Alice: “Mom, I know what they did is wrong. But please don’t tell anyone.
Mom: “I realize they’re your classmates. But we have to do something.”
Alice: “It's none of our business, Mom. And if you tell, no one will ever trust us again!”
Moments earlier, my sixth-grader had anxiously led me to an internet website created by three junior high girls at their small school. The "Hotties Slideshow" featured photos of its twelve- and thirteen-year-old authors in a series of provocative poses with accompanying suggestive titles, all set to a steamy pop torch song. I winced as I watched it.
But my daughter assured me that wasn't even the bad part of the slideshow. Suddenly onto the screen burst an unflattering shot of Samantha, one of the girls in her older sister's 8th-grade class, with a cruel commentary about Samantha's physical appearance.I supposed I'd known that this was bound to happen sooner or later, one of those big tests of parenthood. But somehow I wasn't prepared. What are you supposed to do when you discover that your daughters' friends are doing things that you believe are wrong—or even dangerous?
I called my eighth-grader into the room and asked her what she thought about the Hotties Slideshow. "I think it's horrible, Mom," she admitted, her eyes trained steadily on the laces of her purple-and-green sneakers. “But Samantha doesn't know about the website,” she rushed on. “If you bust the other guys, there will be a scandal and Samantha will be humiliated in front of the entire school."
My daughter had a point. On the other hand, the website itself was public, and because word travels fast among the junior high population in a small school community, Samantha's feelings were bound to be hurt soon. Perhaps equally disturbing was the rest of the slideshow. Despite my daughters' pleading reassurances that it was "no big deal" and that "lots of kids" put up sexy shots of themselves on the internet, I was feeling queasy. Who else out there in cyberspace would end up viewing the "Hotties Slideshow"?
Obviously, it was time for the adults to intervene. It takes a village to raise a child, and my responsibility as a citizen of that village was clear. To my daughters' distress, I picked up the phone.
But who to call? The parents of the Slide Show trio might tell me to mind my own business. Samantha's parents might feel shocked by the news, and unsupported if all I offered was a telephone tip. And, save the fact that the unflattering picture of Samantha was taken on campus, this was not technically a school issue—was it? I put the phone back in its cradle and took the dog out for a long walk, and a think.
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