Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yogi Bear and His Cautious Sidekick

Yogi Bear and Bugs Bunny have something in common. They are both cartoon characters, of course. But, they also both have a knack for getting themselves in trouble and coming out unscathed.

In December, a full feature will appear telling the story of Yogi Bear. The movie poster instantly brought back memories of Saturday morning cartoons featuring the loveable Yogi Bear roaming the campgrounds in search of delicious picnic baskets. My family camped at Jellystone Parks as well – distinguished by Yogi’s funny face blown up into huge billboard signs.

Everybody loved Yogi – even though he was up to no good. The same was true of Bugs Bunny. In very similar cartoons, the crazy rabbit would take daring risks and somehow always manage to escape trouble. Things are always exploding on him – but he never dies.

Fortunately, both Yogi and Bugs had side kicks who loved them and looked out for them. Yogi had Boo Boo – his childlike bear companion. Boo Boo Bear is not Yogi’s son, although he is about half his size and is is constant companion. Wikipedia says they have an “unknown relationship.” It also suggests that Boo Boo bear acts as Yogi’s conscience.

In the same way, Daffy Duck follows Bugs Bunny around. While Bugs plunges into risky situations with a big smile and careless attitude – Daffy follows behind him, sputtering and anxious.

What is interesting to me is that both Yogi and Bugs have constant companions who are there complete opposites. The happy, easygoing, risk takers, choose to hang out with those who are worried, cautious, anxious.

That’s true in real life. Isn’t it?

My daughter is a worrier type (and so was I). We both avoid huge risks. We think before we act. We worry about trouble before, and in case, it might happen.

My daughter has a friend who is just like Yogi. She is smiling and happy and carefree. She takes risks that she probably shouldn’t take. She is the kind of girl who will disobey her parent’s cautions – who will shrug off rules – who wants to have fun.

And, strangely enough, she always seems to come out of the situations just fine. Like Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear, she likes to hang out with my Boo Boo like daughter.

Maybe those types of personalities are drawn to one another because they have a balancing effect. The worrier tames the risk taker. The adventurous spirit excites the nervous one. Yogi is the perfect match for Boo Boo, just like Daffy is for Bugs.

I’m thankful for the Yogis in my life, who have encouraged me take risks and have a bit more fun.

In fact, I think I married one…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is Texting Trouble for Teens?

A recent study said that teens who “hyper-text” may be more at risk for problems with sex, alcohol, and drugs. By “hyper-text” they mean teens that text more than 120 times a day. Knowing some of the teens that I do – that number does not seem out of reach.

I am sure this news worries some parents, particularly those whose teens have the cell phone in hand during almost every humanly possible activity. I’ve seen teens texting while talking to another person. They text in class. They text on the bus. They text while doing homework. Some text while driving. Communicating through texting has become as natural to them as conversing – and far more convenient.

The study was performed at 20 public high schools in the Cleveland area. More than four thousand teens participated in a confidential survey.

Why is it a cause for concern?

1) Parents do not know how much their teens are texting.

Recently a friend of ours said she received a print out of her 16-year-old daughter’s cell phone use. The detailed bill, for just one week, listed a dozen pages of calls. Her parents were shocked. They had no idea that their child was on the phone that often. How could she have gotten anything else done? What was she saying during all of these texts?

2) Parents who are unaware of texting habits – may be unaware of other activities as well.

There is a concern by experts that hyper-texting is just another symptom of a parent who is uninvolved. I have great sympathy for parents. Staying involved with our teens is no easy task.

Teens, by their nature, are reclusive. They are often at home glued to their computers, alone in their rooms, listening to music or playing video games. Some parents intervene into the teen’s private world – many choose not to. To avoid intervention is to avoid conflict. Parents want to pick their battles – so they sometimes resort to limited involvement.

3) Teens who hyper text are more than three times as likely to have sex.

This study concluded that many teens who hyper-text are susceptible to peer pressure. Texting engages them moment by moment with their peers – and permissive or absent parents may be unaware of the potential influence this presents. Dr. Scott Frank, the study’s author, said, “"If parents are monitoring their kids' texting and social networking, they're probably monitoring other activities as well.”

4) Hyper-texters are more often girls.

5) Only 14 percent of kids said their parents set limits for texting.

Many are disagreeing with this study, but I think it is a cause for concern. As a professor of media, I am aware that no form of media is neutral. It has advantages, but it also produces disadvantages. Texting might be an exclusive and private world that the teen can saturate himself or herself in without interference from parental influence.

Parents of teens who text should take note. There is nothing wrong with setting limits. There are many who have hours for acceptable texting use. Phones can be physically removed from their possession during homework, family or sleeping times.

Kids may not like it when a parent gets involved, but this study does affirm that intervening parents can help produce well-balanced adults.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Movies Worth Watching With Your Middle School Kids

I'm a movie buff.

And, a new tradition in our family is movie night. We love to put a movie in the DVD (or, yes, the VHS player), pop some popcorn, and settle down to watch. My husband and I have enjoyed introducing some of our favorite films to our daughter. This allows us to have a shared culture - things that we reference that she now gets as well.

Now that she is getting a bit older, she is able to appreciate and handle movies that we all enjoy. Here are a few we have enjoyed sharing:

1) THE PRINCESS BRIDE - This live-action film is witty and funny and timeless. The dialogue has great quotes that you and your kids will repeat to one another. It will even work with younger children as there is enough action to keep them entertained. And - it spans both boys and girls. There is love and romance and action and humor.

2) WHAT ABOUT BOB? - This is an 80s comedy starring Richard Dreyfus and Bill Murray. Bill Murray plays a psychiatric patient who suffers from extreme anxiety. When he attaches himself to his new psychologist and the doctor's family, it is both funny and touching. The film examines the issues of hospitality and self image. It also looks at parent/child relationships in a funny and, sometimes, sad way.

3) PLANES, TRAINS, and AUTOMOBILES - This is another 80s comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy. It tells the stories of two traveling salesman stuck at the airport on Thanksgiving. As they make the journey home, they learn about each other and about how to love your neighbor.

4) PRETTY IN PINK - John Hughes is our 80s favorite. This tale of a teenager on the wrong side of the tracks is about individuality and standing up for yourself in the face of teenage pressure. It says that it is okay to be different - and that, sometimes, things are not as they seem. Parents can decide whether some of Hughes topics are too mature for their middle schooler, but I have found that these subjects are already being thought about by kids this age.

5) BACK TO THE FUTURE - What if you could go back in time? Would you change anything? What if you could see the world that your parents grew up in? Would it change your view of your family? These are the questions faced by this teen who is shot back in time to see his world in the 1950s... It inspired a series of films - but the original is still the best.

6) DEAD POET'S SOCIETY - This is a heavier film with a weightier subject. A school teacher takes on the traditional values of a high-class private boys school. He challenges his students to think out of the box - to seize the day! He wants them to walk independently, to think for themselves. One boy does this, with tragic consequences... A good discussion starter about conformity and about your relationships with authority.

7) OCTOBER SKY - Four young boys decide to build a rocket. This is back in the era of space exploration and is set in a coal mining town. The main character's father does not understand his son's dream. He wants him to settle down and work in the mines like everyone else. How will he pursue what he loves? The story is a great lesson in teamwork and perseverance.

I could go on (and I might), but these were a few that were a big hit in our family... Which ones would you add to this list?