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Photoshop-spotting: talking to your child about ‘fake’ images

Young people who are regularly online and on social media will come across thousands of advertising messages a day, most of which include doctored images that can have a big impact on the way they view themselves.  And it’s not just about edited images of others - young people can now edit their own photos on social media very easily. Editing an image of yourself and playing around with filters is not necessarily harmful and your child may find it fun. But it is important that they understand how and why many images they come across in the media are manipulated.

Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about Photoshop and editing:

  1. Get your child to identify a Photoshopped image, and talk about how it makes them feel

  • There is no ‘right’ answer for how your child responds to Photoshopped images, maybe they’re indifferent, but this is a good way to start a discussion about doctored images.
  • If Photoshopped images do make them feel insecure it might be something they are reluctant to talk about– it’s important to get the conversation started.
  • Encourage your child not to compare themselves to these images by showing they are not real – try and find some ‘before and after’ Photoshop images to demonstrate this.
  1. Talk about why magazines and adverts use Photoshop

  • Ultimately Photoshop is most often used to sell a product. It is even used in adverts for products seemingly unrelated to physical appearance like food and drink.
  • Help your child understand that this doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy make-up or other products, but they should be aware of how advertising targets them.
  1. Talk to your child about their own social media

  • Try to have a non-judgmental discussion about their own use of Photoshop – do they edit their photos? If so, how do they do it and why?
  • It’s important that young people understand the social pressures that encourage them to self-edit.
  • This isn’t about getting them to stop doing it, but about making them think about why they are editing themselves.
  1. Have a laugh about it

  • This can be a very sensitive topic for young people and can unearth their insecurities about themselves.
  • Inject some humour into the conversation by searching ‘Photoshop fails’ online.
  1. Take a look at some celebrities who have rejected Photoshop

  • Actress Jameela Jamil has spoken about being Photoshopped without her consent – this is common as women in the limelight often don’t have control over a magazine's editing process.
  • Model Iskra Lawrence has shown how easy self-editing is on social media. She uploaded a completely unedited photo of herself to Instagram alongside a photo that she altered in “two minutes” using an editing app. She talks about the dangers of subtle editing which can be far more difficult to identify than traditional Photoshopping in magazines
  • Actress Lupita Nyong’o has been particularly critical of magazines editing her image in photos to make her conform to western beauty standards.

For further advice and practical activities that you can try out with your child to help boost their self-esteem, and support them to think critically, look at the Uniquely Me parent guide.

This free parent guide is packed with much more advice and some practical activities to help support you with boosting your child’s body confidence and self-esteem.

Read, download or print the free Uniquely Me parent guide

This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action. 

Teachers: for free downloadable teaching resources, go to the Dove Self-Esteem Project area on ParentZone.org.uk

These pages are brought to you by Parent Zone and the Dove Self-Esteem Project

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

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