You remember that "Hot or Not?" site where people posted their photo and everyone voted on their looks? That horribleness has gone to YouTube and teens and tweens (mostly girls) are posting videos of themselves asking strangers, "Am I ugly or pretty?"
Now this might be a "better" reason to shoot your child's computer. (Not really.) It's horrifying that teens are doing this, but I can't help but regress right back to my own teen years when I see these girls, full of insecurity, wondering what other people think about them. I get it. I've been there. But when I was there, the Internet didn't exist as it does today so all of the teen pressure to fit in and be thought of as pretty happened on a smaller scale -- in the neighborhood or in school. That's what makes this even more dangerous. These videos not only open a child up for ridicule from their peers, but total strangers. Some who may even be predators. Watch one very pretty young lady's video ....
I watched a few of these and got so upset. One very thin and beautiful young girl said: “A lot of people call me ugly and I think I am ugly and fat. But all of my friends that are girls are like, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful,’ and I’m just like, ‘Shut up, because I’m not beautiful.’”
Yes, it's masochistic -- completely self-destructive -- to post these and actually welcome critique, but this is a young girl. A sensitive young person at a tender age filled with a yearning for acceptance, who measures her worth by how pretty others think she is. This is very common for many teens and tweens.
Sometimes I find the not-so-nice comments on my writings hurtful -- and I'm a big girl ... I can take it. But kids ... what other people think of them means everything. Posting an "Am I Ugly" video exposes their insecurity to potential predators, who know just what to say to an emotionally fragile child. It also opens them up to bullying.
Nothing good can come of it. So what can we do as parents?
We have to see it as a cry for help. This is the very reason it's good to keep tabs on our kids, see where they are posting online, being involved without being overly intrusive. So many of these kids are in need of self-esteem and confidence. But that isn't something that always magically happens. Sometimes professional help is needed.
Parry Aftab, a cyberbully prevention expert, told HLN:
Kids since forever have looked for ways to show that they are as good as others. Now you are able to quantify it. They really, honest to God, have no measure of how pretty they are, unless it’s ranked, unless it’s starred. Kids now function with numerical measures of how popular they are -- so how many people viewed your page, how many people friended you, how many people liked your page -- it’s all quantifiable now. Over the course of development and with repeated exposure to these messages, many girls internalize these values and the result can be shame, anxiety, poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, and/or sexualized expectations of their roles and their future.
I think we need to start a dialogue early with our kids ... make sure they know they can come to us or another family member to talk about things, even their insecurities. I think we need to remind our kids of their worth, and how it isn't about being the prettiest. Though that is an uphill battle considering the perfect images we see airbrushed and PhotoShopped on magazine covers and the stick-figure model look far too often being the ideal for young women. We, as parents, have a lot of work to do. And we can do it. We need to realize that they may even be a time that we need to ask for help -- because we aren't always perfect or able to solve everything either. And that's okay. We can't blame ourselves for everything our children do or think of ourselves as a failure -- there is no time for that. We just need to be there for our kids in whatever way they need us.
What do you think of these "Am I Ugly" videos? Does it concern you as a parent?