Body image is a massive issue for teens. Little surprise there. Add to that the pressures of living in Generation Selfie, and you’ve got a perfect storm for low self-esteem and a sense of negative body image. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and the Curse of the Good Girl, calls social media a “toxic mirror” for teens eager to seek perfection via photo editing apps and the quest for “likes.” The most vulnerable among them? Those who spend the most time on social media. Limit those hours logged on Instagram, Snapchat and the like, and parents can help mitigate some of the psychological damage of being a selfie-holic.
Unfortunately, however, obsession with body image is no longer reserved for tweens and teens. New research reveals that kids as young as 5 are now also becoming increasingly focused on how they look: A recent report by Common Sense Media brings fresh evidence to the table: More than half of girls aged 6-8 think they weigh more than their “ideal” weight. Worse still, a new crop of apps and websites is tailor made to feed those fledgling fears in the very young. Think it’s important to know what apps are on your kids’ devices and what websites they’re seeing? Here are some of the worst that are currently targeting body image issues in the ultra young.
Want to look more like a celebrity? Would you like a slimmer face and bigger eyes? Skim Booth promises it all, while targeting very young kids in the process. Made by Hong Kong-based Dim Dim Sum developers, the photo editing app claims it’s “now possible to get a slim face and bigger eyes instantly with Slim Booth app — like magic… No need to go for any plastic surgery and it saves money and time.” Sounds bad enough, but then take into account its colorful, childlike logo and the fact that its iTunes screen shots feature before and after photos of a girl who looks no older than 5, and it only goes downhill from there.
The name says it all. This website will automatically rate your face in terms of beauty. Working with a scale of 1-100, the website rates photos uploaded by users or else you can simply use a computer’s webcam. The site says all that is needed is three minutes to scan the image and determine if you are indeed beautiful — or not. While a spokesperson for the site has maintained that it was originally intended as a joke for adults, kids are using it as well. And the results are far from funny.
Unlike other social media apps that are popular with tweens and teens, Musical.ly is different in that it is also being used by a far younger age range, including elementary school kids. Many of its features, including a tool for posting videos that includes an entire category for songs from Disney films, seem tailor made for the very young. And while the thought of 6, 7 and 8-year-olds recording themselves lip-synching to Beauty and the Beast may sound innocent enough, when this is done on Muscial.ly, it can be downright dangerous, given that the app enables geolocation information by default. A quick scroll through some of the millions of accounts is enough to give parents pause. Children who look as young as 8 or 9 have up to 200,000 followers, while parents of children as young as 8 years old have reported strangers asking them for naked images via the app. And even when grooming is not at work, other parents have discovered that the app is often used as a measure of popularity on school campuses.
Want to know what apps are on your kids’ mobile devices and what websites they’re visiting online? Forcefield’s App Report gives you a list of all apps installed on all of their devices, along with real-time notifications any time a new app is installed. Our Activity Report connects you to all of their Internet browsing, including what sites kids have visited, when and for how long.