Debate: Does “Photoshopping” images Hurt Teens?

Does photoshop do more damage than good? Two teens share their opinions.


Last spring, more than 35,000 people signed a petition asking the government to regulate image retouching, aka “Photoshopping.” Sure, we’re all sick of measuring ourselves against unrealistic ideals, but some argue that at a time when filtering is at our fingertips, altering photos is a norm we need to get used to. What’s your stance? Two readers weigh in.


YES: Altered photos are false advertisements that warp our body image.

There’s no doubt about it: The use of Photoshop destroys people’s self-esteem! Even when it’s painfully obvious that a model’s body has been altered, seeing these images everywhere still messes with your head. (“Wait, is that what people want me to look like?”)

Retouched images are also false advertisements for the magazines or products that they sell. Think about it: It’s mandatory for food and medicine to be labeled accurately for the physical health of consumers—why shouldn’t images be labeled if they will affect the mental health of the reader?

Back in 2012, a girl started a petition against airbrushed photos in popular teen magazines, and 84,000 people signed. Clearly, we’re tired of being fed lies! Use your voice (through the Internet and social media) to demand that companies stop using Photoshop . . . for good.

—Emmel El-Fiky, 17, a high school senior from Leesburg, VA

NO: The images aren´t the problem here ... our self-esteem is.

Everyone knows that perfection doesn’t exist. So when you see celebrities in a magazine, acknowledge that their flawlessness comes from the power of Photoshop—and then move on.

Remember, it’s a model’s or celebrity’s job to look good in a photo shoot! That means that they have the very best makeup artists, hair stylists, and lighting on their side. All of these things enhance the final image that you see, just like Photoshop does. So if we start regulating image retouching, do we need to regulate these other factors too? It’s a slippery slope, and the government has more important things to focus on.

The truth is, the biggest threat to our self-esteem is ourselves. Stop comparing yourself and start recognizing how awesome you are! In the age of Instagram filters and photo-editing apps, it’s the best defense.

Gillian Horn, 17, a high school senior from Philadelphia, PA

Three Fast Facts

1. In 2013, Israel´s “Photoshop Law,” which aims to regulate advertisements, went into effect. It requires that digital alterations to make models appear thinner be disclosed along with the images.

2. The Truth in Advertising Act was introduced in Congress in 2014. If passed, it would require the government to come up with a strategy to reduce the use of altered images in advertisements.

3. According to a 2014 survey, nearly three quarters of young women edit photos of themselves before posting them to social media. More than half of men do the same.

Join The Conversation!

Special thanks to our WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? partner, HuffPost Teen. To debate this topic and others—and to check out more teen writing on the issues that matter to you—head to, or follow @HuffPostTeen on Twitter!

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