Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Social Media and Young People

I’ve been talking with some other mums lately about social media and our resident young people. My oldest child is thirteen. I’m going for a ‘lead by example’ approach. Here’s what we do and don’t do and how we talk to our kids about social media.

Their dad and I are both on FB. The main thing I use FB for is reading recommended articles and keeping up to date with issues I care about. I’m only FB friends with people I know in real life.

We don't document our daily lives. I don’t use twitter (really, I’m just not that interesting, and I have enough information coming in already). We don’t regularly post pictures of ourselves online. We have carefully controlled images of ourselves online. We don’t take photos and videos of everything the children do. We don’t tell everybody where we are each day. We also don’t use flybuys or are members of big loyalty programs. We don’t play online games. We don’t use sites that share our online personal profiles or our friends’. We don’t like corporations owning information about us. We don’t have advertising online. We don’t monetize our online presence.

We don’t give out our details, or any facts about ourselves that are traceable, on social media.

We are aware that government and corporations already have information on us. We don’t want to give them more so they can market to us, or spy on us. We talk to our kids about following the money trail and about who owns what, eg, everytime you buy something from itunes, you give money to Apple, like a tax.

We have a policy that we don’t upload photos of our kids. There are a few reasons why. Once you upload a photo to social media, you don’t own it anymore and can’t control what becomes of it. We don’t know where we are going in terms of facial recognition technology. We are aware that what gets uploaded remains forever.

I have a blog. I own what I write on the blog. I put my name to it. I’m careful what I disclose about my children and partner. I use it as a place to park my thoughts and links to interesting articles, and to share information. Having a conversation there is a bonus. More frequently, it provokes conversations in my real life. I don’t say anything online I wouldn’t want published in hardcopy, with my name to to it, eg, a letter to SMH.

Their dad owns and runs a website. It is a fansite for The Glasgow Apollo. He does it out of interest. It has had 5 million hits. He doesn't carry on about it.

We don’t gain any value from ‘likes’. We don’t seek validation from strangers. We are proud of ourselves for our achievements and for trying our best and for being kind, but we don’t have to tell everybody. If we have a question we ask someone who is likely to know the answer.

We have real life relationships. Social media can help lubricate them. But the relationships are with people we already know.

I mostly use my mobile phone to check the time. I use it to text people about appointments and arrangements for the children. My 13 year old has an old phone. She usually forgets to charge it or take it with her. She often uses the alarm on it. Sometimes she texts me.

Friends of my kids have already been burnt through using social media. They’ve received nasty comments on photos of themselves. They’ve been hurt through comments on ask. I’ve replied, online, to my daughter’s friend to ask her to stop swearing. I’ve blocked younger relatives from my FB feeds due to the way they talk to their friends.

My kids message their friends. About a year ago I gave them each an electronic device - ipods or tablet. They’d never had playstations or wii or anything like that before. I got them their devices because I was sick and knew it would be a hard year for them, and because I wanted them to have recording devices for songwriting and to have their own music. They only use the home wifi, so don’t have internet connection outside the home. We don’t watch them on their devices as we would if they were are at  the computer or watching television, because they are small, portable screens. But we check their privacy settings. They know that their online interactions remain and can be traced and can be looked at when they apply for jobs, for example, and by people they may not want to see them. We know the parents of people they message. If they do anything online to break our rules, we want to know about it, and are likely to find out through other parents.

It’s not my job to create a virtual identity for my children, nor their online presence. (If I wanted to do that I’d write thinly veiled fiction.) The children will have to create their own online selves, if they choose to (we know people who live their lives without social media - peer pressure doesn’t only apply to children and it takes a strong person to resist doing what everyone else is doing). We want them to do that responsibly. We want them to be aware of the possible short term consequences and long term consequences, for themselves and for others.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What was THAT all about??

I don’t feel like this now - I’m busy with uni, ethics and planning Mamapalooza - but because I did feel like this a few weeks ago, I think it is worth posting. All part of the process and normal.

Now that I’m feeling a bit better, again, I feel like I need to process what has happened to me, and why. During the last year I’ve been accepting, and tried to be pleasant and positive. Relentlessly positive. I’ve undergone every procedure without a whimper. I’ve made light of interns trying repeatedly to find a vein. I’d had bone marrow biopsies and had chemo pumped into my veins and my spinal fluid. I’ve lain in a perspex box waiting for radiation treatment while the machine breaks down repeatedly. I’ve waited in clinics with good humour. I’ve eaten hospital food meal after meal without complaint. I’ve done everything the doctors and nurses have told me to do and barely shed a tear. I’ve come through it all OK, but I feel like a dolt. I tell people that leukaemia isn’t so bad. It doesn't hurt. It makes you sick and tired, and so does the treatment. It’s nothing to be afraid of. But really, cancer is sneaky and deadly. It is your body doing things without your consent, often without even telling you. If you are to be afraid of anything, be afraid of cancer. My doctor tells me that the worst thing that happened to me was the diagnosis. Everything else has gone smoothly. But the diagnosis is no small thing. The truth is, most times I’ve been discharged from hospital I’ve been in a state that would cause a normal person to be admitted. The truth is that I’ve spent ten weeks in hospital and I’ve pretty much lost a year. The truth is that I’ll be living with the repercussions for the rest of my life.

Now, I’m wondering what I’ve survived for. At the moment I’m cooking and cleaning and picking up and putting down, and driving children around and facilitating their many activities. They are performing and having exams and going to parties and doing things. I’m not doing anything of my own. Did I survive to be of service to my children? To attend P&C meetings? Am I jealous because it is all about the children and not about me? Did I enjoy the attention that sickness brought me?

I need to have some FUN. What do mums do for fun? I need to feel physically free, but that isn’t very acceptable for mums. I want to sing and dance and spin and swim and draw and stretch and make things that come just from me. I’m so repressed I might crack if I move. I’ve been quiet and careful for a long time. I know that doing these things will make me cry, but I need to do them anyway. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m scared of looking ridiculous, but I’m not likely to look more ridiculous than I did with no eyelashes or eyebrows and a tube in my neck. I didn’t go through all the fear of dying and pain of treatment just to return to more of the same life of service.

I don’t expect that having the experience of leukaemia gives me any great insight or revelation about life. I doesn’t mean I never get angry or feel mean. The leukemia may be gone for now, but I don’t yet know how I’m going to be processing it all from here. I'm expecting random tears. Bear with me.

And I keep hearing in my head a song that was company for me during one of my admissions, Janelle Monae, Cold War.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Povvo Cooking

Now that we’ve been unemployed for nine months while my partner has been stay-at-home carer, I figure it’s time to try to save money on groceries, and try to waste less food. I went to a workshop run by local council. We were told that, in our council area, 30% of the waste in the red bins is food. We compost, and try to not create much waste, and our red bin is fairly empty each week. Even so, I know we can do better. More meal plans using up what we have, and buying a few fresh ingredients regularly is the way I’m going (because I have the time). Luckily, people who know about these things are happy to share. So here are some resources I’m using.

Jamie Oliver’s new tv show and book, Save With Jamie. Some ideas here I hadn’t considered before, especially variations on toasted sandwiches (quesadillas, piadinas). And he has tips on using your freezer and pantry well. I don’t have a food processor though, and avoid some recipes on the basis of not wanting to do lots of washing up.

A Girl Called Jack
Jack is a single mum in the UK, who was being fed by a food bank. She has been documenting her journey. She now writes for The Guardian, and is the voice of those on welfare. And she’s got a book deal. I’m really happy for her. Her recipes are easy and simple and I like them. The Easy Peasy Soda Bread tastes like scone.

Stone Soup
This site is run by Jules Clancy, who has a qualification in food science. I like her free online five-ingredient recipe book. She also has occasional free online training videos. It isn’t all about recipes - it’s also about storage and organisation.

Zero Waste Home
Bea Johnson, a French woman who lives in San Francisco, is the queen of zero waste. She’s an inspiration. I’ve been reading her site for years.
She’s now released a book. Here is an interview with her in which she shows her waste for the year (it fits in a jar!)

Actions and Interesting links (a bit of a catch-up)

After Opting Out
Judith Warner, who wrote Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, in which she compared mothering in France with mothering in the USA , has this very interesting article following up on mums who stop paid work to be with their kids. What happens ten years after the opt-out? (Remember the media talking about mums quitting high status jobs when they have kids.) This is relevant to discussions I’m having with my friends all the time about personal decisions re working as mothers - what we gain and what we lose.

The Australian branch of the  Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement , A-MIRCI, has a new FaceBook page and are planning a conference in Melbourne next year (I hope to attend!). If you like the FB page you’ll receive updates of events on your news feed.
If you want to attend the conference, or submit a paper to present, here are the details. 

Motherhood, Feminisms and the Future
July 17-20, 2014
Melbourne, Australia
This conference will explore, examine, critique, theorise and respond to key issues
related to motherhood through matricentric feminist lenses. The central focus of
matricentic feminist scholars is mother/motherhood/mothering. Such a focus has
specifically grown in response to perceptions that second wave feminisms
overlooked maternal issues, concerns and challenges. Indeed many maternal issues
remain invisible despite ongoing difficulties experienced by mothers in various
areas of their lives. We welcome submissions from scholars, students, activists,
community workers, bloggers, mothers, and others who research in this area. We
are open to a variety of submissions including academic papers from all
disciplines, and creative submissions such as poetry, literature, visual and
performance art. There will also be general papers on mothering/ motherhood/ mothers.
If you are interested in being considered as a presenter for either a paper and/or workshop, please send a 250 word abstract and a 50-word bio by December 20, 2013 to: and

Mothering in Other Countries
A Cup of Jo has run a small series on  American women mothering in other countries: Norway, Japan, Mexico, Central Africa, Northern Ireland, Abu Dhabi, and India. It is interesting to compare the expectations, the community supports and the ways mothering is socially constructed.

Brave Girls Want

Have you seen this campaign? An alliance of people and groups are taking up advertising space in Times Square to protest the messages directed to girls. The appeal is to media creators.

We are here to ask media creators to expand their version of what it means to be a girl, and recognize our girls as whole, complex people and not as gender stereotypes. Stop profiting from selling girls short.

We believe that girls deserve better, because we know that the consequences to girls' well-being are serious.

We ask media creators to rethink products in development and ensure they teach girls to be strong, intelligent, and adventurous.

We ask media creators to rethink branding that pigeon-holes girls into the lowest common denominator (glitter, sexuality, hetero-normative femininity).

We ask media creators to elevate the elements that make the characters and narratives unique, instead of homogenizing the images and the merchandise.  

We ask media creators to practice corporate social responsibility now-- take the sexy out of childhood. Reducing female characters’ value to being about physical appearance and nothing more damages girls.

Well worth supporting!

And an article that illuminates what they are on about. It is about how the token woman in a story is expected to be a ‘strong female character’ thereby denying the range of ways you can be as a woman or girl, in a way that doesn’t apply to male roles because there are so many more male roles.

What do I want instead of a Strong Female Character? I want a male:female character ratio of 1:1 instead of 3:1 on our screens. I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative. And besides heroines, I want to see women in as many and varied secondary and character roles as men: female sidekicks, mentors, comic relief, rivals, villains. I want not to be asked, when I try to sell a book about two girls, two boys and a genderless robot, if we couldn’t change one of those girls to a boy.

France moves to ban beauty pageants for girls under 16 years old.

AND, do I have anything to say about Miley? Only this. If you want to be regarded as an grown-up, there are other ways to do it. Enrol in university (other child stars have done it - Jodi Foster, Brooke Shields, Natalie Portman) or do a show on Broadway (Daniel Radcliffe).