How (and why) to discourage your child from using photo filters

These five tips may help your kids resist the ‘Photoshop effect’, which can negatively impact your teen’s self-esteem.

 This comparison portrait of a teen with problematic skin without and with a photo filter show just how misleading filters can be.

Kids are bombarded with images of men and women – famous or not – who look perfect. Too perfect, in fact, thanks to photo editing, which, as many of us parents know, can eliminate a model’s pimples, make a celeb’s cellulite disappear, and lengthen legs, slim waists, and erase wrinkles.

Social media adds to the problem. The trend of using a filter over your photos to distort your image on social media may actually impact kids’ willingness to surgically enhance their features. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that users of certain social media apps such as Snapchat, YouTube, and Tinder are more accepting of plastic surgery and more likely to get plastic surgery themselves.

The quest for perfection impacts self-esteem

Children who see unrealistically ‘perfect’ bodies or faces or clothing – especially on folk they admire – can feel inadequate as a result. Several studies have shown that reading women’s fashion magazines or looking at images of models has a negative effect on women’s and girls’ self-esteem.

Even photos of friends on Instagram or Snapchat are too perfect, thanks to flattering filters and selfie-editing tools. That’s why it’s important to teach children about the reality behind the images that surround them.

Empowering kids to see behind the photo spreads and the advertisements can help combat the negative effects of these images.

Trends are changing – for the better

The good news is, some children – and even some celebrities – are talking back to the beauty and advertising industries and taking action to encourage more realistic images. Young people have asked magazines that cater to kids and teens, such as Seventeen, to do more photo spreads that don’t use Photoshop.

Some clothing companies have also agreed to not alter the images of the models they use in their ads. Celebrities (including Zendaya and Lena Dunham) have stepped up to show a more realistic image of themselves online and in photoshoots, and in doing so they help pull back the curtain on the amount of retouching that goes on in Hollywood and beyond.

Good to know: The trend of using filters over your photos to distort your image on social media may impact kids’ willingness to surgically enhance their features.

5 Ways you can help your child see the beauty in “real”

  1. Make sure kids know that almost every photo in magazines and advertisements has been altered. Show examples of models and celebrities where the before-and-after examples are starkly different.
  2. See who can spot the retouching on any ads or photos you come across.
  3. Discuss the connection between fantasy images and the products being marketed. Talk about how photos are used to sell magazines, specific products, celebrities’ brands, and more.
  4. Get children to think about how images affect viewers (both boys and girls) and how images can distort our ideas about what’s healthy or beautiful.
  5. Encourage kids to speak up about these images in their classrooms, through their social networks, and among friends.