I now and you know that our teens are busy evaluating each other. Today, though, even I was shocked when I learned that the male teens at Issaquah High School in Washington have a tradition of rating the teen girls' on hotness level. They have a specific website designated for this. And, I am not even kidding when I tell you that this is reported to be a five-year-old tradition. http://http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020941262_issaquahhottestxml.html
Look, when I arrived in college at age 17, the young men were circling photos of the incoming freshman that they found "hot." I was surprised that this was one of the uses of the Freshman Orientation guide. Actually, it was the leader of my orientation group who showed me his copy of the book with the circled photos. Yep, I was among the circled. I kid you not when I tell you that I was confused by this. I was young. I was learning about how we were to evaluate each other and I wasn't of the website and Facebook generation. I guess I was lucky.
These days, things are different, and teen girls and teen boys have to contend with getting evaluated publicly. Imagine what it must be like to have your photo up on a website for all the teen boys in your high school to evaluate. Imagine not making it onto that list. And why, I wonder, has the school been unable to effectively handle this problem? What about the parents? This is a five-year problem and parents have not been able to see which of their sons are participating?
I have a very hard time with this concept. Again, we return to a number of disconcerting factors that allow this tradition to continue. In my experience talking to parents of teens and to teens themselves, I can tell you with confidence what these factors are:
1. Parents are afraid of upsetting their teens. If they tell their teens to stop doing something like evaluating girls on a website, they then become afraid that their teens will get mad at them. Parents these days are so afraid of their teens getting mad at them. Let me remind parents everywhere that your teens will get over their anger at you. They will still call you to babysit for their kids when they are older. I promise.
2. Parents, unfortunately, do not feel that they have a right to monitor what their teens are doing on the Internet. Well, I feel differently. Parents not only should, but must monitor their teens' online behavior. Look, I'm not suggesting that you do it all day long. I'm suggesting instead that you check in every now and then.
3. Teach your sons to think about girls and young women in a variety of ways, not just in terms of "hotness level." How about thinking about girls in terms of how compassionate, funny, kind and intelligent they are? You get my point.
4. Our old friend "diffusion of responsibility" seems to be operating here as well. No single parent takes action because they assume someone else will. As a result no one does anything.
5. I really understand this one. No one wants to admit that their kid did anything wrong. How about teaching our kids to act as a group and to consider whether or not their behavior as a group is acceptable? They can act and maybe even apologize as a group. At least this takes the pressure off a single individual.