Costhetics is a champion of innovative plastic surgery and groundbreaking cosmetic enhancement, and we’re proud of our premier status as Australia’s favourite resource for news and information on staying healthy and beautiful.
We believe in a free exchange of thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and never run away from controversy. Signs of a new controversy were seen when more than 1,000 people signed a petition at Change.org recently asking the online giants such as Apple, Google, and Amazon to ban plastic surgery apps aimed at kids.
“Cosmetic surgery apps, which promote body dissatisfaction and shame, are not games that should be marketed to vulnerable young people,” says Endangered Bodies, the sponsor of the petition.” Is the fear justified? Are these apps really a problem? Isn’t it just all-good fun?
The Difference between Fun and Terror
Do you like clowns or do you think they’re terrifying. Plastic surgery is a lot like clowns. It’s just as scary to some kids as it is to adults. “Surgery out of conceptual context looks like violence; it involves cutting people with sharp objects,” Christine Elgersma at Common Sense Media told CNN. “In the cases of these apps, the scene plays out in a medical environment, which is a place we want kids to feel safe.”
Elgersma notes that many kids are exposed to plastic surgery apps that their parents have downloaded for free. Curious about something that looks like a fun game, kids are then exposed to content that isn’t developmentally appropriate. They end up scared and confused and with a very negative message about appearance.
Turning Children in Dr Frankenstein’s
Plastic surgery apps look like millions of other children’s games. They have splashy graphics and bright colours, fun sounds, and more. “They also encourage users to slice virtual patients apart using scalpels, syringes, and other tools used in surgical settings,” says Endangered Bodies.” Top procedures for little surgeons to try include:
- Dermal lip fillers
- Double-eyelid surgery
The opportunity for vulnerable teens to develop feelings of self-loathing is virtually inevitable, say critics. In 2013, the now-banned app suite Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office, was removed from iTunes. Consumers raged against the body-shaming language in the games description, “This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her…We’ll need to make small cuts on problem areas and suck out the extra fat. Will you operate on her, doctor?” Experts then and now worry about the message impressionable young people are getting.
Mummy & Me Both Need a Makeover
“The invasiveness of cosmetic procedures, and the potential vulnerabilities of those who might access those procedures, means that ‘playing’ with beauty ideals is a road which should be travelled down very cautiously,” says Kate Harvey, Senior Research Officer at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. There’s nothing playful about iSurgeon “with high tech gaming features designed to allow users to simulate plastic surgery by easily modifying face and body features.”
The game’s creator Dr Michael Salzhauer is author of My Beautiful Mummy, a children’s book that follow’s a young girl’s journey as her mother undergoes a makeover with rhinoplasty and abdominoplasty. Critics fear that children are learning to judge their parents bodies, which will, in turn, lead to their own negative self-images.
Even Plastic Surgeons Say Cut
Plastic surgeons seem universal in giving thumbs-down to plastic surgery apps aimed at kids. “What kind of issues are we giving these young girls about body image and what they should look like?” asked one board-certified plastic surgeon in an article for The Plastic Surgery Channel. “These apps are the same as the Photoshop images that are in Hollywood now, but we’re starting when they’re 9 years old? I liked it better when I was younger and I played Operation.”
“Imagine what’s going to happen to this younger generation who wants lips out to here,” said another doctor in the same article. “Bad messaging. I’d rather them go play with their Ken and Barbie dolls rather than throw lips on their friends (with a plastics app).” Many surgeons fear that the apps have already created an irreversible trend that will result in more and more boys and girls developing crippling body dysmorphia.
New York plastic surgeon David Cangello says unequivocally that plastic surgery; specifically cosmetic surgery is a complex adult topic. “It is unhealthy to teach our kids about this at such an early age,” he says.
The Solution: Proactive Parenting
Costhetics loves the Internet like hummingbird loves flower nectar, but we have to admit that it’s also a bit of a cesspool when it comes to unsavoury sites and apps. What’s a parent to do? Here are some ideas to protect your youngsters from plastic surgery apps aimed at kids:
- Be Choosy – limit your children’s apps to those created by reputable developers like Nickelodeon, or PBSKids.
- Be Knows-y – check the browsing and download history, especially of younger children, to get a take on what they’ve been exposed to.
- Be Open – if a child asks about a plastic surgery app, don’t say “No.” Instead, ask “Why?” Use the request as a moment to teach, not preach.
The Giants are On Your Side
Corporations are taking note of the controversy and scrambling to make their websites safe spaces. Tom Neumayr, a spokesperson for Apple said that his company “does not want or allow these types of apps on the store.” He points to in-place rules and strict guidelines designed to keep the App Store free of “dark” material.
Google doesn’t comment on specific apps, but did say that the Families Collection on Google Play is curated to weed out content that promotes “negative self-image or low self-esteem, regardless of user age group.”
It’s fun to try on different facial features and body contours. Let’s all just work together to spread Who Who’s seminal message “The kids are alright” and we love them just the way they are. They don’t need to worry about plastic surgery for a long, long time.