The other day, my 7th grade son showed me a text from a girl who is a friend. It said, "One a scale of 1-10, how cute am I?"
Luckily, my relationship with my oldest is pretty tight, and he often shares the little and big things going on in his life. He brought me his phone and said, "Read this mom. Seriously, what do I say?"
I said a quick, silent prayer of gratitude that his little heart understood that something about her question was a bit off and he was not prepared to answer it. I told him to say, "You are so much more than a number, so I don't want to play that game." He did, and her reply was something like, "Oh, okay." Maybe a bit deep for 7th grade, but I promise she will thank me later.
This is a favorite in the middle school arena. The idea is to post your cutest possible selfie, then ask your "friends" to rate your hotness on a scale from 1-10. It can be found on Instagram, Snapchat, and through text message.
Can we please encourage our children to stop playing this game? I can just imagine my awkward, middle school self with curly bangs in a denim striped shirt buttoned to the top, taking a picture with amateur make-up, zits and braces, trying desperately to get a photo at the perfect angle so I might look prettier than I ever really was. I can then see myself, with unfounded confidence, posting that picture, only to see numbers roll in from people who are just as insecure as I am. Those are moments you don't forget. What if I went through life thinking I was about a 6? Would I have lived my life like a 6?
Adding insult to injury is the fact that every middle school girl has a "prettier" friend who of course pulls in 9s and 10s. Those superficial ratings become gospel ...regardless of talents, abilities, or intelligence, she is a 9 and you are a 6. The phone said so. Case closed.
If you have a daughter, check her posts, read her texts, talk to her about self-worth and real beauty. Tell her that this game has no place in her world. Discuss the power she can have when she refuses to let others dictate her value. Encourage her to remember her own divinity, to find something she is passionate about and have confidence in her own style, so she doesn't erroneously think that being pretty and having worth go hand in hand. Remind her that basing how she feels about herself on what middle school boys and girls think is positively crazy.
For example, most boys, upon viewing a post like that, will think one of three things:
"Hmmm, I don't know. She is better than average, average is a 5. I guess she is probably a 6."
"She is kind of a jerk and keeps ignoring me. I'm giving her a 4, doesn't matter how pretty she is."
"Yeah, she looks hot. 10 for sure."
Most boys that age really don't THINK seriously about what they say online, and if they are okay equating a girl with a numerical value, they certainly aren't the types of boys who are grounded or mature enough to be trusted.
If you have boys, please tell them to steer clear of games like these. Promise them that this is always a losing situation, regardless of circumstance or age. Remind them that girls are never objects to be rated. They are people, friends, daughters and sisters who will one day be colleagues, spouses, and mothers. Both boys and girls deserve more.
Don't hesitate to tell them what you tell your girls. Boys also need to understand that their worth is not tied to the opinions of their peers.
I know this game can seem harmless compared to what else is out there, but the scary stuff often starts as something much more innocent and innocuous. This longing for approval often leads down much darker roads, as evidenced by this recent TIME magazine article.
A little added respect, self-respect and respect for others, can go a long way, especially during the rough middle school years. One by one, we can teach this generation that they are all so much more than a number.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Brooke Romney's website. It has been republished here with permission.
Brooke Romney is the author of Brooke Romney Writes, where she shares favorite travel destinations, great books, parenting ideas, food to eat and food for thought. She has a weakness for fall, sunshine, date night, nature, good reads, adventure, gummy candy and all things boy. After living in 5 states and 9 different cities, she now resides with her husband and 4 little men in Utah.