I read an article from a great blog I follow called Everyday Feminism. The author, Shannon Ridgway, brings up some good points. I, like Shannon, spent ages 9-12 in the 90’s. So, let’s explore how things are different for today’s tweens vs. the 90’s tweens. (One difference being that we hadn’t coined the term “tween” yet.)
1) Cell phones.
When I was in middle school, the only people that had cell phones were business-people. I would call my mom at home from the pay phone at school (I was devastated when the rate climbed from $0.25 to $0.35, because it required two coins). For those who are curious: when I had no coins, I would call my mom at home via a “collect call”, and say really quickly what I needed. My mom would answer and hear, “You have a call from MOM PRACTICE IS OVER COME PICK ME UP! Do you accept the charges?” That way it wouldn’t charge the house. Ahhh the resourcefulness…
Now, a lot of young people have cell phones for different reasons. Whatever the reason, phones are not just for calling and texting: phones have internet access now!! They can take pictures and post online in under five seconds. No wonder cyber bullying is so bad. Remember how bad kids were in person? Imagine how bad they can be behind the safety net of the ethernet. Let’s not forget that once something is online, it is out there forever. Imagine googling yourself in your 20’s and finding that picture of you from middle school at a pool party where someone labeled you “fat ho”? You can’t escape that stuff! There is an app developed for sexting (even though that claim is denied from the developers). Snapchat. It allows someone to take a picture or record a video. Once you send it, the receiver is only able to see it for a few seconds before it is deleted. Well, that’s what we think. Click this link for more about SnapChat.
Let’s be real: kids have too much power. They are irrational and impulsive because of their intense emotions and should not have the power to ruin someone’s life…because sometimes they will be irrational and impulsive and they don’t realize that there are some actions they can NEVER take back.
While we’re on the subject…
2) The Internet.
We had the internet. I went on AOL (for the kids of today, this was basically like texting, but you had to both be signed in and type back and forth on the computer in order to chat). For me, in my home, the computer was in a spare room and we could only be in there with the door open. My brother and I also had to SHARE the computer. The computer was the only thing that had games and internet and word processor to type our school assignments. We had to time manage and work out deals for computer time. Oh, and we also had DIAL-UP! This means that until we got a second phone line for just the internet, we had to make sure nobody needed the home phone in order to go online. The internet was also very ssssllllllooooowwwww and had a lot less websites than it does today. In fact, I didn’t ever visit websites. I only went online to chat on AOL. Now, there are websites dedicated to making fun of people. Kids even know how to create websites! Let’s not even talk about porn; it is rampant and so easily accessible. Kids have their own computers, if that even matters! With internet on phones, kids have full access to whatever is online at all hours of the day and night. Parents: consider limiting your child’s wi-fi access or access to electronics, period. Have conversations with your children. You are not powerless.
Facebook came out when I was in my first year of college. Some people were using Myspace but I didn’t really like it. It seemed a bit “To Catch a Predator” and it creeped me out. Facebook, however, was meant to connect you to other students and you could only use it if you had a legitimate university email address. I am infinitely grateful that we didn’t have facebook before college. I don’t think that the majority of kids are mature enough to have access to something like this. I see bikini pictures on facebook of kids I know today and I cringe. I see publicly displayed breakups and four-page scrolls of comments trash-talking others. It’s ugly and it shouldn’t exist. There are parents who properly control their kids access to websites and internet time and phone time, but there are those who do not and I think it is damaging. It is also too easy to “facebook-stalk” people. Do you know what we used to do when I was in middle school? If we had a crush, we would get our friends to prank call the person and we’d have a good laugh. We would “dare” one another to say hi to the crush at school. It was easier to not get as obsessed and go into the scary territory of going through the profiles of every girl that posted on your crush’s wall.
Twitter. This makes kids think that every thought they have should be broadcast to the whole world. It shouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t meant to be a rant. I love vine and twitter and facebook and youtube for the good things they give us. I love that there is so much great humor out there for everyone now. Kids are so creative with certain videos they make. I also love being able to spread information and messages of positivity with so many people. I just think that we need to control the negativity a bit more by having open, honest conversations with our young people. Our actions have impact.
3) Reality television.
Otherwise known as “the death and destruction of everything that was once sacred”. Reality t.v. Blech. Why can’t we just be honest about shows being scripted? Let’s not trick the youth of today into believing this sh#t is real. Kids have brains that are not as mature as adult brains. When they see reality t.v. they are processing it into messages about how they should act, how their bodies should look, what things they should have and how they should treat the opposite sex/friends/family. Reality t.v. has also created a big desire among young people to strive toward 15 minutes of fame. Most of reality t.v. is centered around women as sex objects. For children who are not parented in a way that teaches them that reality t.v. is not real and that in real life there are consequences for actions and that not all people act the way they see people acting on t.v., there can be devastating effects. It’s like a war on the psyches of youth today.
4) Clothing styles.
I really feel like the pressure to look good for girls has not changed. There were tight clothes, makeup and hair for me and there are those pressures for girls today. I actually had a boy tell me when I was 15 that he liked when I wore dresses/tight jeans/shorts to school and when I did my hair. He described me as being a 50/50 girl: hot 50% of the time and not hot 50% of the time. He said that if I wanted to be hot all the time I should not wear my gray athletic shorts or put my hair up in a messy bun anymore. (Feel free to take a moment to gag.) Unfortunately, I think this one hasn’t changed.
5) Popular Celebrities.
For us, it was Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce. One thing they have that the popular celebrities of today don’t really have as much as, are curves and muscles. Thank goodness the celebrities of my day made having a butt a good thing – that was one thing I could relate to! I am not putting down any celebrities for the way they look – it’s just that who is popular impacts the way girls want to be seen. Miley Cyrus is very thin, Selena Gomez is very thin, Kendall Jenner is very thin, the models are thin. We had Cindy Crawford and models with some shape. I think that for my generation there was a bit of a backlash against the uber-thin, but unfortunately for this generation, I think that thin is back in. Being thin is not bad. The pressure that young girls who do not fit the “perfect”mold put on themselves to fit the mold is what is damaging.
6) The reality of it all?
I think that growing up is hard. I think that we make it harder than it needs to be on ourselves and on our young people. Life is really simple. Do good, put effort into your work and relationships, be kind to others. I think that we have changed the definition of happiness and success into something so complicated that we have created more problems than we have solved.
What can we do? Support our young people and breathe positivity into their lives. Take some pressure off ourselves and lead by example. Be our authentic selves and stop letting so many outside influences impact us in negative ways.