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.

Still waiting for bullying to end by itself?

September 15, 2013

Another make-shift memorial mourns another bullying victim

Another kid pushed to the edge by bullies. Another disheartened sheriff addresses a news conference. “(She) was absolutely terrorized on social media.” Another disbelieving mom tries making sense of life without her little girl. “I never, ever thought it would happen to me or my daughter.”

This tragedy happened in Florida, though it could have been any place. Fitting, since the internet isn’t really any place but, at the same time, it’s every place. This case of peer abuse picked up fuel on before it exploded Monday inside a 12 year’s mind, with the thought her life was worthless. Do and other social media sites have any responsibility for the vicious behavior of its users? Yes. Because it happened on their turf. Could they do more to make their sites “safer.” Absolutely. Kids haven’t yet learned to manage their destructive emotions. They flip out of control frequently. That’s why adults monitor what goes on during school recess. Someone has to  keep the peace because kids can’t do it themselves. Is it a perfect system? No, but it helps.

Social media is the largest unsupervised playground, yet where are the monitors? If anyone 15 years ago thought that kids online would naturally treat each other with respect, he’s surely woken up by now. We’re all awake now, aren’t we?

Social media sites need human moderation. That won’t completely solve the problem of bullying, but it will help to lessen it. Parents, find out which sites your kids frequent and what level of moderation (if any) those companies use. Bottom line: Your kids should not be on social media sites that don’t have human moderation in real time. Anything less puts your child at an unacceptable level of risk. Take away your business and see if that gets them to clean up their act.

Pressuring social media sites to take responsibility for the well-being of their tween and teen users, is an essential step. We also have to do our part, as parents and teachers. Our children seriously need an education at home and at school.  Kids are so vulnerable to peer approval addiction, their thinking about right and wrong can get totally warped in the moment. Parents, kids, teachers, school administrators, counselors, coaches, youth leaders, mentors, all of us need to do more to reel in the culture of cruelty. Every day in which we react to a tragedy with a make-shift memorial, instead of the daily work of building schools and communities of compassion and respect, is a day we’ve failed our kids.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Parenting,Pop Culture,Technology,Teens — Tags: , — Annie @ 5:40 pm

My dinner with Ezra

July 24, 2013

Manic Pixie Dream Girl circa 1961

The ultimate prize of parenting is a healthy relationship with your adult children. If your kids still live with you it’s probably weird imaging they’ll ever not need you to sort their underwear or sign permission slips. But hopefully that day will come. And when it does, how will you know you’ve hit the jackpot? There isn’t just one way to have a healthy relationship. But there sure are a lot of wrong ways. For example, a healthy parent-adult child relationship includes feeling safe to share selected personal stuff. On the other hand, if you or your adult child is calling and texting 27 times a day, you might have some issues. One sure-fire litmus test verifying whether you and your grown-up son or daughter have a healthy relationship is that you both actually enjoy spending time together.

My son, Ezra, is happily married and lives about 20 miles away. David and I just saw him a couple of weeks ago for a family get-together on the 4th of July. It was lovely and fun, but he and I didn’t really get to talk… not really. So I sent him an email Sunday night telling him I was thinking about him. “How about you and I scheduling some time together soon?” Ezra wrote right back and suggested we meet up for dinner the next night. Which we did. Just the two of us. In a restaurant. We chowed down and talked about what each of us has been up to. Then we effortlessly segued into a discussion of Arrested Development, The Crash Reel, Ruby Parks, and what’s up with all these quirky female characters? (aka, Manic Pixie Dream Girls).

We debated. We laughed. We shared insights. We shared dessert. We split the bill. It was, as Ez likes to say, “Good times.”

Here’s to good times for you and your kids, now and in the future.


The Summer Olympics – A family learning experience

July 27, 2012

Let the Games begin... Peace!

Eight years ago (how’s that possible?!) I was hired to create lesson plans for a middle school advisory program. For those unfamiliar with “advisory,” typically it’s a weekly class  in which small groups of 6th-8th graders come together with a teacher for conversations about social-emotional challenges. Topics might include: body image, peer pressure, conflict resolution, etc. Since that year’s school calendar coincided with the start the ’04 Summer Olympics I created a couple of Olympic themed lesson plans. I was reminded of them this morning and thought you might like to use some of these ideas this evening as you and your family enjoy the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Olympics Part 1
Educational objective – Understand a bit about the Olympic games as a historic tradition and appreciate them as a model for goal setting, team work, international goodwill.

Some background to share with your kids: Greece was the home of the first Olympics more than 2500 years ago. In the ancient Games, only free men who spoke Greek could compete. Today’s modern Olympics are open to male & female athletes from all over the world. Ask your kids: How is that an improvement over the ancient form?

Watch the Opening Ceremonies on TV and see how many different countries are represented in the Parade of Nations. Find as many as you can on a map.

In ancient times winning athletes received a crown made from olive leaves and they were treated like sports celebrities. ASK: What can Olympic athletes win today?

Ancient Olympic events only included foot races, boxing, wrestling, discus throwing. This year’s Summer Olympics will include 26 sports with 36 disciplines and about 300 events (including archery, weightlifting, Tai Kwondo, volleyball and or course, all kinds of track and swimming events) Women’s Boxing has been added for the first time. ASK: What’s your favorite Olympic event? Talk about why each person in the family likes the sport you do.
EMPHASIZE: All Olympic athletes have short & long term goals. In the same way that each of us has goals, during the summer and throughout the school year. Athletes also have a Game Plan that includes: Daily practice. Work with coach. A support network.

Part 2

Educational objective – Increase awareness of the personal achievements of individual athletes who’ve made it to the Olympics through perseverance and the support they get from coaches, family, teammates.

To make it to the Olympics, you need 2 things. Perseverance is one. ASK: What does perseverance mean?  (Steady and continuous work toward a goal, despite difficulties or setbacks.)

ASK: What does this quotation mean to you? “Constant dripping hollows out a stone.” (Lucretius)  (Keep at it and you will make progress.)

EMPHASIZE: All the Olympic athletes worked very hard for years. It takes perseverance to achieve a goal. So even if they don’t win a medal, they have achieved an impressive goal of getting to the Games.

The other thing the athletes need is support. ASK: What does support mean?  (To give active help and encouragement.)

EMPHASIZE: Perseverance can only come from you. It’s your effort that will help you achieve your goals at school and in life. Support is the help you get from others. ASK:  Who are your supporters, at home? At school?

I hope this helps you bring something extra to your family’s enjoyment of the Olympics. Let the Games begin!




July 11, 2012

This is Part 2 of my 4-part Bing Summer of Doing blog series. If you just got here and missed Part 1, let me explain. I’m the Bing Summer of Doing ‘expert‘ of the week. Part of this awesome responsibility involves blogging about the word of the day.  Today’s word is unplugging. The irony of writing about unplugging while plugged in doesn’t escape me, but if I wrote on the back of this envelope, you wouldn’t see it, so…

Bing Summer of Doing - Pull the plug and.. DO

Winnie-the-Pooh said, “Sometimes I sit and think. And sometimes I just sit.” He also called himself a bear of “little brain” but I disagree. Just “sitting” is the best thing you can do at certain times. And if you’re just sitting in a park, on the beach, on a fallen tree in a forest… you’re probably in a good place, mentally and emotionally.

I’ve noticed that it’s summer. Funny how a whole season can sneak up on you like that. Actually, it’s more scary than funny.  Sometimes, my time on the computer seems endless and I feel like I live in a casino – no windows or evidence the earth is turning. But I see that it’s beautiful outside (yes I do have a window) so I’ve decided to unplug. Not forever,  just for some significant part of each day –  as a way to grab back some balance in my life.

What am I unplugging from? How about these three things for starters? Negativity. Routine. Technology.

Unplugging from destructive emotions: Instead of marinating your soul in anger, frustration, jealousy when the mood strikes, how about simply recognizing the feeling? And then… take a few slow deep breaths. (INHALE s-l-o-w-l-y and evenly through your nose. Relax your jaw and open your mouth.) Then EXHALE s-l-o-w-l-y and evenly through your mouth. Repeat. …. again. Again. Now smile (a half smile will do). Good. You’ve just unplugged from an upset and hopefully you’ve done it before causing any damage. Nice going.

Unplugging from routine: Routines offer security. They can also be fun and creativity drains. Fight back by changing something you’ve been doing automatically every day. Try a miniscule shake-up like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. Dang, unplugging from your routine could be as simple as sitting in a different place at the kitchen table. Or skipping the table altogether and taking your salad or sandwich out on the front steps. There are so many ways to dance through your day, why not make up some new moves? When you do, you’ll find your usual dance partners have to come up with some new moves of their own.

Unplugging from technology: Life isn’t virtual. It’s real. Simple truth. So easy to forget. Years ago, a storm blew out our power for 5 days. No school. No computers. No work. Me and David and the kids read aloud from a big book of obscure folktales. We paused at crucial plot points and took turns guessing what could happen next. We acted out alternative endings. We played Crazy Eights by candlelight. We roasted marshmallows. We all shared memories from childhood. And by the second or third day, we were eating outrageous ice cream sundaes for breakfast (hey, we couldn’t let all the Chunky Monkey melt, could we?). I was more than a little disappointed when the lights came back on and we all plugged in again. But you don’t need a power outage to take a healthy break from social media and the rest of it.  I’m not saying you should become incommunicado for a week and freak out your friends and family. I’m just saying that by spending most of your waking hours with your head in a screen, you miss a lot of the juice of life. That’s just a waste, because the real stuff — the shared joys and disappointments between friends and family — need to be experienced face to face, not just via text and FB posts.

So I’m unplugging today. When I mentioned this to David, he said, “So you’re not going to do anything?” Wrong! I’m going to do plenty of stuff… not sure what yet, but I know, for sure that I’m not going to check my email 75 times. Tweet. or Surf. Just for today. And see what unfolds when I push back the digital infringement and make some room for other things. I’ll report back later. In the meantime, how about if you slowly take your hands off the keyboard, step back from your computer and go outside and play with a friend?

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