Book Club Highlights - "American Girls"

Pages Book Store is now featuring a South Bay Families Connected Parent Resources and Education Center. Monthly book clubs and discussion groups will be held at Pages free of charge for all South Bay parents. 

Howard Barker

Howard Barker

We are so thankful that Howard Barker of Clear Recovery Center was able to make it to our most recent book club where we discussed American Girls: Social Media and The Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. Here is a brief summary of what was discussed in the meeting:

In Howard’s own words, “for better or for worse, social media is here to stay." Just like drugs or alcohol, social media is an addiction if not used responsibly. Symptoms like hiding a cellphone under a pillow before bed or throwing a fit if social media/technology usage is taken away directly mirror symptoms of a drug or alcohol addiction, where one is outraged without the substance and will go to great lengths to continue usage. Our children are growing up in a very digital age, and while this has some pros, it also has some cons. Using technology and social media sites at a young age creates a dependence, where pleasure is created from likes. Boys and girls both create staged or marketed pictures, tweets, etc. that they post online where they can find a high level of satisfaction and a low level of confrontation. Social media is here to stay, and taking it away only solves the problem in the short term. What we must do is add something in our children’s lives so they can reach a place where their self esteem is determined by behaviors, rather than the number of likes on a picture. Encouraging and rewarding participation in extra-curricular activities that your child enjoys or consistently complementing/rewarding your child when they exhibit positive behavior towards others are two examples of how we can help our children feel validated outside of the world of social media.

We also discussed the availability of porn online. It is inevitable that at some point in their childhood, most children will begin to become interested in some degree of porn. Porn raises the standard for both men and women, and lowers the shock value of a real sexual experience. In excess, porn can hinder one’s ability to form intimate relationships later in life. But how do we limit our children’s exposure to porn when it’s so easy to find? A great tactic is shaping a child’s character and instilling values in them in order to help them make smart decisions when it comes to porn, rather than simply banning your child from it altogether. One mother in the audience shared a strategy her family used: her husband spoke to her two boys and let them know that porn is not traditional, conventional, sex and is not something to be expected out of a significant other. Talking to your children early and often about this topic and others related to healthy sex is essential for an honest, open relationship regarding these topics.

So, how do you start this conversation? One mom in attendance suggested having these kinds of conversations in the car, where eye contact can be easily avoided. Howard suggested rather than telling your kids things, try and let them bring it out within themselves, so they are doing the talking rather than you. Many parents in attendance agreed that it is far better if you have a conversation with your child about these issues, instead of them overhearing it at school or from a friend.  This goes for any important conversation: If you bring up the topic yourself, you can help control what your child is learning. If you leave it up to the school or your child’s peer group, you won't know what being said and if what's being discussed is actually true.

Howard was a great help and amazing resource at the book club, and there are several other resources on the South Bay Families Connected website where you can find additional answers to these tough topics. Please visit our social media/technology page and our sexual consent awareness page as a start. We are hoping to speak with Nancy Jo Sales in the near future, so for those of you keeping up with the book, stay tuned!

-Haley Webb
South Bay Families Connected Intern, summer 2016
Sophomore at Miami University of Ohio
Mira Costa High School Graduate