BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Look at almost any fashion cover and you'll see an example of the barrage of images our kids are exposed to everyday. Experts say the message to young girls is clear.
"External beauty is very important and its very highlighted and little girls are picking up on saying 'If I don't have these things I don't have anything.'" Those words from clinical social worker, Carrie Tucker, who says it's that notion that's set the stage for a disturbing trend.
In one "Am I Pretty?" video, Vanessa says, "Hey YouTubers...recently I've been noticing a trend on YouTube of girls posting videos asking if they pretty or they're ugly. What do you guys think of me?" Generally referred to as an "Am I Pretty" video, the comments anonymous people make to these unsuspecting girls can be brutal. In this young lady's case, a one word response, "ugly" is posted in the comments section. Tucker says, "I think the danger of doing this at their age is that their core sense of themselves is still developing and, so it can affect who they develop into..can affect who they choose to be in a personal relationship with...it can make people more vulnerable to things like abuse."
After watching some "Am I Pretty?" videos, LSU registered dietician Vanessa Richard said she could see how negative feedback may trigger self-destructive behaviors in kids who may already be unhappy with their appearance. "Each semester we probably have between 15 and 25 students we're treating with eating disorders and body image issues. It's something that develops from a young age from middle school through college."
Another person has responding to a young girl in an "Am I Pretty" video puts"sexy" in the area reserved for online comments, which brings up the issue of sexual predators. Parents I spoke with were horrified to learn kids are asking random people on the internet to comment on their looks. The hits for these girls' videos get from strangers can be outrageously high reaching into the millions. In one case, five million people viewed an 12-year-old's "Am I Pretty?" post.
Here's what mom Kissi Doucet had to say, "I think it's horrible."
"That just floors me that kids would worry about would worry about outsiders and post it out there for anybody to comment." says Cheryl Cochran. Her daughter, Sarah agrees. "I would never do anything like that, it doesn't matter what anybody thinks."
But, there are times when good parenting or even strict internet guidelines are not enough to keep a child from trying something a lot of other kids are doing.
For potentially harmful online trends like, "Am I Pretty?" Carrie Tucker recommends parents have a very specific conversation with their children: "I think one thing you could do is to say hey, I want you to know that this is out there. This is what these girls have done, these are some dangers of doing this. And, it don't want you to be put in this really dangerous position, you're friends might be doing this, but they may not realize what they're setting themselves up for."
In a world where looks are made to seem so important, there's nothing a parent can do to guarantee their kids won't make an "Am I Pretty?" video. Experts do say maintaining an open line of communication and doling out generous amounts of positive re-enforcement for their appearance can help, especially for younger girls.
Click here for more information on staying connected with a teenage daughter.