Parents warned to wake up

08 Oct 2008

By The Record

By Anthony Barich
Parents need to be up to speed with the language and knowledge of culture and technology to communicate with their daughters about key issues and save them from harm.

Maggie Hamilton

That’s the assessment of Sydney-based author, teacher and publisher Maggie Hamilton whose recent book What’s happening to our girls? delves into issues concerning girls from birth to late teens based on interviews with girls, psychologists, school counsellors, medicos and police who work undercover on the Net.
She said that a key reason girls are vulnerable is because parents aren’t aware that teen and pre-teen life is very different now, and this leaves girls vulnerable.
“I’m not blaming parents or educators, but we’ve had a massive social change in popular consumer culture, and companies and the media are more tapped into the aspirations and mindset of children than parents are,” she said.
“We need to wake up to facebook (social networking website) and youtube so we’re on the same page, when our kids know we’re not.
Adults live in a parallel world so they know they can’t talk to us about personal issues (especially when related to technology).”
Babies from birth to six months are now a multi-billion dollar market and little girls are addicted to shopping long before they can read or write, she said, while kindergarten and pre-school teachers are now seeing a “major decline in imagination and increase in anxieties, while anxieties about weight and clothes are prominent.
Her research found that these anxieties intensify for girls aged six to 12 as this “sex and shopping” culture creates a range of what were once seen as “teen problems” in girls seven and up. Increasing numbers of girls are now choosing their friends based on brands and are experiencing body issues and other anxieties previously unknown at their age, she said.
The research also found that one in 10 girls are now cutting themselves and every weekend girls as young as 12 are admitted to emergency wards so drunk they can’t breathe.
Underage sex has skyrocketed along with sexually transmitted diseases including Chlamydia which can cause infertility.
Ms Hamilton said that, like other parents, she always thought these were isolated cases, but was shocked at their prevalence once she spoke to pre-school teachers, school counsellors, police and emergency unit staff.
What’s happening to our girls is available from
The Record Bookshop. Call 9227 7080.