By Sari Zeidler, CNN
(CNN) – Am I ugly?
It’s a question teens have been asking their reflections in bathroom mirrors for decades. But with the prevalence of web cams and the increasing Internet know-how of today’s youth, the already complicated inner-world of teenage angst and self-doubt has taken a not-so-pretty turn outwards.
Videos asking that painful question have cropped up all over YouTube.
Adolescents, possibly as young as 11, are taking to the web and asking the world to weigh in on their appearance. From supportive messages to the plain pervy, the responses run the gamut. Comments provoked by these videos offer an interesting cross-section of the American psyche–and it’s all painfully punctuated by images of America’s youth searching for approval.
In a video titled “Am I ugly or pretty? Please Let me know!” one young YouTube user says: “Hey guys, this is my first video…but before I post any more videos making a fool of myself, and I know there’s hundreds of videos like this…I just wanna know, am I pretty or ugly? Cuz at school I get called ugly all the time.”
Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in treating teens and author of the blog, Talking Teenage, and the best-selling “Teenage as a Second Language: Teaching Parents To Become Bilingual,” says the trend is a symptom of an “unwritten social rule among women.”
“We’re taught to be demure and self effacing,” says Greenberg. “It’s socially inappropriate for a woman to say they feel good about their body.”
Add to that the contagious nature of teenage trends, the feeling of anonymity that accompanies people’s online behavior and the “parenting fail” of insufficient supervision, and Greenberg says you have a “recipe for disaster” for teenage girls.
“They’re very young, very naïve and very unaware of the fact they’re prompting a stream of vicious attacks,” Greenberg says of “Am I Ugly” posters adding this raises the risk for eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and lowered self esteem.
Comedienne, blogger and self-proclaimed voice of “vigilante feminism,” Margaret Cho has been outspoken about overcoming her own body issues.
In a post on her website, she told teens to take the videos down: “You don’t need people to tell you how beautiful you are on there. You don’t need to put yourself in the position to be judged that way. You are better than that and you deserve the very best in life.”
“I’m trying to reach out to young people through blogging, through my standup comedy and let them know that they’re perfect the way they are,” Cho recently told CNN. “I don’t want them to wait ‘til they’re mid-40s to realize it, because you waste your whole life thinking that there’s something wrong with you.”