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They realize it, too, and quickly migrate to the other side of the playroom, where they practice handstands and check themselves out in the mirror. ”Emma tries to look occupied, but she is clearly clocking every moment, every detail: the way these older girls talk, dress, laugh and tease.
”Four best friends pile onto a couch in an attic playroom in a leafy suburb of Boston. ” asks Madison, then 11, who had recently left the local middle school for a private school. The result terrifies many adults: American women, age tween. Tweens range in age from 10 to 12 years or 8 to 14 years, depending on whom you ask. The nickname “tween” references a vaguely defined life stage (somewhere between childhood and adolescence) but it also delineates a dynamic marketing niche.She spends a significant portion of her day plugged in – communicating, posting photos, playing games, surfing the web, watching videos and socializing.When TV, music, social media and the Internet are used as baby-sitters – when adults don’t ask girls questions or encourage them to think critically (and sometimes even when they do) – a dangerous scenario emerges: The media start to parent. She sits next to me and plays with a pair of magnets.“You know when I was saying like, our generation is earlier? You’ll know soon enough.” - yes, a toy horse and a board game - got sexy makeovers. Cat’s mom walks in with Madison’s younger sister, Emma.“So we can um, talk about something else? She looks around the room with the awe of someone just granted a backstage pass to a concert she wasn’t allowed to attend in the first place. And they know what they’re called, and they know how to do it. At one point, Madison stands up and shouts at me, “We promise we’ll let you in on all the info.”And then, to her sister: “Emma, it’s sixth-grade stuff.Try a search in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago or Houston.
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It is the fall of 2009, just a few hours after school has let out for Thanksgiving break. She has long blond hair, arched eyebrows and a gigantic smile.“I’m not dating anyone right now,” says Sarah, 11, who lives across the street and says she wants to be an interior designer. After practicing their supermodel walks and screeching comments like “Rearrrrr! ” they discuss what sexy means.“When you’re sexy, it means you show off your body,” says Madison, who wants to be either an archaeologist or a Victoria’s Secret model. At the same time, the word has become so common that it allows many adults to distance themselves from this radical transformation in the sexualization of young girls, as if it were just another life stage. For the last few years, I have been following this stunning transformation, talking with girls, parents and experts.
The girls wear Uggs and Juicy Couture sweatshirts and are discussing boys, Lady Gaga and blow jobs. She has an innocent face and wears a pink fleece jacket and dangly star earrings.“Me neither! The only girl who doesn’t answer is Cat, a bubbly, plump 11-year-old who has a boyfriend but won’t admit it, so Brianna shouts, “Cat dates Andy! “Boys look for boobs.”“No they don’t,” Brianna says. When I met Brianna, Sarah, Cat and Madison in 2009, social media had not yet infiltrated tweendom; Instagram didn’t exist, nor did Snapchat and Vine.
It is impossible to write about the representative tween, since each girl has unique experiences, interests and points of reference.
Geographic, racial, religious, socioeconomic and familial factors vary, too, and play key roles in development.
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