Kathryn Stamoulis Ph.D.

The New Teen Age

Am I Pretty or Am I Ugly?

The path that leads girls to ask strangers on Youtube to rate their appearance.

Posted Feb 25, 2012

A new trend has emerged on Youtube, in which tweens and teens are asking strangers to comment on their appearance. Video after video presents young people, often blankly staring at the camera, asking "Am I pretty or am I ugly?" First reported by Jezebel.com, these videos seem to be made predominantly by young girls.

(Click here to see examples.)

Starting from birth, our society puts an emphasis on female beauty. By the time a girl reaches adolescence, the emphasis on female attractiveness is pervasive and strong. While both girls and boys struggle to find acceptance and formulate their identity in the teen years, beauty is greatly tied into self-esteem for girls. A 2003 study by Denner and Griffen found that appearance is the strongest predictor of self-worth for teen girls while athletic skill is the strongest predictor of self-worth for teen boys.

So why is physical attractiveness so important for girls? Why are some girls turning to the Internet to get validation for their appearance? To answer these questions, let's look at the following:

Greeting cards celebrating a new baby. Photo from Sociological Images.

Padded push-up bikini top sold to girls ages 7-12 years old.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a makeover beauty salon at Disney.

Legos for girls.

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother had to do it for me T-Shirt from JcPenney.

The beautiful cast of Pretty Little Liars, a popular ABC Family show for tweens and teens.

Teen Vogue Magazine: Look Like a Model

 Parents can help combat these messages. Praising girls for their skills and abilities has shown to increase self-esteem. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that when girls based their self-esteem on domains other than appearance, they felt better about themselves.

While the "Am I pretty?" videos are troubling, videos of support are already popping up telling girls they are worth much more than their appearance.