Cyber sex on facetime
We are talking in their cozy two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.A homemade menorah sits on a wood table in the living room, which seems to be the only room not painted a vibrant color (Ruby’s is pink; the entrance neon green).When TV, music, social media and the Internet are used as baby-sitters – when adults don’t ask girls questions or encourage them to think critically (and sometimes even when they do) – a dangerous scenario emerges: The media start to parent.
She has long blond hair, arched eyebrows and a gigantic smile.“I’m not dating anyone right now,” says Sarah, 11, who lives across the street and says she wants to be an interior designer. After practicing their supermodel walks and screeching comments like “Rearrrrr! ” they discuss what sexy means.“When you’re sexy, it means you show off your body,” says Madison, who wants to be either an archaeologist or a Victoria’s Secret model. At the same time, the word has become so common that it allows many adults to distance themselves from this radical transformation in the sexualization of young girls, as if it were just another life stage. For the last few years, I have been following this stunning transformation, talking with girls, parents and experts.
(Unless first and last names are given, all names have been changed for confidentiality.)Today’s tween is no longer a child but not yet an adolescent; too old for Barbie dolls and Disney Junior, too young for Facebook and to understand the search results that pop up when she googles “sexy.” She is old enough to text, want designer jeans and use Instagram, but too young to have her own credit card and driver’s license.
Still, she is a malleable thinker, consumer and marketing target.
”Four best friends pile onto a couch in an attic playroom in a leafy suburb of Boston. And as everyone with a TV, computer, smartphone or newspaper knows, Miley Cyrus proved she is no longer a Disney Girl by strutting around the stage at the 2013 MTV VMAs in flesh-colored latex underwear, her tongue wagging, her hips gyrating, a huge foam finger provocatively thrust between her legs.
It is the fall of 2009, just a few hours after school has let out for Thanksgiving break. Over the past two decades, the rise of the Internet and social media initiated a dramatic shift in popular culture: Almost everything that could be sexualized has been sexualized, producing a new generation of girls racing toward womanhood before even finishing puberty. Census estimates that there are more than 20 million tweens in the country; just under half are girls, and they are the primary focus of this story.