It's a new iPhone app that some people use as a joke, but counselors and therapists say it can go much farther than that. The "Ugly Meter" is an app that will scan someone's picture and give that person an ugly score on a scale of 0 to 10. Even though it has a high-tech-looking green scanning mask that you match up to the contours of the face, it seems likely that the app is mostly for laughs. Even Brad Pitt scored an 8 -- that's on the high-end of the ugly scale.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Alan Ballard doesn't like the sound of it.
"Right off the bat, I haven't seen it yet, but it has to be something negative," he said.
He worries it will be yet another tool that will ease the plight of cyber bullies. When people post others' 'ugly scores' on Facebook and other social networking sites, they can be treading on someone else's unseen weakness.
"When someone steps on that, and steps on it really, really hard, like some of these devices do, then it can be permanently damaging," he said.
For most people, getting an ugly score is probably just a joke to laugh about with friends. But for people with emotional issues, Ballard says it takes virtually nothing to trigger them. Something like the Ugly Meter could even prove deadly.
"We've seen in the news in the last six months, an increasing number of people who committed suicide and have done other things very harmful to themselves because of this type of thing going on," he said.
While cyber bullying can be particularly slippery to catch or put a stop to, Ballard says the best thing for parents or teachers to do is to pay attention and deal with it right then.
"Intervene! Don't just be a casual observer to everything and not do anything or say anything," he said.
Licensed Professional Counselor Karen Kent says when dealing with others in social networking, its best to assume people have an emotional struggle you're not aware of, even if you're just joking around.