Are Girls Really on the Edge?
Are Girls Really on the Edge? A Parent Vignette
Two years ago, it was a fresh spring day.
Blooms were coming to life all around me but my own spirit was fading. In this season of newness, I had recently been introduced to a season of newness in my own life: parenting a teenage girl. You see, my daughter was no longer a little girl, wearing bows and princess dresses. She was now coming into her teen years (12 years old, on the cusp of 13). She went from watching Little House on the Prairie to asking if she could watch The Hunger Games. Gulp. This transition was difficult for me so on this fresh spring day, I reached out to a friend, an older, wiser friend, who had teenagers. I shared my woes, asking advice on how to parent a teen girl.
She asked a question that would change the course of my parenting choices for my teen girl:
“Have you read Girls on the Edge by Dr. Sax?”
She then went into a five-minute enthusiastic rant about this book. “You have GOT to read it. It will help you understand teenage issues for girls these days… you have GOT to read it.”
Needless to say, I went to the local library and picked one up ASAP.
I devoured it.
I had NO idea of all the issues that were happening around teenage girls in this day and age.
Dr. Sax’s book enlightened me. I was especially unaware of the cyber-bubble: technology and social media issues and how girls are significantly affected by them.
This book was an eye-opener to a mom in my own little bubble: the Christian (i.e. the I-don’t-know-these-worldly-issues) bubble and the not-having-any-teenagers bubble and the I-don’t-know-much-about-social media-or-technology bubble! After reading this book, the bubble burst, abruptly, but in a really good way. I was now educated to tackle the issues my daughter would be facing in this day and age, but it would not be easy.
Fast Forward 2 years later…
Our daughter is 14, on the cusp of 15. After reading Girls On the Edge, we delayed giving our daughter a phone until we had to. We gave her a phone after graduating from Ambleside. She was 14 and we wanted her to have a phone, because she was now taking public transportation to a local, private Christian school.
I wish I had better news to share but all the difficult things Dr. Sax mentioned about social media and girls have turned out to be true!
A few months ago, at my kids’ dentist’s office, the dental assistant, whom I have known for years, told me her daughter was hospitalized for anxiety and depression. The mom told me it was largely due to the incessant comparisons her teen daughter would make over social media. In her daughter’s eyes, her life was terrible, unlike the lives of her friends (that is, her friends' unrealistic “always happy” lives posted on Instagram). Now instead of reading about these stories in Dr. Sax’s book, I was now privy to hearing first-hand about them. These stories were now real.
We have now personally heard of stories of girls experiencing depression, anxiety and even committing suicide, over issues, having to do with technology, that didn’t exist when we were kids.
We have witnessed girls taking selfies on the beach for hours, inappropriately, oblivious of the world around them, meticulously caring about their perfect image as if it’s the only thing that matters.
We have witnessed girls (we know) on Instagram posing in their bra and underwear and making their images public.
We, as parents, have monitored text conversations and have had to learn about all kinds of inappropriate acronyms to stay on top of things, and to help our daughter respond rightly to a world of incoming vulgar messages.
We have had to intervene, pick up the phone, and call a parent (whom we didn’t know), when their son was sending inappropriate messages to our daughter.
We have had to install apps to monitor issues over the phone. We’ve had to set limits, re-set limits, and have continuous conversations on many things regarding our daughter’s use of the phone.
The list goes on but I’ll stop here.
It is almost overwhelming but I thank God we don’t have to be overwhelmed. As parents, we can set limits and teach our kids to set them, too. We can teach them to redeem technology for good purposes.
It’s not easy but it can be done, with persistence and continuously staying-on-top-of-things. And I mean that. Parents: Stay. On. Top. Of. Things.
It is a full-time job but we must do it.
Fast Forward to one month ago…
It was a chilly, fall night. My mother-in-law was visiting and took my daughter out for dinner. They were enjoying their meal at a local restaurant, and a middle-aged man approached them and said, “I want to ask you one question: How did you do that?” pointing to my daughter.
“How did I do what?” my mother-in-law asked.
“How did you make her not touch her phone this whole time? I’ve been watching and she has not touched her phone. I think that’s amazing. I’ve never seen a teenager not look at their phone out at a restaurant. I wish my teens wouldn’t look at their phones when we are out. How did you do that?”
My mother-in-law said, “Sir, that’s on her parents. Her parents have something to do with that. I didn’t tell her to do that. She did it on her own. That’s her parents doing.”
If I were there, I would say to that amazed by-stander, “Sir, that’s on Dr. Sax. Dr. Sax has everything to do with that. He taught us the dangers of the phone and we have done everything as parents to set limits and to help our daughter use it wisely and appropriately.”
That would be my answer to that amazed bystander.
Today, I reflect.
Different parenting seasons have come and gone. Sometimes it still feels like winter, hard and dreary, and some days it feels as happy as a summer day at the beach. But through it all, I am grateful for that fresh spring day when I was introduced to the author, Dr. Sax.
Dr. Sax, thank you for helping us navigate these seasons of parenting a teenage daughter. My husband and I are truly grateful.
- Jessel Newton, Ambleside Parent