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An Interview with Annie Fox, M.Ed. on Parenting 21st Century Teens

David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 5th 2008

download this podcast read the transcript

Annie FoxDr. Van Nuys interviews Annie Fox, educator, author and maintainer of several websites aimed at helping teenage children negotiate the difficult transition to adulthood. She has been answering questions from teenagers and parents of teenagers online at her websites, " " and " " since 1996.

According to Ms. Fox, the quickened pace, advanced communications technology and media saturation characteristic of the 21st century has resulted in a generation of children who are much more stressed out than prior generations. The level of academic and social performance expected of them has increased, they are encouraged to be sexual at earlier and earlier ages, and they have no regular periods of downtime. As a result, children are more stressed and pressured than ever before. Parents need to respond by becoming more active guides for their children's social and emotional development.

Parents writing to her column frequently complain that their children have become out of control. While some of this perception of wildness reflects actual problems, to a large degree, Ms. Fox feels that much of it reflects parents failure to recognize the normal teenage need to individuate from the family.

Where parents complain that their teenage children don't listen to them anymore, actual teenagers tend to complain that their parents don't trust them, or don't listen to what they have to say. As a group, what they want from their parents is their time and attention. Besides complaining about parents, teenagers also spend a lot of time trying to figure out questions of identity and how relationships function.

In order to best facilitate teenaged children's social and emotional growth, parents need to actively pay attention to what their children are doing both online and off and provide their children with guidelines for how to behave. For instance, children may not realize how public the Internet really is and end up posting provocative or revealing material meant for a small audience in a highly public context. Parents have the opportunity to intercept and correct the mistaken impressions if they are paying attention, for instance, by reading the terms of use and privacy documents posted on sites teens frequent and by familiarizing themselves with how the sites and the various communications technologies work.

In providing guidance to children it is vital for parents to have thought through the reasons underlying advice, and to act in accordance with their own advice. Parents who are perceived as hypocritical won't be taken seriously. Parents need to model the behaviors they would like children to emulate.

Links Relevant To This Podcast:

  • is Ms. Fox's website for parents and educators. Featured among the material on this site are her answers to parent's questions.

  • is Ms. Fox's website for teenagers. She answers teens' questions in her popular "Hey Terra" feature.

  • Annie will answer email questions that are mailed to her.

About Annie Fox

Annie Fox

In 1977, educator Annie Fox, M.Ed. and her husband David co-founded the Marin Computer Center in San Rafael, California. It was the world's first public access microcomputer facility. There she began exploring ways technology could be used to empower kids. This led her to write her best selling introductory computer book, Armchair BASIC, which launched her as a nationally respected writer/designer of children's software.

In 1996, at the dawn of the Internet Age, Annie dreamed up the idea for The InSite, a highly acclaimed web resource for teens. One of The InSite's most popular features is Hey Terra, a Cyberspace relationship adviser. Annie's award-winning book The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating is based on hundreds of email questions from teens around the world and Annie's responses to them.

Annie's second book for teens Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY (co-written with Ruth Kirschner) was published last fall.

Annie's currently working on a new series of books for middle school students which will focus on issues of identity, popularity, personal power, and self-acceptance. Book 1 of the series will be published in Fall 2008

Through her web work, her writing, and her live presentations for students, teachers, and parents, Annie continues working toward her goal of helping teens become thoughtful, compassionate, socially responsible adults.

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