Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Talking Teenage: Sexuality & Social Media

Talking Teenage Today I'm cross posting with Talking Teenage, the wonderful blog and website run by Dr's Barbara R. Greenberg & Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder who are clinical psychologists specializing in work with teens and their parents. Through their own experiences they have listened and learned from the teens in their lives. Keeping in mind this ongoing base of knowledge they use their site and book to act as interpreters, psychologists, teachers, and students of teen language and interactions in an effort to help parents navigate the teen years as enjoyably as possible.

In this post on Sexuality and Social Media, Barbara and Jennifer share some advice on how to address the issue of sexuality and social media with your teens and tweens.

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 they are aware of the speed and far reach of messages sent electronically. 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.

If you’d like to learn more about Talking Teenage, visit their site. They also have a book that is for sale through Amazon and through a link at their site.

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