A range of these games can be found on various app stores, targeting very young girls with bright colours and fairytale characters.
They allow kids to perform serious cometic procedures including rhinoplasty, liposuction, eyelid surgery and cosmetic injections on a cartoon character.
Google Play’s Plastic Surgery Simulator, for example, promises to turn you “into a Victoria’s Secret model at once”.
“No one could resist the temptation of beauty! Every girl dreams of delicate face and stunning figure. If makeup can’t give the beauty you want, then come to join this amazing plastic surgery game! You can turn into a Victoria’s Secret model at once!” the description reads.
Global body positivity organisation Endangered Bodies has spent a year monitoring apps like these, noting that while individual apps may be removed by regulators, they tend to “quickly reappear” on the market.
The group recently launched a Change.org petition calling for tech giants including Amazon, Apple and Google to ban these apps altogether and develop policies to prohibit the download of cosmetic surgery apps by children and teens.
Today, the #SurgeryIsNotAGame petition has more than 107,000 signatures from appalled parents around the world.
Psychologist and director of BodyMatters Australasia, Sarah McMahon, said children as young as three were being targeted by the apps.
Ms McMahon, who helped develop the petition, said the apps, which were often free, glamorised and trivialised plastic surgery and taught children to obsess over physical “imperfections”.
She said while parents needed to be vigilant regarding kids’ app use, it was easy to miss the danger associated with these games.
“Children that young have no ability to discern what is real and what is imaginary and they are still learning language skills,” Ms McMahon said.
“Being exposed to these sorts of apps grooms kids to trivialise cosmetic surgery. They are growing up critiquing their bodies and seeing a very narrow idea of what beauty actually is.
“At an early age when children are laying the foundations of knowledge and how to relate to the world, they are learning appearance is absolutely integral to success and achievement, and that their bodies can be manipulated to meet a homogenised ideal.”
Ms McMahon said more and more young people aged under 18 were seeking “entry level” cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers, and that these procedures often acted as a “gateway” to more invasive surgeries.
“When someone is not feeling good about themselves and they are within the regular range of appearance, no amount of sculpturing will alter that,” she said.
“We are living in a society where body image continues to be an increasing issue of concern.
“We would love to have a conversation with [Apple, Google and Amazon] because we are wanting to work collaboratively with them to make sure we are protecting young people.”
The petition was launched by Endangered Bodies’ eight chapters — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States — and it warns that existing regulations for app developers regarding games for children only relate to advertising, which allowed these apps to slip through the cracks.
In 2015, Endangered Bodies launched the “fat is not a feeling” campaign against Facebook’s decision to include a “fat” emoji option within its list of “feelings” available as part of its status update feature.
A Change.org petition calling for the emoji’s removal gathered almost 17,000 signatures, with Facebook eventually caving in to demands.
Ms McMahon said she’d like to work with Google, Amazon and Apple to achieve a similar result by banning cosmetic surgery apps aimed at children.