Sunday, October 4, 2015

#Being13 in 1978: "It's a Heartache"

The original selfie, Woolworths' photo booth, 1978

What was it like #Being13 in 1978?  A few words come to mind including awkward, unpopular, pimple-faced and theatre-nerd.  But, was it all that bad?

Certainly 13-year-olds today are feeling the same anxiety at not being part of the popular crowd, suffering mockery by the class bully, and exercising their individuality in the face of potential rejection. I know.  I recently raised two 13-year-olds, a daughter and a son (now 16 and 14). 

But, with the advent of the Internet, and our digital kids unprecedented access to influences via the omnipresent smartphone – with selfies, Snapchat and sexting - this generation of 13-year-olds are faced with a whole new array of angst-ridden challenges, including FOMO, “phubbing” (phone snubbing), cyber-bulling and getting enough “likes” on Instagram.  They have grown a new appendage – a constant companion that connects them 24/7 and begs for their attention.  Where we used to put combs in our back pockets, they put phones.  

My memories of #Being13 are more than a bit foggy. Luckily I have two hand-crafted scrapbooks filled with photos that bring me back; all due to my sentimental dad who inspired me to chronicle my life using snapshots, glue and magic markers (and affirmed by Kodak's Times of Your Life commercial, “Do you remember baby, do you remember the times of your life?). The photos are fuzzy and the pages worn, but the memories live on – my first overnight school trip to Washington D.C. and visiting the Capitol, our family vacation to Hershey Park, my sister and I riding the Super Dooper Looper five times and gorging ourselves on chocolate, lots and lots of camp photos, and the National Honor Society Award ceremony (caption reads, “My most embarrassed look!”).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Growing Up with “Dr. Google” – A Prescription for Stress or Empowerment? Digital Daughters Weigh In...

Your 14-year-old daughter tells you that she is worried about a dry patch on her elbow, a sore on the tip of her tongue and a bent eyelash that hurts when she blinks.  She has been Googling her ailments, and fears the worst.  You: 

A. Call the doctor immediately.
B. Tell her that you will use your search engines to diagnose her ailments and get to the bottom of them all.
C. Tell her not to worry.  Let her know that while these small ills are worth looking into, they are probably also worth a giggle, and they will surely go away.
D.  Call 911! 

For every lump, bump, rash, pain, pimple and bruise, kids today have constant access to an always on-call “Dr. Google” – an omnipresent option for self-diagnosis.  But, is the ability to search the Internet’s health sites a good thing for our adolescents – offering them helpful information, self-awareness and self-diagnoses - or are we raising a future generation of hypochondriacs?

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Summer’s Media Tsunami Over the Way Women Speak: 4 Camps – Who Are You Bunking With?

Whether it be an Amy Schumer parody, an NPR thoughtful “trialogue,” a linguist, doctor, student or an ex-Google executive’s take, this summer’s media tsunami over whether the way women speak affects how they are perceived continues to splash up on our shores.  But like sand in your bathing suit, why is the issue so irritating and why is it creating such a rash?   

We’ve obviously hit a (vocal) nerve.  We all want to speak in a way that inspires confidence – that compels others to listen.  To build rapport, to gain consensus, to be civil in our discourse, many women (including yours truly) use uptalk, filler words (so, like, ya know?) and apologies as a more humane way of communicating.  But the fact is, for better or worse, the way we speak does affect how we are perceived.  Today’s verbal fashion trends – vocal habits including filler words, up-talk, vocal fry and incessant apologizing -- are contagious and pervasive.  They weaken our speech, making us sound unsure, and yes, maybe even incapable.  

Suffice to say, I am fascinated by this summer’s voice-patrol-mania, the abundance of coverage, the positions taken, bragging rights, and the breadth of outlets that are making this issue their feature story.  With my own #sayitlikeyoumeanit mantra and blog – I’ve had my ear to the sand, tracking the coverage.  

So, who is winning the media war over the way women speak?  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Only Screen for Summer?

Day two.  Post an awesome sleep-away camp adventure.  And, along with my two-shades-browner, one-inch-taller son, I find myself once again disturbed by familiar unwanted guests in the house, albeit of the virtual nature.

Two days ago we made the hike up to New Hampshire’s breathtaking white mountains to pick up my fourteen-year-old, Jake, and already I am yelling at him to turn off his video game.  I know many of you have been wrestling with those oddly realistic animated sports stars and beckoning monsters for weeks now (weeks = eternity), and are desperately seeking some kind of remedy to get your kids off the screen, outside and on the move.  If only there was a Vitamin O (“Keep in reach of children”) that would mentally orient our kids O-ffline and O-ut the door.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average kid, ages 8-18, spends more than seven hours a day looking at screen media.  Yikes!  Of course, I am no Luddite, but for summer, the only screen kids should really use is sunscreen.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Like, Hire Me? Why the Way We Speak Matters and What We Can Do About it

In the words of Joan Rivers, can we talk?

This week’s print and social media tsunami over whether the way women speak affects how they are perceived made me want to post #SayitLikeYouMeanit all over Twitter (which I actually did a bit of)!  It was instigated by former Google employee Ellen Petry Leanse's commentary for Cosmopolitan over the “permission word” “just,” and a piece in Fortune, “Like, Totally Don’t Talk Like This to Get Ahead in Business,” The coverage has been passionate, dissenting and informative.

The fact is, for better or worse, the way we speak does affect we how we are perceived.  Verbal habits including filler words, up-talk, vocal fry and incessant apologizing (See Amy Schumer’s "I'm Sorry" parody) can weaken our speech, making us sound unsure, and yes, maybe uneducated.  Whether you are giving an oral presentation, interviewing for a summer internship or a job, meeting with a college recruiter, or engaging colleagues at a meeting, sounding self-assured and speaking articulately is paramount to being taken seriously.

The good news is that none of these disfluencies are pathological (although hearing five “likes” in your colleague’s or child's every sentence may seem so).   The way we speak - women and men alike - is behavioral and we could all use a little more awareness and intervention.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

“My Mom is Like…Whatever!” - Life, liberty and the inherited teenage right to speak with conviction (but can we reduce the number of “likes”? And, are we to blame?)

It is the right of every teenager to find their parents exceedingly annoying and embarrassing.  And, as parents, it is our duty to have a thick skin and to stay the course, giving them the assist, the emphatic push, the knowing advice when they need it – and even when think they don’t.  But nothing is more irritating, and met with more eye-rolls – on both sides – than the verbal correction.  

I have two teenagers of my own – one independent, tolerant soul, and one green with mortification at my mere presence in the company of his peers – and both with their own verbal crutches.  I often have to bite my tongue to not constantly correct their likes, ahs, ums and ya’ knows.   (e.g. “Ya know, mom, I can’t even believe you brought the dog to my soccer training and had to have every player like pet her?”)

The truth is, teenagers make for enlightening and heady company.  I love being around them, even if they’d rather I made myself scarce.  But the way teens communicate with all of those “likes, ya knows, totallys and whatevers” gives me pause.  Where do they get this post “Valley girl” lexicon and why is it so pervasive?  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Behind the Screen: Digital Daughter, Teen Mentor and Superstar Lauren Galley

Lauren Galley, DDA, Teen Mentor and Founder of Girls Above Society

Like most girls today who are growing up tethered to their tech - connecting and socializing via the screen - many of my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) have been profoundly influenced by experiences with cyber bullying, sexting, text dating, FOMO and the like.  I'm honored to introduce you to my DDA Lauren, who has not only risen above and beyond her own middle school tech nightmare, but is doing something about it in a really big and meaningful way…

Meet Lauren Galley, teen mentor and founder of Girls AboveSociety, her non-profit born out of her own personal angst-ridden experience and a desire to help girls everywhere cope and thrive in our digital world. 

Back in January, Lauren and I met on Twitter (of course!) and I continue to be blown away by her dizzying schedule, pure dedication and unending list of accomplishments. At age 20, she has just finished her sophomore year at SHSU and is pursuing a Masters in Psychology. Lauren is a TEDx Speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, Official Ambassador for Secret Deodorant’s Mean Stinks Campaign, and just wrote a book, “Kissing Frogs:In Search of Prince Charming.” Most recently, she is working on a course in cyber citizenship for the Texas Education Agency,

I asked Lauren about social media, social anxiety, the importance of speaking articulately and with confidence, and her generation’s future.  Here's what she had to say...

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ephemeral Text vs. The Hand-Written Letter

New Yorker Magazine

Heyyy hand-written letter…I’m sry 2 hear of ur passing, but u r just way 2 time consuming & I’m not even sure I remember how 2 print.  U r, I’m afraid, SOL.

Last week, I visited my mom with my orally fixated golden retriever puppy, Maisy. Unprepared with a bone, ball or her favorite dismembered stuffed hedgehog, we headed to my old bedroom in desperate search for a toy - of any sort.  Ultimately, we found success in the dusty-curtained cabinet above my dresser – although not the kind we were looking for. Along with my sister’s mighty super ball collection, a copy of Chaucer's “The Canterbury Tales,” a dental award statue and the tassels from my siblings’ high school graduation caps, we uncovered three shoeboxes filled with old letters, negatives and a few photos. Treasure!

Among the letters – written by family, camp friends, school friends and old boyfriends – were a pile from my dear old dad (I miss him every, single day). Penned in the early 80's when I was a teenager frolicking at sleep-away camp and performing at summer stock theatre, his letters, written on unadorned white paper, were neatly tri-folded into recycled business reply envelopes (“waste not, want not!”).

My eyes welled up as I read his jaunty prose, and I was reminded of his great wit and teasing.

Dear Audrey,

It is too quiet, we miss you but the young swan must try her wings, so!!!  We are looking forward to your letter telling us about the luxurious accomodations, gourmet vittles, heated tile floor in the “Jane,” and the good looking males across the way.”