I put out the call on Facebook, but I thought I’d do the same here: I’m planning the 2013 Rebeldad Holiday Gift Guide for Teens to run next week. On my personal Facebook page, I received a number of good suggestions, but if you have thoughts, please shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Posted on 21. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
One of the more interesting elements of the New York Times project to cull stories of bullying from blog readers was the number of people who fundamentally misread/ignored the assignment. The NYT explicitly asked (this was the headline): “If Your Child Was Bullied, When Did You Intervene and When Did You Stay Out?”
But more than one-quarter of the commenters left out the “your child” part and instead told their own story. But that lead to an interesting division in the responses. How did stories about children (which occurred, presumably, more recently) compare to stories about bullying that happened decades ago?
In some respects, bullying looks the same: the new generation and the old generation suffered most in elementary school, and despite my expectation that there was more “beating up,” physical-style bullying, the data saw a rate of physical bullying that was only 10 percentage points higher in the “adult” cohort (48.4 percent vs. 36.6 percent in the “child” cohort).
If there’s reason to doubt any of this, it’s because the sex breakdown was noticeably different than seen in the overall dataset. Among those staring personal stories, nearly two in three were women (among those talking about their kids, the sex ratio was closer to 50-50). That may have skewed the findings on physical violence, since the dataset suggests that boys are more likely to feature fisticuffs.
But the most interesting piece was the “parental involvement” piece. The Times explicitly asked for examples of times where parents did (or did not) intervene, and, when talking about their kids, 76 percent of stories included details on direct intervention (parents coaching kids on dealing with the bullying didn’t count: the parents themselves had to confront the bully or an authority figure). But when you look at stories that people told about themselves, only two — 6.5 percent — included any mention of parents getting involved.
That may be because parents didn’t get involved. But even if that’s true, I suspect it’s still an undercount. I’m sure there is recall bias here: when adults look back on bullying in their childhood, they tend not to fixate on whether parents were involved. One of the big arguments in favor of a hands-off approach is that kids need to learn to fight their own battles; the data suggests that most adults believe they did … in their years-old narratives, parents play — at best — a passing role.
** Even more caveats: the “adult” or “old generation” cohort only consisted of 31 anecdotes, and as numbers get smaller, the statistical power drops. It’s also possible that we have some serious selection bias toward women; I suspect that “Motherlode” readership is majority women (though I’m unsure about Booming’s audience). For past caveats, see my first two posts on the subject.
Posted on 20. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
Suicide is, unfortunately, a part of the teenage experience for far too many. The stats on teen deaths are clear: with the exception of accidents, suicide is the leading killer of those 15 to 24. And while we need to do everything we can to stop each and every one of those deaths, this is a week to look broader at the impact of suicide: Saturday is International Survivors of Suicide Day.
The number of such survivors — those who have lost a loved one to suicide — is, sadly, rising. For teens, it’s not only peers taking their own life. Middle-aged people are experiencing a spike in suicide rates, with rates of suicide up 30 percent among Americans ages 35 to 64 over the past decade. Many of those are parents, leaving children as survivors.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is working to help those touched by suicide, and they posted a video of many sharing their stories, as well as perspective on the lessons they’ve learned and the lessons they wished they’d learned earlier.
It’s an emotional piece. But it’s critical. Suicide is an issue that lives too often in the dark, and talking about both suicide and suicide survivorship is something too important to ignore. Saturday is a good excuse to begin those conversations.
Posted on 19. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
One of my regrets about re-launching Rebeldad this month, instead of a month earlier, is that I missed the chance to link to this wonderful New York Magazine piece on “ethical parenting.” The thesis was that pretty much all parents compromise themselves, in ways large or small, to give their kids a leg up.
The college essay might be one of the best examples of one of those blurry ethical lines. How much guidance is expected? How much parental editorial support is OK? It’s easy to say that the right answer is “none,” but are parents seriously going to let a typo in the essay title go uncorrected? And once that compromise gets made, isn’t it a slippery slope?
Motherload tackled the sticky issue on Friday, giving Lacy Crawford, a college counselor, the floor to discuss the demand for polished essays among panicked would-be applicants (and, even more acutely, their parents).
Crawford was clear that she’s not a big fan of the heavy-handed edit of a kid’s work, but her ultimate argument came down not to ethics but rather to ensuring that a teen’s rich inner life end up on the paper:
The personal statement requires that the writer have a sense of perspective about herself, the essential memoirist’s distance that permits her to collude with the reader, not with her parents. Nothing is so deadly to this perspective as Mom or Dad, no matter how loving, leaning down to read over one’s shoulder. The whole mess of maternal adoration and expectation descends on rhetorical perspective and flattens it like a storm does a cornfield. Every interesting bit laid low.
That’s an attractive perspective, but I have a hard time imagining that a parent already prone to intervention is going to buy that a teen — as a part of a hugely stressful process — are going to “have a sense of perspective.” The whole point of being the parent of a teen is a healthy belief that teens don’t have a sense of perspective. Of course, that lack of a perspective can be just as intriguing. I loved the borderline-bratty 13-year-old HuffPo response last week, not because it showed perspective or literary flair, but because it sounded like an actual teen.
I don’t know if college admissions officers are looking for “a sense of perspective” or a typo-free essay or something that sounds genuine (even if it’s also sloppy or naive). But I know that, ethics or not, that it’s hard not to consider meddling. So I plan on clipping-and-saving the Motherlode piece. I’ll need something to hold me back from those typos.
Posted on 14. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
It’s stating the obvious to say that teens are heavy technology users. It’s almost as obvious to say that they’re heavy mobile-phone users. What I don’t think is entirely obvious is what, exactly, they’re doing with their computer/tablet/phone. Fortunately, the fine folks at Global Web Index have a pretty good idea. Here’s what it looks like:.
A handful of things jump out here. The clearest is the heavy mobile use. You can monitor your computers all you want: put ‘em in a public place, check the browser history, etc. but most of the stuff they’re seeing is coming through the phone. Eight of the top 12 platforms are mobile. So if you want to keep an eye on that, good luck.
The second element is the focus on direct, peer-to-peer conversation. Facebook messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, SnapChat, kik and WeChat are all technologies that are some variation of a souped-up text messaging service. It’s all pretty ephemeral stuff, which is both healthy and, by turns, somewhat scary for reasons that will probably get discussed ad nauseum here.
The other element that caught my eye was exactly how many of these services I’m not conversant in. I understand Facebook. I can have a reasonably informed discussion about privacy controls and etiquette and common sense. Ditto for YouTube or Twitter. I got on Instagram just so I wouldn’t be left behind.
But I’m too late. What’s WhatsApp? Had to Google it. Line? No idea. SnapChat I know mostly from what I’ve read. Don’t have that app on my phone. And I get Skype on my desktop, but I’m not really down with the mobile version (do people use it as a texting service? Like I said: clueless).
I don’t think the danger automatically comes from an inability to monitor those services for Bad Things; at a certain point, I’m not sure I have the ability to ferret out stupidity, so I don’t have a choice but to trust and hope for the best. The bigger danger would seem to be the lack of guidance. With Instagram, it’s easy (as an adult) to see the train wrecks coming (lately, it’s been kids “rating” each other according to some less-than-obvious criteria). But I don’t even know what to worry about when it comes to WhatsApp.
I figure most parents expect to become old fogeys sooner or later, complaining about music these days and ranting about how ridiculous the slang is. But I’m Gen X. I helped build the Internet. And I didn’t expect technology to threaten to pass me by so quickly.
Posted on 13. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
Huffington Post ran a wonderful piece earlier this week offering a teen’s rebuttal to a post by her father, Avidan Milevsky, about the stress of raising a teenager. The content itself is disappointingly dull (Avidan’s part of the dialogue is mostly background noise and snark), but what’s really interesting is the 13-year-old’s response.
Unlike a lot of other writing on the web that purports to be by teenagers, this rings true, if only because it feels too literal, too defensive (on issues that really don’t require defensiveness) and utterly lacking in third-party perspective.
My father also mentioned a whole, “coming to my room to talk to me” thing, so yes, I am on the phone a lot, so what? I am a very social and wanted person. Does he want his daughter to be a friendless nerd? About my fortified room, I wish I could have my own fortified room, but that, too, is his fault. Apparently, it is “psychologically healthy” to share a room with siblings, and because he wants me to be psychologically perfect, he forces me to share a room with my sister, who intrudes on my privacy.
There is certainly an element of “trying to be funny,” but it’s a great illustration of the weird, nearly universal lens through which teens see the world. And it’s a great reminder of why teens need a parent in their life, if only to point out, occasionally and gently, that their perspective — while valid– isn’t synonymous with capital-T “truth.”
Posted on 12. Nov, 2013 by Rebeldad.
If you’d asked me, before the New York Times began collecting their bullying stories (see my top-line take on the data and the NYT followup post), what trends might emerge when we looked at sex-specific data, I probably would have babbled back a bunch of stereotypes: boys are probably more likely to be physically bullied than girls, girls are more likely to be bullied by “friends,” parents are more likely to intervene with girls. (I would have also made caveats up one side and down the other, because it’s plainly true that none of these stereotypes are uniformly true, only that one outcome was more likely.)
Looking through the data, some — but by no means all — of these ideas are borne out. For starters, boys are physically bullied in the NYT dataset at twice the rate of girls, emotional bullying in girls is about 50 percent higher than we see in boys. (Though — again with the caveats — more than one in four stories about bullied girls involved physical violence or the threat thereof, so it would be wrong to say that boys do “X” and girls do “Y.” There’s a lot of overlap. And though I don’t trust the dataset in this area, seven stories about girls mentioned it was a friend doing the bullying. Only two stories from boys included that detail.
The age of bullying was pretty consistent, though boys were bullied at a slightly higher rate in elementary school, and girls had a slight edge in middle school.
It was the parental involvement that turned expectations around. Boys were a hair more likely to see a parent step in and directly intervene, suggesting that “letting boys be boys” is not a driving force in the response (or lack thereof) to bullying.
The next post will look at the differences between adults reflecting on their own experience and parents talking about their children.
** More caveats (and for even more, check the bottom of my first post): This dataset grouped both adults talking about their personal experiences, as well as talking about the experience of their children, which is a variable I didn’t correct for here (no regression analyses for you!). I’m also limited by the descriptions in the NYT comments themselves. If a comment didn’t mention bullying by a friend or parental involvement, it wasn’t coded. And cyberbullying and “emotional” bullying were treated as distinct categories, when it can easily be argued that it’s just a different form of distribution for the same kind of activity. For the record, there were four episodes of cyberbullying noted; all were in girls.