“Elle” is half child and half woman. Right now since she lives between the two she is awkward and nervous but someday she will be lovely. One minute she is laughing with her friends and the next minute worried that her laugh is too loud or that the joke wasn’t all that funny. Laughter lights up her face and then it clouds over with self-consciousness. She has no idea of how beautiful she is and that innocence makes her even more beautiful. Boys haven’t noticed her yet and she is afraid they never will. Part of her wants to rush into adulthood while another wants to cling to the familiar and safe. At fifteen she hates the word “wait.”
Years ago I studied folklore and I am always amazed by what folk tales have to tell us. One of the Grimm stories is about a girl who falls asleep just before she reaches womanhood. Her guardians put her in a glass casket where all the world can pass by and see how lovely she is. She will sleep undisturbed waiting for a lover’s kiss to awaken her. That’s where “Elle” is now. She is suspended between childhood and womanhood and she is lovely. But as we know from folk tales there is always a wolf or other wild beast waiting to take advantage of the innocent.
I worry about kids like “Elle” who are naïve and vulnerable and worried that their chance will never come. Recently a colleague from Nevada sent me an email with a warning about the dangers of social media and young people. He was concerned about strangers stalking them when they reveal too much about themselves. I researched the topic and found that while there is a threat it is not from strangers lurking in the virtual “bushes.” Research studies have found that the real threat to innocent kids like “Elle” is from the “friend of a friend” they meet through social media. The vulnerable kids can be seduced by the attention they receive. They are anxious to fall in love and are flattered by the attention they receive from slightly older admirers. These admirers offer romance to the vulnerable. They push the young person into a relationship they are not ready to handle. Many of these relationships are illegal because of the age difference between the parties.
At the Loft we do everything possible to ensure the safety of our kids. We encourage friendships but discourage exclusive relationships. We encourage face-to-face contacts between peers rather than electronic communication. We try to channel kids into age appropriate activities with peers or carefully screened adult mentors. We try to keep “Elle” and her friends protected from the world until they are mature enough to find the prince or princess of their dreams.
As you read this I am visiting the New York International Toy Fair. If you see the photos on the news I am one of the hundreds of tiny shoppers on the display floor. We will be back next week with ideas about great new games and puzzles. In the meantime our excellent staff will be manning both the Game Loft and All About Games.