Kate Tuttle: Rosalind Wiseman, author of the book "Queen Bees & Wannabes" (on which the flick "Mean Girls" was based), is a seasoned expert on what makes teens and tweens tick.
In her latest non-literary venture, Wiseman has joined forces with LG -- one of the world's largest manufacturers of cell phones -- in a campaign aimed at dangerous behaviors our generation never had to deal with: text bullying and sexting (the transmitting of sexually explicit images via text). LG Text Ed is an educational and research project that aims to provide parents and teens with information and guidance about avoiding some of the downsides of cellular technology. Among its recent efforts? A new survey which found that 43 percent of teens admit to sending bullying or harassing texts, and a similar percentage participates in sexting. I spoke with Wiseman over the phone.
Kate Tuttle: Why did you team up with LG, and what is the LG Text Ed program about?
Rosalind Wiseman: I partnered with LG because I jumped at the opportunity to work with a company that had this sort of platform and was really taking responsibility for this incredible tool that they're putting out. And I really respected that there was this awareness that not only are we putting out this wonderful technology, but there are responsibilities that go along with this technology. I absolutely wanted to be part of a company like LG that has just such an ability to make a difference. How could I not?
KT: In your work with teens, how have you seen the social landscape change because of texting?
RW: At base, the ways at which girls go after each other is similar. It's the speed and the scope of it that has changed. It also has added to a kind of very reasonable paranoia that nothing that you do will ever be private. That is a genuine and understandable fear. By the way, boys are very much a part of this mix, creating the content, contributing to the drama.
KT: How big a danger do you think text bullying and sexting are for kids today?
RW: I think they're interconnected, and I think they're incredibly dangerous. There's a sense of never escaping the harshness of the culture or of the attacks. If you happen to be on the receiving end ... it doesn't have to be you; you can be walking down the hallway and it can be happening to a peer, and it feels like you because it's like this thing that's always happening right around you. It dramatically impacts the school environment, and for sexting it sexualizes the school environment. There is no place anymore where this kind of cruel or degrading or sexual behavior ... where you are free from it. That's why I as an educator, and as somebody that some people listen to, I don't fool myself into thinking that I have an ability to change how the culture sees these kinds of issues. But if a company like LG, [which] literally produces the tools, if they get behind and it say that we need to take responsibility and work with parents about this, it has a bigger impact. It helps us all be a united front.
KT: What's the main message parents should take to their kids?
RW: What I'd like people to think about is that this is happening in a context and that parents have a role to play in reinforcing what children do. One of the things that I'm doing with LG is, you can go to the website and you'll see tutorials and videos talking about sexting and what to do about it. From that to things like texting at the dinner table. Our children can lose the ability to interact because they're used to sitting in the corner playing a game on their phone or texting with their friends. If you need more, you can always go to my website, where I give parents free, downloadable information around these issues.