Petition update

More than just child’s play?’ New research looking at appearance-related games

Anybody UK

Apr 26, 2017 — A new piece of research published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence by Amy Slater, Emma Halliwell, Hannah Jarman and Emma Gaskin based in the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, suggests that online games that focus on appearance have an impact on how young girls feel about themselves.

The research examined the impact of an appearance-focused Internet game on young girls’ body image and career aspirations. Eighty British girls aged 8–9 years were randomly assigned to play an appearance-focused or a non-appearance focused game for 10 minutes. Girls in the appearance-focused game condition displayed greater body dissatisfaction and reported a preference for traditionally feminine careers compared to the control condition. While the games in this research are connected to make-overs and dressing up, we believe that they share similar properties to the surgery games that our campaign targets, furthering our argument that cosmetic surgery games send a harmful message to children.

We reached out to the primary author of the study, Amy Slater who said, "It’s quite concerning that girls played these games for only 10 minutes and this made them feel bad about their bodies, or express a desire for a thinner body. So what does that say about the combined impact [of these messages] across a girl’s lifespan, across crucial developmental years?”

Although this research did not study the effects games and apps with a specific cosmetic surgery focus can have, Slater stated that, “we can extrapolate from what our first study has shown in that if outwardly manipulating our appearance by changing a character’s hair colour, hair style and clothes makes girls express a desire to have a thinner body, it seems a logical next step that playing a game that encourages you to more permanently alter a character’s appearance also would not be good for how girls feel about themselves and their appearance.”

Slater, who is also a mother, added, that as a parent, “you want to keep up-to-date with the changing nature of these apps; the apps and games kids want to play change regularly. However, you have to invest a significant amount of time to stay on top of what your kids are doing online. It’s fairly unrealistic to put the onus on parents to be able to police that.”

We concur. Apple, Amazon and Google have an ethical and corporate responsibility to remove these games and have adequate policies in place to ensure they never re-appear. We will continue fighting for this until it is achieved.

Many thanks for your ongoing support!

The full research:

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