1. Studies say that teenage girls use social media more than anyone else, while other studies show that many parents are posting about their children from birth (pp. 31–34). Do you post on social media about your kids? What kind of posts, and how often? What effect do you think this has on them?
2. Many girls expressed to author Nancy Jo Sales the feeling that they were “addicted” to social media. Do you think your daughter seems “addicted” or that she is on social media more than she should be? Have you ever talked to her about this or tried to find ways to limit her social media use? Why or why not?
3. While reporting for American Girls, Sales spoke to parents who had virtually no idea what their daughters were doing on social media. How aware are you of your daughter’s social media use? Do you know which apps she is on and how she uses them?
4. Girls told Sales that they felt pressure to get more likes and followers on social media as a sign of social success (pp. 223–25, 289). Have you ever talked to your daughter about whether getting likes and followers is a true measure of someone’s worth? If your daughter seems to be seeking this kind of validation online, what would you tell her about how to redirect her sense of self-esteem toward something other than her social media presence?
5. Many girls told Sales about the pressure they felt to look “hot” on social media, as a way of getting likes and followers. As Sales reports in American Girls, the sexualization of girls is a huge problem in our culture, with wide-ranging consequences (pp. 92, 109–10). Have you ever talked to your daughter about the trend of sexualization, or asked her if she has ever felt this pressure to appear “hot” in her social media posts? If she said yes, how would you respond?
6. Many girls told Sales that they edited their selfies in order to look “better” or even “perfect.” The pressure to be beautiful and “flawless” in social media posts is as problematic for girls as the pressure to appear “hot.” Have you ever discussed with your daughter whether she edits her pictures in order to “improve” her appearance? What could you say if she told you that she is in fact editing herself to appear “better” online?
7. As Sales reports in American Girls, in the culture of social media, it is considered acceptable for both boys and girls to make sexualized comments on one another’s selfies—“You look hot,” etc. This is an aspect of sexualization that many girls experience on a daily basis, again with possibly serious consequences. Have you ever seen these types of comments on your daughter’s social media posts, and if so, have you ever discussed with her what effect they have on her?
8. Many girls around the country told Sales that slut pages—a type of amateur porn site consisting of aggregated nudes, most often nonconsensually shared—are common in their school communities (pp. 48-49, 214-215, 226-27). Have you heard of this from your daughter, and if you did, what was your response? What responsibility do you think parents and schools have to deal with slut pages or similar accounts?
9. The exchanging of nudes has become common among kids. Some girls told Sales that they had received “dick pics” from boys as young as sixth grade. Most girls found it upsetting. Studies say, and girls also told Sales, that they sometimes felt pressure from boys to send nudes (pp. 23–25, 34–37, 109–10, 197). Have you ever talked to your daughters about the exchanging of nudes? The personal, social, and potentially even legal ramifications? The danger of nudes being nonconsensually shared? It’s an uncomfortable subject. How would you begin?
10. Sexting doesn’t always involve the exchanging of nude pictures; sometimes it’s just texting or chatting of a sexual nature. Studies say, and Sales heard from girls, that this practice can start as early as middle school and that sexts are also frequently shared nonconsensually (pp. 42–44, 109, 253). Have you ever talked with your daughter about sexting? What guidelines would you give her?
11. According to some studies, around 40 percent of girls have been cyber-
bullied. Have you ever talked to your daughter about cyberbullying? If your daughter were cyberbullied, how would you respond? Sales reports in American Girls that, although schools do have the power to discipline students who cyberbully, many schools claim there is nothing they can do. How do you think schools should get involved in combatting this problem?
12. There is a common notion that “girls are mean,” but when Sales investigated this widely held idea, she found it to be without scientific merit, and partly based on a handful of books with insufficient evidence. Girls, it seems, are no meaner than anyone else (pp. 152–53, 161–68). But the idea that “girls are mean,” that meanness is “normal” girl behavior, is often used to dismiss the cyberbullying of girls, and in fact to dismiss the victimization of girls in other areas. Have you ever found yourself using the phrase “girls are mean?” Have you ever thought about what effect this phrase might have on your daughter’s sense of what it means to be a girl, and have you ever discussed this with her?
13. Studies suggest that communicating on screens may be making children less capable of communicating face-to-face and less empathetic (pp. 135–36). Have you noticed your own children turning away from face-to-face communication and toward communicating by text or through social media? Have you noticed yourself doing this as well? What do you think you can do as a parent, and with your family, to talk more and teach your children more about face-to-face interaction?
14. One of the most troubling revelations in American Girls is the pernicious effect that online porn is having on teenagers and even children—on their view of sexuality, gender, love, sex, and romance (pp. 17, 314, 331–32, 368, 372–73). Do you know if your kids are watching porn? Do you ever talk to them about it? Do you think you should? Why or why not? What do you think we should do as a society about children’s access to online porn?
15. Porn, some studies say, encourages a tolerance for sexual violence in both boys and girls. Sales suggests in American Girls that the availability of online porn may be having an effect on how kids view what to expect in a sexual experience, including, possibly sexual violence (pp. 15–16, 65, 361, 373). Does this trouble you? As uncomfortable as it is, do you think you should be talking to your kids—both boys and girls—about this?
16. Sales reports in American Girls that sexual harassment in schools has become a major, and largely unacknowledged, problem (pp. 271–74). Girls often find themselves the recipients of not only unwanted comments but unwanted gestures and touching—and yet many girls say they feel this is a “normal” part of life about which nothing can be done. Sales suggests that the culture of social media may be adding to an overall acceptance of sexual harassment (pp. 191–92). Do you agree with the connection she is making here? Why or why not? What responsibility do parents and schools have to stop sexual harassment in schools?
17. Studies show a sharp rise in drinking among teenage girls and young women, and girls are reportedly having their first drink at a younger age, around fourteen (pp. 298–99). Sales reports that the rise in drinking among girls may be connected to hookup culture, where being intoxicated helps in dealing with becoming physically intimate with someone you don’t know very well(pp. 258–59). And hookup culture, Sales believes, may have been accelerated by social media and dating apps, which make instant intimacy more possible or even likely. What do you think we should be telling our daughters about drinking? At what age do you feel we should begin this conversation?
18. Some have accused parents or other adults who are concerned about online predators with raising a “moral panic” (pp. 108–9). Sales suggests in American Girls that this may be abdicating our responsibility as parents and adults to protect our children from inappropriate attention. The culture of social media promotes the making of connections between strangers, and there is ample evidence that strangers do avail themselves of their ability to contact children online. Sales was alarmed to hear stories from many girls about how they were approached on social media by adults. Have you talked to your daughter about unwanted attention from strangers online and how she should respond if it happens? What can we do as parents to keep our daughters from encountering these situations?
19. Sales believes that one way to change the culture of social media is to educate both girls and boys about the history of the women’s movement and feminism (pp. 373–74). She proposes that if more kids knew about women’s struggle to achieve equality and their historical fight for their rights, they might have a different view of sexism and sexual harassment in their own lives and on social media. Do you think school curricula should include more information about the history of women and girls in America? If yes, how can we encourage schools to address this issue?
20. Do you agree with Sales’s argument that members of the tech industry should take more responsibility for the abuse of their apps by users (pp. 134–35, 374)? What do you think we can do as parents and adults to get the leaders of Silicon Valley to be more engaged about the effects their products have on teenagers and children, especially girls? How can we get them to become more active in the fight against cyberbullying, sexual harassment, and the abuse of children and teenagers online?
21. Many girls expressed to Sales a desire for guidance from their parents about what to do about experiences they had on social media, while also expressing trepidation about telling their parents what was really going on. If you were going to have a conversation with your daughter about her social media use, how would you begin? Do you feel this conversation should be ongoing? Could social media use be a part of the discussions you may already be having with her about alcohol and drug use and sexual behavior?