Is Facebook Sexualizing Young Girls?

Is the pressure of social media causing kids to act too sexy, too soon?
Is the pressure of social media causing kids to act too sexy, too soon?

Adolescence can be a tricky time for even the most well-adjusted kid out there. Add technology and social media to the equation, though, and young teens can find themselves facing the kind of scrutiny once reserved only for celebrities. They're constantly in front of a camera (usually in the form of a smartphone or a webcam), the images open to criticism from peers and strangers alike. In a bid to be -- or remain -- popular, many kids are posing in increasingly provocative, and inappropriate, ways.

Is Facebook forcing young girls to be too sexual, too soon?

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Thirteen-year-old Jordan tells The New York Times: "I feel like I have to look good all the time - at school, at parties, at the mall, whenever I am socializing out of the house. I want people to say, 'She looks great.' I'm not happy if I don't think I look good."

It sounds typical teenage insecurity, but in this age of sexting and cyber-bullying, an embarrassing outfit can become a matter of public debate in minutes.

"Before a video chat, I'll fix my hair and make sure that I look good," Grace, who is in eighth grade, told The New York Times. "If I just got out of the shower and my hair is wet, or I'm wearing my sweats, I'll cover the camera with a Post-it, or I just won't accept the video chat."

The constant need to look good is fed by a need for acceptance, something that tweens and teens can gauge easily thanks to Facebook "Likes" and comments, both kind and cruel. The more "likes" a Facebook picture has, the more popular the kid is perceived to be -- which can translate to better (or worse) treatment by peers in real life. And some people's "Likes" are more important than others'.

"Girls don't just want to get 'Likes' from their close friends," 14-year-old Lily explained. "They want to get them from boys, or older kids, or kids from other schools who are popular."

So they vamp for the camera: hips out, lips pouty, outfits skimpier and skimpier, cleavage on display.

"What garners attention is not the typical, it's the outrageous, it's the edgy,'' Dr. Robyn Silverman, the author of "Good Girls Don't Get Fat,'' pointed out when Disney star Miley Cyrus took her image from squeaky-clean to very vampy. "It's about any attention you can get. What sells?''

But when reality-TV shows like "Dance Moms" showcase adults who dress 8- to 12-year-old girls in nude bras and pink feathers for an "innocent burlesque routine" and push-up bikinis come sized for 7-year-olds, it's no wonder kids have gotten the idea that sexing it up for the camera is not only normal, but encouraged.

What do you think? Does social media encourage tweens and teens to act inappropriately sexual? Or is it just another stage on which the usual teenage popularity contest plays out -- one that parents are more aware of only because its online?

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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