Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pretty or Ugly? Tweens Are Asking the World

An article by Leanne Italie with the Associated Press and printed in the Charlotte Observer this morning highlights a growing trend among girls as young as 11: posting a video on YouTube of themselves, asking "Am I pretty or ugly?"

One girl's video, first posted in December 2010, has four million plus views "and more than 107,000 anonymous, often hateful responses." Responses to this and other such videos include those soliciting sex, calling the kids "attention whores," calling them "fugly" and ugly, and wondering where their parents are. Some comments did offer support, ask them to take the videos down, and encourage them to "feel good about themselves."

Experts weighed in, and I found their comments insightful and thought-provoking for parents:
Negative feedback that is personal is rarely easy to hear at any age, but to tweens and teens who value as well as incorporate feedback into their own sense of worth, it can be devastating.
Elizabeth Dowdell, professor at Villanova University, researcher of Internet safety and risk behavior in adolescents in partnership with the Justice Department
These videos could be read as a new form of self-mutilation in line with cutting and eating disorders.
Emilie Azalow, media studies professor at Pace University in New York
There's this constant messaging about looks and beauty. Their world is taking it to a new level. It can be humiliating, there may be a lot of shame, and you start to become public objects instead of being your own person.

Nadine Kaslow, family psychologist and professor of behavioral sciences at Emory University
There is a lot of online talk about this trend (just search "Pretty or Ugly You Tube"). More commentary can be found at the Huffington Post, including more conversation related to young girls and body image.

Parents today face new challenges, and knowledge of trends, like these YouTube videos, and potential consequences can help as we make decisions that guide our children's use of the Internet.

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