Screen shot taken from YouTube on February 27, 2012, in which the 13-year-old user asks her audience "Am I pretty or ugly?"
Everybody likes a compliment. But in one of the most disturbing Internet trends yet, young girls between the ages of 11 and 13 are posting videos asking for compliments – or insults – via YouTube. The homemade clips show often pre-pubescent girls staring into the camera, asking “Am I pretty…or ugly?” Not surprisingly, strangers are all too willing to weigh in.
Responses range from reassuring, feel-good messages like, “you’re beautiful just the way you are,” to creepier and questionable comments like “smoking hot!,” “u r a whore” or “call me, cutie, here’s my cell phone #.” Teenagers have always been self-conscious, but the ease of broadcasting their flaws and insecurities across the Internet has taken matters to a new level.
While most of the videos are merely heartbreaking, some cross the line into being provocative and possibly dangerous. Parents who’ve learned of their children’s posting of these videos say they are surprised, shocked, and horrified – but what is their responsibility? YouTube has a minimum age requirement for posting videos, but who’s minding the store?
What do these videos tell us about teen self-esteem and body image? Has self-absorption gone too far?
Patricia Greenfield, Professor of Psychology at UCLA and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles