Low Self-Esteem, Mean Girls and Kindness, Come See the Movie, Finding Kind

Monday, March 19, 2012

Web reflects an ugly reality for girls

The Kansas City Star
It's hard to watch girls as young as 11 stare into their webcams and ask an Internet audience of millions: Am I ugly or not?
But this is the latest Internet heartbreak, one that has been years in the making.
The YouTube trend can be traced back as far as five years ago, but it's clear that the videos picked up buzz over the last few years. There are thousands. One taped in 2010 has more than 4 million views, some 13,647 likes and 42,268 dislikes (and counting).
I want to be shocked. But teenagers don't change much through the decades. And as long as girls have been teens, they have grappled with self-esteem, approval and peer pressure.
People want to argue that this is new. It isn't. When I was in middle and high school we had "slam books" that deemed people popular or not. There were "crush lists" too. It only makes sense that this adolescent need to judge and be judged would get worse with social media involved.
Think back to the late '90s. Some of the earliest popular websites had to do with looks. Remember the site Hot or Not? Or the pro-anorexia blogs that popped up and continue to infect the Internet today. And then there's Formspring, the survey-like site that allows people to ask questions and leave comments anonymously.
Social media has always played on self-esteem, often hiding behind the idea of having "friends" and "followers" and people "liking" the things you say.
This YouTube trend strips away all the niceties. Now we see kids logging in, desperate for acceptance. The response has been as expected. People are outraged and heartbroken. But they are also passing judgment.
I've seen mothers say their daughters would never be on the Internet asking the world those kinds of questions. I saw another story that said people need to do better at building their children up and teaching them their worth.
I agree that parents have to cultivate confidence. It's important to patrol what your children are doing online, that's true. But not all the girls in those videos are products of bad parenting. I've known girls who hear their mom and dad lift them up daily and still fight with the mirror.
According to the NYU Child Study Center, by the age of 15, girls are twice as likely as boys to become depressed. Among fifth- through 12th-graders, 47 percent said they wanted to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
This is the world we live in.
Magazines rate "America's Most Beautiful People," TV slams the worst-dressed and there are all kinds of pageants and reality shows that often hang on how good someone looks.
With all the shallow junk that pop culture and their peers throw their way, sometimes it's easier for teen girls to judge themselves against society's impossible beauty bar rather than the loving affirmations they receive at home.
Those little girls staring into the camera are beautiful.
It's our ugly obsession with superficial beauty that could use the makeover.
© 2012 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Bringing FINDING KIND to Carlsbad, Ca on Thursday, April 19th, 2012.

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