Filters And Kids: Fun or Flawed?
Social media is everywhere these days, and as a result, kids in this era are growing up with a different view of reality. Though these platforms are often targeted at older children, Snapchat and Instagram filters are the new norm, and even very young kids can learn to use these apps and their filter functions. So, what sort of effect are these filters having on our kids’ self-image and reality? Filters designed to have a smoothing or feature-enhancing effect are very popular on social media platforms and become even more prolific as technology advances. Though social media undoubtedly has its benefits, most notably the ability to keep in touch with friends and family throughout the pandemic, it also has some fairly detrimental consequences. A 2017 study conducted by the International Journal of Computer Science and Engineering suggested that social networks are changing the behaviour in which youthful people relate to their parents and peers. The study suggests that the positive effects include allowing kids to network with friends and family, as well as assisting the development of social skills, inspiring young minds and increasing reading and writing skills. However, the study also shows that social media and the use of image-altering technology has a detrimental effect on kids’ body image. Kids and adults alike will often post or send heavily filtered images that portray them in a certain light, hiding any skin imperfections or enhancing certain facial features such as their eyes or lips. Though these filters may assist the portrayal of a certain theme or ‘aesthetic’, they can also be damaging to those that post and those that view the images. Much like the wildly popular glamour shots of the eighties, these filters are designed to hide any perceived flaws and produce a more pristine appearance. These dreamy, blurred and grainy images however are quite obviously not natural, though nonetheless, they are extremely pleasing to the eye. The difference between these retro image effects and modern-day filters is often it is hard to tell whether or not the filter is actually there. Some filters are extremely obvious, for example, Snapchat’s infamous dog face filter. However, others are extremely subtle and only work to make minor enhancements within the image. For example, heavily filtered images hiding any normal human features such as acne, redness or dark circles may then put pressure on both the posters and the viewers to look a certain way and fit this portrayal of what is considered ‘popular’ and ‘attractive’. The expectation that to be beautiful, you need perfect skin or features is quite often a harmful notion and is often thought to negatively affect kids’ self-esteem and confidence. Those that post a filtered image may feel obliged to live up to their online persona of a smooth-skinned youth. Likewise, any friends or peers that may see these images are likely to compare themselves to the kid in the filtered image and may experience lower self-esteem when they aren’t able to emulate the image’s content in real life. It is all good and well for kids to experiment and enjoy social networks with their friends, but the media they consume often portrays unrealistic standards and is heavily edited. It is important to encourage your child to distinguish the difference between real life and things they see on social media. Acne or other skin imperfections do not determine their worth as a person and neither do likes, comments or shares on social media. Kids need to know and learn that as humans, everyone is perfect in their own way, flaws and all.