#Unashamed and Strong for Life

02.17.12

I’ve thought long and hard about how to write a post about the #ashamed hashtag you’ve seen a lot of in the last week or two. In the event that you haven’t seen the discussion surrounding ashamed, let me bring you up to speed.

Earlier this year a Children’s Hospital in Georgia started a campaign revolving around childhood obesity. I’ve posted some of their videos here and here. In addition to incredibly powerful videos there are billboards that accompany them. The billboards and videos feature real life overweight children talking about the real life issues that obesity causes. The issues are social (loneliness) and physical (heart disease, diabetes and more). The videos (watch them) are presented with neither judgment nor over dramatization. The fact that these children are in physical and emotional pain is dramatic enough, nothing more is needed.

strong4life ashamed

There is a campaign to have the Children’s Hospital take down these billboards, the belief is that these billboards bring shame to children who are fat. Many top bloggers are bothered by these ads. Leading the charge is Leah Segedie.

Leah Segedie, who is the brains behind Mamavation, finds these ads to be riddled with shame. Leah is undoubtedly an authority in the weight loss arena as she battled depression along with her weight and has had a wonderful lifestyle change. She lost a hundred pounds and found her voice. Leah would be the FIRST person I would talk to if I needed a lifestyle overhaul. Leah is also an incredibly compassionate and passionate woman, she is bright and articulate, she is educated and she is charismatic. You get the picture? Leah is a woman I respect, enjoy and look up to. As a rule I do not call her judgment into question.

The women behind the #ashamed movement have it wrong. I don’t believe for a single solitary second that an ad campaign will make these children feel ashamed for being overweight. I believe with all my heart that the fat that’s covering these children’s bodies might make them ashamed. It should be noted that the fat covering their bodies also makes them ill and it’s much easier to die of diabetes or heart disease than of shame. Further, these ads are empowering. In the state of Georgia 40% of the children are overweight. Georgia is at the heart of the obesity epidemic and it’s imperative that they become forerunners in the fight against obesity.

By talking about fat, rather than whispering, some of the stigma has to leave. It’s not like no one can see. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last two years, everyone can see it. If I only talk about it while whispering in private it’s not like people won’t notice. One of the many goals of this campaign is to have parents actually acknowledge that their children are overweight. It’s not baby fat, it’s just fat.

Having too much fat on your body is a medical issue. Yes, it can become a social one, and yes, it can be emotionally crippling. Not talking about the fact that children are overweight won’t stop them from hurting. Not discussing the fact that adults are robbing children of their health when they don’t provide proper nutrition and exercise won’t make anyone thinner or healthier.

When I was a teen everyone was worried about self esteem. There was this ridiculous notion that every child should feel good about themselves. Ted Bundy had incredibly high self esteem. What was missing was giving children the opportunity to feel good about themselves by presenting them with tools to reach the goals they wanted to achieve. The whole give a man fish or teach him to fish thing. If you don’t want children to feel ashamed let’s give them a reason to feel proud, give them a goal they can reach like walking a mile or riding their bike to school for a week. Teach kids to put together a healthy lunch or how to stop eating before you’re full and then to wait twenty minutes before eating again. If you want children to feel good give them some tools, forget advocating against healthcare workers who are trying to save lives.

Some feelings will be hurt. I assure you those feelings were hurt long ago, and if it takes an ad campaign in a region where children are gifted disease by their diets then so be it. I say let’s have hurt feelings, because the folks who are going to look at these commercials and feel like they’ve been sucker punched are going to be the parents. The kids already knew how they felt, it’s not a mystery to them.

I support Strong4Life and I’m sad that we’ve reached this place. I hope that Georgia can be the canary in the coal mine for all of us and that we can all love our children enough to make changes that will keep everyone living happier, fuller lives. Every part of me believes the women behind #ashamed have their hearts in the right place. I think they just missed the point.

Facebook, Teens, Privacy and the end of COPPA

12.28.11

Recently I wrote about why I won’t be friending my children on Facebook and the rules of our house. I wrote about why kids don’t need adult friends online and access to our children.

The backlash was swift and severe. People just don’t agree with me and, as usual, I’m totally okay with that.

I have one suggestion for y’all while reading my blog. Understand that this is one document written by one woman. I’m not a lawmaker or a teacher at your child’s school. There’s a very good chance that I’m not even your neighbor. So before you get angry and offended that I’ve likened friending your child on Facebook to helicopter parenting take a breath and think about why I might have struck a nerve. If it doesn’t apply to you, move on.

In any event if your teen is on Facebook it’s the end of COPPA for you. Your children officially have identities that are being bought and sold. This is the price of free. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I’m just saying the sky is blue and my daughter’s data is being bought and sold. It’s a big and profitable business.

Now, for those of you who got very upset with me on G+ and Facebook and told me that I was a horrible negligent mother because I don’t friend my daughter on Facebook I’d like to talk to you about some other ways you can effectively parent your children though the murky waters of social media.

You can sit with your children and go on Facebook with them. Point at the kids and say, ooh isn’t that Leah from Pre K? My daughter loves looking at everyone’s pictures and giving me updates on the kids, their lives, schools, camps and sports. It’s nice spending real time with kids.

You can be your child’s admin. This can take many forms from spot checking to screen sharing. When Jane was setting up her Facebook account she was upstairs on her computer and I was in my office with a computer set to screen share. She knew I had to see how she was setting the site up but she also knew she had to be supervised. Screen share is an AMAZING tool during the week for homework when two kids are asking for your help and you have just one working printer. It’s only creepy spying if your kids don’t know you’re using it… which is frankly just fine at younger ages.

You can add your child’s logon to your devices and check in periodically. You can parent 80 gazillion ways and do so very effectively.

What you cannot do is expect to see your child on Facebook and have a complete picture of who they are. Pay attention to them at home, at school, in the company of friend and, yes, on Facebook too. Parents aren’t “finding out” that their kids are depressed from social networks, parents are finding out that their kids are depressed/anxious/afraid/happy/successful from parenting.

Hopefully your child has been on the internet with you a lot and knows not to give away a ton of personal information. Don’t fill our family trees, enter home addresses, fan their school, friend anyone they haven’t met in real life… there’s a very long list.

Sitting with your child in front of a screen full of their peers might bring about interesting discussions like, “Oh I didn’t know she was a bikini model, that’s an interesting after school activity for a 14 year old.” or “Why don’t you spend more time with Hannah? She’s really turned into a sweet girl.”

Your children (and all of us) will enter too much data. It’s what we do, it’s a mistake everyone makes (expect my brother who could put the NSA to shame). Recently I hosted a luncheon for MyInfoGuardian.com and a few friends. Here are some great posts about how to get your information (and your child who is now sharing) off the internet.

Mamavation is giving away subscriptions…. HURRY!

JoAnn is not quite sure why anyone should worry.

Kim got chills when she saw the information that was being bought and sold around her identity.

Sarah makes a great point about changing passwords (and no “password” is NOT a password)

Romy reminds us that simply registering to vote releases our data.

Julie talks about dating and cybersecurity, something every man and woman should think of. 

Daphne has a great post about how much of her info is out there and mentions the money they lost to Maddoff