We live in the age of social media.
Like a repeat of the era of commercial TV in the 50’s, its growth and influence on the young women of our generation can be equally empowering or crushing.
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Newspapers have been replaced with Facebook newsfeeds – in one swoop a girl can be connected to the latest what’s what and the who’s who, up-to-date fashion trends and the best place to get it for cheap or even better – FREE. In one page they can access the latest world happenings from celebrity gossip to the Ebola crisis, what their friends are currently doing and how to get the perfect eyebrows.
I have the privilege of going into a few high schools weekly to teach Shine*GIRL and I get to see first-hand how much young girls are impacted by social media.
“I found my formal dress online yesterday, it looks like Taylor Swift’s dress at the VMA’s.”
“Guess who started following me?!!”
“Miss, can I take a selfie with you, my friends want to see your hair.”
“They direct messaged me yesterday and told me I’m too fat and ugly and should never come back to school.”
It’s in the midst of all of this that I remind myself, I am not here to deliver a curriculum, but to teach young girls to understand their worth, to teach them how they can be strong through tough circumstances, and to teach them to dream with open eyes about the potential of their future.
I have heard it said that our young people have more information available to them at the click of a button than the President of the USA had 15 years ago.
But information does not mean education.
And relevance does not mean personal.
Yes, they might be able to watch a cool YouTube video or some Hollywood production about overcoming crisis and what is true beauty, but right there in the classroom they have no online “profile” to hide behind, no social mask. Right there, we can take time to talk about the stuff that actually matters and what their real world looks like.
Victor Hugo writes “he who opens a school door closes a prison”. There is a prison that holds so many of our young girls today, its bars are constructed from issues like low self-esteem, mental health disorders, depression and anxiety. It has been found that 1 in 4 young Australians currently have a mental health condition, and suicide is known to be the biggest killer of young people aged between 15-24 years old.
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If we can teach our young girls to understand their value, their strength and their purpose, we can release them into a freedom that with all our hopeful intent, will set them up for a win in life.
But like it says in Romans 10 in the Message version, “How can they hear if nobody tells them?”
I love hearing that there are girls all over the world who are a part of Shine – from A21 trafficking victims girls in Europe, to rescued orphans in Africa, to suburban school-girls in Sydney.
I have come to understand that location, age, and race makes no difference when it comes to matters of the soul.
Every young girl needs to know that she is valuable if she is to love herself and others.
Every young girl needs to know that she has the power to choose and that her response is powerful.
Every young girl needs to know that she has a future and that she is believed in.