There are roughly half a million videos that have been uploaded on YouTube by kids inviting others online to validate their looks by deciding if they are ‘pretty or ugly.’
Many of these so-called POU videos have hundreds of comments ranging from kind and encouraging (“You are beautiful! Don’t ever for a second feel you aren’t) … to harsh (“You’re too young for YouTube. By the way, you’re kinda ugly”) … to downright cruel (“You’re ugly, if u want the truth. A lot of people lie so u won’t kill yourself”).
Despite restrictions prohibiting kids younger than 13 from posting on sites like YouTube and Facebook, girls as young as nine are getting thousands, in some cases tens of thousands, of people to weigh in on their appearance. As a dad of an 11-year-old girl, it makes my stomach turn.
When our kids are toddlers, we keep them away from unattended stairs, electrical sockets, and the hot stove. When they are tweens and teens, we need to show we care by staying on top of what they are doing online.
Here are three simple things we can do:
- Talk to your kids about the benefits and the dangers of being online. Computers and the Internet aren’t inherently bad. But between pornographic content, online predators and cyberbullying, there are plenty of online pitfalls to help your kids avoid. Have open, honest, age-appropriate discussions about being responsible online.
- Establish your family’s online expectations. Be sure your children know what your expectations are for when they are on the Internet. A family contract can be a helpful tool to confirm you’re on the same page with your children.
- Put proactive protections in place. Keep your computer in a central place in your home. Get a filter in place on your home computer and your kids’ mobile devices so you can help manage where they can go, weed out bad websites, and keep track of where your kids visit online. Net Nanny’s web filtering software is a useful tool and is currently offering a 25% discount.
There’s no substitute for staying engaged with what’s happening with your kids, whether online or off-line, even when they may seem put out about it. Love your children well and stay involved with them and what they are doing, and they’ll be less likely to look for unhealthy attention elsewhere.