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.