Plastic surgery app for kids causes controversy

Plastic surgery app for kids causes controversy
Plastic surgery app for kids causes controversy

It's not unusual to see mobile and Web apps that center around plastic surgery, but one new program has sparked an online controversy. 

Plastic surgery for little girls
According to The Independent, iTunes was hosting an animated app called Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office for Barbie Version. It allows users to play plastic surgeon and "perform" a liposuction procedure on a girl who "has so much extra weight that no diet can help her," states the game's description. Flushed with bright pinks and purples, the app was being marketed to children age 9 and up.

The app was first brought to attention by the Everyday Sexism Project, an Internet advocacy group that documents the ways in which women face sexism in their daily lives. The group posted a screencap of the app on its Twitter account with the caption, "Tweet @itunes if you think they should reconsider marketing this ... to players aged 9+". Twitter users quickly began re-tweeting the photo, urging iTunes to remove the program from its online store.

As the retweets accumulated, The Independent reported that one follower found that Google Play is also marketing the app. Everyday Sexism then Tweeted at Google Play, asking the site for an explanation. Google Play also lists the targeted users age as 2 and up.

After images of the game went viral, iTunes removed the app from its online store. 

Online outrage and emotional impact
Although Google Play and iTunes host a number of plastic surgery-oriented apps on their sites, most of them are targeted to people over the age of 21. Many of these plastic surgery apps are also not for "play," but interactive programs that enable users who are considering a plastic surgery procedure to simulate the operation on their faces and bodies.

However, responses to the new kid-oriented plastic surgery app reveal that not only do people think it's making light of cosmetic surgery, but also damaging the self-esteem of girls and teens by encouraging negative body images that can only be fixed by external change.

"@iTunes, if you could stop telling little girls that they'll never be good enough, that'd be great," stated one Twitter user.

"Our girls get enough negative messages about themselves. Knock it off!" Tweeted another.

As more reports surface about kids and teens going under the knife to prevent teasing from their peers, many plastic surgeons and child psychologists have begun questioning whether adolescents can lift their self-esteem through plastic surgery.

"Unlike adults who may elect cosmetic surgery for that 'wow' factor to stand out in a crowd, to be rejuvenated and get noticed, kids have a different mantra," one plastic surgeon told The New York Times. "They do it to fit in."

The news source reported that a study sponsored by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found that seven out of 10 girls between the ages of 7 and 18 feel like they don't "measure up" when it comes to their bodies. Experts added that this low self-esteem among girls and teens is an "epidemic" that may not be entirely fixed with plastic surgery.

Before turning to their smartphones for games and the like, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery recommends that those interested in a cosmetic procedure consult a board-certified surgeon to make sure that the procedure is right for them.