My daughter’s musical.ly video app has my jaw dropped. Her newest thing, while seemingly harmless, still requires parental monitoring. I mean, I know she loves singing and dancing, so why would I suppress those things and her desire to share with “friends”? But let’s get back to the jaw drop. I don’t even recognize the girl on the screen. Suddenly, I watch my 11 year-old morph into a young lady. I launch into Mom mode, wanting to dive into the screen and make her denim shorts longer and cover up her belly. When did this happen? When did she grow up?
Is it me, or do kids seem to grow up way more quickly these days? I know that sounds like an old person talking, but really, at 11 I was digging in the creek for crawfish and more concerned about my pet rabbits than I was about the current lip-gloss launch.
Raising girls today is daunting and frightening. I remember my parents’ angst about my first forays into driving and staying up waiting for me. Now I am petrified of online predators, sexual abuse, rape and heroin – any a sundry of issues afflicting our youth. Honestly, I would be happy if someone could follow our girls around 24/7 making sure they are safe. Conversely, I want them to experience the world full throttle – like I do. I want them to be independent, adventurous and curious, but how will I keep them safe? How can shield them and slow down the societal push towards premature adulthood?
I know I am not alone. I am sure most parents will agree that social media is a huge part of the premature “adult like” actions of our tweens. It’s what they are exposed to that drives their desire to grow up as they emulate the much older idols on instagram or Twitter. What concerns me is that there are far more surface, empty, over sexualized, role models than there are positive, intelligent, dignified role models.
So, let’s start with a few basics that I drill into my girls’ heads—and I can actually see their eyes rolling:
- People on social media are not in earnest your friends. Friendship is deep and there is an established level of trust. Don’t confuse the two and never trust a stranger. Never meet an online-only friend in the flesh – just because they “know” you online doesn’t make them your real friend.
- You are not defined by the likes you receive. You are bigger than the validation that you get from others online. It isn’t reality. Don’t let your self-esteem be rocked by an insult or let your head get big from the compliments. Everything you are and will be comes from inside you and how you feel about yourself.
- Enjoy your childhood. There will be no other time in your life where you can be as carefree. Don’t rush adulthood or adult things. You have no place in engaging in such things beyond your maturity level. You will feel it in your gut when you are doing something beyond your years. Pay attention to that feeling… it will keep you safe on many levels.
- Men will praise your beauty, admire you, compliment you…but a real man will hold the door, help you grow, believe in you, make you stronger, elevate you and admire the whole package – personality, brains, beauty and spirit. These are the ones you keep close.
- Don’t immediately trust anyone. Make them earn it. Be protective of your privacy, your body and your time. Only hang out with those that truly reflect the ideals you hold dear.
- Be honest with yourself. The quantity of people in your life means absolutely nothing compared to the quality. Be selective.
- Be young. Be untethered. Figure out who you are and what you want from life. Experiment with ideas and thoughts. Be bold. Try on life. See new experiences…and for goodness sake, be a child. Adulthood is wrought with responsibility. Be in no rush to be one. You only have your childhood once.