These Smartphone Apps Send A Dangerous Message – What Parents Need To Know

Mothers are not immune to low self-esteem, and we often must revisit how our own feelings affect our children.

Self-esteem is often one of the most important challenges that kids and teens must deal with.

But now, a shocking new danger has come to light that every parent needs to know about.

Americans, especially women, are inundated with images in the media of how our bodies should look.

You cannot open a magazine or watch anything online or on television these days without seeing images of picture-perfect models, diet commercials, or new cosmetic advertisements – the list goes on and on.

Women are primarily the targets of these ads, and young girls and teens are particularly vulnerable to the pressure.

Now, concerned parents are sharing their stories about some potentially dangerous apps available for download to smartphones.

And you won’t believe what they are teaching our children.

It probably comes as no surprise that there are many apps available to advise women on their beauty routines.

There are also many to help women (and men) see what they would look like if they were to undergo plastic surgery.  Some of these are medically-based and for adults.

But some “plastic surgery” apps are like video games, with cartoon figures that anyone can “operate” on to improve their appearances – and anyone can download them, including children.

And this is where it gets dangerous.

Children can perform liposuction, add fillers to lips, do a “nose job,” or perform a multitude of other “cosmetic surgeries” on the characters.

Kids are not mistakenly stumbling upon and downloading real medical apps for adults.  These apps specifically target children with their cartoonish characters and bright and colorful images.

With titles like Princess Plastic Surgery, Nose Doctor Fun Kids Game, Celebrity Plastic Surgery Hospital, and Little Skin Doctor Treatment Game, the companies who market these ads have a twisted idea of what is appropriate for children.

Parents.com reported on the comments of Alyson Schafer, a family therapist, and author, on this disturbing trend:

“These apps are saying that there is a beauty ideal, and if you’re outside of it, you need to modify yourself with an invasive approach,” she tells Parents.com. “These apps send a horrid message.” 

Kids are already exposed to negative media bias about body image that targets women.

They are already concerned about their weight, wearing makeup, and how they appear to others – beginning at a shockingly young age.

Apps like this only reinforce the idea that you can change how God made you, and never to embrace the beauty with which He created you.

Parents.com continued with the comments of one mom who discovered her 9-year-old daughter was playing one of these “games” on her phone:

“Not only is it graphic and gross, it’s also sending a really negative message to little girls. Don’t like how you look? Just go under the knife, because you are nothing beyond your appearance.”

This media pressure to be perfect has been going on for the last few decades but has gotten worse with the rise of social media.

And we, as moms, are not immune either.  We may be dealing with low self-esteem following the birth of our children, or as we age.

We gain weight.  Our bodies change.  And sometimes, we complain out loud or model inappropriate behaviors to our children about how we feel about ourselves.

That’s why these apps are so dangerous.  They reinforce the media message that it is not okay just to be yourself – that you should change yourself to be accepted by others.

This is likely the last lesson we would ever want our children to learn.

Low self-esteem and the pressure to conform are also among the leading causes of teen suicide today.

While it may be an uphill battle to force companies to stop creating these apps and marketing them to vulnerable children, parents can do something about it.

In 2013, over 100,000 concerned parents signed an online petition to have one particularly disturbing app removed.

Plastic Surgery, Plastic Doctor, and Plastic Hospital was available on iTunes and in it, kids were directed to perform liposuction on overweight patients.

But the most basic solution to the problem lies with us, the parents.

Parents.com continued:

“It’s every parent’s responsibility to know which apps their kids have downloaded,” Schafer says. “Some apps can look very sweet [but] can have a bad moral message. You have to actually interact with the app or go to a third-party source that assesses them.”

Just as we do with our children’s online and social media use, we must monitor what our children are downloading onto their phones.

It is up to us to determine what they are allowed to have access to and reinforce our rules with monitoring and open discussions.

If you do find that your child has downloaded one of these apps and has been “playing” one of these plastic surgery games, it is time to ask them a few questions.

Why are they interested in it?  What are their thoughts on changing their bodies because of someone else’s idea of beauty? Are they feeling pressure to change something about themselves?

Talk about their positive traits – and yours.  What is their favorite thing about themselves?  What are they concerned about and why?

And, moms, if you have been putting yourself down in front of your children, now is the time to put an end to it – and also be open and honest about where the feelings came from.

All of these questions – and more – are good to ask kids at any age to gauge their level of self-esteem.

But it is especially important if they have found an interest in one of these disturbing apps.

The media is not on our side when it comes to raising emotionally healthy children.

This is but the latest example, and an absurd assault on the fundamental right of our children to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin.

What do you think of these sick apps available for our children to download?  Were you aware of their availability or that companies market them with children in mind?

Leave us your thoughts.

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