April 24, 2012 Print

Dig Deeper: New Teen You-Tube Trend Is Pretty Ugly (Part 1)

by Chad Hills

“This is one of the most horrible, tragic and damaging things I’ve ever seen,” I thought, as I forced myself to watch a home-made “Am-I-Pretty-or-Ugly?” You-Tube-you-vote video. Parents, beware. This has become the latest rage.

Striking a full-body pose (clothed, thankfully) – live on camera – I watched as a relatively friendly, but insecure, 13-year-old girl verbally degraded her own body, her image and her intelligence for the entire You-Tube world to see, hear … and vote online – “Am I pretty or ugly?”

Last I checked, tens of thousands of teens had cast their votes – and some included very rude or sexual comments, many with profanity.

I couldn’t sleep that night, because my heart was troubled – and to realize there were thousands of other self-degrading videos posted. My heart aches deeply for what those kids must be feeling inside, and how I would feel if this was my own daughter or son.

What happens to kids and families should matter to all of us, because we, as parents and the adult generation, have an obligation and responsibility to coach, mentor and train the upcoming generations. I believe this dangerous “Am-I-pretty-or-ugly?” trend can be changed, but only if we start at the ground floor with keeping our families together, improving parent-child communications and modifying kids’ worldview and how they view themselves.


CovenantEyes.com wrote an article, “Am I Pretty?” — New Trend on YouTube has Parents Concerned, and Focus on the Family President, Jim Daly, also blogged on this subject, warning parents: Don’t Let Your Daughter Do This. Parents should be very concerned. Others have written on this trend, as well, and many believe it’s largely a symptom of a greater illness: broken families.

Girls and guys have a tough road to travel with today’s hyper-sexualized, air-brushed, glamor-focused culture. It’s difficult to construct – and maintain – a positive self-image, being confident and comfortable in ‘who’ they are – and ‘how’ God made them. Society’s “expectation” or script for outward perfection, combined with the ever-present peer approval, can create a  toxic image problem, particularly for young girls and women.

Counselors can attest that failed attempts to achieve “perfection” often lead to subsequent depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, risky behaviors (seeking attention, love, approval through sex, drugs, rebellion), attempted suicides and now, self-disparaging video posts on You-Tube.

Fragile and vulnerable, teen girls and guys are desperately need love and constant affirmation from both Mom and Dad. Supportive extended family members, friends and church peers are important, as well.

Parents, don’t shy away from giving your teen(s) affection – this is an absolute necessity, regardless of teens’ exaggerated eye rolling and “theatrical” outward expressions of disapproval. Don’t let their “Mom! Dad! I’m-too-old-for-that” independence and pseudo-resistance build a wall of separation in your communication. Knocking down walls is part of parenting teens, and, yes, they will get irritated with you, most likely – but press in and don’t give up.

For your kids, knowing who they are in Christ can help teens filter out life’s garbage and Satan’s lies.  Psalm 139:13-14 tells us that God hand-crafted each of us in our mother’s womb, knitting us together ever so intentionally. No human life is an “accident” or without purpose.

As adults, we know how our identity in Christ is such an anchor when the storms of life try to crush and destroy our sense of purpose and worth. For our struggling and insecure teens,  these emotional storms are even more devastating. But God tells us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

God doesn’t move away from us, but sometimes we move away from Him. Share with your teen how you struggle with staying close to God, and help them intentionally put time in the Bible into their daily routine. This can be a “constant” in the teen world (and body) that’s changing all the time. God’s truth, His Word and our relationship with Him is something the world cannot take away; although, it will certainly try, and our faith definitely will be challenged.

Teen parenting is not a time to stick your head in the sand. It’s a time to embrace your teen and direct them toward the first stage of young adulthood. And since cyber-technology will only become a much larger part of their future, let’s have some healthy parent-teen cyber-chat.

Continue this conversation with useful parent-teen communication pointers in Part 2 – Parent-Directed Cyber-Communication with Teens …