In recent years, parents have shared videos of themselves using face-morphing filters with their infants and toddlers. Filters that morph your appearance are meant to be entertaining and funny; however, when used on young children, they can be downright traumatizing. This is because young children fail to understand that what they are seeing is simply a filter—they don’t realize that it’s not actually happening in real life. Seeing their parent transform into something unrecognizable right before their eyes can lead to feelings of fear and confusion—the impact of which remains long after the camera stops rolling.
The Impacts on Children Under Five
Young children are not equipped to understand what is happening when they see someone they know suddenly transform into something or someone else. The psychological effects of seeing a loved one morph into a scary creature or even just a different version of themselves can cause them to feel unsafe and anxious. This fear can be exacerbated if the parent laughs or finds the change amusing, as it further reinforces the idea that something is wrong. In addition, it communicates a lack of empathy for the VERY REAL emotions the child is experiencing.
The effects of face-morphing filters on children under five years old can be particularly severe because their brains are still developing. At this age, young children lack the mental capacity to understand abstract concepts like “filters” or “face-morphing.” Since they are so impressionable at this age, any negative experiences they have while viewing these videos may have long-lasting implications on their psychological development.
The Unknown Long-term Impact
Because these filters are so new, we don’t know what long-term impact they could have later in life. However, it is possible that these experiences could leave lasting psychological scars or even lead to issues such as anxiety disorders if left unchecked.
I understand this may seem absurd to some parents who say their child forgets about it within a few minutes. Sure. The child may appear to move on from the experience, but that is not to say it did not make a lasting impression on their subconscious mind, which drives 95% of our behaviors.
It is common for one seemingly minor incident to develop a trigger response for future related situations. For example, an adult with a fear of dogs because they were bitten by one as a young child; some who is afraid of clowns because a clown frightened them with the unexpected popping of a balloon when they were two. Now, the sight of a clown gives them shivers of anxiety.
It doesn’t take much. Residing in all of us, resting in our fears and insecurities, there are imprints of our past and micro traumas that still come through in our behaviors. That said, why not air on the side of caution when using filters with young children?