The young girl shows off her big, comfy koala hat and forms playful hearts with her fingers as she drops the question on YouTube: “Am I pretty or ugly?”
“A lot of people call me ugly, and I think I am ugly. I think I’m ugly, and fat,” she confesses in a tiny voice as she invites the world to decide.
And the world did.
The video, posted Dec. 17, 2010, has more than 4 million views and more than 107,000 anonymous, often hateful responses in a troubling phenomenon that has girls as young as 10 — and some boys — asking the same question on YouTube with similar results.
Some experts in child psychology and online safety wonder whether the videos, with anywhere from 300 to 1,000 posted, represent a new wave of distress rather than simple self-questioning or pleas for affirmation or attention.
How could the creators not anticipate the nasty responses, even the tender tweens uploading videos in violation of YouTube’s 13-and-over age policy? Their directness, playful but steadfast, grips even those accustomed to life’s open Internet channel, where revolutions and executions play out alongside the ramblings of anybody with digital access.