Once upon a time, older generations of women embraced young girls and taught them what it meant to be an adult woman.
The grandmother or aunt would support the girl’s mother in her formation into adulthood. But according to Dr. Leonard Sax, a family physician and leading American psychologist in the field of single sex education and author of “Girls on the Edge,” young girls today turn to their peers for this advice.
“That’s why they call today the ‘age of anxiety’,” says Dr. Sax. “There’s a new term called ‘co-rumination,’ meaning these young girls are feeding each other’s fears. Because the wisdom that comes with age is no longer involved, girls today are more likely to be concerned about how they look, rather than about who they truly are, or who they might become, as women.”
Facebook has added to this frenzy. More than 73% of American teenage girls have a Facebook page today. “In the 90s, young girls would write in their diaries to work through issues or to figure things out. Now they’re communicating in short, clever phrases or through posting photos. They don’t tend to be genuine or honest—girls today are performing, they’re taking information that was once considered private and putting on a very public show,” Dr. Sax says.
When advising parents, Dr. Sax stresses the importance of monitoring your teen’s cell phone and computer time. “The average teen girl is sending 4,050 texts per month as compared to the average teen boy who is sending out only about 60% as many texts,” explains Dr. Sax, quoting a Neilsen report published in October 2010 that reviewed 60,000 actual cell phone accounts. So if you’re doing the math, that’s 135 texts per day, on average, almost 5 per hour (including those hours when your daughter should be sleeping).
To oversee your teen’s cell and cyber habits, Dr. Sax encourages parents to install programs like netnanny.com or mobilewatchdog.com. “Your daughter needs to know that you know what she’s been up to.”
The last three chapters in Girls on the Edge are titled “Mind,” “Body,” and “Spirit.” “Teens need to know that there is more to being a human that what’s on TV or available online. All enduring cultures are characterized by strong bonds between the generations: not just parents with their own children, but a community of parents for a community of children. Unless we reconnect the generations, the odds that American secular culture will endure are low.”
Dr. Sax has a pessimistic view of girls and our culture. Do you share his view? Social Media Expert dana boyd, who spells her name with lower case letters, has a different and more optimistic view of our children. She believes in giving kids smart parameters and information to help them be smart media consumers.
Which expert do you agree with and why? Let us know by leaving a comment below.