I was watching my niece and nephew play some games on a tablet recently, and something really stood out to me.
The game ads they were getting weren’t exactly appropriate, my niece’s more than my nephew’s.
While my nephew got ads for games where your little stick man beats up another stick man, or where you have to collect the most marbles in a cup, my niece was getting rather strange beauty ads.
I wanted to see how far this went, so I downloaded a few games targeted to little kids, making sure to keep an eye out for anything pink.
The ads that started popping up on them were disgusting, disturbing, and deplorable.
On these apps, marketed to young girls, there were ads for fad diet and weight loss apps.
There were ads for games where the sole purpose was to make a girl pretty enough that her husband wouldn’t cheat on her.
There were a surprising number of ads that for some reason had an adultery-divorce-child custody battle story line.
In my opinion, though, the worst were the makeover game ads.
When I was young, a makeover game started with a girl with a plain, average face, and ended when you colored her lips and eyelids, maybe going so far as to add a dress and hair too.
The ads for these games now start with someone purposefully made to look like a swamp hag, and include things like lip injections, dieting, plastic surgery, liposuction, and botox.
These ads are shown in games marketed to 5-year-old girls.
It’s been no debate that social media has a horrible effect on the mental health and body image of children, teens, and adults who use it, but somehow, all of the effort to levy this is focused on the 15-17 year old crowd.
You can tell your teen that Instagram is photoshopp-ed and fake, post your affirmations, and make trigger warnings for certain types of content, but that won’t be enough when they’ve been seeing these types of predatory advertisements since they were 6.
Children are spending an increasing amount of time online these days, and the content they’re being given is increasingly worse for their mental health.
Ads for things such as tobacco cannot be published on children’s content platforms, but dieting, divorce, and plastic surgery can.
The responsibility of filtering ad content should not, and cannot fall onto the parent’s shoulders.
My sister does everything she can to raise her children as confident, intelligent, happy children.
The electronics they use always have “kids mode” turned on, and she checks in on whats kinds of apps they have downloaded.
They know about Internet safety, and they make good choices, but the ads they get are not in their control.
It is my opinion that there should be tighter legislation as to the types of advertisements that can be shown to children.
After seeing the ads that are run on children’s games, it doesn’t surprise me that negative self image is on the rise.
Ideas of not being good enough, thin enough, pretty enough all have to be introduced to a child somehow, we weren’t born with our insecurities.
Children are impressionable, that’s
why we celebrate them so much.
Your cousin is no Picasso with their macaroni art, but that won’t stop you from telling them how amazing it is because we want to nurture them and build them up.
We can’t build them up, however, when we let predatory game ads drag them down.
No child should be taught that they need liposuction, micro blading, and some dude’s approval to be beautiful.
No child should ever be introduced to the newest craze diet, or be told that thinner is better.
No child should ever have to doubt themselves just because they wanted to play some dumb coloring game.
The insecurities that these ads are teaching them is something that they will carry and struggle with for the rest of their lives, and I don’t think it’s fair to them to sit idle and take away their chances of confidence.
So pay attention to the ads you get, pay attention to the ads that your nieces and nephews and little cousins get.
Screenshot the ones that are unacceptable, and send them to your local politicians, start a petition, complain to Google, delete any and all apps that show them, and most importantly, talk to the kids and parents in your life about it.
We need to raise more awareness about this issue before it goes even further. We need to make noise and to let people know that it is unacceptable to show this content to little kids.
More and more children are on the internet these days, and even more will be as time goes on.
It is our job and our responsibility, as the adults of this world to put our foot down and make sure that all parts of the world are safe for it’s children.
We need to give the next generation more than we were given, and we need to use all of the things we have learned to do that.
What the world is today was not up to us, and what the world will be tomorrow is largely out of our hands already, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to change everything we can.