Kids are exposed to a barrage of images every day. And experts say the message to young girls is especially clear.
"External beauty is very important, and I think these little girls are picking up on that and saying ‘if I don't have those things, I don't have anything,'" says Carrie Tucker, a clinical social worker.
She says this notion has set the stage for a disturbing trend.
Girls have been posting videos of themselves on YouTube and asking users if they would rate them as pretty or ugly. Generally referred to as an "Am I Pretty" video, the comments anonymous people make to these unsuspecting girls can be brutal.
"I think the dangers of doing this at their age is that their core sense of themselves is still developing, and so it can affect who they develop into. It can affect who they choose to be in personal relationships with. It can make people more vulnerable to things like abuse," says Tucker.
After watching some of the videos, LSU Registered Dietician Vanessa Richard said she could see how negative feedback may trigger self-destructive behaviors in kids who may already be unhappy with their appearance.
"Each semester, we probably have between 15 and 25 students that we're treating with eating disorder and body image issues," Richard notes. "It's something that develops from a young age, from middle school through college."
Then there's the issue of sexual predators. Parents we spoke with were horrified to learn kids are asking random people on the internet to comment on their looks.
And the hits -- the responses these girls are getting from strangers --can be outrageously high. Even in the millions.
Kissi Doucet is a mom. She said, "I'm actually shocked, because I didn't realize that these videos were taking place. I think it's horrible.
That just floors me that kids would worry about outsiders, and post it up there for anybody to comment."
Cheryl Cochran's daughter agrees.
"It doesn't really matter what other people think, it should just be what they think about themselves, and how they feel," she said.
But there are times when good parenting or even strict Internet guidelines are not enough to keep a child from trying something a lot of other kids are doing.
For potentially harmful online trends like "Am I Pretty," Carrie Tucker recommends parents have a very specific conversation with their children.
"Say, ‘Hey, I want you know that this is out there. This is what these girls have done and these are some dangers of doing this. It might not just be your friends at school, or the people at school who are commenting on these things,'" she suggests. "It might be completely random strangers who do not have your best interests at heart, who do not care about you."
In a world where looks are made to seem so important, there's nothing a parent can do to guarantee their kids won't make a video.
But experts do say maintaining an open line of communication and doling out generous amounts of positive reinforcement for their appearance can help --- especially for younger girls.
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