Get Psyched Friday: “Am I Ugly” Teen Trend
Friday, November 8, 2013
Recently, there has been concern about a developing trend seen in young girls, in which they will post a video of themselves on YouTube to ask whether people think they are ugly or pretty. This has caused many to be concerned about the effect of this trend on these girls as well as their peers.
Indeed, posting these videos poses significant risk to girls (and boys). It places emphasis on the idea that physical appearance should be a person’s highest priority and an aspect of themselves worthy of judgment from others. Given the need at this point in development to fit in and be accepted, almost no one meets the high appearance standard youth (and our culture) may set for themselves and others. Posting of videos asking for feedback on appearance therefore sets kids up for failure and difficulties with self-esteem.
Moreover, all people, and particularly kids of this age, have natural biases towards confirming what they themselves believe. That means that if a girl has concerns about her appearance, even if she gets many positive and supportive comments, one negative comment could confirm her worst suspicions and she may place more weight on that perspective than the others, which could be devastating and have risk for long-term harm. Even for girls who want confirmation of their own belief that they are pretty, the internet is not a safe place and therefore there are many who will be cruel. Children of this age have less capacity to recognize that the problem may lie with that person rather than with themselves.
As parents of both boys and girls, this trend is a reminder to:
- Monitor your child’s internet usage
- Talk to your child about inappropriate ways to use the internet and the risks of posting pictures or videos
- Ask your child about how their friends use the internet
- Above all, send your child the message that they should not judge others based on their looks, and that the value of a person lies within, not without. Make sure to build their self-esteem about aspects of themselves other than their appearance
About the Expert
Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is a mother of two young girls and has been a contributor to our “Get Psyched Friday” features since 2012.