different to what the hysterical reporting would have you believe. The idea of a plastic surgery app sounds potentially damaging, but for all I know the app could be about apply plastic surgery to people who have had an accident.
“I’m always aware of the games my daughter plays. I try to find educational games for her and I think the iPad can be a fantastic resource for teaching if used sparingly and if the focus is primarily on games that teach her things. I never let Chloe play games completely on her own, and try to limit the time she spends on them.”
Maybe parents are right to panic though, suggests Clinical Psychologist Tara Wyne.
The doctor, who is also clinical director at Lighthouse mental health clinic in Dubai says that “any content that children consume has impact and influence.”
She adds: “If a child as young as eight engages with a plastic surgery game or app where they are encouraged to make people look better and prettier, there is an inherent assumption and value judgement about looks and rating looks as being better or worse or more or less desirable. Children will immediately buy into an idea that it is acceptable to measure people’s worth according to their looks and also acceptable to pass comments and judgements on others on such superficial matters. We are thereby teaching our children some ways of being that are socially divisive and discriminatory.”
Doctor Wyne says children don’t have the maturity to deal with certain feelings and it’s essential that parents we protect them where possible.
She adds: “Children learn to evaluate themselves. They will grow self-conscious way before they are emotionally equipped to handle it and will assume that if they aren’t perfect they are defective and should be ashamed of being so. There are incredibly serious implications to our children being exposed to this kind of content and experience.
“Children will make a very direct link between looks and happiness which will not, in the long-term, prove to be a good basis to achieve happiness at all.”
TEACH THEM THAT THEY’RE GOOD ENOUGH!
As parents it’s only natural that we want to tell our children that they’re the most beautiful in the world, to praise everything they do and tell them they excel at everything they try their hand at.
But Doctor Tara Wyne says it’s important that parents help to give their children a sense of “grounded realism and honesty”.
“Our aim should be to teach our children that they’re good enough. We have to say that we love them no matter what, that we value their gifts and talents but that not all gifts and talents are evenly distributed. One child might look like a Disney princess but another won’t, but she might be a star at school. Parents have to model a value driven life where children see people are treated with equal respect irrespective of their looks.”