The Good Life: Characters Locked in a Cell

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Reluctant

So done with winter!“Spring seems most reluctant this year…” my husband’s grandmother wrote in a letter to us almost twenty years ago. Personal email was just starting up, and Grandma was close to 90, so the technology revolution entirely missed her generation. Her phrasing stayed with me all these years later, because what she said was certainly true, but there was no frustration in her words, only grace. A similar text today might read, “So done with winter!,” also true, but delivered with a crass directness and blistering internet speed never before seen. I love social media and texting for the very way it keeps us connected in a casual, immediate manner, but with the intoxicating rush of 21st century communication, and insatiable quest for immediate information, I have lost something.

Internet access makes me feel as though there is constantly something I should be doing, every minute of every day, right up until I fall into bed at night. I could be registering for retirement benefits, paying for school lunches, researching my ancestry, or confirming dentist appointments (there are 5 of us, and one with braces). My cell phone was a generous gift given to me by my generous family. Texting makes communication with them flow freely and easily. Help at school pick up time is now just a text away, and for that I am truly grateful. That cell phone has truly made my life easier in that respect. However, I feel the burden of expectation that comes with that portable, yet powerful device.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Your Daughter’s Online Social World

The BFF 2.0 Tour: Welcome to Your Daughter’s Social World Online

What is your daughter doing there, hunched in front of a computer, phone beeping to one side, mp3 player buzzing to the other, earbuds streaming music or video or the latest drama? Do you ever feel like she’s in another world, one you don’t understand, are too old for, or can’t figure out?

Welcome to BFF 2.0, your daughter’s online social world… I’m taking parents on a tour. Don’t worry: this tour has no technical information whatsoever. I’m going to speak in real English and keep it simple. I’m offering some big picture points about why girls are so obsessed with social media and why so much of it is making them anxious and insecure.

Stand on the edge of any playground and you’ll see a scene play out day after day: most boys play games, and most girls linger on the edges to talk. The same is true online: social media is social, and girls use technology to connect and share. Check these stats out:

  • Girls typically send and receive 50 more texts a day than boys.
  • Girls ages 14-17 are the most active, churning through 100 texts a day on average.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to carry their phones on them at all times.

It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning, technology helped connect girls. It was an adjunct to relationship, filling the gaps of contact that opened up between home and school. Today, technology is part of relationship itself. With gadgets more portable and accessible, the average kid ages 8-18 spends up to 8 hours a day using an electronic device. Girls move fluidly between virtual and spoken conversation, texting to each other in the same car and conducting real and virtual conversations simultaneously.

Real life is frequently experienced as a new opportunity to post or share online. A high school girl told me that the phrase “take a picture of me” now simply means, “put it on Facebook.” Another girl told me, “People go to parties in college with the intention of just having [Facebook] pictures for the night. If someone makes a joke at a party, a person will be like, oh my God, that’s the perfect title for my album.” And in 2009, a teen told Teen Vogue, “You’re not dating until you change your relationship status on Facebook.” A year later, “FBO,” or Facebook Official, became the new measure of dating legitimacy.

Many parents suspect that what’s happening online is some crazy, altogether foreign world than the one you know your daughter to inhabit. Think again. All social media does is magnify the feelings and dynamics that were there all along. In the real world, girls are obsessed with their relationships. They know a big part of their status is defined by who they sit next to, which parties they get invited to, and who they count as a “best friend.”

The same thing is happening online. Every time her phone beeps, or someone “likes” her status on Facebook, she gets a tangible message about how well (or not) her relationships are doing. Today, a socially aspirational girl must be vigilant about not only what happens in real life, but her virtual reputation — and on a new, uncharted plane of connection and coolness. That girl sitting at her laptop, working three machines at once? She’s doing a new kind of social work. It takes time, and it takes access.

That’s why girls claim they “don’t exist” if they lack a Facebook account. This is why parents sleep with confiscated laptops under their pillows; they know their daughters will do anything to get them back. And this is why girls show levels of rage and anxiety hence unseen when they lose phone or online privileges. It is precisely the value that girls place on their access to technology that illuminates its position at the heart of girls’ relationships.

But just because girls love social media doesn’t mean they know how to use it responsibly. The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that a girl “gets” technology in a way that an adult does not. Looks are deceiving. The world of BFF 2.0 has presented girls with new, unwritten rules of digital friendship, and it has posed a fresh set of social challenges.

What does a one-word text mean when someone usually types a lot? What if you and your friend are texting the same girl, but she only replies to your friend? Does she like you less? How should you handle it? Online social interactions generate situations that demand sophisticated skills. Without them, girls become vulnerable to online aggression and worse…

Related post:


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: The Importance of a Parent’s Empathy

Why a Parent’s Empathy is Vital for a Bullied Girl
…and Why It Often Goes Out the Window

When I did the original research for Odd Girl Out, I asked every bullied girl I interviewed to tell me what she needed most from her family. The answer truly surprised me. It wasn’t having the best solutions, calling the school or trying to act like everything was okay.

It was empathy.

Before you say, yeah, yeah, I figured that, hear me out. Now that I’ve been working with parents for a decade, I have seen up close how easy it is for empathy to go out the window. There are two reasons why parents struggle: First, when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume – understandably – that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.

But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it.

Second, empathy is painful. It involves slowing down to acknowledge and think about your daughter’s feelings of hurt, rejection or sadness. This can be an anguishing experience for parents. Connecting with these emotions can make you feel powerless and overwhelmed, so it’s understandable why many parents would prefer to spring into action.

Your daughter is hungry for empathy when she is struggling socially. Remember that girls live in a peer culture that often denies or invalidates feelings: you’re being too sensitive, I didn’t do that, you took it the wrong way, I was just kidding. Still other girls are hurt by peers who deny what they’ve done in the first place. Your empathy tells your daughter, I know this happened. I know it hurt. I see you, I love you and I’m here.

An empathic response to a bullied or targeted girl might sound like this:

  • “I’m so sorry this happened.”
  • “That sounds awful.”
  • “If I were you, I would also feel really ______.”
  • “It sounds like you’re feeling pretty _______.” That makes a lot of sense.

Empathy isn’t the same thing as expressing emotions. It’s not about sharing your feelings – it can be really uncomfortable if a parent cries or loses strength at the moment her daughter needs it most. The message sent is that you need to be taken care of, not the other way around.

To help you achieve the right balance in how you respond to your daughter, think back to when she was learning to walk. If you showed fear and panic when she slipped and fell, she’d usually sense it and wail. If you chortled, “Oops! You’re okay! Up you go!” and plucked her up calmly, she probably kept on trucking. Your concern and reassurance motivated her to continue. That’s what she needs from you now. Your courage will help sustain her when she can’t access any on her own.

Empathy isn’t the only tool at your disposal, and it’s hardly the only thing you’ll do when she’s hurting. But it’s the first step, and one not to be missed.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

This post is based on sections of the newly updated and revised Odd Girl Out.To get four new chapters of anti-bullying strategies and insights for girls, parents and educators, pre-order the new OGO now!

Our Daughters: Lemon Juice in Paper Cuts

BFF 2.0: Is Technology Making You Insecure?

In the latest episode, Rachel looks at the way social networking and texting can make girls compare themselves to others..


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: Being Snarky Online

BFF 2.0: Is She Really Kidding? The Problem With “Joking” Online

In the latest episode of her new series on friendship and technology, Rachel talks about how “just kidding” and “no offense” can start drama online.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: Using Facebook to Air Conflict

BFF 2.0: Using Status Updates to Hash Out Conflicts

In the second episode of her new series, BFF 2.0, Rachel talks about using Facebook and AIM status updates to deal with friendship problems.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Southern Hilltowns Domestic Violence Task Force Letter on Cyberbullying

Dr. Hinduja also suggests being alert to the signs of cyberbullying. If your child unexpectedly stops using their computer or cell phone, appears nervous when an instant message or text appears, or seems uneasy about going to school or going out in general, talk to them about what is going on.

Southern Hilltown Domestic Violence Task Force writes:

Bullying is different than it used to be. It still happens between classmates and within dating relationships like it always has. But cell phones and the internet have changed the landscape. Twenty years ago if you were bullied you knew who was bullying you and could usually get away from the bullying after school. Today, cyberbullying (bullying through the use of technology) can happen 24/7. It can happen anonymously through unidentifiable email addresses or pseudonymous screen names on social networking sites. Further, the bullying can be shared with a large number of people with a simple click of the mouse. Basically, bullies have more sophisticated tools than they used to have. With new technology they can reach further and can inflict greater harm.

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Senate Passes Broadband Stimulus Bill

SENATE PASSES BROADBAND STIMULUS BILL
Steps Taken to Ensure Massachusetts is Eligible for Maximum Amount of Federal Funding to Support Broadband Deployment Initiatives

Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announces today the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation enabling the Commonwealth to take full advantage of federal stimulus funds authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for broadband deployment initiatives.

Downing, a major proponent of legislation in 2008 establishing the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and funding it with a $40 million state capital bond authorization, helped to shepherd this stimulus-related proposal through the Senate today.

The MBI is tasked with extending affordable high-speed Internet access to all homes, businesses, schools, libraries, medical facilities, government offices and other public places across the state, focusing first on unserved areas.

“Passage of this legislation puts Massachusetts in a solid position to gain access to federal funds that will assist MBI with its mission,” said Downing.  “Today, reliable broadband service is not considered a luxury – it is a necessity for continued economic development, engaging educational opportunities, higher property values and advanced public safety initiatives.  Pairing available federal funds with state bond monies will further our efforts to ensure all currently unserved and underserved communities will soon be plugged-in to a reliable high speed internet connection.”

Downing represents 48 communities in western Massachusetts, 22 of which are unserved – or completely without access to broadband – as well an additional 15 towns with only partial access to high speed internet.

Read the rest of this entry »

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