Online Videos Leave Young Girls Vunerable

Lauren Kassien, Editor in Chief

In the past several months, a new video sensation struck YouTube. It is a phenomenon that parents and psychologists alike are calling ‘horrendous.’ Across America, thousands of teenage girls are sitting in front of the camera and asking the world, with small, tentative voices, the one question burning on their minds. Am I pretty, or am I ugly?
YouTube viewers can trace the Am I pretty? videos back several years; however, the trend has grown significantly in the past few months. The videos receive anywhere from several thousand to several million views. The question is posted repeatedly by tween girls and even a few boys. Children as young as 10 years-old have taken to the Internet to find out about their supposed self-worth.
Child psychologists have more recently picked up on this buzz. They call the videos ‘disturbing’ and are perturbed at ‘what the world has come to.’ Most often, these professionals blame the parents, stating that tweens aren’t getting enough encouragement at home. Some even blame the Internet, citing that social media has created a pandemic of desperate little girls with low self-esteem. I disagree with both of these claims.
First, I am shocked that the world is shocked by these videos.. Since the dawn of time, girls have been obsessed with their appearances and how others view them. At 13 years-old, this mode of thinking takes control of a young girl’s mind. Maybe I can sympathize with these girls better than adults because I was a pre-teen not too long ago, because I would be blatantly lying if I didn’t say that even at 18 years-old, I still worry about what my peers think of me. These girls are normal. The Internet didn’t make them self-conscious, and I’m willing to bet that most of them aren’t products of parental neglect. Their questioning is completely common; in fact, I would be more surprised if I met a clique of 13 year-old girls who didn’t care what the world thought of them.
I’m not condoning the Am I pretty? videos, but I do believe that psychologists have it wrong when they assert that the girls’ questions are ‘horrifying.’ What is truly frightening is the way in which these girls are asking about their appearances. Before the age of YouTube, pre-teens would project their How do I look? questions to their friends or even to other girls. Notes were passed in the back row of history classes: Am I pretty? Check yes or no. And while girls may not have received the answer they wanted, they were, for the most part, safe. Many say there is nothing meaner than a middle school girl, but that was before the Internet. Now, those fairly harmless little questions that stayed in the back row of History 101 are projected to millions of people around the world. Before, girls used to ask other teenage girls about appearances; now, they could be asking anyone, including various Internet predators.
Even more terrifying is the responses these little girls receive. It’s true that in the safety of history class, a girl could reply with a mean, hurtful comment. Now, however, the anonymity of the Internet gives viewers the ability and the guts to respond with anything they want. Some girls get the answers they desire. Unfortunately, there are just as many who don’t. Negative comments range from, ‘u r ugly’ to things as horrible as, ‘u need a hug… with a rope… around ur neck.’ These responses that encourage suicide are far from rare. Many viewers take the videos as a joke and respond with terrifying comments, encouraging young girls to take their own lives. And in a world damaged enough by repercussions from bullying, this is another form of cyber threats that young teens don’t need.
Though the medium in which girls ask about their appearances is terrible, it is also frightening that this crisis is occurring today. Throughout the past several decades, there have been many movements and several organizations have been created to show young girls that they are worth more than their appearances. Companies have invested thousands of dollars to show there are many types of beauty. Many women have dedicated their lives to inspiring little girls to use their minds. With so much being done to fight eating disorders, self-harm, and poor body image; it’s terrifying that these issues are still incredibly prevalent in young girls’ attitudes today.
Girls will always be concerned about how they look and how others perceive them. The fact that tweens will rely on others’ opinions is an unfortunate truth that is here to stay. And as social media continues to grow at such a rapid pace, girls will continue to utilize it as a way to fight their insecurities. However, there is much that can be done to fight this terrifying trend of videos. So while it’s crucial that we tell girls they are beautiful, I think it is much more important to let them know that they are talented, smart, and are capable of achieving their goals. It’s time we put a greater emphasis on the fact that girls are worth so much more than what a stranger comments on a YouTube video.