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: Keeping Kids Safer from Cyberbullying

May 13, 2015

by Amy Williams

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. Mom of two, she uses her parenting experience to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be. You can follow Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

Why don't they leave me alone?!

Why don’t they leave me alone?!

According to Chinese tradition 2015 is the year of the Sheep. I hope it’s better than last year, which I called The Year Of The Bully.

At the start of 6th grade our son had a physical altercation at football practice. The harassment continued at school, extracurricular events, and on Social Media. We didn’t know because our son didn’t let us in on it, a typical response from tweens and teens who are being targeted.

He’d come home from practice upset, shirt torn, and occasionally with missing his cleats.  At first we chalked it up to the rough nature of the game and forgetfulness. But other things indicated something was wrong.  Some of the puzzle pieces we observed:

  • Our son frequently complained about stomach aches and found it difficult to sleep at night.
  • He was visibly upset and often would erupt in anger toward his younger sibling for no reason.
  • We received emails from his teacher’s about his behavior and falling grades.
  • He didn’t ask for friends to come over or to meet up at the movies.
  • He suddenly stopped wanting to play on his tablet, the family computer, or use his online account with his gaming system.
  • He would cry and refuse to go to Scouting functions or Church activities.

Looking back I can’t believe how blind we were. He was clearly exhibiting signs of being bullied at school and online.

One day I picked him up after football practice. Waiting by the field, I watched our son interact with his teammates. He walked barefoot to the van, desperately trying to hold back his tears. Finally, he let it all out. We felt terrible that we had failed to keep our child safe, but now, we could help and we got right to it.

Our first action was to alert his teachers, bus drivers, and school administrators. It was comforting to know there were extra eyes and ears to monitor the situation. I had a wonderful conversation with the principal who changed the seating chart for the bus ride, changed how the children lined up for lunch, and added a few more sessions about bullying into their counseling rotation. She was trying to educate students on the differences between positive ways to interact vs. aggressive behaviors.

Because 1 in 3 children are victims of cyberbullying and over half don’t report it to an adult, we began an open dialogue with our son. To protect himself, he changed his profile and names on Social Media and gaming sites. During the beginning of our journey, we opened and read all messages together and limited online contacts to friends and family only. We began to actively monitor his Internet and cell phone activity, using a convenient app that allows us to view all his accounts in one place. We also started interacting online with our son so the kids who were targeting him couldn’t miss our presence. Finally, we made a rule that digital technology would only be used in our common living area, no more kids online in isolation (exactly what harassers hope for.)

With a little effort and a lot of emotional coaching, our son is doing very well.  He enjoys school again and now happily interacts with his friends online. His former harassers have improved their behavior, too. They probably didn’t understand they were crossing a line. All in all, with this situation behind us, I’d like to believe this experience will foster my son’s empathy and emotional fortitude to handle adversity.

Goodbye, Year of the Bully. Hello, Year of the Sheep. May it be lucky and prosperous for our family and yours.

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Defense Against the Dark Side: Where’s Harry Potter When We Need Him?

April 23, 2015

A Good Use of Power

A Good Use of Power

In our 40 years together, David and I have read many books. Add another hundred or so books on tape we’ve consumed on road trips. Yep, we’re addicted to good stories. So it wasn’t too weird when, after a business trip to Florida and a side trip to Universal’s Wizarding World, we decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books… aloud… to each other.

Starting in mid-December, I’d read a couple chapters over breakfast each morning. At dinner, with wine and candlelight, I’d read another chapter or so. If we were driving for more than 20 minutes in any direction, I’d read aloud in the car. (Yes, I can do that without barfing. Lucky me.) At the end of each day we’d watch the film adaptation of the current book, making sure to stop when we got to a new part (i.e., a section of film we hadn’t yet read.)

To date we’ve completed six books and six films. (When we get into something we really get into it.) We’re now half-way through Book 7.

Ever since the kids of Hogwarts took their education into their own hands, I’ve been thinking about the Dark Arts as it relates to the dark side of humanity. While we rarely hear about jinxes or debilitating spells, we’re plenty aware of public humiliation and shaming in social media. Character assasination is a curse, high on the list of Dark Arts. So how do we defend ourselves against the real and present danger of social garbage? How do we teach our kids to defend themselves, online and off, from the hostility of their peers? Where is Harry Potter when we need him?

When I think about what it means to defend oneself, I picture someone standing up for their rights or the rights of others and actively fighting back against the vitriol. But there is inherent danger when one uses vitriol to fight vitriol. The weapon we use has the power to infect us and make us more and more like the perpetrators we seek to vanquish. We can so easily become the enemy. Doing the right thing in a good way isn’t easy.

How do you help your children defend themselves against the prevailing Culture of Cruelty? How do you teach them not to succumb to its ways? Post here and let’s get into it. You can also follow my tweets at @Annie_Fox and @GirlDramaChat. Every Friday you can join the conversation as I host #girldramachat, a weekly Twitter chat (11AM PST) to help parents/teachers/counselors support girls thru friendship drama w/compassion, respect & social courage.

 

 

 

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They stole your bra?!!

September 9, 2014

This recent email has me vibrating with rage. I know. I know. I’m supposed to manage my destructive emotions. Take re-centering breaths and all that. But as a woman, a mom, and an educator, this one has me ready to strangle someone.

I'm not going back there.

I’m not going back there.

Just read it and tell me what you think:

Hey Terra,

I just started freshman year and I have to take swim class. I have large breasts and the girls in the class make fun of me in the shower and in the pool. Today, while we were swimming, one girl went into my locker and stole my bra. I had to get dressed for my next class without a bra!! Do you have any idea how humiliated I felt walking around like that? Guys were staring at me and a few guys tried to touch my breasts! That’s what I had to go through for two whole periods until my mom came and brought me a bra.  This is the first year of high school and I’m a joke already. All my friends are at another school so I’ve got no one who has my back. – Who Cares?

Before you read my answer, here’s my video response on Vidoyen:

How do we teach kids that cruel is not cool? posted by Annie Fox, M.Ed. on Vidoyen.

My Answer:

Dear Who Cares?

First, let me say that I care. A lot!

Second let me say… WOAH!!! What happened to you today is beyond awful. It is also totally unacceptable. For starters, shaming you about your body, having people stare at your breasts and try to touch you… all of this is sexual harassment and it’s against the law.

I understand how awful you feel, but please talk to your PE teacher ASAP! (That’s who runs the swimming class, right?) She or he (hopefully it’s a she) but either way, the PE teacher needs to know immediately what happened today. No way should any girl get away with going into your locker and stealing anything! But a girl stealing another girl’s bra… that’s so cruel I am actually seeing red. (That’s how angry I am right now.) And no boy should get away with trying to touch you without your permission! (Give me a break, guys. What idiot told you that’s ever OK?!)

I get that you might not want to talk about this, but you wrote to me for advice and I’m giving it to you. Talk to your mom right now. Get off the computer and talk to her. You think that “no one has your back.” Not true! Your mom has your back. She proved that today. She can help you. She wants to. If you were my daughter I would tell you this, “I am so sorry that this happened to you. My heart is breaking to hear about it. I know how humiliating this must have been! We need to work together, you and I, to make things better for you at school. Better for you with the girls in your gym class and better for you with those ignorant boys who bother you and made you feel even more uncomfortable when you walk down the hall. You need to let the school know what happened. If you feel you can call for this meeting on your own, then go for it. But if you need my support to call the school and set up a meeting with the PE teacher and the counselor and school administration, then I am here for you 1000%.”

Talk to your mom right now… before another day of school.

OK, sweetie?

In friendship,
Terra

If you or anyone you know, has had an experience involving sexual harassment or “body shaming” at school, I want to hear about it in the COMMENTS section. Thanks.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Teens,Tweens — Tags: , , — Annie @ 5:20 pm
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Cure discovered for ‘mean girl’ disease!

August 19, 2014

After more than a year’s collaboration, our work on The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship is wrapping up. Illustrated by the ridiculously talented Erica DeChavez, my book for 8-12 year old girls, is coming next month from Electric Eggplant.

I’m super excited when I think about all the girls this book is going to help. Let’s face it, a new school year always brings friendship issues (aka social garbage.) The Girls’ Friendship Q&A Book is a cure for mean-girl behavior. (You’ve had enough of that, right?)  With 50 questions from real girls (and answers that really solve the problem), plus tons of quizzes and awesome advice from older teens about how to be a Super-Friend, this book will teach you a whole lot about empathy and social courage. Something we can all use more of.

Sneak Peek from The Girls’ Friendship Q&A Book> Here’s one of the book’s fifty questions and answers:

"She needs a friend, but I don't think I'm brave enough."

“She needs a friend, but I don’t think I’m brave enough.” (from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)

A new girl from another country gets teased because she doesn’t speak English.  I want to be nice to her, but I’m afraid people will tease me. Should I be her friend? 

You already know the answer to your question, but you need some support. That’s why I’m here. Yes, you should be her friend! She has come from far away to a place that is very strange to her and she needs a friend. Imagine how you’d feel moving to some place that’s very different from what you’re used to. What would it be like not to understand what people are saying and to have no one understand you? She’s got a lot to deal with. Now imagine how she feels being teased. Having a friend like you could really help.

You say you’re worried the teasers might turn on you. They might. Or they might become friendlier to the new girl when you show them the way. You have the chance to do something important, and you are brave enough to do it.

Be kind. Show this girl that people in your country can be very welcoming. You’ll gain a new friend and learn amazing things about her and her culture.

Go for it and good luck!

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For updates on the publication of The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, follow me on twitter and visit GirlsQandA.com

UPDATE October 4, 2014: The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA is now available in print and on Kindle (the ebook can be read on any device, your mobile phone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle reader app). Visit GirlsQandA.com for an excerptreviews, and to order your copy.

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