Considering recent scandals around sexuality and social media and being the mother of two young girls I can't help but think, what are the parameters and guidelines I should create for my children when it comes to using sites like Facebook or Twitter? And why are supposedly smart, intelligent young women posting cleavage shots and photos of themselves in bathing suits online?
We recently connected with Dr. Barbara Greenberg and Jennifer Powell-Lunder of "Talking Teenage" and authors of "Teenage as a Second Language" and asked her "what is going on with girls, sexuality and social media these days and what can we do about it?" Dr. Greenberg said it's really about girls understanding the power of their sexuality?
We invited them to write a guest blog for See Jane Do and share several suggestions to empower girls to be savvy and safe social media users.
YOU ARE NOT LEAVING THE HOUSE WEARING THAT! If you are the mother of a teenage daughter then you most likely have heard yourself saying these words. Your teens are trying to fit in and look trendy. They may be imitating celebrities who dress in skimpy styles.
Think back to your own teen years. I remember when my older brother's "cute" friends were coming over. I would race to the closet in search of flattering and enticing clothing. Looking back - I don't know if I was successful with what I thought was my lovely appearance. The boys certainly didn't give me feedback but I was nonetheless pleased with myself. Go figure!
What mothers need to know is that teens are testing the impact of their sexuality during these years. It is very possible that they are unaware of how powerful it is. It is probably not until a woman is older that she realizes the power of her sexuality. So what we have these days is the coupling of teenage girls testing their sexuality and the pervasive use of social media . This combination can be a recipe for trouble. What we have seen is teens sending provocative photos of themselves via social networking and new media. Just one click can send a single photo to hundreds if not thousands of unintended viewers. We know that we all feel more anonymous when sending messages that are not delivered in person. When teens feel anonymous they take greater risks. Hence, provocative messages and photos of teens are swarming around all forms of social media.
With these factors in mind, we have several suggestions for moms of teenage girls.
1. We suggest that before you criticize their attire you talk to them about the message that their appearance may be sending. Saying "that is probably a little too sexy" will likely go over better than "you'll leave the house wearing that over my dead body."
2. Explain to the girls that their male peers are more easily aroused than they are. This will be invaluable information for them to have throughout the course of their lives.
3. Make sure that that they are aware of the speed and far reach of messages sent electonically. They may not be aware that a single posting of a photo can end up on the facebook pages of everyone in their high school in a matter of moments.
4. Learn about technology and social media yourself so that you can be in the know. Set parameters around the use of technology.
5. Finally, ask your daughter how she would feel if her photo or message appeared on the cover of the local newspaper. YIKES!
Good luck. We have nothing but the greatest admiration for mothers of teens. It is probably the most tricky role there is. On the other hand, you have a wonderful opportunity to teach and be positive role models. Although it may not seem like it, these girls are both listening to you and watching you.
For more information about Talking Teenage visit their site at www.talkingteenage.com
Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D. is currently a professional consultant on teen issues at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT. She also maintains a private practice in Fairfield County, CT. She served as a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit at a private psychiatric hospital for 21 years before dedicating herself to private outpatient practice and consultation work. Barbara is a voracious reader and an avid seashell collector.
Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. is currently a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit in a private psychiatric hospital. She is an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pace University and maintains a private outpatient practice. Jennifer enjoys interior design, reading, baking and playing with her 95lb black Labrador Retriever.