Pssst … Can You Keep a Secret?

Psychiatrists and lawyers keep clients’ secrets for a living. On the flip side, gossip columnists dig up secrets and shout ’em out loud. Whether it’s your own secret or someone else’s, are you able to (or should you) keep it on the down-low?

Don’t spill the beans!
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you should keep a secret or let it out. We narrowed it down to three easy rules. Keep a secret when …

  • Someone is going to benefit from the secret.
    Don’t tell your best guy friend that his crush is actually showing up because you talked her into a setup date instead of a “study group.” What he doesn’t know won’t rattle his nerves. You have the thrill of the secret -- and they hook up.
  • Keeping the secret is more fun than telling the secret.
    Why spoil things when your mom plans a big surprise for your dad’s birthday and it’s your job to snap the photo of his face at the crucial revealing moment? It’s not juicy, but it’s still cute and fun. Keep that secret under wraps!
  • A friend makes it clear you are not to tell anyone her secret.
    Your BFF tells you she finally started her period but she doesn’t want anyone else to know? This is cardinal friendship stuff. Keep your lips zipped! Bonus: The more secrets you keep, the more you’ll be entrusted with yet more secrets. Shhh.

Let that cat out of the bag!
Some secrets need to be told. Big or small, silly or serious, eventually someone has to tell someone. Spill a secret when …

  • The secret absolutely requires parental input.
    That hot guy your friend has been talking to online -- you know the one -- happens to be 22 years old and married. And she’s planning on meeting him next Tuesday. Talk. Now. Whether you tell her parents or yours, someone needs to know.
  • Telling the secret means everyone wins.
    You’re attending summer school, and you overhear a teacher tell another teacher that most of the questions on the next exam are coming from the textbook’s footnotes. Spread that sunshine!
  • The secret is harmless, possibly untrue but entirely colorful.
    Someone told you the cutest guy on the rec league is Robert Pattinson’s second cousin. Is it just gab? Feels good to tell and no one gets hurt? As long as sharing a secret is all in good fun and not a nasty rumor, go for it!

Kick off a Summer Business!

Summer is about hanging at the beach or catching up on TV shows. But it can also be the perfect time to create your own summer business and rake in a little cash. Ready for a summer biz blitz? Here’s how to get started.

Summer Business Strategy No. 1: Figure out Something People Want
Maybe you’re a wiz at building blogs or baking cupcakes. Think about your talents or interests, and pair them with a service or product that’ll attract customers to your summer business. Remember, it’s important to choose something that gets you excited, since you’ll be spending a lot of time working on it.  

Summer Business Strategy No. 2: Come up With a Game Plan
Once you decide on the business idea you want to launch, start doing some research and scour some books on how to write a business plan. You can find out really cool things like what an executive summary or a financial plan is.

Even if you don’t write a formal business plan, research your summer business idea and be ready to explain it to others: “I tutor elementary school kids in math and science” or “I make recycled jewelry out of soda cans.”

Summer Business Strategy No. 3: Spread the Word Around
Even if you have the best summer business idea on the planet, you’ll need to promote it. Otherwise, people won’t know your biz exists. Depending on the type of business, you could set up a Web site, distribute fliers or meet with community members. (Be sure your parents are on board with your promo plan first.)

Girl World Daily reader Maya, 16, who plays clarinet and several other instruments, offers private music lessons for younger kids. Maya teamed up with a woman who runs programs for kids and provides space for lessons. “She doesn’t know anything about music, but she knows how to get the word out and who to contact,” says Maya. “Don’t be shy. You have to be outgoing if you want your business to blossom!”

Internet Safety Tips for Teens

Sure, you love to surf the Internet. But are you playing it safe? Unfortunately, a lot of creeps are crawling around on the Web, and some use sneaky tactics to exploit unsuspecting kids. Here are some Internet safety tips every girl should know.

Internet Safety Tip No. 1: Know whom you’re “talking” to online.
Whoa … a quarter of teen girls say they’ve met strangers online. Not cool! Many people online are harmless, but some are posers with fake identities who want to hurt kids. According to WiredSafety.org, 100 percent of children molested by Internet sexual predators went willingly to a meeting. They may have thought they were meeting a cute 14-year-old boy or girl.

Do not IM, text, email, video chat or agree to be a Facebook or MySpace friend with anyone you don’t know in real life -- and never meet up with someone IRL. And don’t fall for this one: “Remember me?” If you don’t know who it is, simply ignore the friend request. That’s not rude; it’s smart.

Internet Safety Tip No. 2: Never post personal info -- or pics!

Do not, under any circumstances, put your full name, address, phone number, school or any other identifying information in an email or online post. Also, be sure your social networking pages are set to “private,” and only share wall posts and photos with family and friends.

If you have pics available online, anybody in the world can make copies. Keep that in mind too when making choices about the nature of your photo self-portraits. A recent survey by TeenAngels, a cybersafety group, found that 20 percent of teens had sent a nude or seminude photo of themselves. Yikes!

Internet Safety Tip No. 3: Stay safe when online gaming.

Sure, you dodge, dart and defend your online game character … but what about protecting your real-life self? “I was playing Halo, and one day this guy asked, ‘Do you want to meet at the mall?’” says one respondent in another TeenAngels survey. Here’s a crash course in cybersafety self-defense:

  • Pick a screen name that’s entirely different from your own name and last name.
  • Give your character a look that isn’t provocative or sexual.
  • Do not give out your email address or other personal info!
  • Never meet someone offline you only “know” from gaming.
  • Don’t use or encourage any inappropriate language.
  • If a player makes you uncomfortable, log off. Game over.

How TV Distorts Your Body Image

There’s a sneaky force taking over the minds of girls everywhere. Sound like the evil plot of a dark fictional cartoon? Fact is, TV and other forms of media, like teen magazines, have a huge influence on the health of teen girls. What you watch on the tube affects your self-esteem, shopping decisions and even facial expressions (eye-roll much?). But most of all, it affects how you feel about your body.

According to a recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, nearly three-fourths of girls fess up to comparing their looks to those of girls in the media.

The “Ugly Betty” Complex
On ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” the main character is forced to face her insecurities as a misfit working in the perfectionist world of fashion magazines. Surrounded by stick-thin models and cosmetically enhanced editors, Betty embraces a unique sense of style, which, along with her size, sparks ridicule from her co-workers. But here’s the thing: Betty is the most normal one of the bunch, braces and all!

Props to America Ferrara, who plays the lead role, for rocking the same healthy attitude in real life that Betty portrays on the show. America, like Betty, doesn’t get blinded by the glitz and glam of celebrity culture. And Betty, like America, feels OK about herself despite her superficial surroundings. Maybe that’s because she knows models are thinner than a whopping 98 percent of us!

Welcome to “The Real World”
Here’s something that might shock you: Celebrities are human! That’s right, the celebs you see on TV get zits, wake up with dark circles under their eyes and have frizzed-out hair days. So why do they always look so put together on camera? Well, you’d have a celeb-perfect look too if you had an entourage of professionals -- makeup artists, hairstylists, custom spray-tanning pros -- to help you get ready for school in the morning, right? And then there are all those other tricks of the TV trade: lighting, camera angles, digital editing.

Glance around your classroom, and you’ll see girls of all different body types. Does TV represent this? Hardly. Even “reality” shows like “The Real World” on MTV almost always cast only those who photograph the best. (Realize too that the most photogenic people are not necessarily the most beautiful.)

Over “The Hills”
Heidi Montag, star of MTV’s “The Hills,” serves up a cautionary tale. The 23-year- old got sucked into the “perfect beauty” myth and recently underwent a 10-hour marathon of plastic surgery to drastically alter her appearance. Among other procedures, Heidi had her breasts increased to DDD size; liposuction on her neck, waist, hips and thighs; and a butt augmentation. On top of the changes to her bod, she had so many alterations done to her face that she’s barely recognizable as the fresh-faced young girl she used to be.

“She was so pretty before, and now she looks weird,” says 11-year-old Megan, a Girl World Daily reader. “TV can be a big influence, but I’ve learned it’s basically kinda fake. Nobody is perfect!”

Peer Pressure? Whatever!

How far would you go to have others think you’re cool? Would you steal from a store? Pull a cruel prank on a teacher? If you’d take risks and behave in ways you normally wouldn’t just to follow the pack, that’s caving in to peer pressure.

What’s the Big Deal?
You’ve heard the term “peer pressure” since third grade. Before you even understood exactly what it meant, you knew it was some force that had a profound impact on your well-being. Peer pressure is the influence your “friends” exert on you, and recent reports blame it for everything from body piercings to school shootings.

Not all peer pressure is negative. The people you hang out with shape your personality. Girls who have a supportive network of friends are less likely to suffer from depression. If your friends play sports, eat right, do well in school and are involved in community service, chances are, so will you. If they don’t smoke or do drugs, chances are, neither will you.

Combating Mean Girls
In-your-face peer pressure can cause even the strongest teens to consider risky behavior. More than 70 percent of girls in a recent survey said they’ve seen clique members act mean toward outsiders. Whether you’re tempted (“Come on, it’ll be fun ... we’ll never get caught.”), taunted (“What's the matter, your mommy says you can’t go?”) or threatened (“If you were really our friend, you’d come with us.”), there are ways to handle the pressure:

  • Ask lots of questions The answers will help you determine the level of risk involved and will also put the other person on the defensive, which places you in a position of power.
  • Consider the consequences Getting grounded? School detention? Your conscience? Contrary to what they're telling you, everyone is not “doing it” (no matter what it is).
  • Practice saying no When you have to say it, don’t trip up. The more certain you are of your no, the less people will bother you.
  • Get away from the pressure zone If you know what's about to happen -- maybe a conversation bad-mouthing a friend of yours or an invitation to a place you're not comfortable going to -- make a quick exit.
  • Be your own best friend There is no feeling greater than standing up for yourself and learning to be your own person. True friends like you for who you are, not for who they want you to be.