Picture it: Christmas morning. Your family is gathered around the tree, tossing wrapping paper and putting bows on their heads. Everyone is having a great time and enjoying their gifts. Your 12-year-old son opens up a pair of athletic pants. He tries them on and puts his hands in his pockets. Inside he finds a card. Thinking it’s a tag, he tosses it on the ground. You pick it up, realizing that it’s actually a link to a Snapchat profile. Curious, you grab your phone and end up at a young girl’s page. Huh? What is this all about?
Evidently this is a thing. There are TikTok videos of teenage girls stuffing cards with their personal information into pants, shorts, even underwear in sporting goods stores. This is how they are getting followers. Random people. There is so much wrong here. Where do I even start?
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The above scenario happened this Christmas to the son of a friend of mine. The pants in question were a youth large. A YOUTH large! This card was intended for a young person to find. Let’s say that the linked profile is real. That means a teenage girl is out looking for male followers. Kids or men who are not very big!
Let’s address the creep factor first. There is no guarantee those pants are going home to a teenager. There is also no guarantee that the person who finds them isn’t a total whack job. By putting that card in a random pair of pants, this girl is opening herself up to a world that she probably isn’t ready for. Even if the profile is set to private, she is intending to add total strangers to her account. That’s scary stuff.
What if in fact it does end up in some creep’s hands? There are so many scenarios that could play out here. It’s terrifying. It’s dangerous. Sex trafficking is very real and it’s happening every day. You see it on the news all the time. Young girls go missing. They are lured away by adults that they think that they can trust. As adults, we know that it’s pretty easy to get information online. A couple of Google searches and you can find out just about anything about anyone. When young people start getting involved in social media, they are creating their online footprint. And that needs to be done carefully. You must keep your cards close, protected. You can’t just let anyone into your circle.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my daughter putting cards in underwear boxes with links to her social media. Granted, she’s only four, but where does this stuff end? What will it be like when she is a teenager? I am legitimately scared. Not just for her, but for any girl that feels that she needs to be validated by total strangers. We need to be building our girls up. Letting them know that they are smart and they are strong and that they can do great things. They are not just the persona that they exude on social media.
There are memes that say things like, “How girls dress today vs. how they dressed me when I was a kid.” There is a stark difference between the two. I was a teenager in the ’90s — you’re talking overalls and flannels. Today, things are tight and low cut and pretty age-inappropriate. But that is what society has created as the expectation of a teenage girl to be. Our world is image obsessed. You’ll never be skinny enough, pretty enough, have big enough boobs, or wear enough makeup. But if you are, make sure that you show it off. Get as many followers as you can. That will fill your cup. That will make you feel better. Likes and followers make you worthwhile. It’s so sad.
As a mom of three boys, I want them to respect girls. I don’t want them to equate their worth to the physical. But, I am not naive. I know what boys like and that’s fine. It’s normal. It’s OK. And it’s OK for girls to want to feel attractive, but there has to be a happy medium here. We have to be able to find a way for our teenagers to feel good and respect themselves at the same time and to be smart about all of it.
I am just entering into the teenage world with my oldest son. But I have cautioned him to think things through before he texts anything or posts on message boards or makes comments places. It never goes away. A stupid mistake will follow you for the rest of your life.
So what do we do to help our kids? How do we make them understand that a stupid Tik Tok video playing “Single Ladies” by Beyonce is not where you should be picking up dating tips. How do we help them to understand that social media is to be taken seriously and it needs to be done safely? I’m not sure that I have the answers, but it’s becoming a serious talk that parents need to have. I don’t believe in scarring my children with horror stories, but a few small scares isn’t such a bad thing.
We need to be honest and forthright and help our kids to understand that at 40 you never want your children to find something about you online from when you were younger that embarrasses them. You don’t want to embarrass yourself and you positively don’t want to put yourself in a situation that you cannot handle. Social media can be a wonderful way to communicate, and share photos, and stories, and things about your life — but not with some guy who just bought new boxer briefs.