Imagine being an impressionable child growing up in a world that bombards you with tens of thousands of images of what beauty looks like — only it's fake, thanks to a plethora of social media filters, Photoshop-like apps and other digital tools that artificially enhance one's looks.
In modern America, kids are growing up spending an excessive amount of time on Snapchat, Instagram and other social networks, where millions of people, including advertisers and the modeling industry, post altered, more perfected versions of themselves or their clients. That friend, classmate or model they see in an ad with an ultra-skinny waist, flawless skin and super-white teeth?
Fake, fake, fake.
Today there's an app for "fixing" virtually any physical imperfection, whether that be slenderizing the body, erasing wrinkles and blemishes, airbrushing cellulite or even changing one's eye or hair color — just to name a few beauty "enhancers." Here's the problem all parents should consider: Kids are growing up today seeing a warped version of what people look like — one that has no basis in reality.
As a result, too many young girls and boys are comparing themselves with others online or in print advertisements who set an impossible beauty or fitness standard. Naturally, their self-esteem and mental health can suffer when they're not able to live up to a beauty ideal because it doesn't exist in the real world.
Knowing how damaging this can be for youths growing up in the digital age, it's time America followed France's lead and did something about it.
Last year, France enacted a law requiring that advertising images that have been digitally altered in print or online be labeled. The French did this, in part, to combat anorexia and other harmful eating disorders affecting many young people. Stateside, CVS announced this year it will phase out digitally altered images of its models in ads for beauty products. "In the last year we have heard this growing chorus of women wanting to have a conversation about body imagery," the head of the pharmacy division said in a statement. "We all want to be reflected in a true fashion; we want to see photos that seem real and authentic." CVS will not alter models' faces or enhance them in any way.
It's high time other retailers and brands followed.
Collectively as a culture, we should be promoting to kids a healthy message of self-acceptance and body positivity. They should know that beauty doesn't mean being "perfect." Parents and consumers at large should encourage more brands to significantly reduce — or completely stop — digitally altering their models, especially teen and child models. Congress could also pass legislation like France's, requiring that online and print images that have been altered be labeled so children know that what they're seeing isn't real.
American pop culture could also begin a new trend: Authenticity is "in," and doctored versions of ourselves and others are "out."
Together, we'd raise healthier, happier children as a result.
Who could argue with that?
Adriana Cohen is a syndicated columnist with the Boston Herald. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16. To find out more about Adriana Cohen and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.