Crossing the line from helping to hurting your kids: from helicopter to snowplow

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My kids making good use of their super powers.

Everyone I talked to was shocked about the parents who paid bribes to get their kids into college. It made me unbelievably angry–and a lot of my friends, too. What kind of person would do that?

A lot of us are helicopter parents, yet we’d never dream of going that far. The ‘paying to get your kids into a good school’ is a matter of degree of helicoptering or snowplowing. If you’re a mom who wouldn’t let your kids fail before college and were running to school with forgotten homework then it’s a matter of crossing a line — albeit one that is unethical and illegal — to bribing a college coach to let your kid get admission to the school. (Yes, I was the parent driving homework to school, including my son’s senior year of high school!)

In a New York Times article called “How parents are robbing their children of adulthood” by Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich, they talk a lot about “Today’s ‘snowplow parents’ who keep their children’s futures obstacle-free — even when it means crossing ethical and legal boundaries.”

Here’s an except:

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.

Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there.

Those are among the allegations in the recent college bribery scandal, in which 50 people were charged in a wide-ranging fraud to secure students admissions to colleges. According to the investigation, one parent lied about his son playing water polo, but then worried that the child would be perceived by his peers as “a bench warmer side door person.” (He was assured that his son wouldn’t have to actually be on the team.) Another, the charges said, paid someone to take the ACT for her son — and then pretended to proctor it for him herself, at home, so he would think he was the test-taker.

The parents charged in this investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, are far outside the norm. But they were acting as the ultimate snowplows: clearing the way for their children to get in to college, while shielding them from any of the difficulty, risk and potential disappointment of the process.

In its less outrageous — and wholly legal — form, snowplowing (also known as lawn-mowing and bulldozing) has become the most brazen mode of parenting of the privileged children in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation.

It starts early, when parents get on wait lists for elite preschools before their babies are born and try to make sure their toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them. It gets more intense when school starts: running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child make the team.

Later, it’s writing them an excuse if they procrastinate on schoolwork, paying a college counselor thousands of dollars to perfect their applications or calling their professors to argue about a grade.

katrob

The pre-school, elementary school years.

The article goes on to discuss how the recent college cheating scandal shows how current parenting practices have gone off the deep end:

The bribery scandal has “just highlighted an incredibly dark side of what has become normative, which is making sure that your kid has the best, is exposed to the best, has every advantage — without understanding how disabling that can be,” said Madeline Levine, a psychologist and the author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

“They’ve cleared everything out of their kids’ way,” she said.

In her practice, Dr. Levine said, she regularly sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn’t like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.

Speaking of having adult skills, I’ve written about the “Things Kids Need to Know Before College” here and for SwimSwam here. I’ve lived through the consequences of doing too much for my kids and not letting them fail. That’s why I write about it. I hope to save other parents from the same mistakes I made!

Here’s how the NY Times articles puts it:

If children have never faced an obstacle, what happens when they get into the real world?

They flounder, said Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford and the author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

At Stanford, she said, she saw students rely on their parents to set up play dates with people in their dorm or complain to their child’s employers when an internship didn’t lead to a job. The root cause, she said, was parents who had never let their children make mistakes or face challenges.

Snowplow parents have it backward, Ms. Lythcott-Haims said: “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid.”

Learning to solve problems, take risks and overcome frustration are crucial life skills, many child development experts say, and if parents don’t let their children encounter failure, the children don’t acquire them. When a 3-year-old drops a dish and breaks it, she’s probably going to try not to drop it the next time. When a 20-year-old sleeps through a test, he’s probably not going to forget to set his alarm again.

Snowplowing has gone so far, they say, that many young people are in crisis, lacking these problem-solving skills and experiencing record rates of anxiety. There are now classes to teach children to practice failing, at college campuses around the country and even for preschoolers.

katrob 1What are your thoughts about the new level of snowplow parenting? If you’re a  millennial, did you experience helicopter or snowplow parents? How did it help you on your journey into college and adulthood?

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What do you think about boosting your social media with fake followers?

 

 

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Real-life friends.

Have you read the stories about people paying for fake Twitter followers? Doesn’t that sound sad to pay for “friends?” Apparently many celebs, famous people do it as well as everyday folks. Somehow upping their numbers in followers makes them feel secure or more popular?

I was talking to my daughter this morning about social media and she told me she has real-life friends that obsess over Instagram. They work to have a perfect image and the photos she sent me of them are so ridiculous. Perfect make-up, poses, backgrounds. It looks like an incredible amount of time and effort went into these pictures. And I know these girls and in real life–they barely resemble the image they are promoting. I don’t get it.

 

I’m so thankful we didn’t have social media when I was a kid. It was nice to have a break from your “public image” and lounge around in my bedroom or in front of the TV and not worry about what everyone else was doing. There was social pressure to fit in and be popular when I was in junior high and high school. That was enough in itself without having to keep up appearances on Facebook and Instagram. I wonder how many kids today are resorting to fake followers or obsessing over their social media image?

Here’s an excerpt from “Paying to be popular: inside social media’s black market for fake followers” by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen that appeared in the New York Times and Seattle Times:

“The real Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota teenager with a broad smile and wavy hair. She likes reading and the rapper Post Malone. When she goes on Facebook or Twitter, she sometimes muses about being bored or trades jokes with friends.

But on Twitter, there is a version of Jessica that none of her friends or family would recognize. While the two Jessicas share a name, photograph and whimsical bio, the other Jessica promoted accounts hawking Canadian real-estate investments, cryptocurrency and a radio station in Ghana. The fake Jessica followed or retweeted accounts using Arabic and Indonesian, languages the real Jessica does not speak. While she was a 17-year-old high-school senior, her fake counterpart frequently promoted pornography.

All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure U.S. company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social-media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.

Several Devumi customers acknowledged that they bought bots because their careers had come to depend, in part, on the appearance of social-media influence. “No one will take you seriously if you don’t have a noteworthy presence,” said Jason Schenker, an economist who specializes in economic forecasting and has purchased at least 260,000 followers.

More than 100 self-described influencers — whose market value is even more directly linked to their follower counts on social media — have purchased Twitter followers from Devumi.

After reading countless articles of how social media is adding to our children’s stress, anxiety and depression, I’m beginning to think of it as more evil than good. Yes, I’ve enjoyed reuniting with friends I’ve lost touch with. Yes, I like the updates from my second cousin about her chemo treatments. Other than that, I think I might be happier without it. I used to get birthday phone calls each year and look forward to talking to my friends who bothered to call. Nowadays, I get a string of “happy birthdays” on Facebook. It’s not the same thing. I think we avoid talking and interacting in person, thanks to social media. It’s so much easier to text or PM rather than the give and take, patience and time, an actual phone call can take. I find I don’t like talking on the phone as much as I used to, and I often am the one to end the call first.

I pity the people who feel they have to have “followers” and buy friends. Especially if they feel their success depends upon it. I worry about this extra persona our children feel the need to create.

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Hanging out in our back yard with real live friends.

What are your thoughts about buying followers on social media?

For Your Health: Just Breathe! And Act Silly!

 

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Act like a child to improve your health. You too can pretend to be Sailor Moon!

I’m beginning the New Year with a focus on health. It is something I attempt each year, to do something more and better than the year before. I started walking seven days a week several years ago, and have doubled the miles I do each day. Then, I started swimming and I definitely have improved—from not wanting to drown to swimming five thousand yards. In addition to freestyle, I’m getting the hang of breast and back, too. Butterfly is still an enigma. However, this year after I tweaked my knee skiing, my health goals have little to do with activity.

Instead, I ran across two articles that I can do while awaiting knee surgery—work on breathing and acting silly. Yes, according to these articles breathing and acting like a child can improve your physical and mental health.

When I took a prep course to pass the Series 7, a financial advisor exam, our instructor Tina from Training Consultants gave us some advice about breathing. She said during the exam, to stop every 45 minutes and breathe. She said to lift our arms to the sky and inhale through our nose, release our arms slowly and exhale through our mouth and repeat five or six times. She guaranteed a five-percentage-point higher score if we did the breathing during the test. I did it and didn’t worry about looking weird. I wanted to pass–and did.

In The New York Times “Want a Better Workout? Just Breathe” by TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI the article gives several tips to better breathing, gives some app ideas, and tells you the benefits:

 

Twice a week, often between video calls or meetings, Andrew Lowenthal takes a break from work to open an app on his phone that helps him focus on his breathing.

The payoff? Better stress management, clearer thinking at work and — to Mr. Lowenthal’s surprise — more strength and power in the gym. “It’s such a fundamental part of being human but not something that we think about often,” Mr. Lowenthal said about his breathwork.

As the executive director of Out in Tech, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, Mr. Lowenthal, 33, typically spends three to 10 minutes on an app created by Inscape, a New York meditation studio. He inhales, holding and exhaling his breath for various lengths of time according to prompts. Mr. Lowenthal said that he now exercises more regularly and takes care of himself better because of his breathing exercises. “It definitely helps me with my endurance,” he said.

Long a key part of meditation and some kinds of yoga, breathwork is now becoming a discipline in its own right, with proponents offering classes, one-on-one sessions and apps dedicated to the practice. And whereas the focus has predominantly been on the mental and psychological benefits of breathwork, fitness industry professionals are increasingly saying that it can also enhance athletic performance or speed muscular recovery after a workout.

As far as acting silly, I will always remember when we were visiting our daughter in Salt Lake City and she was cranky and angry. We tried to lighten the mood, but it seemed to frustrate her more. Then, my husband stopped at a Walgreen’s for a quick errand. A few minutes later, he sat behind the steering wheel and slipped on a big red clown nose (which he found in the store.) He turned and looked at my daughter and we couldn’t stop laughing.

I found a story on a website called StudyFinds.org, “Be Sillier For Long, Happy Life? Study Finds Key To Feeling Younger Is Acting Younger.” This article inspired me because I felt so much younger by taking up something I did as a child—skiing. However, it was short lived as my old body didn’t live up to my memories. So, I may try some card or board games instead–or just stick my tongue out at someone while waving my hands from my ears.

LONDON — It’s hard to ignore tired feet and that constantly-achy back as we get older, but a new study finds that a key to a long life of good health and always feeling younger — no matter our age — is to simply act younger from time to time.

Researchers from Healthspan, a supplier of vitamins and health supplements in the United Kingdom, polled 2,000 British adults on the effects of nostalgia and youthful behavior on mental and physical health.

Woman wearing gag Groucho Marx glasses
Being silly gets tougher as we get older, but a new study finds that acting immature is actually good for your health and well-being, and a great way to start feeling younger.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that occasionally forgetting you’re an adult and tapping into a more immature mindset — be it watching old cartoons, pulling pranks on friends, or playing classic board games — was important for their health.

 

robkatrock

Smile and don’t forget to breathe!

What goals do you do to improve your health each New Year?

 

How does Facebook make you feel?

 

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A picture I’ve posted on Facebook.

I’ve enjoyed Facebook to brag about my kids, reconnect with old friends and find out what they’re up to in their lives. In so many ways, Facebook can be a positive for us as individuals and society as a whole. As a Facebook user, I have moments when it makes me feel really good. Like when I reconnected with my best friend who I was rude to in junior high when I wanted to hang out with the cool kids. I hurt her feelings and I have never forgiven myself. Finally, I could apologize after all these years and continue our friendship—even if it’s only looking at each other’s photos of kids and travels.

But, now even Facebook admits that passively surfing through their website can make you feel sad. We know that perusing through glamour photos of our friends, looking at smiling faces of parties you’re not being invited to, or luxury exotic vacations can make you feel a little blue.

That’s why I found the article from Farad Manjoo this past week in the New York Times interesting. Here are the opening paragraphs from “Facebook Conceded It Might Make You Feel Bad. Here’s How to Interpret That:”

 

Facebook published a quietly groundbreaking admission on Friday. Social media, the company said in a blog post, can often make you feel good — but sometimes it can also make you feel bad.

Yes, I should have warned you to sit down first.

This is one of those stories where what’s being said isn’t as surprising as who’s saying it. Facebook’s using a corporate blog post to point to independent research that shows its product can sometimes lead to lower measures of physical and mental well-being should be regarded as a big deal. The post stands as a direct affront to the company’s reason for being; it’s as if Nike asked whether just doing it may not be the wisest life goal after all, or if Snapple conceded it wasn’t quite positive that it really was the best stuff on earth.

Consider Facebook’s place in the social-media firmament. Facebook — which also owns Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp — is the world’s largest and most profitable social media company. Its business model and its more airy social mission depend on the idea that social media is a new and permanently dominant force in the human condition.

So far, that idea has proved unwavering. Facebook’s leap into the ranks of the world’s most valuable companies less than 14 years after its founding can be attributed to this simple truth: Humans have shown no limit, so far, in their appetite for more Facebook.

But what if all that Facebook is not good for us? For several years, people have asked whether social media, on an individual level and globally, might be altering society and psychology in negative ways. Until about a year or so ago, Facebook’s public posture about its product had been overwhelmingly positive, as you’d expect. Facebook, Facebook insisted, was clearly good for the world.

Then came 2017. The concerns over social-media-born misinformation and propaganda during last year’s presidential race were one flavor of this worry. Another is what Facebook might be doing to our psychology and social relationships — whether it has addicted us to “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” that “are destroying how society works,” to quote Chamath Palihapitiya, one of several former Facebook executives who have expressed some version of this concern over the last few months.

Mr. Palihapitiya, who is now a venture capitalist, made those comments during a talk at Stanford University last month; after the comments were widely reported this week, he walked them back. But his fears have been echoed across Silicon Valley and lately have become something like a meme: What if Facebook is rotting our brains?

This gets to why an otherwise in-the-weeds blog post from Facebook’s research team is so interesting. Though it is quite abstruse, the post, by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke, two company researchers, takes readers through a tour of the nuances on whether Facebook can be bad for you.

In Psychology Today, March 2016, Amy Morin wrote: “Science Explains How Facebook Makes You Sad And why you keep using it anyway.” Here’s an excerpt from her story, but if you read all of it you’ll learn that just being aware that Facebook can make you feel sad, can help you.

More than one billion people log into Facebook every day. Whether their intention is to post a duck face selfie, or they want to read the headlines from their favorite news outlet, Facebook remains the world’s most popular social networking site.

Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction.

Wasting Time on Facebook Will Make You Sad
According to a 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, most people aren’t using social media to be social. Only about 9 percent of Facebook’s users’ activities involve communicating with others.

Instead, most users consume random pieces of content. And researchers found that passively consuming information isn’t fulfilling or satisfying.

Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. Interestingly, they didn’t experience the same emotional decline when they surfed the internet. The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook.

Through a series of studies, researchers concluded that by the time people log out of Facebook, they feel like they’ve wasted their time. Their remorse over being unproductive causes them to feel sad.

 

robkatrock

I would have posted this pic of my kids on FB if it was around at the time.

What are your thoughts about social media and Facebook? Do you use it and how does it make you feel?