Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Face Filters: Harmless Fun or Something More?

May 19, 2021

Almost every time I look at a picture of myself, I can immediately pick out a dozen or more things wrong with the way that I look.  If I could smooth out  the cottage cheese on my thighs, shrink my hips, make my eyes crystal blue, or remove the blue/green street map of Texas going down my legs….I would in a heartbeat.  

But then, that wouldn’t be me.  That would be a distorted picture  of me…a distorted reality. 

So what happens when all we see are  images of everyone that are so distorted, no one could ever achieve such perfection?  It’s a problem.  In 2019, due to the “public debate about potential negative impact”, Facebook banned photo distortion effects from its platform.  However, they were brought back just one year later. And they don’t seem to be slowing down either.  In fact, because these augmented reality filters are so wildly popular, platforms like Snapchat will be “doubling down” on them in 2021.  

Experts agree, there are serious risks associated with the use of these filters such as  an increase in anxiety, eating disorders,  and body dysmorphia.  Not only does it create great pressure to look a certain way, but because sites like TikTok, Facebook, and Snapchat collect and store data from photos, there is growing concern over the  biometric data collected.  In fact, TikTok recently paid out $92 million to settle out of a lawsuit that accused them of using facial recognition for ad targeting. 

So how does a young girl navigate all of these complicated issues?  For starters, parents need to be speaking truth to them from the beginning.  Parents need to be reminding them how beautiful they are… just as they are.  Reminding them that just because they see it on social media doesn’t mean it is real.  I remember when The Bachelor was televised.  My daughter and all of her friends loved watching it.  And that first season, and every season thereafter, I constantly reminded all of them that THAT is not how you find real love.  Yes, I know several couples are still happily married, but they are the exceptions, not the norm. 

My point is, as a parent, it was my responsibility to keep my daughter grounded in reality.  As a parent, I also try to remember that my actions speak louder than my words.  When my daughter starts comparing herself to the images social media says she should emulate, how can I encourage her to be happy with the way she looks if I am having botox injections and a tummy tuck?  It just wouldn’t make sense. 

If we have to use filters, I think I’m going to stick with the bunny ears and whiskers.  Those are way more fun anyway.