Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sheryl Sandberg...."Lean In" to Our Young Girls

An open letter from a school counselor to the COO of Facebook:

Dear Ms. Sandberg,

I love Facebook, but we are at a very important crossroad with the use of social media and our children, especially our girls. As a school counselor, I have seen the source of peer problems between children change from notes and whispers within the walls of the classroom to the feeds and photos of Facebook. Their Facebook interactions may happen at home through computers, video games, and cell phones but the negative behavior and comments fester and eventually end up in the classroom, becoming one more thing that teachers, counselors and administrators have to address.

Have you perused the pages of our young people on Facebook? If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. These are some of the things you will find: 

  • language that is degrading, racist, and sexist, 
  • pictures of young girls in sexy poses with comments from their friends regarding their sexiness, 
  • videos and pictures that would be considered pornographic in any other setting, 
  • children “liking” drugs, alcohol, guns, and other negative activities that can bring kids down rather than bolstering them and preparing them for the world of adulthood, (*please see comment below regarding the "liking" of guns)
  • continuous cyberbullying that leads to maladaptive coping strategies like cutting
  • chat feeds of students online during school hours when they are supposed to be engaged in learning.  
Why are we not talking about the everyday culture that is shaping the behavior of young people who lack emotional regulation, impulse control, and maturity.

When we talk about children in public schools not achieving and their barriers to learning, do we talk about the effects of social media? And why not?

If you look at the pages of your Facebook users, you will find that of the 20 million minors who used Facebook in 2011, 7.5 million were younger than 13, (in spite of the terms of service requirement) and more than 5 million were 10 and under....most of their accounts were largely unsupervised by parents." (Consumer Reports June 2011). Why isn't there a national conversation going on about this? 

Yes, Facebook does have some safety and security measures in place. But I've pushed the Facebook "report buttons" many times only to see nothing happen. I've helped kids deactivate accounts only to see them return. I've informed our parents only to see them overwhelmed even when they try to monitor. We need measures that work. . . . not just measures that “look” like something is being done. 

Ms. Sandberg, this can no longer be passed off as solely a problem for parents and teachers to deal with. As mothers, grandmothers, and educators, we are asking for your help and leadership. We are at risk of losing a generation of children through unregulated social media. Please take the lead as a woman, a mother, and a leader in power to make Facebook a safe and positive place for our children.  

Until you and your company take your own advice and “lean in” to the issues that your product is creating for those of us in the trenches of educating and parenting, even the best of your ideas will not take root.

Melinda Wyant Jansen, M.S.
School Counselor
Escuela Vieau K8

*It has been pointed out to me by one gun owner that guns are not necessarily negative activities. To clarify, the list that I gave included guns because of a public post by an underage student who paired his "liking" of guns (picture was not a BB gun) with many references to marijuanna, cannibis, and cash.  His page also showed a video of him jumping out of a window as if he was running from the police. While I am not a gun owner, I have nothing against responsible gun owners "liking" guns in their homes or on their Facebook pages.  I do however have a problem with underage children putting together a digital footprint that gives the wrong impression of who they really are and could possibly cause them unjust attention from the law or deny them access to academic opportunities or employment that would help further them toward a successful life.  Children are by definition impulsive, impressionable, and lacking judgment regarding the consequences that might come about due to postings in social media. That's why I believe we need to do a better job of educating and protecting them when it comes to social media and the effect that it can have on their lives.  I hope this clarifies rather than offends anyone else. 
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"Show some leadership for the next generation of women today"


  1. Thank you for your post. I have also been working hard on this issue for many months along with many other women - thus far, unsuccessfully.

    1. Thank you Trista for your comments and I'm so happy to know that you are working on this too. I've been pretty unsuccesful so far as well and I really don't understand it. It seems like a "no brainer" to me as far as what should happen. I've had over 1000 views of this post though so I hope that at least people are thinking seriously about it. Thanks again for your shared concern and support.

  2. Thank you so much for this open letter. I too wrote Ms. Sandberg an open letter to "Lean In" by example and remove misogyny from FB. She is the COO after all. You can fine the letter here:

    Hello Trista - so good to see you here. Ive shared this article inon the page.

    Please join our FB Page

  3. Thank you for sharing and thanks for reposting the letter. Great letter from you as well. Let's keep talking about this!