As kids grow into tweens, parents find themselves siting down for a number of rather uncomfortable talks. Often an awkward government-produced pamphlet or movie is part of the chat. But the British government is shelving those terrifying "belted sanitary napkin" reels and replacing them with shiny, downloadable pamphlets -- not about a kid's changing body, but about how to spot Photoshopping in the media.
Concerned that the perfect images of celebrities we see every day are affecting kids' self-esteem, the Brits are fighting back. As part of a Body Confidence campaign, the government is urging parents to teach their kids about altered images. Where once parents only had to explain wet dreams and menstruation to prepubescents, they're now having to add terms like "airbrushing," "digital enhancement" and "photo manipulation."
As the Daily Telegraph reports, the British booklet shows kids both real and altered photos of celebrities. The side-by-side images show how, with the click of a mouse, Keira Knightley's cleavage magically grew. With another little boost of computer help, Britney Spears lost her cellulite, her tramp stamp and even the dry, cracked skin on her heels. Knowing that boys aren't immune to this pressure, the booklet also features some subtle airbrushing of Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The hope is that by seeing the real images of beautiful celebrities next to the altered images, kids will realize that not even rich and famous actresses and actors can achieve the ideal body -- not without the help of Photoshop.
So, as parents, should we add the Photoshop Talk to our already long to-do list? Many experts say yes.
"This conversation can happen as early as 8 or 9 years old. Especially for girls during the tween years. This conversation can happen as naturally as when a child picks up a magazine and sees their favorite actor or singer. This awareness will plant the seed that the images they see are not the same as how people (even the same models) look in 'real life.' This can take the pressure off of needing to be perfect," Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist and TODAY contributor, writes in an email. Dr. Ludwig also believes it's important to teach kids about why pictures get touched up, saying, "Images are used to gain attention and to sell products, that's why they need to appear more perfect than people look in person and in real life."
If a government handout isn't your thing, or, if you just want to lighten the mood a bit, you and your tween can share a few chuckles over at Photoshop Disasters. The site shows some hilarious Photoshopping attempts gone disastrously wrong.
Have you ever talked to your kids about photo retouching?
Dana Macario is a TODAY Moms contributor and Seattle mom to two young kids.