As a body image specialist , therapist and mother, I have seen firsthand how dangerous the world of plastic surgery is for the mental health of girls and women.
Surgery used to be reserved for more serious problems including physical disfigurement for which I can understand from personal experience.
As a child, I had an accident that altered my appearance and left me with a scar.
As a 5 year old little girl I was worried about how I would look and how others would see me.
As hard as it was, I learned to listen to my mother’s words to “stop putting myself under a magnifying glass. ”
This helped me to accept my scar and it being a part of me. Had it been surgically removed, I would not have had to go through that journey to learn to like how I looked, with or without it my scar.
I want my children and all children to feel good about themselves from the inside out. I want them all to feel that how they look is exactly as they should- warts/scars/birthmarks and all. I want them To like how they look but more importantly to like who they are.
It is one thing to play with your looks-to have a haircut, get your ears pierced or try a new shade of lipstick but altering appearance through something as permanent as plastic surgery is serious business.
Children playing on these apps minimizes that seriousness, and actually condones surgery by inadvertently and unconsciously sending the message that faces and body parts are meant to be changed and can be, simply and easily.
I think I speak for many parents when I say that our children should not see plastic surgery as a game.
The images above are examples of many available on the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store. These cosmetic surgery apps, which often feature animated characters, are being marketed to kids as young as nine, a target group that is already influenced by our body-toxic culture.
Our societies are saturated with images of perfect and unattainable bodies, with over 21 million cosmetic procedures being performed throughout the world in 2015 according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The dissatisfaction many adults face with their bodies has trickled down to our children. Statistics from The National Eating Disorder Association in the U.S. show 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. In the UK, the 2016 Girlguiding Girls’ Attitudes Survey found more than a third of girls aged seven to ten felt women were valued more for their appearance than their abilities. Globally, children deserve to be challenged and inspired by their toys, not to spend their free time worrying about how they look.
On January 14, 2014, Endangered Bodies supported the UK-based Twitter account Everyday Sexism in its call to remove plastic surgery apps aimed at children featured on iTunes and the Google Play store. Within 24 hours, both platforms removed the flagged apps. Although neither platform released an official statement, their choice to remove these “games” indicates that they recognize the potential harm they can cause.
Deceptively designed as children’s games, the apps encourage users to slice virtual patients apart using scalpels, syringes, and other tools used in surgical settings. By making cosmetic surgery apps available for download, Apple, Google and Amazon are allowing companies to stoke and profit from the insecurities of children.
We at Endangered Bodies challenge the toxic culture that promotes negative body image. Cosmetic surgery apps, which promote body dissatisfaction and shame, are not games that should be marketed to vulnerable young people. Although in some cases (where games have age-based ratings) it is possible for parents to limit access to these games through parental controls, we believe that further action is needed. Apple, Google and Amazon need to scrutinise the apps that already feature an age rating to ensure the content isn’t in fact directed at younger children, using the age limit as a way to still offer their app for download. In other words, we don’t want these platforms to use the age rating system as justification to continue to offer these apps, which are clearly designed for children.
Please sign this petition to ask Apple, Google and Amazon to implement a policy which is clear to every developer, that they will not accept any such apps that are targeted at children and make a commitment to protect the mental health of their young users.