By Tina Jordan
Updated May 01, 2008 at 09:57 PM EDT

Here it is: My teenagers watch Gossip Girl.

Okay, pile it on: I’m a crummy parent. My kids oughta be taken away from me. Yada, yada, yada. I heard it all last year when I wrote about the Gossip Girl paperbacks I found spilling out of my daughter’s backpack. I didn’t like the books — in fact, they appall me — but I figured she was reading them for the same reasons all of us read dirty books at that age: We learned from them. And yet the absolute amorality of these tales of prep school privilege gave me pause — the rich girls blithely spent money, shoplifted, had sex, did drugs, and viciously torpedoed other girls, all without any comeuppance. (Where, for God’s sake, were the parents?)

So is the TV show any worse? Well, for one thing, the sex, though certainly plentiful, isn’t as graphic — or so I thought, until I saw ads for the new season. (See page 19 of EW’s April 18 issue for an example.) But the very existence of the TV show reinforces the franchise in kids’ minds. The show makes the books stronger, and vice versa. I know my informal poll doesn’t count for anything, but I certainly see more of the books around than I used to. And how about the fashion? This is high school? These are adolescent girls? Not in my town, and certainly not at my daughters’ school. Where we live, girls aren’t allowed to dress like they’re employees of a strip club. (Pictured: Leighton Meester as Blair.)

I know what you’re going to say: Don’t let them watch it. But we’re looking at colleges already, and that makes them old enough — and mature enough — to make their own decisions. The most I can do, as a parent, is talk to my kids about the show (and the books), and express my problems with Serena, Blair, and crew. And you know what? Since their surly adolescent phase is over, my daughters are willing to have that discussion with me. We’ve dissected the show twice already, and I’m sure we’ll do it again. If the show had been around when I was 17, I probably would’ve watched it, too. As it was, I had to make do with copies of The Other Side of Midnight and The Happy Hooker.

addCredit(“Gossip Girl: Eric Liebowitz”)