This video is currently doing the rounds of Facebook pages of
teenagers across the globe. And for good reason. More children have either been bullied or know someone who's been bullied than are bullies.
It makes for compelling viewing to see a bully finally hit back. It's the fantasy of every bullied child. No wonder the bullied boy who hit back, Casey Heynes, is now seen as a hero.
But as I watched the video for the first time, all that I could think was how lucky for Casey that the bully wasn't seriously hurt. If Casey had broken the smaller boy's neck, the outpouring of support may well have been different.
We want our children to be able to stand up for themselves. We encourage them to fight back. And so we celebrate the courage of Casey Heynes. But would we also be happy for our child to carry the burden of seriously injuring another?
Bullied children everywhere should rightly have puffed out their chests when this incident occurred. Casey's action was a stance on behalf of all of those children whose self-esteem had been kicked and trodden on for years. But we should encourage our kids to fight back in a manner that will not adversely affect the rest of their lives by endangering the life of another.
When rugby league player Brett Stewart was acquitted of sexual assault yesterday, his family, friends and fans were no doubt thankful that our judicial system had done its job.
In March 2009 a 17-year-old woman accused Stewart of digital rape. He protested his innocence amid a highly public he said/she said media circus but had to wear the allegations for 17 months.
I work with the twenty-something girlfriend of one of Stewart’s best mates. From day one she was certain of his innocence, such was his reputation as a really nice guy. Stewart’s girlfriend stuck by him, claiming there was no way a guy like him would do what he was being accused of. My teenage son also assured me that the footballer wasn’t the sort of guy who would assault a woman, based entirely on his respect for him as a role model. Turns out they were right, but along the way Stewart’s good guy image took a beating. Mud sticks.
We encourage young women to step forward and shot loudly if they are the victim of sexual harassment or assault. Gen Y and Gen Next women are showing the courage and strength that previous generations lacked. More power to them.
But it’s to our sons that we must now turn our attention. I have raised my two sons to respect women. They know what it means when a woman says, “no”. But the modern danger for young men is the woman who would falsely accuse them of assault for reasons of revenge, attention, spite or mental illness.
I subscribe to the view that prevention is better than cure so I’ve used the Brett Stewart example to explain to my boys that they can never be too careful. If a young man is alone with a woman and she cries foul, he will always be assumed guilty until proven innocent. As the mother of sons I fear the consequences of a night out with the boys if young women become part of the mix.
What can parents do to help their teenagers avoid a messy situation like the Stewart affair? Preventing them from drinking alcohol and partying once they reach the legal age is unrealistic; as is tying them to a chair to stop them from going anywhere at all.
It’s important not to put the fear of god into your sons. Women are not the enemy, mostly. But until he meets a young woman that he knows well and can trust, there’s safety in numbers.
I could hear my son singing and playing his guitar in his bedroom one evening. The only thing strange about that scenario was that he had closed his bedroom door. Just weeks away from his 13th birthday, the door closing had begun.
So naturally I opened the door to find out why it was closed: standard parental response (although not always appropriate). My son was on Skype with a girl from his old school and he was singing her a song that he’d just written. She later wrote on Facebook that my son had just given her a private concert.
Above: A teenage girl using Skype on a computer in her bedroom. Source
Although not a religious person, I suddenly thanked god for Skype. At any other time in history, my son would have been serenading the girl in person. But there he was, sitting on his bed, while she sat happily on hers, unable to touch. And at that moment, there was no one happier than I.
My son was 12 when he started Skyping his friends every night of the week. At first it drove me insane because I saw it as a distraction from his studies. He’d just started high school and the homework had doubled from the junior school.
The thing is: he would have found something else to distract him if there wasn’t Skype. Best not to kid myself about that.
But I have come to appreciate Skype for what it is in the life of my teenager. It is the ultimate enabling tool – it enables him to socialise with his friends, the group of girls in their circle and one girl in particular, any night of the week. And it enables me to know exactly where he is when he’s happily socialising – in his bedroom, safe from harm. Better than the old style communication of the home phone, with Skype you can conference call all of your friends at the same time, and it’s free.
Above: Skype is like a free conference call on your computer.
There’s no meeting up in parks or shopping centres after school. They still meet up during the day on weekends, when I can drop off and pick up. But during the week, after school, when I’m not yet home from work, my son is getting what he needs: socialisation with girls (he attends a boys school); and I’m getting what I need: peace of mind.
It may not have been the outcome that we were all hoping for, but when Francesca Schiavone won the French Open last night against the favoured Sam Stosur I was handed a relevant case study for the next pep talk with my 16-year-old.
Stosur had beaten Schiavone in their previous four battles, as well as the number one seed on her way to the final. It was widely expected that she would win the tournament. But those who doubted Schiavone hadn’t factored in her sheer determination. And that was the message that I shared with my son who is battling his way through year 11.
He feels that the odds are against him to succeed in the Higher School Certificate. He isn’t naturally suited to the traditional learning style served up by his teachers and his performance to date has shattered his confidence. So we discussed Schiavone’s remarkable win despite her recent playing history.
“If you really want something, you can make it happen,” I heard myself saying. “But you have to really want it.”
My son agreed that a physical challenge such as a tennis match would actually be more difficult to win by willpower than an academic pursuit. Committing to study should be easier than improving a sports skill. But the truth is that boredom and fatigue can be powerful enemies of focus. Throw in self-doubt compounded by recent disappointments and it really is like turning around a cruise liner in the middle of a small harbour. We’re taking it one small step at a time.
All we can do is help him to understand what needs to be done, point him in the right direction, throw in a few inspirational case studies and hope like hell that he wants it bad enough. Schiavone has provided a burst of inspiration. The rest really is up to him.
“Kissing leads to touching. Touching leads to grandchildren.”
This sweet little quote was posted on Facebook by a 12-year-old that my son has a crush on. I know her mother and I can almost hear her saying that to her daughter. Good to see that some children listen to their parents!
I’m assuming it’s because the daughter has had her first kiss and shared the experience with her mum, as I’m told girls tend to do. As I haven’t noticed any emotional changes in my son, I have to also assume that it wasn’t with him and he hasn’t heard about this incident (mum mail is apparently faster than peer post).
A couple of years ago I caught my son practising his kissing technique on his arm. It was so cute. He’d observed a couple kissing in a movie and was clearly keen to give it a go. At the time, I told him that it wasn’t really something that he could practice for. It would be a natural reaction to his feelings for the girl at the time. And no matter how good he got at kissing his own arm, it wouldn’t prepare him for puppy love’s first kiss.
A couple of months ago he met up with the girl of his crush at a coffee shop. Her mother and I were nearby, but we gave them their space. It was beautiful. He bought her a drink and then they talked and talked and talked – in a part of the cafe where we couldn’t see them. After about an hour they went their separate ways, returning to their respective mums.
I asked my son what they talked about.
“Oh you know, stuff,” he said. “We like the same things, the things we talked about.”
“Did anything else happen?” I asked, wanting to pry, but not wanting him to know that’s what I was doing.
“What else could have happened?” he asked, so innocently that I wanted to bundle him up in my arms forever.
Although I was dying to know, I stopped myself from asking if they’d kissed because I didn’t want to put that pressure on him.
It may or may not have happened on this occasion, but I suspect that first kiss isn’t far away.
On the weekend I learned that girls determine the pairings when you’re 12 or 13 and wearing your relationship trainer wheels.
A 12-year-old boy, on the sideline of my son’s rugby match, filled me in on the gameplay. Apparently the boys stand there like naive ducks, hoping a girl (any girl) will like them. The girls stand back and select the ones they want to be partnered with (if any). If a boy is really keen, he might proactively ask one of the girls if she knows anyone that might like him.
“The girls really like M and say that if he was taller he’d be the pick of the group,” the boy shared with me.
“But because he’s short no one wants to be with him right now. Maybe when he grows a bit.”
Right, so short is out. Any other traits that early teen boys need to be concerned about?
“They don’t like A either because they say he’s annoying. He asks too many questions. He’s a bit hyper.”
“Not all the girls want to hang out with us. Some of them like older boys.”
OK, so if you’re 12 or 13 and interested in girls, it’s best to be tall and quiet. I asked the boy what he and his friends looked for in a girl. Did they need to be a certain height and have an acceptable personality too?
“No, we pretty much like them all,” he said without explanation. Great news if you’re a teenage girl.
One of the fathers told me that he was “so happy” for his son when he first learned that he had a girlfriend, aged 12. The fathers, it seems, are extremely keen for their sons to start hooking up with girls. Any girls.
“I told him that I thought it was wonderful,” he said. “But now it’s turned into a nightmare. My son is contantly on Facebook, messenging and phoning to find out who said what to whom about him or his girlfriend.”
Another father, whose son is already 13, told me he had to take his son away for the entire April school holiday break because his son was being “manipulated” by his girlfriend.
“It started off innocently at first but then she started phoning my son at all hours, and so did her friends. They were feeding him all sorts of rubbish and it was all he could think about.”
Haven’t the tables turned? When I was in year seven and eight, it was the girls who were getting the run around from the boys. Our diaries are evidence of broken hearts, the victim of no communication or nonchalant boyfriends.
These days, some 30 years later, the girls are apparently happy to swap between boys, leaving broken male hearts in their wake.
“B is my heart, my whole world,” screams the Facebook status of year eight boy B, not yet 14.
I’m all for girl power but I worry, as a parent of boys, that the girls are starting to use them to increase their status within their circle of friends. A mother of a year nine girl told me that some of the girls in her daughter’s year group compare the number of sexual conquests they had on a weekend in much the same way that my girlfriends and I compare shoes: openly and with enthusiasm. Apparently the higher the number, the better.
Taking into consideration an element of exaggeration (I don’t think that ever changes except that now the girls are doing it), it’s concerning to hear that so many young women lack self-respect. Do their parents really not know what’s going on?
It’s great that young women are in control of their bodies. Far better than the alternative, so I’m not suggesting that progress hasn’t been made in some areas. But have they missed the message somewhere along the line that they are special? Whose job should it be to tell them?
As Jessica Watson sailed into Sydney Harbour this afternoon, I joined the group lining the South Head foreshore to witness the historic moment. It was incredible to see that little pink boat make its way through the Heads. I shed a tear when I was back in front of the TV less than an hour later as she stepped off Ella’s Pink Lady and into the arms of her parents, Julie and Roger.
As much as I was overjoyed for Jessica achieving her dream to sail around the world unassisted, I was relieved for her parents. Imagine what they’ve been going through for the past 210 days.
Jessica was correct when she stated that she’s no hero, just a regular person fulfilling her dream. The real heroes in this story are her parents. How difficult must it have been for them to go along with Jessica’s dream in the first place? I worried that my teenage son would have trouble coordinating the two-bus trip that he needed to take to get to and from work experience last year. In hindsight, I worried for nothing and so, too, it seems did the nation’s parents who feared the worst as Jessica sailed out of Sydney Harbour seven months ago.
My 16-year-old watched Jessica’s historic return on television and heard her speak of living your dream. I asked him if he had a dream that he wanted to fulfil. Less grand than circumnavigating the globe by sea, his centred on his pet passion, cricket. Easy for me to be able to encourage him to realise that dream. If he’d declared that he’d always wanted to skydive, bungy-jump or something equally as dangerous like sailing solo around the world unassisted on a 34 foot yacht, I’m not sure that I would have the courage that the Watson’s showed to let him go for it with my blessing.
Jessica’s parents showed enormous faith in her. They supported her throughout the journey and were incredibly restrained when her boat was rolling on its side in treacherous conditions. For 210 days they were amazing and remained optimistic that she would make it home alive. I’m certain that I wouldn’t have been that strong if it was my child alone in the ocean.
So while Jessica has become an inspiration for young people globally, Julie and Roger Watson have become heroes to parents like me for whom loosening the ties don’t come easily. There is much we can learn from them about trusting the judgment of our teenagers and encouraging their dreams.
Above: Nona Belomesoff, 18, of Cecil Hills is missing after meeting up with Facebook strangers. Source
A teenage girl disappeared on Wednesday, May 12 after meeting up with two men she was introduced to on Facebook, according to news reports. Nona Belomesoff allegedly met her new Facebook friends at Leumeah in Sydney’s south-west and hasn’t been seen since.
With the majority of teenagers regularly accessing Facebook on some level, it’s hard not to put your child in Nona’s shoes. Would you know if your child was meeting new people on Facebook? Most parents view it as a social setting for their child’s group of friends. We allow them to be on Facebook because all of their friends are there and we wouldn’t want them to be the odd one out.
I don’t know about you but when I was a teenager I don’t recall having 448 friends. So who are the other 438 that have only ever visited your home via the internet?
My sons call me a stalker because I regularly check up on their Facebook accounts, even though the 16-year-old has done everything he can to block me. I don’t do it for kicks, or because I don’t have faith in their judgment. I do it because of the nutters that lurk around in cyberspace, pretending to be attractive teenage boys and girls, luring in our young and vulnerable.
I was at a coffee morning a few months ago with a group of mothers of teenagers. One of them expressed horror that I was checking up on my sons on Facebook. “It’s like reading their personal diary,” she suggested.
“Yes, except there’s nothing private about Facebook,” I countered. And that’s exactly the point.
My sons and their friends naively and innocently express themselves via the most public of forums. I think it’s reasonable for a parent to want to see what complete strangers are able to access about their child. And also to see what strangers they are interacting with.
My son recently found himself chatting with a stranger on msn messenger and then messaged his friends on Facebook to find out if they were pretending to be the person who was “acting like a pedo” that he was talking to. When I read that, my emotions surged from fear to relief, and then back again.
Was my son in conversation with a dodgy stranger? FEAR!
He recognised the person was a dodgy stranger and not only backed out of the conversation but went on Facebook and alerted his friends. RELIEF…
You can see why Facebook stalking my kids has become a way of life.
Parenting a teen can feel like diving into a pool of dark water. You're afraid of what lurks beneath the surface and are tempted to avoid getting wet. But there's no easy way to side step the whirlpool that is your child's teenage years. This website promises to be a place to come up for breath, gain some perspective and maybe even chill out a little (although the plan is be honest and direct and that could make you squirm). A small price to pay for surviving the teen years, one issue at a time.