Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reaching Out to Japan With Tweens: A Fun and Thoughtful Project

Our tweens' Girl Scout troops are making 1000 origami cranes to send to a sister Girl Scout troop in Japan as a show of support and friendship in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The significance of the origami cranes comes from the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was a victim of the Hiroshima atomic attack and suffered from leukemia as a result of the nuclear fallout. Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1000 cranes will be granted a wish by a crane such as long life or being cured of a disease. Sadako died when she was only 12 years old from the disease and folded 644 cranes before her death. Her classmates folded the remaining amount after she died as a sign of their love and support. There is a statue in Sadako's memory in Hiroshima, and the tradition of sending 1000 origami cranes is recognized today as a symbol of world peace and solidarity.

Our project began with a local librarian attending our troop meeting and showing the girls how to fold these beautiful animals out of colorful origami paper. Particularly for younger tweens, this took some doing, but all of the girls got the hang of it after a while. This is a complicated origami project to do as an introduction to origami, and it is a testament to the librarian's patience that all of the girls in the troop were able to successfully make their cranes. Each girl went home with origami paper, an instruction sheet, and an empty shoe box and will return to our next troop meeting with the shoe boxes full of origami cranes to mail to our sister troop in Japan.

To help sustain the girls' efforts, our tweens made candy sushi as a snack for the troop. This was a fun but sticky project involving Rice Krispy treats, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Swedish Fish.  You can find recipes for candy sushi fairly easily online, but here are our tips:
  • Make a batch of Rice Krispy treats, but add a few more marshmallows than usual (you want a pliable rather than crisp treat).
  • While one tween makes the Rice Krispy Treats, have another tween unwrap and unroll one package of Fruit Roll-Ups. Our local market was out of the green kind, so we used dark purple instead (we liked that the color scheme reminded us of Cherry Blossom season here in Washington). I've also seen tie-dye or rainbow ones used to great effect.
  • Press a flat layer of Rice Krispy treats onto each Fruit Roll-Up roll leaving about a half-inch plain.
  • Lay a double row of mini Swedish Fish length-wise down the cereal treats and then roll up the "sushi" roll ending and sealing with the plain half-inch. You could also use sour straws, gummy worms or fruit licorice instead of the Swedish Fish
  • Use a sharp knife to slice the "sushi" into pieces. We served ours in cupcake liners.
We found that one batch of Rice Krispy Treats and one box of Fruit Roll-Ups made enough "sushi" for 15 hungry tweens as a mid-afternoon treat. (Orthodontists: beware!)

The troop has decided to host a bake sale to raise funds for the Red Cross to accompany these origami cranes, and I think our tweens will make another batch of candy sushi to sell at the fundraiser. We may try to make a more professional looking nigri-style sushi like these from not Martha for the bake sale.

Has your tween taken part in any efforts to help Japan after the earthquake? Please share what they're doing below!

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The American Academy of Pediatrics on Social Media, "Facebook Depression"

In a report released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighs-in on the pros and cons of social media and tweens. The report is titled "The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families" and can be downloaded from their website. We've pulled out the key takeaways for you below:

First, the good news:
  • Social media can be a positive in helping tweens and teens to communicate - especially those who tend to be shy in group situations.
  • Knowing how to use online social networks, smartphones and mobile phones is actually a relevant technical skill set.
  • Volunteering and youth activism is positively enabled by social media, and it's getting more tweens and teens involved.
  • Using social media can help a child to refine his or her identity by giving her an outlet for self-expression and helping her to find others with like interests.
  • Believe it or not, middle and high school students truly are using Facebook and other social networks for studying - for group projects in school and exchanging ideas and continuing substantive conversations beyond the classroom.
  • Students have readier access to important health information and can easily connect with others who face similar medical conditions. They can even use these channels to better communicate with their doctors, stay more compliant with their treatment protocols, and miss fewer doses of medication as a result of being more connected.
But there is also a darker side to social media usage by tweens and teens. We've touched upon some of these issues in earlier articles including our report from the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. The AAP outlined the following as issues for parents to be aware of and keep vigilant about:
  • Tweens in particular can find themselves in situations online that are not age-appropriate.
  • Social media, online gaming and the like can be "addictive" from a behavioral standpoint and interfere with homework, sleep and face-to-face interactions.
  • If not explicitly addressed, students can inadvertently release and share personal information online, raising privacy, advertising to youth, exploitation, and other concerns.
  • Cyberbullying and sexting, themselves dangerous behaviors, can lead to severe depression among tweens and teens and may go unnoticed if parents are not aware of the networks in which their children participate. The AAP coins the term "Facebook Depression" in this report and defines it as what happens when tweens and teens "spend a great deal of time on Facebook and then begin to exhibit the classic the signs of depression."
The report is aimed at pediatricians and calls upon them to advise parents in the following way:
  • Ask about and understand how your child uses social media and technology,
  • Become better educated in the technologies your child is using,
  • Have a family policy for online usage including a way to double-check privacy settings/controls and monitor inappropriate posts, and
  • Actively monitor online usage and don't depend upon software to do this for you.
Related links:
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Monday, March 28, 2011

iCarly Star Miranda Cosgrove Profiled in New York Times

Miranda Cosgrove, star of the tween favorite series "iCarly" was profiled in the New York Times last week. The article was authored by feminist Peggy Orenstein and reflected on how normal and level-headed Ms. Cosgrove is despite her celebrity. The title, "The Good Girl, Miranda Cosgrove" says it all - you and your tween will enjoy reading it, get a peek into Ms. Cosgrove's glamorous life, and likely walk away with a new-found respect for the actress (we did).

We're currently reading Ms. Orenstein's latest book, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" - stay tuned for our review.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Abercrombie Kids' Targets Tweens With Push-Up Bikini

At first I thought this was an online joke, but sadly I confirmed that it's true: Abercrombie Kids is selling push-up bikinis to girls ages 8 to 14. They even had an entire section of their website devoted to "push-up" as a category (I say "had" because the company changed their description and website menu from "push-up" to "triangle" this weekend). The video from the news segment on ABC News is below:



I have to ask: what message is Abercrombie Kids trying to send to kids by selling push-up bikini tops to tweens?  Do they believe that tween girls - remember, Abercrombie Kids makes clothing for kids ages 8 to 14 - should need and want padding in their bikinis? Certainly I can understand some lining for decency, but I cannot fathom why a push-up feature is needed on an 8 year old.

Dr. Michael Bradley, a child psychologist, was interviewed by ABC News and cited four societal negatives from having a child retailer sell this product:
  1. We're shaping their beliefs and teaching tweens that our popular culture values them as sex objects.
  2. We're shaping their behaviors: kids who are introduced to sexualized images and media earlier are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life as well.
  3. We're wreck their body image and telling them they're not okay as they as they are.
  4. We're taking their childhoods away from them.
We wrote about a store in London, Primark, who sold padded bikinis to tweens last year. They faced such backlash that they pulled the item from shelves quickly and donated the proceeds to charity. Given the public outrage, I'm frankly surprised another retailer would repeat this gross mistake in judgment.

Abercrombie Kids' is seeing the backlash hit its Facebook page as well - parents are posting their dissatisfaction with the company on nearly every update. Are you, or were you, a fan of Abercrombie Kids? Is your tween? Will this issue change your views of the company? How will you broach this topic with your daughter?

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Friday, March 25, 2011

New Online Book Club for Tweens

Everloop, a tween-only social network, has announced a partnership with publisher Simon and Schuster to launch an online book club for tweens. The first books are "Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life," by Rachel Renee Russell and "SPHDZ Book (hash)1!," by Jon Scieszka. As participants of this "loop" on Everloop (which is free to join), tweens will be able to engage with other tweens and the author in book discussions.

We met with the CEO of Everloop during the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention - stay tuned for our interview notes and our tweens' review of Everloop.

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Facebook Removes 20,000 Kids' Profiles Every Day

Facebook's Chief Privacy Advisor, Mozelle Thompson, met with a government cyber-security committee in Sydney, Australia yesterday and reported that that the social network removes about 20,000 profiles from Facebook everyday because it finds that those users are under the age of 13.  We find that to be a staggering number and indicative of the challenges facing families as they navigate the world of social networking with their tweens.

In the U.S., Senator Al Franken has just sent a letter to Facebook about their new privacy policy and his stance that it should "be impossible for them (users ages 13 to 17) to inadvertently share their phone numbers and home addresses with anyone."

Some more links you may find useful:
Via Daily Telegraph

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

World Water Day and Tweens

World Water Day was earlier this week (March 22, 2011), and it is a day for all of us to consider how we use the planet's most precious resource: fresh water.

Foregoing the use of bottled water is a great place to begin, so here's our picks for the best reusable water bottles for tweens on the go:
  • Your sporty tween will appreciate the near-indestructible and lightweight water bottles made by Klean Kanteen. These are made out of stainless steel, BPA-free and come in a range of colors. Also, these can be ordered with a variety of drinking spouts, including the Sports Cap which is perfect for rapid rehydration breaks during sports. $16.45 for 18 oz; $17.95 for 27oz size from KleanKanteen.com
  • An eco-conscious tween will love these glass bottles in a silicone sleeve from LifeFactory (the silicone sleeve protects the glass while it's being carried and prevents breakage from all but the most violent falls). These glass bottles can hold both hot (think herbal tea) and cold beverages, making them perfect for year-round use. $19.99 for 16 oz; $21.99 for 22 oz from


  • Sigg's aluminum bottles are widely available and easy to find. These bottles are also lightweight and come in a range of prints that will appeal to your artsy tween (they even come in a Hello Kitty design). $21.99 for a .6L size from MySigg.com



  • Note: as a reminder, MsTwixt is strictly editorial, and there is NO pay-to-play.

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    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama in El Salvador

    Continuing their visit to Latin America with their parents, Malia and Sasha Obama are visiting El Salvador today. They visited the President of El Salvador and his family at the Presidential Palace in San Salvador, met with school children from the United States of America School, and participated in a community service effort painting a mural for a health clinic at Superate, a local youth assistance program.


    The First Family came to El Salvador after a visit to Chile, and prior to that they were in Brazil. In Santago, Chile, they took in a Chilean folk dance performance and concert at the Mirador Interactive Museum and met Chile's First Family at the La Moneda Palace.



     
    Photo credits: Getty Images, AP

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    The National Cherry Blossom Festival With Tweens

    One of our tweens' favorite annual events in Washington is the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year it runs from March 26 to April 10, and it will be especially poignant given the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan (the Festival highlights our historic friendship with the Japanese people). There will be a Stand With Japan Walk planned for 630pm on March 24, and all donations will benefit the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund.

    Here are our tweens' picks for the best activities to do during this event:
    • View the cherry blossoms from a unique vantage point: by paddle boat in the Tidal Basin. During this busy season, you can reserve a paddle boat in advance online, and some of the best photos are those taken from the water. Tip: bring sunscreen, sunglasses and water - it can get really hot out on the water on a sunny day.
    • Visit the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery for a unique day of art on March 27th. The gallery will host a special ImaginAsia workshop geared for tweens (ages 8-14) that explores how spring flowers are used in Japanese design. Tweens will complete a project painting paper parasols based upon their study of the galleries. (Our tweens took part in two ImaginAsia camp programs last summer and are clamoring to return - they love the staff and galleries.)
    For younger tweens, the National Park Service will offer a special "Blooming Junior Ranger" program, and if your tweens collect Silly Bandz, this year you can purchase special cherry blossom festival-themed Silly Bandz from the gift shop at the base of the Washington Monument.

    If you can't make it to Washington for the festivities, your crafty tween will enjoy this project at home: cherry blossom treat cards. This idea is from Family Fun magazine and while they recommend it for Valentine's Day, we thought it would be perfect for use for a spring holiday too. Here are the instructions:
    1. Gather your materials: scissors, solid and printed cardstock/scrapbook paper, and some lollipops
    2. Cut 2 petal shapes from the solid cardstock or scrapbook paper (to see what real cherry blossoms look like, check out the National Park Services live "blossom cam", or the petal shapes in the Flower Shapes kit from the Paper-Source would work too (and be faster). These form the outer petals of your blossom.
    3. Cut out a smaller petal shape from the printed cardstock/scrapbook paper. This forms the inner petal.
    4. Cut out two leaves that are long enough to be seen when beneath the outer petal shapes. You'll write messages on these later.
    5. Stack the paper in this order: 2 leaves, 2 outer petals, 1 inner petal.
    6. Using the lollipop stick, pierce through the center of the stack starting at the center of the inner petal.
    7. Fan out the petals and leaves and write a message to the card's recipient on one or both of the leaves.
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    Monday, March 21, 2011

    First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama in Brazil

    Malia and Sasha Obama have accompanied their parents on their trip to Latin America. First stop: Brazil.

    The First Tweens met with a Brazilian kids' soccer team, addressed a gathering of Youth Ambassadors, watched a "capoeira" performance (a Brazilian martial arts/dance form that is very athletic and acrobatic), and met with the Brazilian President and First Lady at the Palacio do Alvorada. So far they've been to Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, and the rest of the tour includes Chile and El Salvador. The girls won't miss any school because they are on Spring Break until the 28th.

    Photo credits: The Huffington Post/AP

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    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    The Obama Administration on Bullying

    Last week we attended the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. We posted our summary of the day's events and wanted to share some key quotes from top government officials and thought-leaders in this space. (You can view our minute-by-minute conference updates on our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/mstwixt with the hashtag: #stopbullyingnow.)

    Major discussion at the Conference focused on linking anti-bullying measures directly to academic performance – that is, school climates that do not tolerate bullying in any form are also the same climates that make academic performance possible. Another major point made by Administration officials was that bullying is not simply an issue for schools to resolve – it is a whole community issue that involves schools, parents, law enforcement, and community members.

    Some key takeaways from the day include:
    • "Why is the White House talking about bullying? Because we know it's far too prevalent, and we CAN fix it. The consequences are too great not to – kids won't be successful.  There are stories today about sadness and triumph. Today we celebrate our young leaders who are working to make a difference." Melody Barnes, White House Domestic Policy Council Director
    • "The goal of today's conference is to put a spotlight on this national tragedy. Too many keep their pain a secret, and but it shouldn't be that way." Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS
    • "I wasn't immune to bullying with these big ears and my name. I was not unscathed." President Obama
    • "Our message to bullying victims is: You deserve to be respected and treated fairly." Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS
    • "We need to make heroes out of those people who stand-up to bullying. They need to feel the light on their good work." John Gomperts, Director of AmeriCorps
    • "We need kids to be at the center of this effort to solve [bullying]." John Gomperts, Director of AmeriCorps
    • "You can't turn off cyberbullying by turning off the technology. Kids are connected all the time." Tina Meier, the Megan Meier Foundation
    • "We need to use technology productively to prevent and deter cyberbullying." Mandeep Dhillon, CEO of Togetherville
    • "In our schools, we need reading, writing, 'rithmetic and respect. Enforcement picks up the pieces after bullying, but we need prevention." Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
    • "There is no quick solution, but sustained attention and community-wide involvement will result in one." Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS
    • "No school can be great if it's not safe. You cannot learn if you are in fear." Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
    • "We have to make this issue our own." Melody Barnes, White House Domestic Policy Council Director
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    A St. Patrick's Day Recipe for Tweens

    We were looking for a cool project to do with our tweens to celebrate St. Patricks Day, and we found it: rainbow cupcakes!

    The girls were able to make it on their own with some minimal supervision (bonus!) - here's what we did:

    1. We divided a plain white cake batter evenly into six bowls (a cake mix will work just fine; just make sure it's plain white cake - so one made without egg yolks) and then tinted each bowl with A LOT of food coloring - about 12 drops in each bowl.


    2. We spooned about 1 teaspoon of each color into cupcake tins. Be warned: this step takes the most time, so plan accordingly. Then bake for 20 minutes - voila!



    3. Peel off the paper wrappers before serving - and the best part is, no icing is needed - these cupcakes look fabulous on their own!

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    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    New Online Obsession for Tweens: Harry Potter, The Quest

    In preparation for the final Harry Potter movie release this summer, Warner Brothers has launched a new interactive website called Harry Potter: The Quest. Fans of the series can play games, post questions and earn points that enable them to see clips from the movie before its release. This is sure to be the newest online obsession in our house (for both the tweens and their parents!).


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    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Colorful Headphones for Tweens

    We stumbled across these colorful headphones from UrbanEars and loved that they are the over-the-ear style (perfect for tween-sized ears) and come in a range of fun colors. Perfect for rocking out to tween tunes (silently).

    Available from UrbanEars, $60.

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    "Nice Girls", the New York Times, and Middle School

    Our tween's middle school English teacher handed out a wonderful article to the girls titled "Nice Girls." It ran in the New York Times Magazine last month and shared a father's uplifting account of how he saw real girls interacting with one another during his commute home. We loved it for its tone and positive examples - it's a nice foil to all the Mean Girl stuff out there.

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    Greyson Chance and Cody Simpson Coming to D.C.!

    Rising tween music stars Greyson Chance and Cody Simpson are coming to Washington, DC for a joint concert on April 28th!

    Tickets are only $25 and the show is at a convenient downtown location (the Synagogue at Sixth and I). It's a great chance to see these two before they are everywhere (well, everywhere beyond YouTube), and I guarantee you that your tween will go nuts for a chance to go.

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    Fun Dresses For Tweens at Target Prices

    We love a bargain as much as the next mom, but it can be really tough to find fun, age-appropriate dresses for tweens at affordable price points. So we were thrilled to learn that Target announced it was re-running some of the most popular items from its Go International Designer Collective collection (featuring Rodarte and Zac Posen to name a few). Dresses in this collection run fairly small, making it perfect for older tweens - and most run about $40!

    Our picks include this sweet hot-pink dress with a bow in the back (try covering her shoulders with a fun sherbet-colored shawl and she's all set for Easter or Passover!) by Luella Bartley for $40:

    This black dress from Erin Fetherston has fun layers and will look great on the dance floor ($45):

    Or this funky green and navy tartan dress (with a cute shrug over the shoulders!) from Luella Bartley for $45 (we love the boots its pictured with, but this would also look great with Converse low-tops):

    The fun rugby-stripe t-shirt dress from Libertine is only $25 and is perfect for casual days:
    And this white cotton dress reminded us of Vanessa Hudgens in the last High School Musical movie (Tracy Feith, $40) (again, try pairing these with Converse low-tops).

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    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Happy Pi Day!

    For all you math geeks out there, today is March 14th, or 3/14, also known as Pi Day. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, "Every year math enthusiasts everywhere celebrate pi, a celebrity among mathematical constants, on 3/14, also known as Pi Day. Extreme enthusiasts have a special celebration at 1:59 (aka, Pi Minute)."

    Here is a link to the popular New York Times' article by science columnist John Tierney from 2008.

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    Friday, March 11, 2011

    What Parents and Schools Can Do About Bullying - Our Report from the White House Conference on Bullying

    We were lucky enough to be invited to the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention yesterday and spent the entire day surrounded by brilliant minds addressing this issue. We'll break up our report on the day's events into a few posts as SO much material was covered.

    A panel of experts participated in this session which was moderated by Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett. The panelists were: Susan Swearer-Napalitano (from the University of Nebraska), Justin Patchin (from the University of Wisconsin), Catherine Bradshaw (from Johns Hopkins University), and George Sugai (from the University of Connecticut). They shared the following about what parents and schools can do about bullying:
    • Although there is lots of press about the misuse of technologies such as texting and social networking, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of teens and tweens use technology in positive, healthy ways. So don't just focus on the negatives or "blame" technology.
    • We need to change the overall climate in our schools to prevent bullying. This means we need to: 1) actively supervise our kids both in person and online; 2) vocally and publicly acknowledge those kids who work to prevent bullying; and 3) change the dialogue about bullying from "this what happens to occur at school" to "bullying has an enormous negative impact on learning." Professor Sugai quoted research that found that schools with strong anti-bullying climates also had stronger academic achievement.
    • Professor Bradshaw urged that anti-bullying programs have two-tiers: one for the victims, and one for the bullies. Her work found that bullies have underlying causes for their negative behavior including violence at home, developmental delays, and others. 
    • Valerie Jarrett asked the panel for ideas on how to make it safe to report bullying so that students wouldn't be so hesitant to report bullying (this was another theme from the conference; more on this later). Professor Patchin counseled that action upon such reports be swift; otherwise all parties are bogged down in an interminably long process and that dampens participation. (Perhaps schools should have an anonymous Bullying Tip line?) His research also found that only 15% of bullying cases are actually reported. Professor Sugai added that anti-bullying programs must be simple and safe in addition to swift - the reporting process should be straightforward and easy to understand and use. Finally, it is not enough to have a bullying reporting process - a bullying prevention program is essential to heading off problems before they escalate.
    • Professor Patchin warned that a knee-jerk reaction to cyberbullying is to remove the technology - parents and schools respond by banning social networks and mobile phones. But doing so won't stop the bullying since his research found that cyberbullies and real-life bullies are the same people - so the bullying will continue. Rather, he pleaded for parents to learn the technologies their kids use and be able to help their kids navigate them safely. This means learning about privacy controls on Facebook (see our tips!), monitoring where kids are going online (lots of companies can help with this), etc.
    • Anti-bullying programs need to extend beyond the classroom to the hallways, to the bus aisles, to the libraries, to cafeterias - every part of the school. The effort must be holistic in its application to include teachers, all school staff, coaches, etc.
    More quotes and takeaways to come!

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    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    White House to Hold Conference on Bullying Prevention

    The White House announced details today for its Conference on Bullying Prevention. This event will be held tomorrow, on Thursday, March 10th beginning at 10:30am with remarks by President Obama and the First Lady.

    The conference will "bring together communities from across the nation who have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it. Participants will speak about the effects of bullying and the work of students, parents, and teachers nationwide."

    The event will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live and on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/facebooklive/
    Breakout sessions will be held with participants on topics including:
    • In-school Policies
    • In-school Programs
    • Community-based Programs
    • Cyberbullying
    • Campus-based Programs
    Panelists include:
    Some related links:
    Stay tuned for our report!

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    It's March: Where Are Your New Year's Resolutions?

    We know that our own new year's resolutions could use a good kick-in-the-seat about now, so we're re-posting our list of resolutions below. How are yours coming along?

    Tween New Year's Resolutions

    What others would you add to this list?

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    Tween Addresses TED Conference; Earns Standing Ovation

    I'm not sure how we missed this last February, but did you catch Adora Svitak's speech at the TED Conference? The video is below.

    She is just 12 years old but more eloquent than most adults one meets. And she's addressing a crowd that numbers in the hundreds. Chutzpah.



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    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Positive Tween Role Models in Celebration of International Women's Day


    Today is the 100th International Women's Day, and in honor of it, here's our list of positive role models for tween girls - please add to it!
    • First Lady Michelle Obama for fighting childhood obesity and role-modeling positive parenting
    • Vicki Abeles for shining a light on the "Race to Nowhere"
    • Rosalind Wiseman for teaching girls how to resolve conflicts with grace and power
    • Rachel Simmons for a million reasons but especially her guidance on Formspring
    • Sheryl Sandberg for speaking frankly and positively about work-life balance
    • Taylor Audette for her Say It 2 My face movement to take a stand against cyberbullying
    • Willow Smith for making her new single, "21st Century Girl" fun and empowering
    • Geena Davis for her work in raising awareness of how girls are portrayed in the media
    • Liz Funk for her work in exposing the overwhelming stress girls are under
    • Amy Poehler and Tina Fey for making us all laugh out loud
    • Lauren Bush for showing how we can raise awareness of and help to solve hunger in everyday choices
    • Tavi Gevinson for making her own path and encouraging other tweens to do the same
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    It's Fat Tuesday! How to Celebrate Mardi Gras With Tweens

    Our tweens have discovered Mardi Gras and are excited to celebrate Fat Tuesday as a family. This year they've asked to have pancakes for dinner (I'm not entirely certain how traditional these are as a dinner option - let us know if this is legit).

    We saw these Mardi Gras mask cookies by Sweetopia that use this amazing decorating ingredient called "disco dust" (which we'll need to try because of the name alone):



    In past years we've made beignets for breakfast, but we haven't tried to bake a King Cake as yet.

    We were looking for cool jazz tunes to introduce our tweens to and stumbled upon this great organization called Jazz House Kids. Their mission is to introduce young people to the joy of jazz and provide them "with a unique opportunity to explore the rich heritage of this great American art form firsthand". They are "dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people through the medium of jazz and provide young people with an innovative concept of understanding music." We love that they celebrate "multiple intelligences" by teaching of jazz.

    We're looking for some jazz music to play with our tweens tonight - do you have any suggestions?

    Some other fun ways to celebrate Mardi Gras with tweens:
    • A library in New Jersey held a tween dance party that featured an air guitar competition
    • We thought this craft to make unique Mardi Gras masks was really well thought-out.
    How will you ring in Fat Tuesday with your tween?

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    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Is Willow Smith the New Gamma Girl?

    We've just seen Willow Smith's newest video, "21st Century Girl" and can't help but wonder if she's a new Gamma Girl role model. You can check out the video below and on YouTube.


    The song is a sort of dance-y mantra for girls going their own way and living life on their own terms. Unlike a lot of music videos out there, "21st Century Girl" features totally positive images of girls doing everything from dancing to skateboarding to riding BMX bikes to just rocking out. It's just been released and reviews are still coming, but we think your tween will really flip for it.



    Ms. Smith was just honored by the NAACP and is opening for Justin Bieber's European tour (they perform in Dublin tonight), so she's got a lot going on at the moment. We can't wait to hear what else she's got to say about girl power.

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    Tweens Need Sleep!

    A study released today by the non-profit National Sleep Foundation finds that:
    • "1 in 10 kids are being awoken by texts after they have gone to bed." (for the latest stats on tweens and mobile phones, see our post here)
    • "Kids today are getting an hour and a half to two hours less sleep per night than they did a century ago. That means that they are losing about 50 hours of sleep per month."
    • "Sleep experts recommend that teenagers get 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep a night but adolescents in the study were only averaging 7 hours and 26 minutes on weeknights."
    Dr. Charles Czeisler, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, commented on the report and said, "I am the most concerned about how little sleep 13-18 years are getting."

    Sleep experts recommend turning off electronics well before bedtime because exposure to the artificial light (of electronics) before going to bed "can increase alertness and suppress the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone." Dr. Czeisler says, "Parents should get these technologies out of the bedrooms of kids if they want them to do well (in school)."

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    Glee's Amber Riley Wants You to "Save the Music" in Schools

    March is "Music in our Schools" month, and all kinds of organizations (VH1, the National Association for Music Education, and DoSomething.Org to name a few) are working to activate students across the U.S. to raise awareness about this issue and prevent losing their school's music education programs. The Battle for the Bands campaign is a big part of this campaign, and this year, Glee's Amber Riley is lending her voice to the effort (last year, Nick Jonas was a spokesperson for the campaign).



    The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America's public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child's complete education. To date, the Foundation has provided more than $47 million in new musical instruments to 1,750 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of over 1.6 million children.
    Learn how you can get involved here.

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    Willow Smith Wins NAACP Image Award For Outstanding New Artist

    Willow Smith has just been awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist. She beat out Bruno Mars, Jason Derulo and BoB for this award, which was no small feat. Her hit single "Whip Your Hair" has been a breakout hit and the basis for the award.

    Tellingly, Ms. Smith was not able to accept her award in person because she is touring with Justin Bieber.



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    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Tween Chess Phenom Dares You To Be Different

    Twelve year-old Justus Williams is an internationally-ranked chess player and the youngest ever African-American chess master. He calls himself "the LeBron James of chess", and his record proves it - is ranked fourth in the world in his age group.

    Mr. Williams only started playing chess in third grade but has earned the title "chess master" in just four years. He attends school in the Bronx at I.S. 318, and his chess skills have taken all over the world to compete (to Brazil, Greece and Canada at last count).



    Mr. Williams and his family have started a campaign called "Dare to be Different" to encourage other tweens to try their hand at sports and activities that are "off the beaten path". He serves as a positive role model for others to try out something new - something that is a bit different from what everyone else seems to be doing. We think this is a fantastic idea.

    Does your tween do an unusual sport or activity? If so, what does she do? How did she get started? Please share your experience below!

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