Bullying

Add “Am I Pretty?” Videos To The List Of Reasons Parents Are Terrified Of The Internet

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shutterstock_144760564I have long said that I am terrified to be raising my children in the age of the internet and social media. We all know how much easier it is now for kids and teens to bully and torture each other without parents being any the wiser. It makes me so sad and afraid for my kid’s to be teenagers knowing what they may face. It is nothing new for kids to be this way toward one another but now they have so many immediate avenues for spewing their hatred and bullying- it is no wonder that kids commit suicide and participate in so many harmful behaviors these days. It is so easy for kids to hurt themselves and others through social media and to have their self-esteem destroyed. I can understand why modern parents are terrified of the internet.

In a rather disturbing piece from The New York Times, we hear about an awful trend called “Am I Pretty” videos. It is exactly as it sounds- teenage girls upload videos of themselves asking the internet to tell them whether or not they are pretty. The below excerpt was difficult for me to read as the mother of a girl but perfectly illustrates how young girls make the decision to do this:

“People at my school and camp say I’m the most ugliest person they’ve ever seen,” she said, “and I could be the ugliest person that could ever be living.”

“Be honest and tell me if I am ugly or not,” she continued. “I can take it, but please don’t say really mean stuff.”

She titled the video, “Am I Ugly or Pretty” and — like thousands of other young girls who have made similar videos — uploaded it to YouTube. Several months, 72,000 views and more than 2,000 comments later, she was no less insecure about her appearance, she said in a telephone interview in December. But she had learned a lot about the cruelty of people.

The girl who made this video was 13 years old. I can definitely remember having some negative thoughts about my appearance at that age but it stayed mostly in my own head. I was self-conscious about certain things but it was puberty- I think we all were. The only difference between myself and this girl is that I had no immediate way of finding out from my peers if I was, in fact, ugly or pretty. Looking back, I am intensely grateful for that because I can only imagine how it would have made me feel if the feedback had been cruel and heartless.

Allow me to further break your heart. The responses to these videos are predictably mean and “honest” as young people let loose on these girls telling them exactly what they think:

“Yes, you are really ugly. Now go cry to someone that actually cares,” wrote one male commenter on a girl’s video. “Ugly at first I thought you were a boy,” a woman wrote to a girl who appeared no older than 12.

Reading that brought tears to my eyes. The thought of my daughter having these thoughts one day and turning to the internet to either dispel or validate them makes me want to vomit. She is my beautiful baby girl and the idea that she would ever think otherwise is one of the saddest things for me to contemplate as a mother. I do everything I can to let her know how perfect she is and that I am here for her to talk to if there is ever anything about her appearance that bothers her but I know the words of a mother will fade into the back of her mind once she hears what her peers have to say. I know their opinion will likely mean more than anything during her adolescence.

I am not sure how we combat this vicious trend. I am not stupid- I know that as technology progresses, things will only get worse. I have already given a great deal of thought and worry as to how I will handle things like Smartphones and tablets with my kids as they get older and I haven’t really landed on anything concrete. I know that keeping them away from these things entirely is unrealistic in current times but the urge to shield them from it all is strong. I guess I can understand why some people chose to avoid the mainstream and home school in order to step around the current madness that is life for an American teenager. I hope that as time goes on, my generation of parents finds a way to put this horribleness to a stop. I don’t know how, but I have to believe it so I can sleep at night.

(Image: Nikola Solev/Shutterstock)