So, let’s talk about cosmetic surgery.
Every year, millions of cosmetic surgeries are performed globally. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 23 million procedures were performed in 2016. Some of the possible complications include hematomas, nerve damage, infections, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, scarring, organ damage, anesthesia complications, and in some cases, death. What’s more, the industry is sometimes under-regulated: In the UK (as of 2013), anyone can legally perform dermal filler procedures, without prior training or knowledge.
The stats aren’t pretty.
To be clear, these are risks that informed adults can and will take. Our goal is not to criticize adults who choose cosmetic surgery. But adults are not the only ones going under the knife.
Children and teenagers around the world are undergoing cosmetic surgery at younger and younger ages.
In Colombia, teenagers as young as 14 can legally get breast implants. In the United States, rhinoplasty (a nose job) can be conducted when the nose reaches “adult size,” on teenagers as young as 13 or 14. According to Australia’s Herald Sun, teens as young as 13 are having liposuction done on them. Iran has the highest rate of nose surgeries in the world, with teenagers as young as 14 choosing to change their faces permanently. The New Yorker states that a common graduation present for a South Korean teen is blepharoplasty, otherwise known as double-eyelid surgery used to achieve more Western-looking eyes.
The message our children are receiving is clear: their bodies are not good enough.
Children as young as seven are treated for anorexia. According to one study, eighty percent of ten-year-old girls in the United States have been on a diet. The mandate that our bodies need to change, to be molded into something better, thinner, prettier, is everywhere. And children are getting the message loud and clear.
Even from games.
For at least the last four years, cosmetic surgery games have been hosted in Apple's, Amazon's and Google’s online app stores. With bright colors, infantile music, and animated graphics, these games are clearly aimed at children, even if some developers categorize them as only appropriate for users 18 and older.
For example, in Mermaid Princess Doctor, players are invited to give a mermaid human legs so she can live “happily ever after” with her prince, and “use your plastic surgery skill change her mermaid face to a beautiful human face.” The description for Vampire Princess Rescue 2 promises players can “treat your special patients with cool and fun plastic surgeries!” While games that feature mermaids, vampires, or witches might seem innocuous enough, some of these games slip cosmetic surgeries in with other medical procedures.
What message do these games send our kids, who are already bombarded with media messages that their bodies aren’t good enough, slim enough, “perfect” enough?
These games tell them that their bodies are a problem to be fixed. And because they pose as games, these apps impart this message of body hatred in the sneakiest way.
This is why all of us at Endangered Bodies have declared: Surgery is not a game.
We want to make parents aware of these games and remind them to put parental controls on any devices their kids use. It’s important to remember that even if a game has cartoon graphics and childish colors, it might still be inappropriate. That said, parental controls aren’t sufficient to prevent kids from accessing these games, as they can easily access them on friends’ devices. Furthermore, new apps pop up all the time. As such, the responsibility shouldn’t lie solely with parents.
We’re asking Apple, Google, and Amazon to create a responsible policy and clear guidelines for app developers to protect children from the message that these apps send, guidelines that protect the mental health and self-esteem of young users.
Our campaign consists of eight linked petitions from around the world, and to date, we have already gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
If like us, you believe kids should be protected from these cosmetic surgery “games,” please add your name to our Change.org petition closest to you and help us spread the word:
Endangered Bodies London/AnyBody UK: change.org/surgeryisnotagameuk
Endangered Bodies Australia / Butterfly Foundation / La Trobe University: change.org/surgeryisnotagameau
Endangered Bodies NY: change.org/surgeryisnotagameny
Endangered Bodies São Paolo: change.org/cirurgianaoebrincadeira
Endangered Bodies Buenos Aires / AnyBody Argentina: change.org/cirugianoesunjuego
Endangered Bodies Germany: change.org/surgeryisnotagamede
Endangered Bodies New Zealand: change.org/surgeryisnotagamenz
Endangered Bodies Ireland: change.org/surgeryisnotagameie