Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Guest blogger: Let’s do a school visit via Skype!

February 20, 2012

By Jayne Clare

Jayne Clare, Special Education teacher, and Anne Rachel, artist and Early Childhood educator, co-founded Teachers With Apps. These two lifelong educators are committed to “… helping parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and anyone else, wade through the vast number of  educational apps being introduced on a daily basis. Remember, not all educational apps are created equal.” A few weeks ago, at Jayne’s invitation,  I visited with her 5th graders via Skype. First time I’d done it that way and it was a total blast. Here’s Jayne’s report from her side of the giant screen.

Wow! That's really her!

Wow! That's really her!

Electric Eggplant just recently released Middle School Confidential Book 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind to the app store. I’m a new teacher to this age group; twenty plus years in an elementary school simply can not prepare you for the hormones raging in the intermediate school setting! So glad that I came across this awesome resource when I did, February with 5th graders is an eye-opener! I’d been sharing MSC with small groups of tween students and using the Smart Board with larger groups by hooking the iPad up with a cable. This was part of the field-testing involved prior to writing a review for Teachers With Apps (TWA). Although I had worked with several grade levels, it quickly became obvious that our 5th grade students were really benefiting from spending time with this app. The experience helped the students with their growing pains by opening up dialogue that may not have taken place otherwise.

It started out innocently enough, I emailed Annie with some positive feedback after field-testing the app and we exchanged a few emails. David Fox, her other half, asked, “What do you think of the idea of doing a Skype call with Annie during class time? The students can interact with her, ask questions, etc…” Of course my answer was an emphatic YES, but being a public school teacher meant that I would need permission from administration. That was easy to obtain, so back to Annie to set a Skype session for Friday at 1:00pm EST.

As the week progressed, my students continued to become more familiar with MSC characters and had even picked their favorites. Friday arrived! For morning work, the kids all wrote out questions and/or comments to share later in the day. I scrambled to get the technology in place for our Q & A with Annie. Nervously, as one always is when using technology for a lesson, I practiced a Skype call with my TWA partner and got the lay of the land set up for the students. They were going to be tighter than a can of sardines, if they were all going to be seen. I wondered how they would sit so closely without some kind of problem erupting.

One o’clock arrived and somehow all the kids managed to squeeze into the allotted space as they waited anxiously to meet the author. The computer rang and there she was, Annie Fox, bigger than life on the Smart Board! The first question was asked and in the time that it took to respond, the room became silent. You could have heard a pin drop. One by one the students took turns asking questions and Annie answered with clear, concise, commonsense answers. She shared some of her own insecurities as a child and you could still hear a pin drop. More questions were asked and answered.

The woman on the screen, who so gently and so naturally took in all their woes and comforted them with sound, soothing advice, mesmerized the group. Out of all the responses given, one resonated with me; she told our most mature student that she should take a vacation from that friend, which was such simple yet profound advice. As our session came to a close it was evident it had gone extraordinarily well. The kids sat through the first bell of 9th period as they said their goodbyes, only to find out that Annie had grown up and gone to school not far from where we are in the “Hamptons”! There were hoots of “Go, Long Island – Go New York!” as the students filed out of the classroom.

“Awesome. That was awesome,” my co-teacher Maggie exclaimed and yes, I agreed, it certainly was!

Thank you Annie, what day works for you next month?

UPDATE: Through the end of March, I’ll do a free Skype classroom visit, to any school that purchases Middle School Confidential books and/or apps.


“I can’t help it if I’ve got an attitude!”

February 18, 2012

What attitude?!

For those who’ve ever been told you’ve got a problem with your attitude, read this email I got today. It might help you.

BROKEN HEARTED GIRL: Hey Terra, my bf used to constantly warn me that if I didn’t change my attitude he would break up with me. Being the type of person I am, I just disregarded it and thought that he would always be there for me. Well, obviously I was wrong because he just broke up with me! He says he still wants us to be close friends, but I don’t think I can take that because I still want to be with him. And what if he gets another girlfriend?! I’m going to be overly depressed like I am right now. So what do I do??

TERRA (aka Annie): Hi Broken Hearted Girl. What do you think he meant when he talked about your “attitude”?

BROKEN HEARTED GIRL: I really dont know. But everyone says that you can tell when I’m on my period because I am literally a “bitch” to everyone. And that’s mostly when he would tell me about my “attitude.” I guess I’m very mean and nagging at times, I dont know..

TERRA: If you really ‘don’t know’ then try looking more closely, because it’s important for you to understand what you’re doing that’s pushing people away. How else will you be able to stop doing it??

Try this: Picture the last time you were a “bitch” to everyone. Play it back in your head as if you were watching a movie. What do you see yourself doing? How are you treating people? How would you feel if someone treated you that way? How much would you want to hang out with them? Probably not a whole lot.

I understand all about hormones and PMS, but you can not let your period be an easy excuse for being rude and disrespectful. And unless you figure out some ways to chill and tone down the bitchiness, you will be driving good loving people away from you. I’m sure that’s not what you want. So… take a good close look at this behavior and get more in control of it.

BROKEN HEARTED GIRL (an hour later): Thanks a lot for the advice. You’ve been a big help.

TERRA: You’re very welcome, BHG. I know, you’ve already got everything you need to be the kind of person you want to be. Go for it!

Filed under: Teens — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 6:36 pm

Don’t I have the right to know everything my kid is doing?

February 5, 2012

I often hear from teens bitterly complaining about parents who snoop through their email, playlists and text message exchanges with friends. In case you just thought: “Aren’t I paying for this technology? Don’t I have the right to know everything my kid’s doing with it.” Yes you are. And no you don’t.

If you feel like you’re ‘losing’ your t(w)een because s/he’s always online, do something smart about it. Set reasonable limits and offer positive face-to-face family time to balance teen time in Digital World. But don’t lose sight of the plain fact that teens need the connection with their friends, so don’t feel threatened by it. Get to know their friends. Be interested in what’s going on without an obsessive need to know. If you don’t have probable cause for snooping into your teen’s life, don’t. You’re jeopardizing the foundation of every healthy parent-child relationship, i.e., mutual respect.

When our kids are little we call all the shots. But when they reach the tween years, they’re programmed to test our authority to tell them what to do. You may need to rethink the boundaries you’ve had in place for their first decade.

In case you’re a bit fuzzy about personal boundaries, this may help:

  • Your 5 year old says ‘My tooth is loose.” You stick your hand in his mouth and give that baby incisor a jiggle. No problem. But if you try to stick your hand in your 13 year old’s mouth… Boundary alert!
  • Your 11 year gets her first period. You congratulate her and give her everything she needs to take care of herself.  Good parenting! But if you insist your daughter tell you the start-date of her period each month so you can write it down in a book… Boundary alert!
  • Your 14 yr old enters with a dark cloud overhead. He mumbles something about how his stupid coach won’t start him in tomorrow’s game. You immediately call the coach and give him an earful. Boundary alert!

Now you the get idea, right?

We teach respect by setting boundaries and by being respectful. When our kids are disrespectful, we respectfully remind them they have crossed the line. When we disrespect them, we teach nothing positive about the value of respect. Snooping into your teen’s personal stuff without probable cause is a gross sign of disrespect. In that moment you’re violating your kid’s trust. When your son/daughter finds out (and they will), they will blast you with their outrage.

For the record, I’m fine with kids being outraged. Gets their blood pumping and their attention focused on an actual human being instead of a digital facsimile. Good parenting isn’t supposed to win you popularity points. In fact, good parenting sometimes results in kids temporarily resenting the hell out of  us! So bring on the anger. You can deal. But if the kid’s outrage is justifiable, then you may have painted yourself into a corner and damaged your child’s trust in you.

We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible and trustworthy. Part of our job is living and teaching by example. How does snooping teach kids to be trustworthy? It doesn’t! All it really does is make teens more secretive. And in case you forgot how crafty you were at that age, let me remind you that any teen can and will beat any parent in the game of “Whose life is it anyway?”

Teens have the right to some privacy. And with it comes the responsibility to act in ways that reflects your parental teaching. A person of good character makes ethical choices even when no one is watching. That’s what you ultimately want from your children.

How do they get from here to there?

You think I’ve got all the answers? Ha! There’s no one right way to parent, but there are plenty of WRONG ways. Assuming it’s your right to know the content of your kid’s every text msg is one wrong way. Not because kids won’t like it but because a healthy parent-teen relationship respects boundaries.


Filed under: Parenting,Technology — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 12:22 pm

Guest blogger: Having “The Talk” with your kids

February 2, 2012

by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and we’re pleased to support the outstanding efforts of Project Youth Safety. According to PYS’s website, Teen dating violence is defined as a pattern of physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally abusive actions committed by a partner to establish control over the other. This article by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is part of our ongoing commitment to providing resources to parents so they can effectively teach their kids to be responsible, caring young adults.

Have you had “the talk” with your children?  If this question instantly makes you think of the classic birds-and-bees chat, I was actually talking about the healthy relationship chat.

While many parents want their children to be safe, many don’t even think about addressing what it means to be in a healthy or safe relationship with their kids.  Instead, the conversation usually slants toward sex.

In fact, one survey found that although three in four parents said they had a conversation with their teenager about what it means to be in a healthy relationship, 74 percent of sons and 66 percent of daughters said they have NOT had such a conversation with their parents

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and, as a physician who specializes in care for adolescents, a researcher on teen dating abuse, and a parent of a teen, I want to encourage parents to better educate their daughters and sons about what it means to be in a healthy relationship and how to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and get help.

Teen dating violence, also called adolescent relationship abuse, is defined as a pattern of physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally abusive actions committed by a partner to establish control over the other. The abusive behavior may occur in a dating or similarly defined relationship where one or both persons are a minor.  According to Liz Claiborne Inc. and Futures Without Violence, nearly one in three teens who have been in relationships has experienced dating violence or abuse.

The warning signs parents should keep an eye out for include:

  • No longer hanging out with his/her circle of friends
  • Sudden changes in clothing or appearance
  • Distracted or constantly checking cell phone
  • Withdrawn, quieter than usual
  • Making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Unexplained scratches or bruises
  • Showering immediately after getting home

A key characteristic of unhealthy and abusive relationships is the control that the abusive partner seeks to maintain in the relationship. This ranges from telling someone what to wear and where they can go to sexual coercion and forcing someone to get pregnant.  Unfortunately, adolescents may confuse this possessive behavior as a sign of love, thinking that the abuser is only acting this way because he or she is committed to the relationship.

So what can a parent do to get in front of the issue and proactively address it with their children before it becomes a serious problem?

Regardless of whether your child is in a relationship, sit down with them and talk about what constitutes a healthy, respectful relationship early on. This can include highlighting examples from your personal relationships or calling out specifics, such as:

  • Being considerate of the other person’s feelings and opinions
  • Trusting each other
  • Taking an interest in your hobbies and providing support and encouragement to pursue these personal interests
  • Being respectful of sexual limits and not pressuring you to go further
  • Liking you for who you are and not asking you to change

If you have teenage boys, it’s especially important to reinforce the importance of respecting females and not forcing their dates to go further sexually than what they are comfortable with.  Along the same lines, it’s important to talk about positive, non-violent ways to deal with anger and make sure you are setting good examples at home that your son can follow.

Above all else, make sure your child knows that you are there to help, not to judge. And if your teenager does not want to talk with you, help them find another trusted person to talk with such as their pediatrician, school counselor or clinic provider.  There are many resources available and your children should never feel alone or feel they are to blame if they are in an abusive relationship.

Here are additional resources to help you engage with your children about this topic:


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