The question is innocent enough, but not when it’s young children asking it via online videos.
Search for “Am I ugly” on YouTube, and you’ll find dozens of videos posted by kids — apparently younger than teenagers — just like this one that caught the notice of the women’s blog Jezebel:
The children who post these videos are actively soliciting comment on their appearance.
Those comments can range from sympathetic to downright hateful.
“The process of getting or eliciting feedback on one’s appearance can be almost breathtakingly complex and overwhelming for a developing child,” says Dr. Brad Sachs, a child psychologist based in Columbia, Md.
He says it’s not unusual for even young children to want to stack themselves up against their peers when it comes to their outward appearance, but taking the extra step of asking the question online may suggest a heightened preoccupation or a feeling of inadequacy about the child’s sense of self.
Parents who think their kids may be feeling insecure about their looks should have a heart-to-heart with them, Sachs says.
“Usually it can become an opportunity for the parent and the adolescent to have some more meaningful dialogue about issues related to what’s most important,” she says. “Are the enduring virtues related to intelligence and kindness and compassion, or do they have to do with how you look and what you wear?”
Sachs says he’s had a number of parents come to him with concerns about their kids’ self-image, and he does see this video phenomenon as a growing trend.
“In a way, it’s almost an inevitable echo or reflection of our culture’s preoccupation with appearance,” he says.