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March 31st, 2010
07:30 PM ET

Excerpt: Queen Bees and Wannabes

Rosalind Wiseman
Author of 'Queen Bees and Wannabes'

When should I start talking to you about the impact of technology on your daughter’s world? After a lot of debate (i.e., should it be in the gossip section, the talking-behind-your-back section, the flirting section?), I finally realized that the best place to put it is right here, at the beginning. Because to truly understand a girl growing up in today’s world, you have to have a basic comprehension of the technology she uses to connect and live in it. After this 101 course, you’ll have the keys to unlock the confusing electronic and digital issues that crop up throughout the rest of this book and in your daughter’s everyday life.

It amazes me how much technology has changed my work since I first wrote Queen Bees. Google, Facebook, YouTube, and ten-year-olds with cell phones didn’t exist. The only things my students used to communicate with each other were e-mails.

Now e-mail is the most antiquated form of virtual communication they use. Every day children and teens contact me through various social networking sites. It is part of every presentation I do in almost every class. It enables me to reach children and help them in a way that was impossible a decade ago. But no matter what your age, it can also be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Your daughter lives in two worlds simultaneously—the real world and the virtual world. In her mind, they are interconnected. What happens in one impacts the other, and vice versa. Unfortunately, where adults have struggled is realizing and then knowing how to give our children moral guideposts in the virtual world just as they do in the real world. This book will give you a lot of information on both because one of the most important things I’d like you to take away is seeing your daughter’s use of technology as a way to teach her your family values. You have to embrace it as a critical opportunity to show what you stand for.

First, we have to understand why parents give their children access to technology so easily.
1. The tools of technology became cheaper and more readily available.
2. “I just feel better knowing my child has a cell phone.” Parents believe that if their child has a cell phone, they can reach him or her at any time and they will know where their children are at all times.
3. Having cell phones, iPods, and Game Boys has become so normal that we don’t question whether and when our children should have them.
4. Parents worry that if children don’t have these tools, they will be at a disadvantage compared with their peers and suffer academically.

What parents don’t realize are the other consequences, including the following:
1. They are status symbols among kids and a prime place for children to become mindless, relentless consumers (think about how many times your child has begged you for the latest technology).
2. Cell phones make it more difficult to know where children are because they can lie and say they are exactly where they are supposed to be. Technology makes it much easier to sneak behind parents’ backs and have increased freedom of movement.
3. Technology increases the spread and intensity of gossip, humiliation, and drama.
4.We, the adults, can get so hooked on it ourselves that we rolemodel horrible behavior.

My Truths About How People of All Ages Interact Online
1. They do things online they wouldn’t do in real life.
2. People fight over technology in ways they never would face-to-face because they can say their version of events without getting immediate feedback that might challenge it. It allows people to throw more intense self-righteous temper tantrums.
3. It’s quicker and easier to disseminate information, which then becomes harder to get rid of—there is no digital janitor to paint over our Facebook walls.
4. People give personal information online, knowing that their privacy can very easily be violated. This fact, however, does little to stop them from posting that personal information or being surprised when that information becomes public.
5. Technology fans the flames of paranoia. Almost everyone has had the experience in middle school or high school when they’ve done something really embarrassing and then walked down the school hallway thinking, “Everyone is looking at me. Everyone knows what I did or what happened.” Well, yesterday’s teen paranoia is your daughter’s reality—everybody really does know.
6. They are addicted to being connected. Having been raised in a connective culture, many children feel like there is no way the information stream would stop, or that it should. Even if your child disconnects, she understandably believes that she “can’t ever stop the chatter.” All these people in her school and community now feel like they’re in your house and in her room. Technology provides a constantly updated picture of everyone’s life.

Reproduced with permission Three Rivers Press

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