Category Archives: Resources for teenage boys

The book of secrets …

Last night, my daughter wrote me a letter.

I found it on my bed.  Well, that’s no entirely true. I found a notebook with a handmade post-it note stuck to the cover saying “PLEASE CHECK” complete with three exclamation marks. Did I mention my daughter is eight?

When I sat on my bed and flipped the book open, I saw my darling girl’s beautiful, scrawly, pencilled handwriting and the word ‘Mum’ at the top. And then I could see all these sentences tumbling out of her head and onto that page. The things which I had no idea were – that night –  knotting her up inside.

Despite the fact I’d bought my daughter this mother-daughter journal a year ago for the exact purpose of her being able to write to me about her concerns, I still thought, “I can’t believe she’s using the journal! “ Followed by, “I’m six-metres away. Why didn’t she just come and tell me?”

And then I remembered.

I remembered when I was 13 and my closest friends were shaving their legs and I really, really wanted to start shaving my legs too. So I waited until my mum was in the shower and then quickly knocked on the bathroom door and blurted out, “MUMIWANTTOSHAVEMYLEGS!”

It was all very Judy Blume.

I remembered the need to speak to my mum about boys or periods or razors without, you know, looking at her. Without having to meet her gaze. Without having her look at me and see how awkward and embarrassed and clumsy I felt.

And timing is everything.

That’s the other thing I remember.

As a tween and teen I felt too exhausted to unpack what went down at school the moment I walked in the door home at 4pm.

“How was school?” mum would ask.

“Fine,” I’d mumble.

No mention of my worries about my upcoming science test. Or that Brendan Windsor has no idea I was even alive. Or that I think I’m possibly the only person not invited to Megan B’s birthday party.

How was school? Fine.

It wasn’t until much later into the evening I’d start to uncoil and feel ready to revisit the soap opera that had unfolded in Modern History or French or P.E.

Thirty-five years later and nothing has changed.  After school my daughter’s main focus is changing out of her uniform and finding out what’s for afternoon tea.  The stories don’t start to spill out of her until those minutes after I’ve turned out her bedroom light.  We sit in the dark together – me perched on the side of her bed – and we talk. Or she talks and I listen. Or I talk and she listens (every night she badgers me into telling her a story from my 70s and 80s childhood. “You rollerskated? What’s a Pool Pony?  Who’s Kirk Cameron? Did you ever get in trouble in class? )

But in those moments in the dark she feels both loved and known and safe.  But sometimes I think even saying your worries out loud feels too hard.

So, the letter.

What was she writing about? Well that would be telling.  First rule of Fight Club: What’s discussed in the notebook stays in the notebook.

I re-read her question a few times, picked up a pen and wrote back to that eight-year-old sleeping down the hallway. I signed it off by saying, “I love that you wrote to me. Write to me again anytime.” And I placed the notebook on her bedside table to read when she woke in the morning.

At breakfast she said nothing but flashed me a knowing smile.

I love that she wrote me a letter.

I love that it gave me the chance to sit and really think about my answer as I wrote back to her.

And I love that for the rest of her life; she’ll have this notebook filled with my handwriting. My voice and hers. And our connection.

Last night my daughter wrote me a letter. The first of many, I can only hope.

 

FYI: The mother-daughter journal I bought my daughter can be found here. https://www.booktopia.com.au/stationery/just-between-us-meredith-jacobs/prod9780811868952.html?source=pla&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsc-b8Pf-1QIV3AMqCh3e2wDKEAQYAyABEgJEuPD_BwE

Or you can make your own for the tween or teen in your life

 

My 10 yo daughter wants Instagram. What do I say to her?

Yesterday the 10-year-old daughter of a friend of mine asked me when I thought her mum should allow her to have Instagram.

The first thing I did was ask her why she wanted to be on it. She said that all her friends were already on it and that when they talked about things they saw and shared, she felt left out.

Don’t you remember that feeling? I so utterly get that. It’s that feeling of being out of the loop. Not part of the conversation. Not in on the joke.

But here’s what I said to her about Instagram (and every other social media platform).

I said that what we know is that Instagram (and most other social media platforms) are not great for our brains. And that they are highly, highly addictive. I said that just like every adult I know who still smokes and is trying desperately to give up, (nearly) every adult I know is trying desperately to spend less time on their phones and on social media.

I said that while I TOTALLY understood that desire to stay in the loop that she needed to think about how joining Instagram she’d be trading one set of problems for another set of problems. Suddenly every time she logs on she’ll be confronted with every party, every outing, every get-together she wasn’t invited to. And she’ll have to constantly remind herself when she’s looking at her friends’ photos that it’s their highlights reel — even on those days when she feels her most fragile or lonely or blah.

I said that she’ll have the rules her mum and dad set her about who she can follow or friend and when she can log on. But there’ll be a whole other set of often unspoken rules that her friends make. You can’t look “up yourself’, can’t look like you’re bragging or showing off or trying too hard. All that type of thing.

And of course, she’ll have to have really good judgement about what she posts and what she LIKES and how she responds to all manner of things in her feed. Every like, every share, every mean-spirited off-hand comment become part of your online legacy. Your behavior online (and your history of behavior online) is on the list of what future employers look at. Your choices online tell the world what you stand for which is a lot to ask of a tween or teen.

But most of all I said that as she goes into high school I would like to see her living her life with both hands. Swimming. Bike riding. Rock climbing. Knitting. Sewing. Baking. Playing netball or basketball or hockey or rugby or soccer. Building. Sculpting. Painting, Singing. Dancing. Writing. Composing. Playing guitar or piano or violin.

You can spend your days creating and doing OR you can spend your days looking down at your phone, obsessing over likes and viewing every moment, every interaction as to how it can best be curated for Instagram.

Social media is highly addictive. It has a habit of white-anting our lives when we don’t have strong boundaries in place.

And it has a tendency to leave us feeling miserable.

Wait, I said. Wait. Trust me.

A letter to my niece before she starts high school …

My gorgeous 12 yo niece Elouise starts high school next week and so this week I sat her down to give her some Aunt-to-niece advice about what i wanted her to know.

Below is what I told her.

Of course she’s used to hearing me bang on about finidng your tribe (though you can never say it enough!!). But I came up with four other points I wanted to really talk through with her … everything from how most bullying starts to playing team sport to working to be a part of her new school community.

Anyway — here’s my advice to my two nieces Elouise and Emily and to every other tween and teen who is heading to high school next week.

I’ll be thinking of you all! (Nerves are normal!!)

xxx

1. Find Your Tribe

I know, I know. I’ve been banging on about this for about a decade but frankly it feels truer now than ever.  There is not much you can control in your life when you’re a tween or a teen. But the one thing – and possibly the MOST IMPORTANT thing – which you *can* control is WHO YOU CHOOSE TO HANG AROUND.  Find your tribe.  Your tribe are those people who get you. Who share your core values. They like you for who you are and they’ve got your back. These are the friends who are loyal and kind and you feel good about yourself when you’re with them. Any fights or spats you have with them are minor and it’s only good natured teasing that occurs (any really mean teasing is unintentional and true friends will apologise). If you’re spending your time hanging out with girls (or boys)  who routinely put you down, make fun of you and humiliate you then MOONWALK OUT OF THERE, SISTER!   Most importantly true friends bring out your best.  If you don’t like who you are and how you behave when you’re with your current friends — that’s a big red flag.

Now you might have a tribe of five friends – terrific!  But all you need is one true friend whom you can trust.

Keep in mind that sometimes it takes a while to find a person from your tribe.  Sometimes you’re a bad fit for the school you’re in.  Hang in there.  Seek out friends outside of school who ‘get you’.  Bide your time. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with YOU just because you haven’t found that great friend just yet.

BONUS ADVICE:  If your goal is to be happy in high school (and that’s every student’s goal, isn’t it?)  … keep in mind that research tells us that the biggest driver of happiness is time spent IN PERSON with authentic friends (someone from your tribe!).  No amount of texting, Skype messaging or Whatsapping comes close to being in person with your favourite friend where you feel safe to vent and be your true, daggy self.  Keep that in mind throughout your life — always prioritise in person catch ups.

2. Understand The Destructive Nature Of Gossip And Work Out Who To Vent To

High schools run on gossip. Stories. Rumours. Whispers.  And according Rosalind Wiseman – author of “Queen Bees And Wannabes: Helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends and the new realities of girl world” girls  in upper primary school and high school see gossip as a way to bond. BUT it’s also how they wage war on each other and humiliate each other.  Nearly every teenage girl (and every woman) gossips to some degree but let’s be clear — gossip is the source of pretty much all high school drama and bullying, The more you engage in destructive gossip, the more you get involved in spreading rumours about other students, the more tumultuous your high school days will be. Information is power in high school – I get it. But it comes at a cost.  And that cost can be extraordinarily high when that gossip forms part of a full-scale bullying campaign designed to isolate and embarrass someone. Lives can be destroyed especially when rumour-spreading happens online.

Wiseman makes three things very clear in her book:

* How much you gossip (as a parent) directly influences how much your child gossips.

* The younger you give your child a mobile phone or device, the sooner she’ll be exposed to  and participate in gossip (think Skype Messenger, WhatsApp and even just text messaging)

* There is a difference between venting and gossiping  Everyone needs to vent (or debrief) when something big has happened.  True friends won’t spread your confidences as gossip (creating enormous turmoil for you).  Be careful with your words both about yourself and about others.  Wherever possible, choose kind. And share your own personal stories and secrets ONLY with those friends who have proven themselves to have your back. You can find Rosalind Wiseman’s book here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/queen-bees-and-wannabes-rosalind-wiseman/prod9780749924379.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMInPmNzf3a2AIVUgwrCh10RQ_1EAAYASAAEgKodPD_BwE

3. Join In.

This is the great secret to enjoying high school which I wish someone had told me at the time. JOIN IN. Become a part of the community. Participate. Another one of the big drivers of happiness is when we feel like we’re part of a community, when we feel KNOWN. Walking into a place and having teachers and reception staff and  the tuckshop volunteers say, “Good morning, Bec!” can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and school. It sounds hokey but it can help you feel safe and cared about. But there’s only so much schools can do as they try to get to know all the students. So you have to step up.  Join in. Volunteer. When there’s a students versus teachers basketball match on at lunchtime – GO.  By letting the teachers get to know you,  you’ll in turn feel like you’re part of something an belong.

4. People Can Be Jerks But That’s Not Bullying

When I was in year 8, every afternoon as I walked to the bus stop a boy in my class would yell out, “See you, Rubella!”  Rubella instead of Rebecca. Get it? Hilarious (not). So would you call that bullying? Nope. That, my friends, is called HIGH SCHOOL.  David called me Rubella every day and I replied every afternoon with “Shut up, moron!” and kept walking. #goodtimes #clearlynotchoosingkindinthatmoment

For something to be bullying it has to not only be repeated more than once, there also has to be a power imbalance.  There wasn’t a power imbalance between David and me.  I wasn’t intimidated or threatened or scared of him. People in high school can be jerks. People will be mean. They’ll behave badly. Welcome to life!  This is why you want to work on your resilience and your inner grit and find ways to brush off those moments. That said, the moment you feel “ganged up on” and/or scared is when you go to an adult in your life and let them know.

5. Play A Team Sport

Exercise is great but that’s not why I want my nieces to continue playing team sports. Research shows that playing a team sport builds your self-esteem, your confidence, helps with goal setting and teaches you about team work. When homework and assignments and study is all too much — there’s something about MOVIN

#DoItForDolly

I remember 14. My life was about watching Young Talent Time, trying to learn the lyrics to the Bangles’ Manic Monday, perming my hair, writing fan letters to Michael J Fox and hanging out with my tribe – my two best friends, Lyn and Robin. That was 1986. It’s easy to look back at that time through rose coloured glasses. But girls are girls and I can certainly recall it wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Year 9 is not for the feint hearted. But I was lucky that home was a haven and a respite if I’d had a bad day. At home I had peace. The internet was yet to come to Chapel Hill, Brisbane.

In 2018, thousands of Australian kids cannot find that elusive peace and we all know why. All those shiny devices and social media platforms we’ve rushed to hand over to our kids – kids who have yet to build up their empathy muscle or understand the consequence of their behaviour – mean that bullying is now a round-the-clock occupation for some angry and hurting teens. They are waging online bullying campaigns for little reason other than they think a fellow student is too up herself or lame or a loser or doesn’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music. Or for no other reason than their target has a self-confidence they find baffling and enviable.

Our kids have no respite because we have taken it from them by allowing our kids all hours access to their devices with no monitoring of what they are doing or saying online.

Dolly Everett was just shy of her 15th birthday when she decided the online bullying she was enduring was too much to handle any longer. Last week she ended her life.

And Dolly is not alone. The suicide rate for 15-24 year olds – according to mental health organisation Orygen – is the HIGHEST it has been in a decade.

9bee6855c838912d4f0c2f19e799cd36I feel gutted for Dolly’s beautiful family – how do you make sense of such a needless loss? Amy Jane “Dolly” Everett should be here.

And I feel heartbroken for every child who today is dreading the thought of going back to school later this month because school is a living hell, a place where they feel tormented and alone.

So where to from here?

I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that our children are watching us and so often they are modelling their behaviour on ours. And I just see so much anger and rage EVERYWHERE.

I see anger on our roads with drivers becoming apoplectic because why? Someone made a mistake? Cut them off by accident? Or was driving too slow in the wrong lane?

I hear about it at the school gate. Story after story told to me about GROWN WOMEN embarking on full-scale bullying campaigns against other mothers. It’s like something out of Big Little Lies.

I see it at social sport. I LOVE playing social netball but the bad behaviour, the UNSPORTING behaviour is at times mind-blowing to me. Sneaky, underhanded tactics. Swearing at opponents and umpires. General on-court agro as though we’re playing for sheep stations.

And we wonder why teenagers behave badly? What example are we setting them?

We all make mistakes. We all behave badly at times. I know I have – I’m not Mother Teresa either. But all this anger and bitterness is just making things worse. How about this:

1. Let’s cut each other a little more slack and realise that most “injustices” done to us aren’t personal and don’t require a big stick response. Take a breath before you race to admonish someone whether that’s in traffic, on court or at the school P&C.

2. Let’s communicate better. Think about the tone of your emails or text messages. If you have an issue with someone speak to them in person or pick up the phone. Emails and texts messages are easy to mis-mood — you are leaving it up to the recipient to decide on your tone and most of us choose the worst case scenario!

3. Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology.

4. As parents it is our job to teach our kids to be empathetic. Ask yourself what kind of behaviour you’re modelling to them. Are you mocking other people in front of your kids? Are you inclusive often inviting new people to join your group? Do you show concern for the feelings of others?

5. Can we stop smugly saying “We’re no longer hiring?” when it comes to meeting new people? Some of the greatest friendships in my life are with women I’ve met out of the blue in recent years. Make room for newcomers!!

6. Pay attention to what your child is doing online. Random spot checks on their social media is a good idea — sit with them and take a look together to see what types of conversations they’re engaging in.

7. If you’re spreading gossip – breaking confidences – at work or school — you are part of the problem.

8. I learnt a great tip from Jono Nicholas from ReachOut last year. He told me that sometimes it’s really hard for kids to articulate their feelings. So instead of asking, “Are you okay? How was school? How are you feeling?” – ask them to rate their day out of 10. And rather than ask them the moment they get home — it’s often later at night when they’re willing and ready to open up.

9. Can we all try and get a bit more sleep? Sleep deprivation unravels you.

Let’s try harder to walk into 2018 looking through a more empathetic lens.

Final thought: A friend once said to me, “When the shit hits the fan and you have to choose between conspiracy or f*ck up – it’s usually f*ck up.” In other words, we need to give people the benefit of the doubt that we WEREN’T deliberately excluded or cut off or whatever. So often it’s not personal and we need to be aware of the ‘story’ we create in our heads about a negative event.

You want to stop kids being bullied? It starts with US. You and me.

Do it for Dolly. #stopbullyingnow

*** If you are being bullied or your child is being bullied — speak up. You have a right to feel safe in your school or workplace. If you are struggling and feel alone, please call one of the following numbers …

Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Before You Hit Send – social media tips for parents + tweens + teens

STEP 1.  BASIC ONLINE DO’S & DONT’S

  1. Don’t use your child’s photo or real name when setting up apps or certain social media accounts.
  2. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.
  3. Don’t agree to meet up with people you don’t know in real life.
  4. Don’t chat to randoms online – even if you think they’re kids. Social media and gaming apps are stalked by adult predators looking for children to groom. 
  5. Don’t give out your address, school or phone number online to anyone. And don’t share your passwords!
  6. Most importantly – check the privacy settings on the platform or app you are using (see tips below)
  7. Follow Susan McLean – Cyber Safety Expert, Leonie Smith – The Cyber Safety Lady and Be Web Smart on Facebook to get regular updates on the latest dangerous and dodgy apps and safety tips for your tech devices. 

 

STEP 2. SECURE YOUR DEVICES

  1. You want to stop strangers from finding out where you live, work or go to school which they can easily do from the photos and videos you post.  Turn off Geo-Tagging on your camera.  Otherwise geographical information is added in the form of metadata to photos, videos, SMS, websites. Go to  LOCATION SERVICES and turn it off for your camera and any apps that don’t need it. (See Social Media Reputation Management booklet for instructions)
  2. TURN OFF Frequent Locations which can tell anyone who picks up your phone where you live.  
  3. If your device gets stolen or your friends decide to play a prank by hacking your account — you want to be able to stop them from accessing your device!  Have a pin number on  all your devices. And don’t tell your friends your pin numbers or log in details.
  4. Again to stop people accessing your accounts – set up Two-Step Verification On Accounts:                  Facebook:  Account > Settings > Security > Login Approvals          Apple          Google          Twitter
  5. Set up restricted viewing on Google, YouTube, your Mac or PC. Click here to access notes on setting YOUTUBE to “Restricted Mode”
  6. For younger kids (10 and under) Use YouTube Kids, Kiddle  or Safe Search Kids (powered by Google) . Remember: no amount of net filtering replaces parent supervision!

USEFUL LINKS

FREE Social Media Reputation Management’ booklet from the Australian Federal Police. It details privacy settings for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and mobile devices.

Social Media Platform Safety Centres: FULL LIST of contacts

FACEBOOK: Basic Privacy Settings  and   How Can I See What My Facebook Profile Looks Like To Other People?   YOUTUBE TUTORIAL

INSTAGRAM:  Privacy & Safety Tips for Instagram

SNAPCHAT: Safety Tips for Snapchat

SAFE SEARCH ENGINES FOR KIDS:  YouTube Kids, Kiddle, Safe Search Kids 

Who’s Chatting To Your Kids?: Queensland Police Force

The advantages of helping kids navigate the digital world – The Atlantic 

15 Useful  iPhone Hacks including setting ‘Do Not Disturb’ on your phone so you can’t receive messages while you’re studying 😉

More iPhone hacks including getting more storage

How to save data on you iPhone: the small hack that can make a difference to your data use.

 

USEFUL APPS

HELP ME – The Denise and Bruce Morcombe Safety App.  Download this app for 99cents and any person can call for help at the push of a button.   “The ‘Help Me’ button sounds a warning and allows you to send off an SMS text to two (2) nominated ‘safety’ numbers, as part of your Trusted Safety Network. Included in the text are GPS co-ordinates from where the text was sent, so the sender can be located or a last known place of contact is indicated.”

Checky  This app will tell you just how often you  (or your child) check your phone! 

Send This Instead  Humorous ways to respond when you’re asked for a naked pic

OurPact  Free parental control app that limits screen time and access to apps and sites.

Colour Therapy Popular free colouring-in app

Chore Bank:  The app that lets you keep track of your kids’ chores and the pocket money they’ve earned.

Canvsly: a clever app to help you digitally store your children’s artwork 

 

YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT

Set up a Google Alert for your name and email address so you can keep track about what’s said about you on-line. 

The resume is dead: your next click might determine your next job – The Guardian

Your digital footprint matters – Huffington Post

Be Social Be Smart – the power of positive posting. A terrific Brisbane-based company who specialise in presentations for year 10-12  high school students on their digital footprint. 

 

CELEBRITIES TALKING ABOUT STEPPING AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Ed Sheeran takes a break from Twitter due to abuse. 

Gigi Hadad on social media increasing her anxiety and her decision to take a month away from social media. 

 

CYBERBULLYING

The most important thing to remember if you are being cyberbullied is that you’re not alone and there are adults who can help you.

Keep evidence of the bullying (save emails, take screenshots of messages or posts), delete and block the bully and report the problem to the Safety Centre of the platform or app (you can find a full list here).  And most importantly tell an adult you trust. And keep telling adults until someone does something to help you. 

Office of the eSafety Commissioner 

How To Take A Screenshot On Any Device 

Report Cyberbullying: Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner

Legal Aid Queensland: Laws surrounding cyber-bullying and what to do about it. 

The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, can provide free legal advice for anyone under 18, or anyone acting on their behalf.

Bullying No Way website for kids, teens, parents and teachers

 

HOUSEHOLD INTERNET AGREEMENT / PARENTAL CONTROL APPS

FREE Family Internet Safety Agreement created by the Australian Federal Police.

List of different parental control apps

FREE OurPact parental control app that limits screen time by blocking internet and app access.

Review of OurPact app by the Be Web Smart site.

How To Find Hidden Apps On Your Child’s Phone

 

CONSENT/PORN/NAKED SELFIES

Avalanche of Violent Porn Affecting Our Young

The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, are experts in sexting and the law, and can provide free legal advice for anyone under 18, or anyone acting on their behalf. If you find naked images on your child’s device, take a breath and ring these guys first to get some clear, calm advice on how to proceed.

Legal Aid Queensland: The law surrounding sexting and sharing naked images

Send This Instead:  a free app providing humorous responses to help young people say no when pressured to send intimate photos.

It’s No Coincidence A Vile Instagram Account Was Set Up By Boys From An Elite Private School by Catherine Lumby

A Letter To My Son About Porn by Harriet Pawson

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young men  and women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

 

RECOMMENDED READING

The advantages of helping kids navigate the digital world

Sexts, Texts and Selfies by Susan McLean (Australian)

Keeping Kids Safe Online by the Leonie Smith, the Cyber Safety Lady (Australian)  

 

RECOMMENDED SITES
The Cyber Safety Lady  (Australian)

Be Web Smart: For the analog parent in a digital world (American)
CommonSense Media (American)

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP

ReachOut 

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline or call 1800 551 800

Parentline: 1300 30 1300 www.parentline.com.au

Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Relationships Australia: 130 364 277 www.relationships.org.au

1800Respect Online: 1800 737 732 www.1800respect.org.au

Child Safety Services (Qld): 1800 177 135

www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety/protecting-children

The List part 2: resources for tween and teenage boys

First up – if you’re looking for my resources list for teenage GIRLS. Click here.

So.

Houston, we have a problem.

Go searching for inspiring, uplifting books, websites and docos for teenage girls and you’ll be drowning in content. DROWNING.  From websites like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and A Mighty Girl  to gorgeous, inspiring books like Amazing Babes  and The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo to docos like Miss Representation and Killing Us Softly— there are hundreds and hundreds of choices all designed to inspire our girls, remind them of their worth and help them navigate those tricky high school years.

But boys?  Tumbleweeds, people.

Am I missing something because I’ve just spent close to two weeks trawling the net and it’s disheartening to see how little is out there. And I’m not sure the “boys don’t read” argument really cuts it anymore.

Anyway.

The good news is there are loads of great men to follow on social media — 21st century men who show us what it looks like to be a good man:  a good person, a good colleague, a good boyfriend, a good friend, a good father, a good husband.  What does “good” even mean?  It’s subjective but to me it means a man who has integrity, who knows what they stand for, who contributes to their community (school, uni, work)  in a positive way, who sees women as equals and champions their fight for equality. A good man is a man who moves through this world with kindness, empathy, humour and  integrity.  Added to that there certainly *are* some great books, organisations and websites out there.

But let me repeat what I said at the start of my list for teenage girls … there is no ONE conversation to have with your son about drinking or drugs or sex or consent or respect for women or depression or homophobia.  It’s an on-going discussion. It’s about using every teachable moment that comes your way. It’s a running dialogue in your family so that when stories hit the news you can talk about the Stanford Rape Case and watch the Consent is Like A Cup of Tea video and discuss what consent MEANS. You can talk about the boys from Orange Sky Laundry winning Young Australians of the Year and the genius of their mobile laundry idea and how it will change lives . You can talk about Chris Hemsworth wearing a ‘Livin’ t-shirt and what that represents for male depression.

My opinon (for what it’s worth)  is that we need to start the ‘big’ conversations early with our young kids (boys and girls):

“When someone says STOP – the game stops”

“When someone looks upset and isn’t having fun anymore the game STOPS”

“Do you have your brother’s consent to touch his stuff?”

“Keep your hands to yourself”

These can all become part of your daily conversation. We need to teach our kids (but especially boys) to read people’s facial expressions and body language. “Is this person still having fun?”  And,  of course, do lots of reading (including an equal amount of stories with female protagonists) since reading is one of the key strategies to help build empathy.

So here’s my work-in-progress list.  I’d love to hear your suggestions …

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nearly every teen is  on social media. (Keep in mind kids are meant to be 13 before signing up for accounts … ). So once they have signed up, the key is to CURATE your feed and make it work for you. Protect your headspace and give priority to those people and organisations who motivate and inspire you.

Here are some great men for teenage boys to follow on social media:

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett /  Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas are what good men look like.  These two mates, both aged 20 from Brisbane, created a mobile laundry service in the back of a van so that homeless men and women could access clean clothing.  In 2016, the were awarded Young Australians of the Year.

John Green and Hank Green  Ah, the Brothers Green.  John Green is one of the most successful YA authors on Planet Earth (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska.) He is (according to wikipedia) an American author, vlogger, director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, stunt performer and actor. Together with his brother Hank (educator, musician and producer) he set up the VlogBrothers Youtube channel which now has over a million subscribers. Their Crash Course online series  talks through everything from politics to history to astronomy and philosophy. (info source from Wikipedia)

Waleed Aly Waleed is an academic, lawyer, radio host, writer and one of the hosts of The Project. He’s not on social media (DAMMIT!) but his monologues on The Project on topics ranging from terrorism to racism to homelessness routinely go viral. Follow The Project on social media and you’ll be guaranteed to see his latest monologues. Waleed is married to Dr Susan Carland and has two children.

Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada — Fiercely intelligent, Trudeau identifies himself as a feminist  and in 2016 marched in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Canada’s Prime Minister is setting the benchmark on the new manhood.

Adam Hills:  He continues to be best-known as the host of Spicks and Specks and Adam Hills Tonight but this Helpmann award-winning comedian also travels the world appearing at comedy festivals, hosting TV shows, covering the Paralympics and doing stand-up comedy to sell-out crowds. He’s a good egg.

sr3-0445.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Josh Thomas:  Comedian, actor, writer and the mastermind behind the award-winning TV series Please Like Me. In 2010, samesame.org.au voted him as one of the 25 most influential gay Australians.

Eddie Woo   If there is such a thing as a celebrity maths teacher then Eddie Woo is it. This 32 year old teaches maths at Sydney’s largest public high school but at night records fabulous Youtube videos designed to get kids excited about maths (as well as understand it). Look for his WooTube channel!

Hugh Jackman  He can play Wolverine one day and then tap dance at the Tony Awards the next.  Jackman is a big advocate for meditation.  He is an invested husband and father.  He also happens to be married to actress and activist Deborra-Lee Furness.

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee  Hilarious? Absolutely. sure.  But Hamish and Andy  have created nothing short of a comedy empire with their national radio show, TV series and podcast. Better than that they’re both excellent examples of a good men. Hamish is utterly devoted to his wife Zoe Foster Blake and their son Hamish. While Andy won Uncle of the Year in 2016 for  surprising his sister by writing (and having published) a children’s book for his nephew George’s first birthday.

Todd Sampson:  Todd is the former CEO of Leo Burnett Australia (one of the world’s largest communication agencies). He became best known to most Australians via his appearances on the marketing tv show, Gruen.  These days Sampson is a documentary film maker and presenter (Body Hack). His insights on current events are always worth listening to.

Johnathan Thurston:  JT is considered to be one of the greats of rugby league. He’s a three time Dally M medal winner. He’s currently the captain of the North Queensland Cowboys and is well-known for the work he does in Australia’s indigenous communities.

Russell Brand:   Actor, musician, comedian, former heroin addict and sex addict — Brand is a strong, unconventional voice for young men talking openly about politics, current events and the damage created by porn and drugs.

Dave Burton:  Dave is an author, playwright, producer, director, podcast host and sometimes creative writing teacher. I feel really tired just writing all that down.  His Facebook page is funny, serious and engaging.

Markuz Zusak best-selling Australian author of New York Times best-selling novel The Book Thief as well as Fighting Ruben Wolfe and The Messenger.

Isaiah Firebrace:  Winner of X Factor 2016, Firebrace is a 17 year old Aboriginal Australian with a massive international following.

Chris Hemsworth Best-known for his roles in Thor, The Avengers and Ghostbusters, Chris Hemsworth is clearly a softie at heart. He cherishes his wife and three small kids and in his spare time Chris supports a range of charities including  Livin –  a charity to support people with mental illness. In 2016 his most famous social media post was a photo of the dinosaur cake he baked for his daughter India’s birthday.

 

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Troy Cassar Daley  Award-winning indigenous Australian country music star, devoted husband and father and all round great man.

Tom Harkin Tom has been called the Aussie ‘Bloke Whisperer” coming to national attention with his work with male high school students on the documentary series Man Up.

Matthew Reilly  Matthew Reilly has sold more than 7.5 million novels worldwide. He got his big break by self-publishing his first novel. His best-selling novels include the Jack West series, Ice Station and Area 7. Matt currently lives in LA.

Hugh Evans  is best described as an Australian humanitarian. He is the co-founder of both The Oaktree Foundation and the Global Poverty Project. He has received numerous awards for his work in promoting youth advocacy and volunteerism in order to reduce extreme poverty in developing countries.

Samuel Johnson:  An award-winning actor, voice-over artist and philanthropist.  Today Sam is best-known for his role in Love Your Sister the charity he co-founded with his sister Connie when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The Love Your Sister goal is to vanquish cancer by raising money for research and also raising awareness of breast cancer.    To date Sam and Connie (who passed away in September 2017) have raised over $7 million.

Osher Gunsberg  TV host, radio host, vegan, feminist and avid cyclist. Osher has been very open about his mental health challenges and how he stays on top of them.

Peter Fitzsimons   A former Wallaby, FitzSimons is a poetry-loving, newspaper columnist  and best-selling author (take a breath) AND the current head of the Australian Republican Movement. He is married to Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson and the father of three children.

Jamie Oliver Jamie is the perfect example of someone who uses their passion to give back to the community. This world-renowned chef has dedicated much of his career to providing training and employment to young homeless people as well as improving the quality of food served up in school canteens around the developed world.

Tim Minchin  Comedian, writer, actor, musician, director. ‘ He is the composer and lyricist of  Matilda the Musical, based on the Roald Dahl book Matilda.

Bill Gates  Co-founder of Microsoft, Gates is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor and programmer. Bill together with his wife Melinda founded the Gates Foundaton.

Robert Hoge   Rob is an author who writes about ugliness, disability, politics, social media and everything in between. His memoir Ugly became a must-read on  high school reading lists across the country.

And these women:   Captain Catherine McGregor (army officer, cricket commentator and author), Mia Freedman (Mia is the co-founder and creative director of the Mamamia Women’s Network, Australia’s largest digital women’s media company.), Tara Moss (author and feminist), Turia Pitt (athlete and motivational speaker), Leigh Sales (Walkley Award winning journo and host of 7.30),  JK Rowling (author and social justice campaigner) and Emma Watson (actor and UN Global Goodwill Ambassador)

 

 

ORGANISATIONS TO FOLLOW

Real Aussie Blokes This is a website to go with the three-part ABC TV series “Man Up” that will air in October 2016. It’s all about what it means to be an Australian bloke in 2016, masculinity  and men’s mental health.

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want this is the website based on the book of the same name by author Rosalind Wiseman – mother of two sons and author of the best-selling Queen Bees and Wannabes.

Geena Davis Insititute of Gender in Media “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.“The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

The Gates Foundation:  Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the GF aims to improve the lives of people everywhere.  Their work (and their social media feed) is inspiring, educational and eye-opening.

Penguin Teen excellent facebook page from Penguin with YA reading recommendations

GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)

Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Important articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.

 

FOR PARENTS/EDUCATORS

VIDEO: The trailer for Man Up

VIDEO: Tom Harkin chats to ABC News about the need to challenge the stereotypes of masculinity and address the issues that lead to high rates of suicide.

VIDEO:   What Your Boys Aren’t Telling You  — a video with Rosalind Wiseman and three teenage boys talking about the things you may not know about your teenage son.

VIDEO: Masterminds and Wingmen — another video from Rosalind Wiseman about what she has learnt from researching and talking to teenage boys for two years.

Maggie Dent:  The mother of four sons, there is nothing about boys Maggie doesn’t know. She’s a parenting and resilience expert and her Facebook page is a wealth of information and guidance on raising kids but especially BOYS.

Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys Community – Steve Biddulph’s books have sold millions of copies for a reason. He is a voice of the new manhood and provides brilliant, helpful guidance to parents of sons.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg — Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is probably Australia’s most well-known child and adolescent psychologist.  His books on parenting offer valuable, sensible advice for parents of teens.

Dr Justin Coulson: I really love Justin Coulson whose mantra is to help make families happy. Justin is a parenting, relationships and happiness expert. He graduated with first class honours in Psychological Science (UQ) and completed his Ph. D. at the University of Wollongong, researching parenting and happiness.  He runs parenting workshops and while often focused on smaller children — he still offers up great advice about raising boys.

Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human.  This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.

 

FICTION FOR TEENAGE BOYS

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book is a must-read for every child aged 10 and up. It’s about a book about courage, empathy, friendship and acceptance and how all of those qualities play out in the playground.

From the publisher: “‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’
Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things – eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren’t stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all? Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

My current recommendation for teenage girls AND boys  (which was given to me by Megan Daley at Children’s Books Daily) is:
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of one of the three perpetrators (two male and one female). If your sons can get passed the fact there’s a girl on the cover, they’ll like it.

AND (this one comes recommended by a group of teacher-librarians)

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler  – “Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.”

For suggestions for tween and teenage boys go to Children’s Books Daily (parents) and Guys Read (parents and teen boys).  Authors to look for include John Marsden, Marcus Zusak, Nick Earls, John Green, Will Kostakis, Matthew Reilly, Tristan Bancks and Andy Griffiths.

 

 

BOOKS – Non-Fiction (for teens to read)

Standing Tall: on confidence, teamwork and leadership by Tom Harley “Tom Harley considers himself a lucky man, having captained the Geelong Football Club to two premierships in three years. Never the club’s top player, he set personal goals, working hard and pushing himself to achieve them. On his way to becoming the greatest leader he could be, Tom discovered what qualities he values most, and how to bring out the best in others.   Respect, courage, risk, pride, gaining confidence, finding your passion, leading under pressure and coping with failure —  using his own experiences, Tom shares his thoughts on what makes both great leaders and followers. He shows what it takes to stand tall, on and off the field.”

How To Be Happy: a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion by Dave Burton  I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read this memoir yet but it comes SO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by so many people.  Dave Burton is a bit of a creative genius — he writes plays, hosts podcasts, directs, produces, teaches … all of it.  Here’s the blurb about his memoir :”How to Be Happy tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.”

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want  by Rosalind Wiseman. This is Rosalind’s book for teenage boys covering everything from friendships to dating to the ‘bro code’.

The Manual To Manhood: how to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl & 97 other skills you need to survive by Jonathan Catherman I’m in the process of reading this book but what i have read, I like.  While the book does cover dating (how to ask a girl out, how to meet her parents), there’s zero advice in here about love or sex or sexting or porn. But put that and the traditionally heterosexual nature of this book aside, and I can see that this book would be popular with teen boys.  It’s  easy to read, clear instructions on how to do loads of things all of us are expected to be able to master from changing tires to putting on a tie to writing a resume. The author Jonathan Catherman is a father of two sons and specialises in teaching leadership and building character in adolescents.

Surviving Year 12: a sanity kit for students and their parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg  Every year, more and more emphasis is placed on achieving good results in the end-of-school exams. This can lead to students feeling extraordinary pressure and having unrealistic expectations. In this new edition of Surviving Year 12, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia’s leading adolescent psychologist, gives advice to students on how they can cope with the pressure, work smarter and actually enjoy their final year of high school.  Dr Carr-Gregg includes advice on:

• how not to get trapped by social media like Facebook and Twitter

• the secrets of studying smarter

• overcoming anxiety and stress

• getting enough sleep (the best study tool of all!)

• setting goals

• dealing with procrastination

• ensuring exercise and diet regimes are good

• how to cope with the exams themselves

 

Ugly – a memoir by Robert Hoge  Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness.   Ugly is Robert’s account of that life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

 

Ask Me Anything : heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions for teenage girls by Rebecca Sparrow  I wrote this book for teenage girls but I’ve found over the past 12 months is that teenage boys WANT to read this book to better understand how teenage girls see them and the world.  Ask Me Anything covers everything from friendships (How do you know if your friends really like you?) to dating (How do I let a boy know I like him?) to sex (How do you say no?) to family and school issues.

 

Resources For Parents and Educators

Articles to read:

How To Raise A Feminist Son by Claire Cain Miller

Why Building Young Boys’ Mental Resilience Is So Important 

What Teens Need Most From Their Parents – Wall Street Journal Article

Sydney Grammar Students recreate a life-saving drug  

To The Men I Love About The Men Who Scare Me 

Before Hitting On A Woman, There’s One Question Every Guy Needs To Ask by Luca Lavigne

Rising To The Challenge of Raising Boys One Football Match At A Time by Jacinta Tynan

A Letter To My Son About Porn by Harriet Pawson

It’s No Coincidence A Vile Instagram Account Was Set Up By Boys From An Elite Private School by Catherine Lumby

 

Non-Fiction Books for parents to read:

Raising Boys: Why boys are different and how to help them become happy well-adjusted men by Steve Biddulph

The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph

The Making of Men by Arne Rubinstein

Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker

Some Things About Boys by Maggie Dent

He’ll Be Okay – Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men by Celia Lashlie 

 

WORKSHOPS RUN IN SCHOOLS

Goodfellas  Brilliant Australian organisation headed up by Enlighten Education’s Dannielle Miller offering  in-school workshops for teenage boys covering a wide range of issues.

Tom Harkin

 

DOCOS

Man Up – Gus Worland’s documentary on what it is to be an Aussie male.  Has resources for middle and high school students.

Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women:  this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.

Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all teen boys (and tween and teen girls)
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
Bully

 

VIDEOS TO WATCH

Man Up Doco Trailer

Sportsmanship Jack Sock and Leyton Hewitt  Tennis player Jack Sock shows great sportsmanship when he encourages his opponent (Hewitt) to challenge a wrong-call that would go in Hewitt’s favour.

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young men  and women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

DUSTIN HOFFAN talking about what he learned playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. This is a really powerful video about the expectations society places on women to be beautiful.

Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.

Waleed Alley – here is his Gold Logie speech on racism and social justice. Here is his ‘ISIL is weak editorial. Here’s his editorial about Sonia Kruger’s comments about Muslim immigration.

Tim Minchin’s University of Western Australia address 2013 (Tim offered 9 life lessons to university graduates).

Comedian/actor Russell Brand talks about ‘the harmful effects of porn and how it alters ideas and perceptions about sex, drawing from science, research, and examples from his own life.’

 

 

POSTS TO TALK THROUGH

“You’re Going To Die, Poofter! – why we need Safe Schools” by Shannon Mollloy

Former Stanford University student Brock Turner raped a 22 year old woman behind a bin after a college party. This is his victim’s devestating impact statement about the impact of his crime.

 

POETRY (!!)

The Storms Will Come by Tyler Knott

The Journey by Mary Oliver

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline