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.

Before the truth gets drowned out and dies

December 19, 2016

I often ask parents, “What kind of people do you want your kids to grow up to be?” “Honest” is always in the top five. We don’t want our kids peddling lies and deception (not in relation to us or their teachers or their friends). Being honest is a good thing. Yeah. Glad we all agree.

But we parents have a problem. The President-elect regularly lies loudly and proudly with impunity. Face it, he won the Presidency of the United States of America, in part, by spouting crappola like “Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are co-founders of ISIS.” And “Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.” And “Hillary Clinton started the Birther Movement and I stopped it.” Since Election Day he’s continued with baseless claims like: “There was ‘serious voter fraud’ in California.” and…. never mind.

If you’re not outraged you haven’t been paying attention. But you have. I know you have. But too many folks gobble up any and all of what He says. No questions asked. Seriously?

We have veered off the trail. Maybe you wanted change. Maybe you’re cool with the fact that the truth as we know it has been left behind. Doesn’t matter if we’re cool with it or not. The truth is, all of us are now being led by a person who either doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction or cynically lies for self-aggrandizement as well as the perverse rush he gets in sowing seeds of discord to solidify his Rule by Fear.

I miss Obama already. And Michelle. And Joe Biden.

Wonder what Obama thinks of all this. Ira Glass and the team at This American Life wondered, too. They asked singer/songwriter Sara Bareillis to imagine what President Obama might be thinking about the election and Trump but can’t say publicly. Leslie Odom, Jr (Tony Award-winning actor for his role as Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton). performs the song (with lyrics displayed) It blows me away every time I watch and listen. I try to remain hopeful. It’s hard. But we’ve got to work on it. And stay politically active. Seriously.

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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!)

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What do you mean I can’t connect w/my kid 24/7?!

November 22, 2010

In a rare but not unprecedented move, we sent our intrepid Time Traveler back to the late 1980s to report on the historic role of  parents in their children’s education. What she uncovered may be hard for us 21st Century parents to believe, but we’ve verified her account by cross-referencing it with archival documents as well as first hand reports from today’s Elders and young adults who swear this is the way it was. Her report is excerpted here:

On weekdays during the 1980s, parents kissed their kids goodbye at the front door and sent them out into the world. The children either marched themselves to a bus stop, walked to school or rode a bike (yes they had helmets, though nowhere as cool as the ones we’ve got)  From the moment they turned the corner, parents could not directly communicate with their kids.

WARNING: If you find yourself feeling anxious reading the above, we recommend  putting your head between your knees and breathing in slowly through your nose and exhaling slowing through you mouth. If that doesn’t alleviate your symptoms, shut down your computer and take a warm bath, with or without bubbles.

All during morning classes, lunchtime, recess, afternoon classes and onsite after school programs, kids were incommunicado. You’re probably wondering, “What if the kid left a lunch, a book or assignment at home? How could Mom or Dad rush to school to help if they didn’t know there was a problem?” The teachers and school administrators of the ’80s had a simple answer for that one: If the kid doesn’t bring something (s)he needs to schoool, then the kid figures it out and deals with the consequences. Period.

Cruel and unusual punishment, granted, but that’s the way it was.

In case you’re shaking your head thinking, “That sounds like a lockdown!” 20th Century schools weren’t entirely lacking compassion. For example, if a kid complained of a headache, (s)he asked the teacher’s permission to go to the office where she’d plead her case to the school nurse and likely be given an opportunity to rest quietly. If the nurse felt the situation warranted it, the school placed a call home or to the parents’ office and the problem was solved. Are they for real?! Think of the precious moments lost using that antiquated system!

Today, thankfully, we can call and/or text our kids at any time, including 9-3 and we do…often! Yet, apparently, some schools are cracking down on in-class cellphone use. They say the constant ringing and buzzing is a distraction to teachers and any students interested in receiving an education.  (What kind of lame excuse is that?) In addition, schools limiting students’ cellphone access also justify it by saying the policy reduces in-class cheating and cyber-bullying. Hmm. Well, maybe we can see some logic there, but who cares?! Schools have no right to prioritize education over a parent’s access to their children. This is the 21st Century, Ms. Principal, and these are Anxious Times.

Your thoughts?

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