Momtroversy: Should you retouch your child's school photos?

Moms and experts weigh in on the practice.

The social-media savvy mom of today very likely uses a filter, or Facetune or at the very least a light edit before posting a photo of herself.

And it's possible she may use those same skills when posting a photo of her kids too.

But what about those yearly school photos? You know, the ones you look back on of yourself and cringe at? The hair, the teeth, the pimples. What if you could erase those imperfections?

You can't go back and do it for yourself, but you can for your kids. Life Touch, the company responsible for the majority of school portrait photos in the U.S. offers two options: For $8 you can get "basic retouching" which removes blemishes. For $12, you get "premium retouching," which whitens teeth, evens skin tone and removes blemishes and scars.

Kristine Boel, a mom who is also a photographer, said "school photos [are] supposed to represent a time in moment, their life captured as it is... sweet, ugly, awkward, bruises, teeth missing, crooked ponytails and all. I know I love my funny and super real photos from my time in school. It brought so much fun out of just looking them over years after. I also feel it’s important not to mess up with our kids self image. They can see if we edit a photo of them."

The majority of moms we asked agreed that they would not retouch their kids school photos. But not all.

"I know this is the unpopular opinion but my daughter scratched her face right before picture day and I majorly suck at taking and printing out nice photos so I opted for the retouch so I could have a nice photo," Katherine McCrillis said. "I don’t regret it either because she took such a wonderful picture and rather then listen to everyone ask 'what happened to her face' or 'how did it get scratched' everyone just focused on what a nice picture she took."

One mom said it depends on the child's gender;

"I'd do it if I had a boy, for sure! For a girl I think I'd be more worried to send the wrong message about body image," said Fairy Pardiwalla. "But also don't want to send the wrong message about hypocrisy since I have retouched/edited all my photos that are publicly visible."

So what do the experts say?

Limor Weinstein, a parenting coach and founder and executive director of the LW Wellness Network said "whenever the parents choose to edit a picture of their child then it indicates to the child that whatever they look like right now isn't good enough, and children internalize that message."

But it's not a hard a fast "no" in every situation.

"If parents communicate with the child and the child feels comfortable with whatever is edited, then it might be ok, but it depends on what is being edited. If it is a scar or something that is temporary and the child is very upset about it then it is not a big deal to edit the photos."

She said parents need to ask themselves two important questions: 1. Who is asking to edit the photos? The parents or the kids? and 2. Why?

"I worked with a mom who struggled with bulimia who wanted to reduce her daughter’s breast size in the photo so that she looked thinner," Weinstein said. "What I found when I spoke with parents about this topic asked them these questions, they end up realizing that their choice was for them, not the child, and therefore might not be a good choice."

(Editor's note: This story was originally published in Nov. 2018).