Nearly 10 years ago, author Rachel Simmons wrote a best-selling book called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. Now she has updated her book to include the role of social media and technology.
These days, with frantic Facebook stalking, girls sending thousands of text messages a month and sometimes sleeping with their cell phones under their pillows, bullies have new ways to reach into girls' worlds.
"You can't really talk about girls anymore without talking about the role of social media in their lives," Simmons tells All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris. "For many girls, technology is not just what connects them, but it's part of their relationships. So many girls will say, 'I don't exist if I'm not on Facebook.' It's a huge part of how they navigate their lives."
Simmons, who also helps run the Girls Leadership Institute summer camp, says that girls don't have a lot of communications skills when they're teenagers, so they lean on social media to navigate their conflicts.
"If I'm upset with you and we're both in eighth grade and I don't have the tools to tell you that, I'm going to get on my cell phone. And because I'm not looking you in the eye, I'm going to say terrible things to you," she says. "And if I go on Facebook and I say nasty things on your public page, other girls start to see it — and if they want to get involved, they can add what they feel. And the target begins then to feel that not only does everyone hate me, but I can see that. Everyone can see it. And I can't go home, I can't hide."
Here are some tips that Simmons offers to parents of teenage girls (you can read these in fuller detail on the excerpt):
- Be a good example and don't spend all of your own time on your cell phone or social media. Also, it's important to start saying, "No."
- Don't let your child sleep with her cell phone. "Give her a stuffed animal," Simmons says.
- Have a cell-phone parking area, where all cell phones go at meal time, homework time and at the end of the day.
- And tell girls not to share their passwords with their best friends. "You can tell your daughter, 'If worst comes to worst, blame it on me. Tell your friend I made you change your password and keep it private,'" Simmons says.