HUNTINGDON, PA, March 8, 2012 — For years, society has inundated girls and young women with the misperception that external beauty is paramount to self-worth and social acceptance. In today’s world, this notion has perpetuated a whole host of disturbing trends, perhaps one of the most so is the YouTube “Am I Pretty or Ugly?” videos.
Young girls, some not even in their teen years, have humbled themselves to the point of making videos requesting that the public tell them if they are attractive or not. These videos are generating thousands, some even millions, of views. Not only is this disturbing in the sense that females in our society are demonstrating such a low level of self-worth, but of even greater concern is that their videos and pictures are being viewed by so many people, some undoubtedly pedophiles.
Adding even more negativity to this reprehensible trend, thousands of unkind, some even vicious, comments have been posted in response to the girls’ questions about their appearances. Of course, some positive, encouraging comments have also been posted, but to what avail?
If these young girls are insecure enough to request that the public appraise them based on their appearances, what does that say about the message society is sending? Obviously, the girls have the impression that physical beauty is their most important attribute, not their intellect, their personalities, nor their uniqueness as individuals.
These girls, many not much more than little girls, look into a camera and ask in tentative voices if they are pretty or ugly. Their insecurity is apparent in their comments, some apologetically stating that they don’t have “make-up on” in some of their still photos. Their sweet voices and appearances reveal their naiveté, seemingly unaware of the danger of questioning a vast, unknown audience to determine their attractiveness.
Some also state in their videos that classmates have teased them or told them that they are ugly, due to some flaw or another. Unbeknownst to these girls, those same classmates probably suffer from even worse self-esteem issues, making them attempt to avert attention away from their flaws. Teasing and/or bullying fellow students have resulted in enough societal problems, often even violence, that action needs to be taken.
So, what can be done to reverse the damage that cruel peers, television, the Internet, and parents who are perhaps unaware of their daughters’ perceptions, have inflicted?
As adults, instilling confidence in our children’s many abilities and attributes is obviously of utmost importance. Teachers, as well, should be cognizant of their inherent influence on females’ self confidence. Without consciously being unkind, some educators choose to ignore other children teasing girls (and boys) about their physical appearances. This can result in life-long insecurities, even mental health issues.
How many people have not experienced being negatively impacted by comments made by peers, sometimes even teachers or other adults, about their looks? After all, in our weight/beauty conscious society, most children or teenagers have been subjected to appraisals based on their appearances alone.
Professionals in the mental health field have expressed dismay and concern about the You Tube “Am I Pretty or Ugly” trend. “Some may argue that this is simply young girls playing games. Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think this activity tells us two very disturbing things about our girls.
First, “They feel so needy for approval that they rally strangers to find it. We need to change this Moms and Dads because the most important boost to any girl’s self-esteem needs to come from home… . “said Dr. Meg Meeker, M.D., a pediatrician and expert in parenting. Meeker addresses the You Tube trend on her website, “The Wisdom of a Pediatrician. The Heart of a Mother.”
The doctor also states on her website, “Dads, hug your daughters and tell them they are beautiful. Moms, encourage your daughters to feel good about their character and intellect,”
Meeker goes on to state the dangers involved in posting videos for anyone to view may put the girls “in harm’s way.”
Another concern that Meeker expresses is that the cruel things that some people say in their comments may “potentially wound them emotionally and some may like what they see and track these girls down.”
Dr. Meeker notes that parents need to be aware and engaged in stopping this phenomenon. “We can’t afford to let any of our young girls avail themselves to such profound vulnerability. They can’t stop themselves because they’re just kids. But we can because, after all, we’re the grown-ups.”
Armed with information about this dangerous phenomenon, concerned parents, teachers, counselors, and other family members can make a profound difference. Keeping an open line of communication with girls is key; also, knowing how your child feels about herself as a human being is equally significant.
Monitoring what your child does on the computer is also of great importance. While teens may protest, it is a good idea to check their Facebook and MySpace pages to see what they and their friends are saying and doing. It isn’t snooping or “creeping,” as some teenagers may assert, it is parenting. It is being aware of what your child is expressing online and what others might be saying to him or her. Obviously, parents should definitely be aware of any videos that their children are making and whether or not they are posting them online.
One of the most disturbing “Am I Ugly or Pretty” videos has garnered close to five million views. It features a young girl of about 12 years of age, wearing make-up and child-like koala bear hat. At the beginning of the video she states that “a lot of people call her ugly” and that she views herself as “ugly and fat.” The girl is definitely not overweight and is quite attractive. She goes on to state that she wants to know if she is pretty or not. At the conclusion to her video, she appeals in a sweet, girlish voice for her YouTube audience to “Tell me what you think!” as she innocently waves good bye.
The video speaks volumes about the seriousness of this trend. An obviously innocent, naïve girl needs reassurance that she is pretty, as though nothing else about her matters. Hopefully, public awareness of this trend will result in its demise before even more young girls subject themselves to this type of perusal by thousands or millions of viewers. Hopefully, too, parents will tell their daughters that posting videos on You Tube is not only inappropriate, but could be very dangerous as well.