This post was previously published in December 2009.
younger and younger girls in affluent communities."
This trend of accelerated sexuality and nastiness is increasingly becoming the subject of various books, movies and even a new American Girl doll this year, "who moves to a new school and is immediately targeted by three girls in her class".
Is this trend driven by technology and culture and promoted by parents? Or, is it overblown by the media? One wonders who are the parents of these Lolitas. While some may be the daughters of Goldman Sachs executives, as reported by The New York Times , the trend is too widespread to be limited to this group - just ask around. We did, and the stories are everywhere.
These excerpts from Queen Bees & Wannabes (updated Fall 2009) includes a powerful new chapter on Tech and Media which alone is worth the price of admission. One mom recently told TDR she wishes she bought the book earlier in her daughter's school experience.
The scenario is all too familiar:
I can't move without my mom texting me at school. Like, "how's your day? Is everyone being nice to you?" She never stops, and don't get me started on how often she e-mails my teachers. - Bella,11
If you don't text, you don't exist. - Hallie,13
Being online is like being drunk. Instead of liquid courage, it's virtual courage. -Emily 18
The limit of how mean and vicious a girl can be is beginning to disappear. If girls are pretty certain that other girls won't be confrontational face-to-face, they have the freedom to be uber nasty and never have to own up to it. - Lily 18
It really does feel like I am the only one who isn't letting my sixth grader have a cell phone. Aren't there any other parents like me... - parentAuthor Rosalind Wiseman does give clear guidelines such as: "if you have a child between the ages of five and twelve walking around with a cell phone and it has any other capabilities beyond calling you, their grandparents, or 911, you have lost your mind."
Wiseman continues, "A counselor I work with advises parents that letting a seventh grader have a Facebook page is like giving a sixteen-year-old a Ferrari - it's simply too much power in the hands of someone too impulsive and inexperienced." (She points out that kids get another private FB page, so if you have a sense of false security that you are watching what goes on...).
Wiseman says it's time to be a parent again, instead of being your kid's cool friend, because, guess what, they need a parent more. When you hear your daughter talk about being bullied by one of her "friends" on Facebook, what are we teaching our girls about real friendship? Worse yet, she can't "defriend" her or else she may get bullied even more...
From another perspective (which include boys in the meaness arena), the new book Nurture Shock posits, "aggressiveness is most often used as a means of asserting dominance to gain control or protect status. It is not simply a breakdown or lapse of social skills."
They continue,"Why don't kids shun aggressive peers? Why are so many aggressive kids socially central, and held in high regard?" Sadly, often these aggressive kids are admired by teachers, since they may see them as popular on the surface, without understanding or caring to understanding the underlying forces within a students day.
Two reasons. First, "aggressive behavior, like many kinds of rule breaking, is interpreted by other kids as a willingness to defy grown-ups, which makes the aggressive child seem independent and older - highly coveted traits." Nurture Shock concludes "kindness and cruelty are equally effective tools of power: the trick is achieving just the right balance, and the right timing".
Parents, teachers and communities have to view technology and social behavior as the powerful cultural forces they truly are, affecting our children's well-being, education and future. Like the Ferrari, it will take you where you want to go, but do you really want to go there, and as importantly, can you handle the ride?