How to Talk to Kids About the Viral Adobe Photoshop Video

Image from Adobe Photoshop video. Smoke and mirrors!

There is a video making the rounds that shows the transformation of a normal looking woman into a supernatural looking model via Photoshop. I see a ton of people posting it, but not a lot of discussion on how to break it down for our kids. Thank you, Dorothy, for your question because it is a great reminder that sometimes parents know they have a teaching tool in their hands but are unsure of how to deliver the lesson.

Question: I want to share this video with my 8 1/2 yo daughter, but I’m not sure what to say. My gut reaction is “Eww, the “finished” girl is actually creepy-looking.” But that’s not constructive. Any advice? -PPBB Community Member Dorothy

Answer: Good instincts to share this with your daughter, I think she is at the right age to see it and think critically about it. I would start by talking about how the media (tv, movies, magazines, commercials) try to sell us an image we aspire to in order to buy their stuff. It is a trick that actually makes us feel bad about ourselves, especially because as an industry they use a lot of magic tricks to make the people we see in ads be beautiful in a way that isn’t really true. I would show the video to her as an example of what you are trying to teach her, and then ask her some open ended questions when it is over.

Some good ones to start are:
~ “I think the woman at the start of the video looked like a lot of the women we know in our life. But what about when it was over, do we know anyone who looks like that?”

~ “Were you able to count all of the different changes they made to the model before we saw the finished “person”? Should we watch it again to count?”

~ “What things about the finished girl are not real? Meaning, what was change from real life by a computer program?”

~ “Do you think the company that uses this image to sell a product is being truthful or deceitful? Does it make you want to give them your money?”

~ “Can you think of other times or places you might have seen images like this that have been altered to play tricks on people that companies want money from?”

~ “If your friends saw this video, do you think they would still consider themselves Full of Awesome and beautiful, or do you think they would want to look like the finished product and feel like they don’t measure up?”

~ “Why do you think companies create a fake sense of beauty? What might they trying to be tricking us to do?”

~ “Let’s talk about the ways the women in our family are beautiful. What are some traits and things our family shares that make us beautiful?”

~ “Sometimes when I see things like this my tummy hurts. It hurts in a flip-flop kind of way because I think about girls who watch this who don’t have parents who talk to them to teach them how fake it is. If these girls think this is how they are supposed to look, they might never feel good about themselves. What would you want to say to those girls?”

Listen to her answers, and build from there. Answer additional questions she has in an informative and succinct manner. Ask a lot of “What do you think about that?” questions after you give her a piece of information, like how advertising negatively affects kids’ body image and leaves very young girls feeling insecure and not beautiful. If she starts to get really passionate about what she is discussing, encourage her to write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper or a teen magazine or a guest post for our blog. And finish up with, “Anytime you want to talk about this stuff or see images like that and you want to talk about it, just let me know. I like talking to you about smart stuff like this.”

I just asked my 7.5 year old all of these questions and she breezed through the answers. Don’t underestimate how quickly your kids pick up media literacy if you treat it like a puzzle for them to solve. Kids love to be on the inside of a secret and call out a marketer every time they see bogus advertising.

The sooner we teach our kids this is a smoke and mirrors show, the sooner the magic loses its effect.

Comments

  1. The video is shocking and revealing, and I certainly think it’s important to talk to kids about it and help them get the most out of it.

    However, I feel obliged to explain value of “open-ended questions,” and point out that in spite of your use of the phrase, very few of your questions are in fact open-ended.

    Open-ended questions are not questions that can be answered with yes or no answers. They are questions that invite the person answering to think critically and creatively and supply their own ideas. I would suggest that many of the questions you recommend are extremely leading. Naturally, there’s a point you want your child to get out of this. But I think the lesson would be much more powerful if you help kids arrive at their own conclusions instead of asking them questions as if there are correct and incorrect answers and the whole thing is a test. With that in mind, I would humbly suggest rephrasing some of the questions in this style:

    ~ “Do you think the company that uses this image to sell a product is being truthful or deceitful? Does it make you want to give them your money?” –>
    ~ Why do you think a company would alter the image in this way? What kind of response are they looking for in people who see it?

    ~ “If your friends saw this video, do you think they would still consider themselves Full of Awesome and beautiful, or do you think they would want to look like the finished product and feel like they don’t measure up?” –>
    ~ How do you think images like these make people feel about their own bodies, and why?

    ~ “Can you think of other times or places you might have seen images like this that have been altered to play tricks on people that companies want money from?” –>
    ~ What other times and places have you seen images like this one that might have been altered? What kinds of companies were they from?

    I think kids are plenty intelligent enough to figure this stuff out with a little help from parents. Personally, I think nudging them in the right direction is a lot more effective than leading the questions to seek out “correct” answers.

    By the way, I think questions 3, 8 and 9 are great ones. 🙂

    • Aevin –
      Thanks for the input, but I respectfully disagree. Most of the questions are open ended are require more than a yes/no answer. Remember, this conversation was crafted for an eight year old girl and sometimes kids that age need to feel like they are getting a couple of answers “right” (a yes/no question) before the open up for a more complex one. That is why I specifically designed the questions the way I did and why the post reads “ask her some open ended questions”. The post does not read, “Here is an entire list of open ended questions.”

      Your questions are also good, but not framed in the way most eight year olds (who may or may not be new to media literacy) would be able to understand, digest, and answer. I think your questions are about four to six years above that age and more appropriate for a junior high level. Remember, kids at this age are still more or less concrete thinkers and no matter what their intelligence level are still a few years away from the formal operational stage where we start to see continuity in abstract thought.

      • I can understand your point. However, I still think open-ended questions with a little bit of guidance would be preferred. I write stories for about 8-12 year olds, so I guess maybe my target age is a bit higher. My main concern is to make sure the ideas really belong to the child, and they’re not just repeating what is expected of them. (And, obviously, with the method of teaching books provide, I can’t be there to tell them there answers are right or wrong anyway.)

  2. Thank you so much for all these great questions and talking points! My daughter already knows about the sneakiness of ads in general, so this will dovetail nicely. As soon as the madness of Halloween is over (and I know I have her full attention) I’m going to show it to her. Thanks again!

  3. It reminds me of the Dove Evolution video from a few years ago: http://tinyurl.com/ylzku6

  4. Thanks so much for these thought-provoking questions.

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