Nothing makes a teenager seem younger than one trying to act like an adult. They may get the lingo right, but watch them for a few minutes and you realize they’re totally clueless about what they’re doing.

When a 13-year-old girl asks on Facebook, “Do I look sexy in this picture?”, for instance, I think she honestly means, “Do I look pretty and sophisticated?” I don’t think she’s asking, “Does this picture make me look attractive enough to the opposite sex that they would want to jump in bed with me?” But that’s what the phrase means. It invites other people to look specifically at the girl’s figure, not at her eyes. Young girls just don’t quite understand that, because they really don’t understand the male sex drive yet. They don’t even understand their own.

I’ve been rudely awakened to the Facebook lives of young teens lately as I have “friended” a ton of my children’s friends. My first impression was one of sadness. Too many kids feel such a rush to grow up. But it’s even sadder that their idea of growing up is something so shallow and rather destructive.

So here’s some honest advice to today’s teens: talking about whether or not you are sexy makes you seem naïve, stupid, and on the prowl. You may think that you’re simply portraying a “sophisticated” persona, so that boys will want to go with you to the movies, but sexy means far more than that. So does “hot”. When you say a guy is “hot”, you mean that the sight of him makes you want to have sex with him. It doesn’t mean you might want a nice good-night kiss. It doesn’t mean that you want someone to hold your hand. It means something far more than that. Is that really the message you want to give out?

Both girls and guys play this game, and while it’s dumb and degrading, it may not be overly dangerous on the schoolyard. But it’s not staying on the schoolyard. When a 13-year-old girl dresses provocatively because she wants other 13-year-old boys to ask her out, and then she goes and hangs out at the mall, she may not realize that she’s getting stared at by more than just 13-year-old boys.

I know lots of young girls who easily look five or six years older than they actually are, simply by virtue of the clothes they wear. Do they really want to be getting that kind of attention from guys who are that much older? After all, girls, those guys are looking not because they want to take you on a nice moonlit walk, or put their arm around you while they watch the next Twilight movie. They’re looking because they want far more.

I was recently talking to a couple of 17-year-old boys about this sexualized trend in young girls, and the thing that bothered them most was short shorts. “They’re already short,” explained one boy. “But then these girls go and cut them even shorter, so that you can actually see the bottom of the pocket hanging below the hem! Please, girls, no pockets!”

All of us want connection, and our society has taught kids that connection is mostly found in some sort of a sexual relationship. We shouldn’t be surprised when girls internalize this and start dressing and acting the part. But when you share everything with everybody, you’re not really being intimate with anyone. If you want real intimacy, you have to save something that can only be shared with one person. So please, girls, stop talking about boys being hot. Stop asking if you’re “sexy or not”. And above all, no pockets. Treat yourself with some respect, and then maybe others will respect you, too.

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