These days, parents not only have to protect and prepare their sons and daughters from what the real world has in store for them, they also have the tough and overwhelming job of making sure their children’s online lives aren’t jeopardized. Influence from mainstream media doesn’t make this any easier.
Forget the magazines and TV shows, parents now have to focus their attention on how the Internet’s hugely-influential commercial marketing is effecting our children’s’ notion of how they should act, dress and talk—and according to a recent article from the Vancouver Sun, this notion has an even larger effect on girls ages 10-17, a group that makes up a large portion of the Yoursphere member base.
15-20 years ago, all parents had to worry about was the subtle influence that TV had on a child when it came to violence, sex, or profanity. Now the Internet is the main source of trend-setting, and with the myriad of social networks, blogs and share websites, it’s very difficult to know which parts of the Internet are giving teens advice on “How to Live Healthy”, and which parts are subliminally telling girls that they’re not thin enough by bombarding them with advertisements like, “BUY THESE PILLS TO LOSE WEIGHT!”.
Unfortunately, these misleading advertisements call home to some of the more popular websites among teen girls, like Facebook and TMZ.
The study conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa found that “…girls are jumping into online media at a faster rate than boys […] they are using the Internet to build real-world friendships and try on different identities.” “… girls feel less safe in the real world than boys do.”—and rightfully so.
The researchers also found that girls are more susceptible to cyberbullying and sexting due to the fact that:
1. They’re more immersed in social networking technologies (cell phones, online social networks, etc)
2. The content in sexting and cyberbullying messages is more easily directed towards girls because of the negative influence that mainstream culture has on their self-image.
Valerie Steeves, a professor at the University says “[...] girls are more likely to post profiles on social-networking sites, and they include more information and lie less in their profiles than boys.” This doesn’t help the cause, because as we know, these profiles usually consist of pictures showing what the young girl looks like; and once these images are on the Internet, they’re really hard, if not impossible, to remove. And as you know, with the dozens of photo-editing software programs out there, these images can easily be manipulated and used as a tool when it comes to cyberbullying and sexting.
As I stated before, the negative cultural influence that our kids face on a day-to-day basis comes from several sources (magazines, TV, Internet, etc.) sometimes accumulating in peer pressure at places like school. Their love of social networking is influenced sadly by cultures that were created and intended for adults. While adults can certainly still be influenced by advertising, we typically are able to dismiss such ads. According to the research, as well as respect to common sense, younger girls are more susceptible to both mainstream and peer pressure.
Parents, I encourage you to do this with me:
1. Take the initiative to play a proactive role, as much as possible, in your child’s lives. (I remember being taught after I had each child, that the most crucial time to be involved in their young lives was when they were very young (newborn to toddler). I believe, and have experienced that the older our children get, the more they need us.
2. We need to help our children understand that not everything they see, hear, or read on the Internet or TV is true, and that it reflects the real-world in only the most minimal sense.
I have literally sat at the computer with my 16, 11 and 9-year-olds and pointed to ads and discussed what was wrong with them. As well, my 16-year-old daughter and I have had heart-to-heart conversations about how concerning the role models for today’s young women are. I’ve told her how sad I am that her role models on TV and the ads that surround them are so pathetic: reality TV stars that are awarded for inappropriate behavior, how quickly they take off their clothes; the complete lack of morals; and the lack of respect for human dignity. She says to me: “Mom ,reelaaxxx, it’s not real, it’s just TV, it’s funny”.
I tell her: “For so many, TV equals reality. Ads equal reality. You represent our next generation of mother’s, leaders, business women, teachers and entrepreneurs. If what’s on TV is your role model, I am frankly very concerned, and sad. This is why I want Yoursphere to counter all of that. You deserve, your friends deserve, your sister deserves,( and the young men that grow up to admire you and are friends with you), to be supported for your true talents and interests, and NOT for what is portrayed by a media company to get ratings or to sell a product.”
That’s one of the reasons there’s no commercial advertising in Yoursphere. We choose to advertise the creative work that our kids generate in Yoursphere so that other members can enjoy it, be inspired by it and participate in it. We’d love though, to work with brands that share our same values to support kid’s interests and to inspire their talents and uniqueness.