Thursday, December 29, 2011

First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama Release Sea Turtles into the Wild

The Obama family is back in the President's home state of Hawaii for their annual Christmas break. This year, First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama got to do a bit of real-life marine biology on their holiday: the girls released four green sea turtles into the wild at Sea Life Park, a marine sanctuary in Oahu that is the only place in the U.S. that raises green sea turtles in captivity. The 18-month old turtles were born at Sea Life Park and are released into the bay as part of program to re-populate this threatened species.

Photo credit: AP

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Eve and Tweens

We love, love, love celebrating New Year's Eve and planning a party with our tweens is half of the fun. Here's a link to an earlier post with some party planning ideas including decorations, food, and drink suggestions.

This year we're adding surprise balls to the mix - check out this video from Kate Spade New York showing how fun these are:


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Friday, December 23, 2011

New Online Cooking Show For Tweens: Food Star by SweetyHigh

Sweety High is an online social networking community for tweens and tweens. Like the ones before it (Everloop, Imbee, etc.), the site is COPPA-compliant and heavily monitored. What makes this social network different from the others out there is that they create online shows using girls from their network. "Food Star" is one such show: it features a sister duo of Sophie and Emily Everhard who were members of Sweety High.
Our tweens seem to watch Food Network and Cupcake Wars as much as Disney Channel, so it's not surprising that media companies are catching on to the tween-foodie market. "Food Star" features the sisters cooking recipes with tween and teenage celebrities; it's sort of a mash-up between a talk show (think "Ellen") and "Rachel Ray". I especially love that the episodes include kitchen safety tips in addition to the recipes, and that the stars of the show are two real-life kids.

One must be a member of Sweety High to view any content (part of the site's safety protocols), and membership is free. Parents are also part of the process: parental permission is required to register for the site, and there's also a group of parents serving as an advisory board to the site's management.

Our tweens loved it - let us know what yours thought of the new show!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

About First Tween Sasha Obama's Dress From the Official Portrait

We've just learned that the pretty fuchsia and silver dress worn by First Tween Sasha Obama in the Obama Family Official Portrait is designed by BB Dakota, a mother-daughter design company. This dress is from a women's line, so it's not in children's sizes (and as we know, tweens come in all shapes and sizes - some older tweens are wearing youth sizes 12 and 14 while others are in womens or petites). It's available online (and on sale!) for $55. We certain this will be a popular choice for New Year's Parties among tweens.

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Communicating With Tweens

We recently came across a rather harshly-worded article about communication between parents and children. While the author focused mainly on communicating with young children and the manifestations of those behaviors in later years, we felt that one line particular rang true when communicating with tweens, "In the parent/child relationship, communication is entirely…hear this…ENTIRELY the responsibility of the parent."

Personally, this was a great reminder for us especially during the holiday season (which, let's face it,  can be a stressful time of year with all the comings and goings and inter-generational family gatherings). It was sort of a wake-up call to remind us that as mature as our tweens can appear (especially in contrast to younger siblings), at times we place undue burden on them to articulate their needs and feelings. They're more capable of it than school and toddler-age kids, of course, but they're also still learning how and when to speak their mind - or even to sort through their feelings to figure out how they feel. Tween girls can be a moody bunch with a sullen long face in the morning that morphs seemingly instantly to a shiny happy face by lunch. In the abstract, we parents can remember that they're still sorting through who they are and cut them that slack, but in the day-to-day, I know that I lose sight of it.

We've written before about those teachable moments and life lessons that our tweens learn from parents' behaviors and responses, and while the seeds of communication were most certainly sown at a very young age, behaviors are still malleable in the tween years. Thank heavens for that. We hope that you and your tweens have a happy, healthy, and calm holiday season.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Michelle on Obama on Facebook: "Why would we want to have a whole bunch of people who we don't know knowing our business? That doesn't make much sense."

Honestly, this is refreshing to hear from a fellow parent of tween girls. In the Obama family's only print interview of the season, People magazine asked them about their social networking and television usage. First Lady Michelle Obama says of their decision NOT to let First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama use Facebook, "Why would we want to have a whole bunch of people who we don't know knowing our business? That doesn't make much sense."

Their tweens are young yet, and Facebook's stated policy is that a user must be 13 or older - but that hasn't stopped millions of tweens from actively using Facebook.

With the winter break upon us, tweens will be online in droves - here are our tips for keeping your tween safe online this season:

Our House Rules for Digitally Literate Girls:

(You can read the full interview with Gayle Trotter that ran in the Alliance for Women in Media "Special Report on Digital Literacy for Women and Girls" here.)

Gayle: How can you let girls become digitally proficient without being exposed to the trash on the Internet?

MsTwixt: In a word: slowly. Kids should be taught to go online in stages appropriate to their age, and parents need to monitor their children’s activity online.

Here are some tips for parents:

· Create a family technology policy. Articulate clearly what your expectations are with respect to how mobile phones, television viewing, Internet browsing, YouTube watching, texting, etc., are acceptable for your family. You should share and discuss this policy with your kids so that they are clear on the behavior expectations and the reasons why. The ethics you enforce in real life absolutely extend to your kids' digital lives.

· Trust but verify. There are settings on every major browser that enable “safe search” — which is essentially search result listings of questionable sites or sites with adult content being blocked from display. Clearly this is a form of censorship, and it’s not too different from the settings on one’s cable box that block out channels based on a parent’s preference.

· Parents should check the browsing history on all computers in the home regularly. Not only is this a list of where your kids have gone online, but it provides insight into the kind of information they are looking for and what they really use the Internet for (so you can tell if “online research” includes Facebook or not).

· Parents should “Google” their kid’s names a few times a year to keep tabs on what information strangers can find about your child.

· With mobile phones, most major carriers offer text plans that not only help you to budget text usage but also monitor the texts. Some carriers charge a fee while others do not — it varies a great deal. You can also look for a plan option that backs-up the information on a phone (very helpful for the address book feature) and monitor photos taken with the phone.

· One rule in our household is that all browsing MUST happen at the dining table or living room; computers are not allowed in bedrooms. Publicly viewed screens have a “fresh air” effect on browsing.

· If your kids are under the age of 13 and want to join Facebook, consider setting up a Facebook account for the entire family instead of each member of the family. Check your privacy settings frequently on Facebook (the default settings change often).

· Another household rule with mobile phones that you might find helpful: store all phones in a central place (i.e., NOT in the child’s room). Not only does it help to mitigate the morning scramble and ensure sleep, but it prevents the late-night, unmonitored text sessions.

· An ostrich strategy won’t work when it comes to technology. If you don’t know how to text, learn; if you don’t know what Facebook or Twitter are, spend some time poking around on those sites; and if you don’t know what you don’t know, ask other parents what they’re monitoring online.

· Some of the best ways to parent include modeling the behaviors we want to see in our children. While we often think of that in the context of manners, speech, and ethics, the same applies to online behaviors.

· Focus on the positives of technology and what it offers to your kids; girls especially need to be comfortable with technology in today’s world.

Tips for teaching kids to go online safely:

· Kids need to know that just because they read something online, it is not necessarily true. They should learn which sites are trusted for research information and to check the footnotes, bibliography and sources for any online research.

· Kids should keep a running list of online bookmarks for any research project. Sites such as Delicious make this easy to both save and organize, and it’s incredibly helpful to have a list of their sources available with a single click.

· Avoid using both their first and last name together for any login, username, or screename.

· NEVER enter their address online – this should ONLY be done by a parent.

· Sit down together in front of the computer to research something. This summer we were looking for a new tank filter for our turtle, and this exercise was really helpful for our girls to see how we searched for information, the kinds of terms and phrases we used, and which sites we chose to visit and which ones we chose not to and why. The parent should narrate what they’re doing and thinking at each step in the process. We do exactly this kind of task-based testing in the development world when developing applications, and it is extremely valuable. This same exercise can also be done when going onto the family Facebook account and reading through Wall posts, viewing photos, finding friends, etc.

· If your child really wants to explore a social network online, there are kid-only sites such as Everloop, Imbee, and Togetherville that are tailored just for them. Parents can feel secure in knowing that these communities have live monitoring and are COPPA-compliant (COPPA is the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act).

· Kids should understand that information posted online has a very long “half-life.” This means not only that anyone can find that goofy photo they took with their friends junior year, but that photo will come up when someone searches for them 5 or 10 years from now — and folks they care about (such as college admission officers, job interviewers, scholarship committees, coaches) will most assuredly search for them online. This is a tough reality to confront as it means that all of the trials and tribulations of growing up and the mistakes that come with it are on public display. We can’t stuff that genie back in the bottle, but being cognizant of it is vital.

· Be picky. Kids should be very selective in which sites they chose to use for research and which communities they choose to join. Discuss with them the merits of one social network over another, why one source for research is better than another, etc. With such vastness of information, it's important to learn to filter it well. They should be selective with their time and what information they share online — VERY selective.


Photo: The White House's official family portrait taken on December 11, 2011.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

First Tweens Cheer Justin Bieber at "Christmas in Washington" Show

Meeting Justin Bieber is quickly becoming de rigueur for the First Tweens. Malia and Sasha Obama again welcomed Justin Bieber to the annual "Christmas in Washington" show this weekend at the National Building Museum. The Biebs was the big tween draw last night, but other tween favorite performers included Victoria Justice, Jennifer Hudson, Cee Lo Green, Conan O'Brien, and The Band Perry.

The First Tweens were dressed in colorful holiday attire for the show: Malia Obama wore a bright yellow silk dress by the fashion house "Elizabeth and James" (which parents may recall as being the clothing line developed by former tween stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) with black tights and flats accessorized by a long chain necklace, and Sasha Obama wore a ballet-inspired lilac tulle dress with plum-colored tights and metallic flats.

This was the 30th Annual "Christmas in Washington" event, and it benefits the Children's Medical Center. Mr. Bieber has also performed at the White House Easter Egg Roll and at the 2010 Christmas in Washington event. You can tune into the TNT channel broadcast of "Christmas in Washington" this Friday, December 16th at 8pm EST - or click here for your local broadcast time.



Credits: AP, WireImage for Turner; video from whitehouse.gov

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Friday, December 9, 2011

A Yule Ball for Tweens by Harry and The Potters

Tween fave band, Harry and the Potters, will be in Washington, DC tonight playing at the annual Yule Ball. Regular readers of this blog will recall that Harry and the Potters played a hugely successful show at the DC Public Library earlier this summer. The band is a brother duo of Joe and Paul DeGeorge, and they write and play rock songs based upon the characters in the Harry Potter series. Harry and the Potters is a perennial favorite of DC tweens, teens, and college students, and they've played at local libraries for the past few years.

Tonight's concert benefits The Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit that seeks to mobilize young people in social justice causes. This will be the 7th annual Yule Ball, and joining the line-up are YouTube phenoms Potter Puppet Pals, the Max Levine Ensemble, Diagon Alley, Justin Finch-Flechley and the Sugar Quills, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, and Dead Cat Orchestra.

Ticket info for the DC show is here. The Yule Ball will be making stops along the East Coast this month in Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. We hope that your tween gets to attend - these shows are a ton of fun! Attire is dress robes.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

First Tweens Cheer BigTimeRush at National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Malia and Sasha Obama attended the 89th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Ellipse last night. On hand to perform "Beautiful Christmas" was Nickelodeon Band Big Time Rush, and the First Tweens cheered their performance and bopped along. The girls continued their sartorial love of color and wore bright, double-breasted coats in deep blue (Sasha) and black with red piping (Malia) - both girls also sported skinny jeans.



Video of BTR's "Beautiful Christmas" performance in Washington below:


You can view the National Tree Lighting ceremony and performances when they are broadcast on your local stations here.

Photo credit: Getty

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