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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Blogging for Huffington Post

December 22, 2014

Just started blogging for Huffington Post. Long time goal on my bucket list… check! I haven’t been at it for long, so you haven’t missed much. If you’d like to catch up, here’s where you can subscribe to my RSS feed and/or read the three articles I’ve posted so far.

Since I’m starting this gig during the holiday season, I’m seasoning my posts with holiday spirit. Like this one, from today: This Holiday Season Have Compassion for Relatives Who Drive You Nuts.

It’s a little funny and a little serious. Bottom line, we’ve all got folks in our extended family who can push our buttons like all get-out.  (Not sure where that expression comes from but I’ve always liked the sound of it.) Don’t know about you, but when I get my chain yanked I’m at least as unpleasant as the aforementioned button-pushers. No fun for me or anyone else. So in this post I give tips for turning irritation into compassion. Why? So you (and I) can spread a little love in Aunt Gertrude’s direction while teaching our kids that there are times when we all need to put on our ‘company manners’ and be pleasant to everyone.

Time to get together with the family...

Time to get together with the family…

Go ahead, read it and you just might have a happier holiday. I hope so!

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Holiday parties! What’s the price of Popularity?

December 20, 2014

T’is the season for parties. When it’s a family affair, all the kids are included. But as you get older, you may want to organize your own get-togethers, and that means only “special friends” get invited. If you’ve been left off a party invitation list you might have felt left-out. But what if you were invited to a party and one of your besties wasn’t? Awkward situation!

This question comes from a girl who found herself in that situation. Her question and my answer are included in my latest book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA. Read on…

 

"I got invited, but my friend didn't! Awkward!"

“I got invited, but my friend didn’t! Awkward!”

 

Q: “Friend A invited everyone to her party except Friend B. Now Friend B is mad at me for wanting to go. But I need to go so I can be popular. Is it worth it?”

Answer: If understand that you want to go to the party, but if everyone was invited except Friend B, you can understand why she is upset. Maybe you can also understand why she is angry that you want to go without her.

When you say, “I need to go to the party so I can be popular,” I wonder if the Popularity Game means more to you than Friend B. People who ditch friends to be with more “popular” people often find themselves without any real friends.

Should you go to the party? Good question! If you do, then Friend B will probably be unhappy with you. She might get over it, but there is also a chance that your going to the party could really damage the friendship. You are the only one who can decide if it’s “worth the risk. To help you figure it out, think about this: If Friend B go invited and you didn’t, how would you feel about her going with you? If it wouldn’t feel right for her to go, then it’s probably not right for you.

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If you’re curious about the 49 other questions and answers in The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, check out this free excerpt. If you’ve got a friendship challenge you need help with right now, email me or post it to the comments below.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

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