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02/23/2016 11:00 PM

Seven Things Parents Should Know About Social Media

Nancy Jo Sales said her book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, provides parents with plenty of information about current issues affecting young girls when it comes to social media. Here are seven things she learned while researching the book she says parents should know right now.

1. Anonymous sites are not safe places for kids. Kik can preserve users’ anonymity. Yik Yak is another. There is There are others.

2. If you have a daughter, know that it is not uncommon for them to be approached online by strangers. “Girls like to get likes and follows, so they might agree to someone they’ve never heard of to get their follows to go up,” she says.

3. “Pardon the expression, but the ‘slut-page’ has become incredibly common.” Typically boys, and sometimes even girls, will aggregate nude pictures of girls and put them on a Facebook or Instagram page. “Sure it gets flagged and taken down, but that’s after everyone’s seen it. It’s like an amateur porn site, with pictures of children and teenagers.”

4. Girls are being asked to “send nudes” in just about every community Sales visited. “It’s a degrading and insulting thing to even be asked. Children and teenagers need guidance on this. There is no Judy Blume book dealing with this,” Sales said.

5. For those who say these activities are a normal expression of young sexuality, Sales responded, if girls are being hurt, it’s not healthy. “This is replacing other forms of what I would call normal intimacy so quickly.” Instead of dating for months, walking home and doing schoolwork together, children and teens are being led to believe it’s normal to have a hookup culture. “It’s just accelerated so much. Some young men compared dating apps to ordering food on Seamless [another app]. It’s like ordering a person.”

6. According to the girls Sales talked with, “there is really a dire need for parents to get involved...Girls can be really vulnerable to slut-shaming. Sometimes it’s a pictures, sometimes it’s just a rumor someone makes up and puts online. But sometimes it can lead to a girl not wanting to go to school, or having to move schools, or having to move away. Anyone who thinks this is healthy, you have to ask what planet they live on.”

7. Porn is prevalent online, and it’s become a factor in youth culture. “It’s illegal for kids to go into a store and buy a porn magazine, but they can click a few buttons and watch the most vile and degrading-to-women porn you can imagine. We’re not talking about a picture of Barbie Benton on a bearskin rug,” Sales said. “It’s violent and degrading and choking and hitting and slapping and women crying and feeling pain.” Sales said the most popular word search on Porn Hub in 2014 was the word “teen.”