Tween Summit

Girls attend the Tween Summit in D.C., where topics ranged from body image to bullying.
Girls attend the Tween Summit in D.C., where topics ranged from body image to bullying. (By Leigh Vogel -- Getty Images)
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We are at the First National Tween Girl Summit, and we are looking for tweens who sext.

Sexting! The evil blend of technology and smut, the process by which your daughters electronically receive -- and send! -- lewd photos. All tweens sext, according to concerned TV pundits everywhere. That's what tweens do. Sleep, eat, sext, watch "Glee," sext, sext.

So why can't we find anyone here at Washington's Capital Hilton, at a forum where 200 bubbly girls from across the country discuss the big issues of their age group, who does it?

"Ew," says Angelique Gaston, 14, delivering a perfect eye-roll on Saturday. "That isn't what we're doing. The media bases ev-er-y-thing on sexuality."

"Sexting is what we see on TV," says Kiley Krzyrzek, also 14. "I guess some people might try it . . ."

She's pretty sure that the tweens who try sexting learned about it from the shows teaching parents how to prevent their tweens from learning about sexting.

But how much we fear the sext. How we worry about the secrets of the tweenage girl. How valiantly we try to protect her, to empower and nurture, to help her respect herself and make good choices in the modern world. Careers have been built on studying this 9-to-14-year-old demographic. Dewy stars have been launched by it. The teen is haggard and middle-aged; the tween is fresh. One lives in the White House and has the personal ear of the president.

A summit was only a matter of time.

This one, sponsored by social networking site, was organized by site founder Denise Restauri. The goal was to inspire girls, with sessions on topics from body image to bullying. Attendees spent the day brainstorming at circular tables, in rooms washed in pink lighting and the AllyKatzz logo of a slyly smiling cat. AK Tweens, the consulting arm of AllyKatzz, will sell a report based on observations culled from the summit for $12,500.

Special guests included Olympians, motocross athletes and youth violence prevention experts. Moderator Jess Weiner, a Seventeen magazine columnist and self-esteem guru, led girls through guided discussions.

But over in the exhibit hall, a fluffy sea of pink lounge furniture, two girls play a video game called "Charm Girls Club," made by conference sponsor Electronic Arts. The players frantically wave a Wii remote at the screen, where gorgeous avatars are busy styling their hair. The winner is the player who teases the virtual locks into the highest bouffant.

The hair is very . . . empowered?

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