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.

Day 21: Kindness and Respect Challenge (The Apple, through my eyes)

October 21, 2013

My friend, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, has created another cultural fog-buster in Technology Sabbath. In six minutes she sounds an alarm and gently nudges us to unplug and create time for the people we love and the non-tech activities that make us whole.

Inspired, I stayed offline from Friday evening til Sunday morning. No email, Twitter, FB. No IMDB, Wiki, Yelp. And absolutely no regrets. So what did I do for 36 hours without the Internet?! I did not climb walls, turn into Super Bitch, nor eat massive amounts of chocolate. Instead…

Early Saturday morning, after bagels and blueberry smoothies, David and I romped with The Pupster through the wet grass at the beautiful park over the hill. From there, we headed south to Puppy Training Class. Then up, up and up to Mt. Tam, for a hike through redwoods high above the bay. In the evening we met up for dinner with our lovely son and daughter-in-law, and her awesome parents.

And in between? While David worked and The Pupster sacked out in the sun? I crawled through a portal of my own devising, out of the 21st century and into a timeless time. And there I stayed for who knows how long, content simply to observe and draw an apple.

I started with this:

Simply beautiful. Beautifully simple.

 

Expressed it as this:

 

Gala Time Unplugged by Annie Fox

Then, like a guiless Black Widow, I devoured my model:

Delicious sweetness

And still, this remnant of a remnant continued to draw me into itself:

 

Trapped potential

Trapped potential

And hold me there:

Power unlocked

Until what remained was:

All that's needed to start anew

All that's needed to start anew

Enjoy your week, my friends. Be kind and respectful to yourself. Take the time you need to be outside of time.

 

 

---------

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 ask.fm before it exploded Monday inside a 12 year’s mind, with the thought her life was worthless. Do ask.fm 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
---------

Helping Kids Deal w/Social Garbage, Online & Off

November 8, 2012

I originally wrote a version of this article for TakePart.com, an interactive publisher and the digital arm of Participant Media.  Check out my weekly Education posts there.

"Help! I'm drowning in social garbage!"

I’ve been answering teen email since 1997. The ongoing Q&A has made me an expert on the social garbage many 11-17 year olds slog through every day. Typical teen questions include:

  • What do you do if your friend is mad at you but won’t tell you why?
  • What do you do if people are spreading rumors about you and no one believes that they aren’t true?
  • What do you do when friends pressure you to do stuff you don’t want to do, but you’re afraid not to because they’ll make fun of you?

Sound familiar? These might be the same issues we once dealt with, but our children aren’t responding to them the way we did before social media. When 21st-century kids experience peer conflicts, online and off, they typically respond with a level of social aggression (aka verbal violence) that damages individuals in profound ways and pollutes school climates everywhere.

In September I spoke with nearly a thousand students at a couple of international schools, one in Singapore and another in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We talked about Real Friends vs. the Other Kind, based on my Middle School Confidential series. In each presentation the kids and I discussed tough issues like: stress, peer approval addiction, and the brain’s occasional habit of working against our desire to do the right thing. Even though I was 7,000 miles from home, the comments and questions coming from these students expressed the same conflicts and emotional confusion I’ve heard repeatedly from kids in San Jose, St. Louis, and Philly.

Back in the last century, when we had a problem with someone at school, we went home for dinner with the family, did homework, and watched TV. Sometimes we even read a book to take our minds off school and social garbage. The next morning in class combatants were usually less combative and we were all better able to concentrate on whatever we were expected to learn.

Today’s kids are mind-melded with peers 24/7. School and home are equally conducive for frantic texting and getting more people involved in the drama du jour. Status anxiety regularly submerges so much mental real estate, our students are often flooded with destructive emotions. They can’t think clearly when they’re upset. No one can. Which is why the adults who live and work with kids need to actively teach kids to be good people, otherwise, their moral compasses will be calibrated solely by their equally clueless peers. (Not a pretty thought!)

---------

Unplugging

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?

---------
« Newer PostsOlder Posts »
Find Annie Fox: Find Annie on Facebook Find Annie on Twitter Find Annie on Pinterest Find Annie on YouTube Find Annie on Google+ Find Annie on LinkedIn Find Annie on Goodreads Find Annie on Quora