According to a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle there is a disturbing trend developing with teenage girls on the internet:
A growing number of tweens and teens, mainly girls, are posting videos on YouTube asking commenters if they’re ugly.
Type ‘Am I ugly?’ or ‘Am I pretty’ into the YouTube search box and dozens of videos pop up, including one of an 11-year-old girl who poses for the camera, twirling her shoulders, smiling big, and pulling her long hair out of a pony tail.
“Hi guys,” she says. “I was doing a video because I’m bored and stuff. Do you guys think I’m pretty?”
“If you think I’m pretty comment down there,” she adds, pointing to the bottom of the screen. “I really don’t care but I just want you guys’s opinion.”
Teenagers have always been especially susceptible to insecurities concerning their physical appearance and sense of self-esteem. It’s a tough stage of life, what with hormones raging, bodies changing and peer pressure nearing its zenith. We’ve all been there.
But we haven’t all been there in this age of the Internet and instantaneous social media, when such sensitive insecurities and fears can be broadcast for all the world to see – and exploit.
Is this what you get when you mix expanding technology with vulnerable kids increasingly living in broken homes?
Is this what happens when fathers are absent or distant and a teenager desperately wants to know they matter?
I believe this is what happens when fathers, especially, fail to love and affirm their daughters by spending time with them and investing in their lives from a very young age.
It is heartbreaking, of course, to see a person question their worth and solicit feedback on their outward appearance from anyone, let alone from complete strangers. In fact, I wonder if in some cases it’s this hunger for affirmation which fuels social media. Today, many kids will rank their wellness by the number of “Likes” they can rack up on a photo or witty comment they’ve posted on Facebook.
As a parent, though, I would urge you to affirm your child’s worth at every opportunity. But avoid stressing their outward beauty and instead focus on the foundation of their true value. Remind them that God’s judge of beauty stands in stark contrast to the world’s distorted perspective. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at,” we read in 1 Samuel (16:7). “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Hold up what God values to your kids, and I think your kids will be less likely to hold themselves up to the sad scrutiny and judgment of complete strangers for affirmation.