Monday, November 10, 2014

Social Media and the End of Sleepovers

I still remember my first sleepover party. It was thrilling. I had a Girl Scout sleeping bag; I was eleven years old. It was my best friend's birthday and she took a bunch of us to see American Graffiti, most of which, I'm sure, went right over our heads. Then we camped out in the living room of her sprawling upper westside apartment. Between the hardwood floor, the gaggle of giggling girls and the novelty of not being in my own bed, I don't think I slept much.

There were also the cats. I'm desperately allergic, have been since I was tiny. My friend had not one, not two, but three felines. Two orange tabbies and an enormous Persian. So, I went home the next morning sleep-deprived and sneezing, itching and wheezing, and with eyes swollen shut.

I couldn't wait to sleepover again.

For a preteen girl, sleepovers were pretty much the best of the best. As I grew into my teens, I continued to attend (and sometimes host) slumber parties. Lots of them. They fell away once I went to college, of course ("sleeping over" meant something completely different at that point). But, sleepovers will always be an important right of passage in my tween and teen memory.

For my own teenage daughter? Not so much.

She and her cohorts had slumber parties earlier than we did. She was still in preschool I think when a friend had what her parents billed as a "sleepover/half-sleepover" party. The girls all wore pajamas and the more confident ones stayed over while others were picked up by parents mid-celebration.

When she turned seven, my daughter had a "Superstar" makeover-sleepover. Two of her teenage cousins (who were considered cool beyond belief by the guest set) joined us for hair and makeup, manis and pedis. A couple of years later, we hosted another sleepover, this one revolving around her favorite TV show The Saddle Club. We covered the dining room floor in bales of clean hay (to this day, nearly a decade later, we still find the odd bit of straw in the cracks of the floor). Fun was had by all.

Now a junior in high school, my daughter and her friends don't seem interested in sleeping over anymore. In fact, she's competing in a big horse event next week with another rider (and BFF). I suggested, you guessed it, a sleepover. To her credit, my daughter didn't roll her eyes or audibly sigh. But, she politely — and quickly — declined.

Why have sleepovers gone away? Why would an otherwise normal, healthy, red-blooded American teen not want to be up all night gossiping with her gal pals? Looking at pictures of Hollywood heartthrobs, making crank phone calls, participating in seances and eating junk food?


That's exactly what they are doing. It's just that mobile and digital technology allow them to be together ... apart. They are pretty much having remote slumber parties every night. They can Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook. They can Skype or FaceTime or LiveChat. They can group message, share pictures, flirt, tease, post videos.

We insist that my daughter leave her iPhone in the kitchen every night. It's one of the last vestiges of the rules we used to successfully enforce. (Oh, and if you ask her, it's m-o-r-t-i-f-y-i-n-g!!!!!!!) First of all, we leave ours down there too. Second, if we didn't have this rule, she would get even less sleep than she currently does. 

And third, "Because I'm your mother, that's why!"

On the rare occasion that she goes to bed before I do, I can sometimes hear messages pinging through to her phone. Pretty much all night.

Hey, I was a teenager too once. It was the 1970s, which certainly may (which certainly does!) sound like ancient history. But, I'm glad I didn't have to deal with cyber bullying, texting or sexting when I was a teen. I'm glad I wasn't under the kind of pressure that high school juniors and seniors have to live with.

Most of all, I'm glad I got to go to sleepovers. 

Cats and all.

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