YouTube Teen Brawls Makes Me Ask Parents: What's Going On?


Start talking to your teens now!

I read a disturbing article in several newspapers, and I am hearing about it from other Psychotherapists, Psychologists and Pediatricians. Our girls are acting out, filming it and putting it up on YouTube. The girls are punching, hitting, cursing, pinching and slapping each other to the ground. The crowd is cheering them on and unfortunately, it's getting a lot of attention.

The health care community understands these girls come from homes where they feel neglected, isolated, abused and the treatment they receive in these brawls is most likely no worse than what they receive at home. According to a probation officer in Beaumont, Texas (Lashea Sowell) parents are being urged to monitor their children’s online postings since these brawls have become an epidemic of sorts. Sowell also went on to say the fights are the girl's way of getting someone to notice and love them; they don’t care if it’s positive or negative.

What are we doing to our girls?

Clothing companies making padded bras for eight year olds. Parent’s buy girls shirts that expose their midriff. And many girls are allowed to address their parents and care givers with abusive language. My questions are:

  • Do parents listen when schools are saying the majority of the classroom time is used to deal with children who haven't been parented?
  • Do parents understand that society is trying to sexualize youth, especially our girls?

We all grew up with “bad TV”, but neither I, nor anyone I know, grew up with shows like MTV’s "Skins". A British writer-producer, Bryan Elsley 49, and his son Jamie Brittain, 25 are the masterminds behind this show. Skins routinely depicts sex as a mechanical activity. As Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, director of the Institute for Sex Therapy notes, the attitude in the show equates sex with skateboarding. The sex is casual and never once addresses the emotional aspects or the consequences of hurting someone, or being hurt through sexual encounters.

Many parents don’t want to talk to their children about sex.  Some aren’t comfortable talking about it and others don't believe they know how.  The result is that kids are left to turn to TV, the media and the Internet to learn. And while our kids are learning, they are not learning about intimacy, bonding or responsibility. Instead it's the conversations with their "virtual friends" who educated them on issues they're not comfortable talking to parents about. And we're talking issues that range from sex, to suicide, to bullying. We have gone from a generation of parents trying to be their child’s friend, to a generation of parents who are unaware of what their children are being exposed to in their own home while parent’s are working, sleeping or taking care of other concerns.

As it stands today, this issue is not going to go away unless parents change the way they are parenting.

One way to address this is to start listening, really listening to your kids. If you want to know what they're up to, how they're spending their time or what they might be avoiding telling you, you have to turn off the TV and really spend time listening to your kids. According to True Care, a provider of Internet monitoring for parents, the word "HATE" generates the most number of parental alerts. True Care offers a service that monitors your kids internet activity, including their activity on sites like Facebook and Twitter along with watching their email, monitoring links in content sent to them.

True Care created a list of words/phrases that act as "alerts" to parents when they're used in ongoing converstation.  These words became powerful after being associated with several bullying and suicides events and mostly due to the consequences of teens acting out after these words were written.

Below are the top 22 internet alert words identified:
1. HATE (bullying/racism)
2. PARTY (alcohol/drugs)
3. STUPID (bullying)
4. UGLY (bullying)
5. X (alcohol/drugs)
6. DAMN (bullying)
7. KILL (bullying/racism)
8. FIRE (drugs)
9. A** (bullying/racism)
10. TREES (drugs)
11. SH*T (drugs/bullying/racism)
12. BUSTED (drugs)
13. FREAK (bullying)
14. POSER (bullying)
15. DRINK (alcohol/drugs
16. ICE (drugs)
17. LOVE (sex)
18. BITCH (bullying)
19. LOSER (bullying)
20. MONKEY (sex/bullying)
21. HOMO (bullying)
22. SEX (sex)

It is sad to think we live in a time where you need to have your child’s computer, phone, twitter account and social network page monitored. But, it's sadder still to imagine something happened to your child because you didn’t pay attention and missed what was going on in their life. If I could offer parents any advice it would be this:

  • The best approach is talking with your children. Not once a week, but every day.
  • Have them share their passwords with you. Know the sites they visit, and pay attention to how they act online.
  • Finally, talk to your kids about sex. The best sex educator is you. Don’t leave it to shows like MTV’s Skins to teach your child what sex is about.  Watch a movie or show with your child to help inspire conversation and then talk to your kid(s) about what you think and feel and then listen when they tell you how they feel.

I don’t remember a time when I have known so many great kids. They are our future and our hope. Keep them safe, keep them engaged in your family, let them know that they are essential to the world becoming a better place.

–Mary Jo Rapini

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