Children as young as four encouraged to use online selfie apps to appear

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Children as young as four are being encouraged to manipulate their images to be more beautiful through online selfie apps and games which have been condemned as “abhorrent” and damaging to young people’s mental health.FaceTune apps, among the top ranked last year on the Apple store and advertised as suitable for children 4+, enable users to enlarge their eyes, thin their noses and supersize their lips.Games which challenge girls to beautify their image and dress up for a “dream date” were found by researchers to undermine eight and nine-year old girls’ body confidence and self-worth after just 10 minutes playing.Dr Amy Slater, deputy director of the University of West of England’s Centre for Appearance Research who conducted the study, said such gamification of appearance was “abhorrent” and left children feeling they did not measure up to an unattainable ideal image.“These firms are profiting financially off appearance concerns and insecurities,” she said.Dr Jon Goldin, vice chair of the adolescent and child faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “These apps would seem to reinforce and indeed amplify children’s anxieties about how they look, which is reprehensible in my view and detrimental to young people’s mental health.  “Young people have enough challenges and stresses, including about their appearance, without adults designing commercial apps to profit from these and exacerbate their difficulties.”FaceTune and FaceTune2, together downloaded more than 50m times, are two of the most popular among hundreds of “beautification” apps that have exploded on the internet in the past five years.The FaceTune app, available for free on the app store with the 4+ rating, was recently advertised on Instagram with a before and after image of a girl whose nose had been shrunk, captioned “Ever wonder why your friends’ selfies look so good?”The technology of FaceTune2 is now so sophisticated users can use a live-editing tool to tweak their faces before snapping a selfie. Dr Slater said one of the key drivers was celebrity culture.Kylie Jenner’s Instagram filter, launched this this summer to coincide with her cosmetics business hitting almost $1bn in value, allows users to virtually wear seven of her lip colours.“The filter also softly blurs your face, defines and darkens your lashes and adds some serious Kardashian contouring to make for a selfie you’re going to want to post,” drooled Bazaar in a review. read more

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