Is Lensa Safe? A Lensa App Review for Parents
When artificial intelligence, or “AI”, was first being talked about, we all thought the same thing: robot takeover … right?
Well now, AI seems less reminiscent of The Terminator and instead brings to mind things like social media algorithms or “Hey Alexa — what’s the weather today?”
Today, the AI craze is in photo editing and it’s taking form in the app Lensa. Lensa uses an AI generator to create “magic avatars” of its users, or digital portraits, from selfies. All you have to do is upload 10-20 selfies, pay at least $6.99, then wait for the generator to give you 50 portraits of your magic avatar!
Lots of people are enjoying their avatars and have been sharing them on social media like crazy. And while it doesn’t seem to be huge with younger kids right now, we want to get parents informed before it becomes widespread among the youngsters. We took a deep dive into Lensa so that you don’t have to, and we found some interesting — and troubling — things. Let’s take a look at them now!
Harmful Content 😲
The big issue is that the AI bot is unpredictable in what it will spit out. There have been cases of portraits including NSFW content, including avatars that look sexualized or even fully topless.
There are two sides to this to discuss. First, it’s an immediate concern if your kid was innocently using the app and is suddenly exposed to a sexualized version of themselves. That’s obvious. The second is a longer-standing concern which is how this feature could be used with malicious intent by others.
Here’s what we mean: sometimes the AI will generate inappropriate images by accident. Other times, the AI can be prompted to do it by including sexual content in the uploaded selfies. All it takes is some sloppy photoshop work of putting someone’s face on a topless model, uploading it to Lensa, and out comes a number of more realistic-looking photos of them topless or otherwise sexualized. Suddenly Lensa is no longer a fun AI app but instead an app that can essentially produce nudes of anyone without their consent.
Another issue that’s a little more subtle is the unrealistic beauty standards it creates for its users. The avatars generated seem to be without flaw: smooth skin, symmetrical face, beautiful hair — or in other words, literally perfect-looking. For some, this creates an internal struggle of wanting these avatars to be reality. People are leaving behind the natural beauty of human flaws in favor of computer-generated perfection, to the point where some are getting plastic surgery to achieve their magic avatar look. Lensa’s AI only encourages this unrealistic expectation, which can be very damaging for young kids and teens.
One plus of Lensa is that there seems to be no danger of predation through the app. There’s no chat feature, or really any way to communicate with anyone. The focus is on the AI avatars and photo/video editing.
Positive Value 💙
Okay, we have to admit — it’s definitely fun to see your face reimagined in a weird, cartoon, almost futuristic type character. Think of the movie Avatar or even anime style. And they put your avatar in a variety of contexts. Sometimes you’re depicted as a dystopian soldier going into battle or you’re a fairy princess in a garden — it’s all up to the AI bot.
But besides being fun to mess around with, there aren’t a whole lot of overall benefits for your kid using Lensa.
There are no direct or obvious privacy concerns on the Lensa app. You don’t have to make an account or connect with any existing social media. You’ll have to give payment information to pay for the AI portraits but besides that, Lensa doesn’t even ask for your name.
The real privacy concern is a little broader. There have been claims that the parent company of Lensa, Prisma Labs, could take the pictures uploaded to the app and use them without the user’s consent. They could potentially sell the uploaded selfies to interested third parties, so there’s no telling where your face — or your kid’s face — could end up. Prisma Labs reports that photos are immediately deleted after an AI is trained on the face, but some are still skeptical.
Parental Controls ✅
There are no parental controls on Lensa. However, Bark can help keep kids safe by allowing you to:
- Block Lensa entirely, if needed.
- Manage when your child can use Lensa throughout the day.
So, should my kid download it?
No, we do not think your kid should download Lensa. There seems to be no way to protect against unwanted NSFW content so it’s best to keep kids off of it until they’re older or mature enough to handle the content.
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