Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

Young girls are sharing their self-taken snaps - known as "selfies" - on the photo-sharing website Instagram to compete in pop-up beauty contests on the site.

Adolescent girls – some as young as 10-years-old - upload their photographs with hashtags like #instabeautypageantawards or #instabeautypageant and are willing and ready to be judged on their pictures.

Fresh competitions are popping up daily. As soon as one pageant ends, another hashtag and account is set up to award young girls who accrue the most "likes" as the winner. 

Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

The prize? Validation of their beauty, in the form of a "shout out" from the creator, earning them extra followers.

But experts warn that contestants are opening themselves up to harsh criticism.

"Girls are receiving a message that it is only their looks that count and they are acting out this script on social media," warns media commentator and author of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, Melinda Tankard Reist. 

Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

Selfies: fun for women but can be dangerous for young girls.

"This practice risks significant harm from online judgment and cruelty.  Vulnerable teens are actively inviting in scrutiny from a cyber world renowned for bullying and virtual pack attacks."

One contestant, who looks to be about 15-years-old, was subjected to intense taunting. "Haha!  Loser... you only got 25 votes," wrote one girl. "Ugly ass hoe," commented another (male) voter.

According to Gretchen Martins, communications advisor for Cybersmart, the national government's cyber safety education website, young people need to have a stronger differentiation between the online and offline worlds.

"There is a type of pressure and acceptance for young people online – how many 'likes' or 'followers' they have that validates their popularity, beauty and acceptance," she explained. 

"This is a bigger, community-wide social issue about the self confidence of young people, and how we can all contribute to a healthier way of reinforcing positive self-image messages, both online and offline."

Instagram has recently issued a statement on the practice, advising parents to monitor their children's online behaviour: "We are aware this is a trend taking place on virtually every media platform that teens engage with.  We work hard to make Instagram a safe, interesting and vibrant place for teens to spend time and express their creativity through photos.  As with other social products, we encourage parents to take an active role in understanding what their kids are posting and who they are sharing with."

The "selfie" - a self portrait usually taken with a smartphone - has become commonplace online. 

A study, conducted by Westfield, of 1000 women aged 18-35 found that the majority of women - 62 per cent - have taken a selfie and 69 per cent feel that selfies are a way to showcase fashion, style or looks.

With more than half of Australians now owning a smartphone and the increase use of social media, selfies have been a growing trend for the past few years.

DailyStyle