Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office

The New York Times

Hard work and discipline help girls outperform boys in class, but that advantage disappears in the work force. Is school the problem?

Lisa Damour

By Lisa Damour

Ms. Damour is a clinical psychologist.

CreditWenting Li
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CreditCreditWenting Li

From elementary school through college, girls are more disciplinedabout their schoolwork than boys; they study harder and get better grades. Girls consistently outperform boys academically. And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies.

What if those same habits that propel girls to the top of their class — their hyper-conscientiousness about schoolwork — also hold them back in the work force?

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision.

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was caring for an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

So how do we get hyper-conscientious girls (and boys, as there certainly are some with the same style) to build both confidence and competence at school?

First, parents and teachers can stop praising inefficient overwork, even if it results in good grades. Gendered approaches to learning set in early, so it’s never too soon to start working against them. Recently, as I read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to my 8-year-old daughter, I stopped at a passage in which Hermione — the fictional poster child for academic fastidiousness — turned in an essay that was “two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.” Hermione, I pointed out, doesn’t make great use of her time. She’s a capable student and could probably do just as well without working so hard. “Right,” my daughter said. “Of course she could!”

We can also encourage girls toward a different approach to school — one that’s more focused on economy of effort, rather than how many hours they put in. Whenever one of the academically impressive and persistently anxious girls in my practice tells me about staying up until 2 in the morning studying, I see an opening. That’s the moment to push them to become tactical, to figure out how to continue learning and getting the same grades while doing a little bit less. I urge my patients — and my own teenage daughter — to begin study sessions by taking sample tests, to see how much they know before figuring out how much more they need to do to attain mastery over a concept or task. Many girls build up an incredible capacity for work, but they need these moments to discover and take pride in how much they already understand.

Teachers, too, can challenge girls’ over-the-top tendencies. When a girl with a high-A average turns in extra credit work, her instructor might ask if she is truly taken with the subject or if she is looking to store up “insurance points,” as some girls call them. If it’s the former, more power to her. If it’s the latter, the teacher might encourage the student to trust that what she knows and the work she is already doing will almost certainly deliver the grade she wants. Educators can also point out to this student that she may not need insurance; she probably has a much better grasp of the material than she gives herself credit for.

Finally, we can affirm for girls that it is normal and healthy to feel some anxiety about school. Too often, girls are anxious even about being anxious, so they turn to excessive studying for comfort. We can remind them that being a little bit nervous about schoolwork just means that they care about it, which of course they should.

Even if neither you nor your daughter cares about becoming a chief executive, you may worry that she will eventually be crushed by the weight of her own academic habits. While a degree of stress promotes growth, working at top speed in every class at all times is unhealthy and unsustainable for even the most dedicated high school students. A colleague of mine likes to remind teenagers that in classes where any score above 90 counts as an A, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is a life.

To be sure, the confidence gap is hardly the only thing keeping women out of top jobs. Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment and powerful structural barriers in the workplace. But confidence at school is one unequal advantage that we can address right now. Instead of standing by as our daughters make 50 flashcards when they were assigned 20, we can step in and ask them why. Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities. Women should arrive in the work world having done the same.

Lisa Damour, a clinical psychologist in Shaker Heights, Ohio, is the author of the forthcoming “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.”

Parents and Teachers Pass On Math Anxiety to Kids Like a Virus, Especially to Girls

“Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math?” laments Petra Bonfert-Taylor, a professor of engineering at Dartmouth College. “Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading.” After seeing one too many examples of adults “passing on [mathematical anxiety] like a virus,” Bonfert-Taylor has an important message for math-phobic parents and educators: “We are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics… [and] as a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into numbers, solve the problem and interpret the solution.”

Many people will recognize what Bonfert-Taylor calls “damaging myths” that adults perpetuate when they call themselves bad at math: “math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway.” And while well-meaning adults may think they’re encouraging kids by sharing their own math fears, research has shown the opposite — “Anxiety over mathematics has been recognized as a grade killer.” Research has found that the problem is particularly significant for girls, who “are especially affected when a teacher publicly announces math hatred before she picks up the chalk.” Moreover, as Bonfert-Taylor explains in a Washington Post article: “A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that female — but not male — mathematical achievement was diminished in response to a female teacher’s mathematical anxiety. The effect was correlated: the higher a teacher’s anxiety, the lower the scores.”

Parents’ anxiety about math can have a similar effect on kids’ achievement and their attitude toward the subject. According to Bonfert-Taylor, “children who received math homework help from mathematically fearful parents showed weaker math achievements than their peers, which in turn resulted in increased math anxiety for the children themselves.” New research on math anxiety confirms that these parents unintentionally teach kids to expect that math will be beyond their capabilities. As Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and president of Barnard College, explains in an NPR piece, “A parent might say, ‘oh I’m not a math person, it’s okay if you’re not good at math either’… [which] can send a signal to kids about whether they can succeed.”

Fortunately, Beilock’s research has found a surprisingly easy way for parents to stop passing on math anxiety and build their children’s math confidence — and it doesn’t require overcoming their own fear of the subject. For the study, researchers gave Chicago-area families an iPad filled with math-themed stories for parents and children to read together. From first to third grade — the years when children tend to solidify their fear of math — the families read stories that included fun math facts, like the size of the world’s largest cupcake or information about walking frogs, and then kids would answer simple questions about the content. By the end of the first year, parents didn’t feel more confident in their own abilities with math, but they did feel more confident in their kids’ math potential — and equally importantly, they valued math skills more. This had a direct effect on their children’s achievement: when the kids’ math skills were tested at the end of the study, children of math-anxious parents who had participated in the program performed just as well as the kids of math-confident parents.

The most important finding from the study for parents is the importance of normalizing math at home in a way that’s relaxed and playful. While Beilock’s research used math-themed books and stories, there are many other ways to do it, from playing with math games and toys to cooking together. Bonfert-Taylor agrees, arguing that we need to teach kids that “working on mathematical skills is not unlike practicing a sport. Neither can be learned by watching others perform the activity and both require encouragement and effort… You do not need an innate mathematical ability in order to solve mathematical problems. Rather, what is required is perseverance, a willingness to take risks and feeling safe to make mistakes.” So the next time you’re sitting down to talk math with a Mighty Girl in your life, Bonfert-Taylor urges you to “try to have fun and give reassurance that perseverance will yield results. Numbers are always simple, clean and beautiful — and nothing to be afraid of.”

Link between social media and depression stronger in teen girls than boys, study says

CNN

The big problem with rewarding kids for good grades and punishing them for bad ones

The Washington Post

By Jessica Lahey

When I’m in schools talking to kids about resilience and learning through failure, I usually begin with a quick survey. First, I ask teachers and staff in the auditorium to close their eyes. I then ask the students to raise their hands if they get paid cash money for good grades. Depending on the socio-economic makeup of the district, about 15 to 20 percent of hands go up.

Sometimes it takes a while, hands creeping up slowly, hesitantly, for kids seem to intuit that getting paid for grades may not be the best approach to learning. I then ask them to raise their hands if they get any material thing in exchange for grades; a new iPod or some other shiny enticement. In response, about 20 to 25 percent of the hands go up. The noise in the auditorium tends to amp up with each new question as students begin to compare notes. When the clamor dies down, I remind the staff of the rules: eyes closed, no peeking. And I warn the students that this last question is a little harder to answer, and I want them to think and search their hearts for an honest answer before they respond.

“Raise your hand if you truly believe your parents love you more when you bring home high grades, and love you less when you make low ones.”

Over the past five years, I’ve asked this question to thousands of kids, ages 12 to 18, and the percentages still surprise me. Among middle-school children, about 80 percent believe that, yes, their parents truly love them more when they deliver high grades and less when they make low ones. In high school, the average is a little higher — about 90 percent.

After the poll is over, we debrief, and I reassure them that for the most part, their perceptions are incorrect, that they are loved no matter what, but parenting is hard, and we parents often need a moment to come up with the right response to an unexpectedly low grade. Sure, we are disappointed, but that silence they encounter when they bring home a report card littered with B-minuses (B-minus is the new F, haven’t you heard?) does not mean we love them any less. I promise, we’re just pausing to find the best, most appropriate words to support their hearts, their minds and their intellectual growth.

I’m a parent, however, and I understand the truth behind that pause, even if I don’t want to admit it. That silence in response to a low grade? That’s withdrawal of love based on performance, and our kids hear us loud and clear.

Jim Taylor, a psychologist who specializes in sports and parenting, calls it “outcome love,” a transaction in which parents bestow the reward of love in exchange for their children’s success, and withdraw that love as punishment for failures.

Outcome love impedes children’s happiness as well as their success in life because despite what parents may say to children about unconditional love, they hear parents most acutely through their actions. Taylor elaborated in an email, “If parents send frequent messages of love, happiness, and excitement when their children are successful and frequent messages of withdrawal of love or anger, frustration, and disappointment when their children fail to live up to their parents’ expectations, the kids will make that connection.”

Messages of outcome love don’t just shape kids’ short-term happiness, either. They can have a long-term deleterious effect on mental health, one that endures well beyond adolescence.

“Sadly, these messages fuel mental health problems including perfectionism, fear of failure, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, not to mention the reactions of resentment, anger, and rejection from the children toward the parents. Even more painfully, this attitude of outcome love becomes internalized and children grow up to be adults who berate themselves for failure and only give self-love when they succeed,” Taylor said in the email.

Furthermore, when love is offered in exchange for performance, it becomes a reward to be earned, and the data on extrinsic rewards and their effect on motivation are clear: If we want kids to be invested in any activity — school, athletics, household duties, learning a musical instrument — the fastest way to undermine that motivation is to offer material or emotional rewards.

Of course we are proud of our children’s successes and disappointed in their failures — we aren’t robots. We don’t get much feedback on our parenting, so lacking our own report cards or trophies, it’s tempting to use our children’s success as immediate and reassuring evidence of our parenting success. However, claiming our children’s successes or failures as our own cheats them out of their experiences, devalues their learning, and teaches them that our love for them is conditional.

Fortunately, there is a simple way to avoid outcome love. When parents focus on the process of learning over the relatively arbitrary end product of points, grades and scores, we communicate in terms louder than words that we love our children unequivocally and without reservation.

Rather than gush over a high grade or fume over a low one, for example, focus discussion on what the child did to earn that grade. How did they prepare for the assessment or project? What might they do differently next time? What was successful, and what do they need to change? Did they get enough sleep the night before the test or did they stay up for “just one more hour” to review? Did they speak with the teacher to get feedback on what worked and what did not?

This focus on process over product is particularly helpful for highly anxious or perfectionist kids who tend to get derailed by their intense focus on outcomes. When these kids obsess over an end product, on why their grade was a 90 instead of a 100, for example, it’s essential to steer the discussion back to the learning, back to the ongoing, lifelong process of becoming a more effective, efficient and invested learner.

We can’t always excise all traces of judgment, joy or anger from our responses to our children’s triumphs and tragedies, nor should we. However, if we want our children to truly believe us when we say our love is constant and unconditional, that we value learning more than a number printed in red at the top of a test, we are going to have to put our money (and our unconditional love) where our mouths are.

Jessica Lahey is a teacher and the author of “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” and a forthcoming book on preventing addiction in children.

7 ways parents can teach girls to build one another up, instead of tearing one another down


(Kara Somberg/for The Washington Post)

October 30, 2018

When Ashley Eckstein, an actress and entrepreneur, started performing professionally in fifth grade, the other girls in her class taunted her relentlessly. Now 37, Eckstein recently brought her 13-year-old niece to a girls leadership summit to show her a different dynamic — hundreds of girls celebrating one another’s accomplishments in fields including writing and social activism.

“The cheers, hugs and high-fives literally gave me goose bumps,” said Eckstein, author of “It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen.” “Something very right was happening in that room full of confident girls all doing their own thing.”

The girls may not have realized it, but they were pushing back against a powerful tendency for girls and women to view one another as threats, rather than allies or part of a support system.

“Scarcity theory might lead young girls to believe that there are limits around how many good things can happen to any one person, which could also lead them to believe that their own success will be limited,” said Caroline Adams Miller, a positive psychology expert and the author of “Getting Grit.”

When Miller speaks to groups of female professionals, she often asks: Does anyone feel like one of the biggest challenges isn’t just how men have treated other women, but also women shooting one another from inside the tent?

“It’s not half the room raising their hands — it’s 100 percent of the women,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it’s been communicated to us over the years that there are fewer spots for women — a limited inventory,” added Donna Orender, the author of “Wowsdom! The Girls Guide to the Positive and the Possible.” And teens have their own concerns. A recent survey by Plan International USA, an organization fighting child poverty, and PerryUndem, a public opinion research firm, found that 30 percent of girls ages 10 to 19 see fewer opportunities at school for them than for boys, particularly in sports.

Girls who perceive that it’s a zero-sum game are less likely to support one another, but experts say that if girls band together, they can expand their options. Here are seven ways parents can raise empowered girls who support and encourage each other.

Urge them to use social media for good

Expectations and options for girls are rapidly expanding, but the PerryUndem survey found that girls still believe society most values their physical appearance. Girls also reported feeling tremendous pressure to avoid bragging or seeming overly confident.

Miller started an initiative, “#Share222,” to change that, by encouraging women to share one another’s substantive achievements on at least two social media outlets. This is something teen girls can do, too, replacing selfies and party pictures with shout-outs for friends who have reached personal goals. This kicks off a positive cycle. Girls want to reciprocate kind gestures, and they learn that true friendship and tenacity matter more than popularity or appearance.

Help them use expansive body language

When girls feel strong, they see one another as allies rather than predators, said Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and the author of “Presence.” Even simple changes in posture can build their sense of empowerment. Cuddy notes that when girls are young, they stand with their feet apart and their chests out, but by the time they hit middle school, they start to display shrinking behavior.

Cuddy recommends that parents tell their daughters that they deserve to take up space, and that poor posture will affect their mood and sense of self-efficacy. Ask, “How do you feel when you’re ­sitting like that?”

“Feeling powerful activates what we call the behavioral approach system and makes us more optimistic, generally happier, and more confident and willing to take risks,” she said. On the flip side, “Powerlessness can be really dangerous and make it hard to know who to trust.”

Parents also can show girls images such as the Fearless Girl sculpture, which depicts a girl facing down the Wall Street Bull. “I get pictures from parents of girls all the time who want to be photographed with their chins up and chests out just like the fearless girl,” Cuddy said. “When I went to see it, there were probably 60 girls there. That’s what they want to see, and what we need to be showing them.”

Normalize giving and seeking help

Teach your daughter the importance of identifying sources of support. Orender regularly organizes formal mentor walks to pair tween and teen girls with women working in their fields of interest.

One time, Orender paired all the girls with women who were 65 and older. After the walk, the older women read letters to their younger selves, and the girls read letters to their older selves. “It was such a powerful way to show the girls that they’re not alone, and that intergenerational connection is a two-way street,” she said. At the end of every walk, Orender urges the girls to continue reaching out to their mentors for help and advice, stressing that girls can continue to build one another up throughout their lives.

Emphasize mastery instead of performance

Instead of focusing on whether your daughter ran more laps than everyone else, ask her to articulate a specific goal. The question can then be, “Did you run more laps today than yesterday?”

The organization Girls on the Run helps girls focus on doing their best rather than beating someone else, said Allie Riley, the organization’s senior vice president of programming and evaluation.

“You can be competitive without thriving on doing better than someone else,” she added. “Otherwise, it’s, ‘I can do well or you can do well, but we both can’t do well.’ ” At 5Ks, the members of the team pace themselves to run in with a girl who is struggling, or two girls will try to cross the finish line together. Girls can transfer these lessons about empathy and mutual support to other areas of their lives.

Identify fierce but kind female characters

Girls often struggle with healthy aggression, but competition helps people accomplish goals they otherwise wouldn’t complete. Being competitive and supporting others aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. “We’ve been so militant about getting girls to be nice, they don’t even know there’s such a thing as healthy competition,” says psychologist Lisa Damour, the author of “Untangled.”

When Marina Passalaris, the founder of Beautiful Minds in Australia, conducts confidence-building workshops for girls, she emphasizes that you can be a good person with goals without harming anyone. “Socially, we have this weird idea that a nice girl is quiet and submissive and doesn’t chase her dreams,” she said. You can bring fierceness to competitive situations, then return to being a good sport and friend. Damour points to Mulan as a good example. Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in animated Star Wars shows, refers to Hera and Sabine, powerful female characters in that universe.

“They’re part of a crew who work together to overcome the empire,” Eckstein said. “They’re girls working together, overcoming, doing great things.”

Urge them to be loyal

Girls can commit to having one another’s backs even if they drift apart or develop different interests. As Cuddy pointed out, “We make romantic commitments, so why not make friendship commitments?”

That said, parents should help their daughters choose friends with care. “Focus on the people in your corner, and only bring new people into your life who cheer you on,” says psychologist Lea Waters, author of “The Strength Switch.” “It’s okay to befriend someone who’s willing to fight it out with you in the arena, but avoid the ones in the stands throwing things at you.”

Encourage them to join a team

When girls play sports, they learn to set their egos aside and invest in one another’s success. Sports also may buffer them against that deflating posture. “When you’re on a team and social status is based on your strength, power and ability to do well for the team, that becomes what’s valued,” Cuddy said.

Girls who aren’t interested in sports can join another group with a shared vision. Consultant Jon Gordon, author of “The Power of a Positive Team,” recommends activities such as drama club or marching band.

“In theater, you have to make it about what’s best for the performance, and in a marching band, you have to trust that the person next to you won’t hit or step on you,” he said. “It’s all about being better for each other — no one achieves greatness in isolation.”

Phyllis L. Fagell is the counselor at Sheridan School in the District and a therapist at the Chrysalis Group in Bethesda. She tweets @Pfagell and blogs at phyllisfagell.com.

Understanding Teenage Friendships In Middle Schoolers

Your Teen Mag

The author of the new book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed offers her take on middle school friendships.

MIDDLE SCHOOL CHALLENGES: CHANGING FRIENDSHIPS

 By Jessica Lahey

Middle school is challenging for so many reasons. Academics become more difficult. Schedules fill up with activities. And, in what might be the most treacherous terrain for kids and parents alike, teenage friendships change.

The peers your tweens cling to as they enter the middle school may look a lot different from the ones they race out with on the other side. And that’s to be expected. Friendships change over time, not just because our children evolve, but because the very nature of friendship evolves with them.

Early in childhood, our children’s friendships arise out of proximity and habit. We toss our kids into the sandbox with our friends’ kids. And this arrangement works for everyone. As kids get older, however, they begin to build emotional connections with friends based on compatibility. Their shared interests, dreams, and goals begin to edge out mere convenience.

When they become tweens, middle school friendships become much more complex. And for good reason. Tweens use friendships as a way to try on an identity. Old friends offer sameness and comfort. But the pull of novel ideas of other kids begins to lure them in new directions. Tweens begin to build teenage friendships based on these new priorities. Some priorities, such as social status or fashion choices, may not make much sense to parents. But they are just as important to our children’s growth as shared history or values.

YOUR TWEEN’S FRIENDSHIPS INEVITABLY CHANGE.

All too often, the shifting sands of tween friendship result in broken hearts. Tweens feel dumped, shunned, abandoned, and betrayed. And friends move back and forth between comfortable old relationships and exciting new alliances. As any parent knows, our own personal heartache hurts. But the secondhand heartbreak we experience through our children is much more painful, mainly because it’s out of our control. The urge to intervene, to save and heal, is powerful, and while meddling around in tween social machinations may make us feel better, we must stay out of it.

Our children’s teenage friendships are not about us any more than their choice of what to wear to the middle school dance is about us. The tween years are for trying on fifteen different outfits—the blue shirt with the tan pants, the red skirt with the white top—to see what works best for a changing body, mind, and spirit on a given day.

Tweens move from relationship to relationship, adopting this detail of a friend’s personality, discarding that characteristic of another, until they have collected the essential elements of their identity. Some relationships will survive this process, and some will not, but every one is an important phase of the journey. We may not love every outfit our tweens try on, but it’s our job to be there when they emerge from the dressing room, when they do a little twirl and wait for us to tell them how grown up they have become.

Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Atlantic and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Find out more at jessicalahey.com.

Help Tweens Use Their Phones Less With These Tools

From screen limits to break reminders to Do Not Disturb, OS and app settings may help us break unhealthy digital habits and tune into what’s really important.
By Caroline Knorr 
Use Your Phone Less (with Tools from Apple, Google, Snapchat and More)

The internet invasion started slowly. But then it came all at once. Suddenly, we’re checking email at 3 a.m., fighting with our kids to make them shut down their devices, and staring at screens instead of making eye contact. No one asked for this life, but here we are: wasting time online, getting distracted (even when our phones are off!), and playing catch-up on all the latest stuff our kids are doing on SnapchatInstagramYouTube, and who knows what else.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A new wave of so-called “digital wellness” features designed to prevent screen overload is taking hold in some of the most popular tech tools. From operating systems including Apple’s iOS 12 and Google’s upcoming Android Pie update to social media like Snapchat and Instagram, you can see exactly how much time you’re spending online, set limits for yourself and your kids, and reduce distractions and interruptions from notifications.

You have the right to remain skeptical. The idea of tech companies trying to help us stay off their products — after using every trick in the book to keep us hooked — is pretty ironic. And there’s no proof that digital wellness features work — much less help mental health issues associated with technology use, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. But if you’re concerned about your tech use, as well as about your kid’s, they’re certainly worth trying. Whether they help depends a lot on your family’s needs, your kids’ willingness to be on board, and the kinds of conversations you have around self-regulation. Take a look at some of the most popular platforms’ efforts to protect your digital well-being.

iOS 12

Screenshot of iOS screentimeScreen TimeYou can enable Screen Time on your kid’s phone and password-protect the settings so they can’t change them. Or, you can also manage the settings remotely by setting up Family Sharing. We recommend using the features together with your kid. Work on using screens intentionally and mindfully, and help your kid learn to regulate their own use when you’re not around to do it for them. Key features:

  • Usage report. A daily and weekly readout of the time you’re spending on your device. You can see exactly how much attention you and your kids pay to app categories such as social networking versus, say, reading and reference.
  • Downtime. Turns the phone off during a specific period of time — for example, 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  • App Limits. Sets daily time limits for app categories such as games and entertainment as well as for individual apps.
  • Always Allowed. Lets you choose which apps (for example, music apps) that never turn off — even during downtime.
  • Content & Privacy Restrictions. Controls what your kids can see (such as mature content) and do (such as download and delete apps). Also puts limits on how much information third parties can access about your kid.

Android Pie (available now on Pixel devices; rolling out to other users)

Screenshot of Android's Digital Wellbeing toolsDigital WellbeingUnlike the Screen Time features in iOS 12, you can’t enable Digital Wellbeing settings on your kid’s phone and password-protect them. Instead, Digital Wellbeing is designed for individual users to customize their devices to their own needs. If you’re an Android family, you can discuss and try various features to make the phone work for you — instead of the other way around. (If you want to have more control over your kid’s Android phone, check out Google’s Family Link parental-control app, which allows remote monitoring.) Key features:

  • Dashboard. Graphs the time you’ve spent in individual apps and lets you set daily time limits for apps that keep you hooked longer than you’d like (for example, 15 minutes tops on Snapchat).
  • Do Not Disturb. Silences your device entirely or allows you to specify which alerts you want to see (or not).
  • Notifications. Personalizes your alerts, so you can snooze them and schedule them at a convenient time.
  • Wind Down. Automatically turns your phone grayscale and enables Do Not Disturb at a time you specify.

YouTube

Screenshot of YouTube's Time Watched featureAccount Settings. One of the most popular platforms for kids and adults, YouTube is easy to get lost in — or it used to be, anyway. Now you can see a full rundown of how much time you and your kids spend scrolling through videos, and if you think you’re overdoing it, you can enable settings to curb your use. You can’t password-protect the settings, though, so they’re mostly helpful for you if you let your kids use your phone or if you help your kid set them so they can regulate their own use. Key features:

  • Time Watched. Available only on the app, these stats show how much time you’ve spent watching videos for the present day, the day before, and the past week. Within this feature, you can also set a reminder to take a break after a certain amount of time and disable autoplay so you won’t get sucked in to watching endless videos.
  • Scheduled digest. Instead of random notifications about the latest video that distracts you at all hours, you can get all your alerts bundled together at one time.
  • Disable sounds & vibrations. If you can’t see or hear your alerts, you’ll stay blissfully engaged in important stuff (such as talking with your kids) until you check your phone.
  • Restricted Mode. Though it’s been around for a while, Restricted Mode can be a helpful additional setting to give you some peace of mind. It limits mature content from showing up in your kid’s feed (it’s not perfect, though).

Instagram (available soon)

Screenshot of Instagram's Digital Wellbeing toolsDigital WellbeingRunning neck and neck with Snapchat as the most popular social media app among teens, Instagram is a key social lifeline. Its parent company (Facebook) has made an effort to help users manage their time and reduce exposure to cyberbullying by adding settings such as Comment Controls, which allow you to micromanage your friends’ replies, and All Caught Up, which lets you know you’ve seen every post since the last time you scrolled through your feed. Digital Wellbeing, which will roll out soon, will add even more functionality. You can check back for updates after the new version is released. Key features:

  • Activity Dashboard. Displays a daily average of the time you’ve spent on the app for the week.
  • Daily Reminder. Allows you to set a time limit and receive a notification when you’ve hit your limit.
  • Mute Push Notifications. Silences push notifications (you can also turn them off entirely in the app’s settings or on your phone’s settings).

Snapchat

Screenshot of Snapchat's Do Not Disturb featureDo Not DisturbThe pioneer of the disappearing message, Snapchat is now a full-fledged portal to friends, videos from around the world, current events, and much more. Needless to say, it can take up a lot of time. But you can cut down on the noise — a little bit. Key features:

  • Do Not Disturb. Instead of disabling the phone or the app altogether, Snapchat lets you mute notifications from individual people. If you have a chronic oversharer on your friends list, you don’t have to block or remove them. Just “shush” them for a while and you won’t be alerted to their posts.
  • Mute story. Muting a story pushes the friend down your contacts list, effectively making their posts the last in line.

TikTok – Real Short Videos

Screenshot of TikTok's Digital Wellbeing featureDigital WellbeingTikTok serves up endlessly scrollable 15-second videos from people all over the world. Averaging 13 million video uploads per day, the app could certainly eat up a lot of your kid’s time. You can password-protect the Digital Wellbeing features on your kid’s phone so they can’t change them. Key features:

  • Screen Time Management. Sets a two-hour daily viewing time limit. (The time limit isn’t customizable.)
  • Restricted Mode. Filters out videos that may not be age-appropriate.

Facebook (currently in development)

Screenshot of Your Time on Facebook featureYour Time on Facebook. Though research shows teens prefer Snapchat and Instagram to Facebook, you’re probably on it more than you would like. The company is rumored to be creating some options to help you keep track of the time you spend on the platform, which in theory should help you cut down. You can check back for updates after the new version is released. Key features:

  • Time on Facebook. Displays a daily average of the time you’ve spent on the app for the week.
  • Manage Your Time. Allows you to set a time limit and receive a notification when you’ve hit your limit.
  • Mute Push Notifications. Silences push notifications (you can also turn them off entirely in the app’s settings or on your phone’s settings) or choose which alerts you want to get.

How Puberty Kills Girls’ Confidence

The Atlantic

In their tween and teenage years, girls become dramatically less self-assured—a feeling that often lasts through adulthood.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN, KATTY KAY & JILLELLYN RILEY
SEP 20, 2018

The change can be baffling to many parents: Their young girls are masters of the universe, full of gutsy fire. But as puberty sets in, their confidence nose-dives, and those same daughters can transform into unrecognizably timid, cautious, risk-averse versions of their former self.

Over the course of writing our latest book, we spoke with hundreds of tween and teen girls who detailed a striking number of things they don’t feel confident about: “making new friends,” “the way I dress,” “speaking in a group.” In our research, we worked with Ypulse, a polling firm that focuses on tweens and teens, to survey more than 1,300 girls from the ages of 8 to 18 and their parents. (The sample was broadly representative of the country’s teen population in terms of race and geographic distribution.) The data is more dramatic than we’d imagined: The girls surveyed were asked to rate their confidence on a scale of 0 to 10, and from the ages of 8 to 14, the average of girls’ responses fell from approximately 8.5 to 6—a drop-off of 30 percent.

Until the age of 12, there was virtually no difference in confidence between boys and girls. But, because of the drop-off girls experienced during puberty, by the age of 14 the average girl was far less confident than the average boy. Many boys, the survey suggested, do experience some hits to their confidence entering their teens, but nothing like what girls experience. (The Ypulse survey did not break down its findings at a granular enough level to discern if there was any correlation between kids’ race or income level and their self-described confidence.)

The female tween and early-teen confidence plunge is especially striking because multiple measures suggest that girls in middle and high school are, generally speaking, outperforming boys academically, and many people mistake their success for confidence. But the girls we talked with and polled detailed, instead, a worrisome shift. From girls 12 and under, we heard things such as “I make friends really easily—I can go up to anyone and start a conversation” and “I love writing poetry and I don’t care if anyone else thinks it’s good or bad.” A year or more into their teens, it was “I feel like everybody is so smart and pretty and I’m just this ugly girl without friends,” and “I feel that if I acted like my true self that no one would like me.”

Confidence is an essential ingredient for turning thoughts into action, wishes into reality. Moreover, when deployed, confidence can perpetuate and multiply itself. As boys and girls (and men and women) take risks and see the payoffs, they gain the courage to take more risks in the future. Conversely, confidence’s absence can inhibit the very sorts of behaviors—risk taking, failure, and perseverance—that build it back up. So the cratering of confidence in girls is especially troubling because of long-term implications. It can mean that risks are avoided again and again, and confidence isn’t being stockpiled for the future. And indeed, the confidence gender gap that opens at puberty often remains throughout adulthood.

What makes confidence building so much more elusive for so many tween and teen girls? A few things stand out. The habit of what psychologists call rumination—essentially, dwelling extensively on negative feelings—is more prevalent in women than in men, and often starts at puberty. This can make girls more cautious, and less inclined toward risk taking. Additionally, at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls’ people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences. Often, this is because it just makes parents’ and teachers’ lives easier: In a busy household or noisy classroom, who doesn’t want kids who color within the lines, follow directions, and don’t cause problems? But perfectionism, of course, inhibits risk taking, a willingness to fail, and valuable psychological growth. “If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

In fact, later in life, the goalposts shift considerably. “It rewards people who take risks and rebound,” Dweck added. And the boys in our survey seemed to have a greater appetite for risk taking: Our poll shows that from ages 8 to 14 boys are more likely than girls to describe themselves as confident, strong, adventurous, and fearless.

Teen and tween girls are focused instead, according to our polling data, on setting impossibly high standards for themselves: Our polling data shows that the proportion of girls who say they are not allowed to fail rises from 18 to 45 percent from the ages of 12 to 13. In their efforts to please everyone, achieve more, and follow rules, many girls are actually nurturing traits in themselves that set them up to struggle in the long run. Adding to this, many girls are also wise enough by the age of 12 to see that the world still treats men and women differently—that dings their confidence, too.

Social media doesn’t help either, and its ill effects might hit girls harder than boys. The internet can multiply social stresses astronomically. In the past, girls could have an overwhelming day at school, fight with a friend, and get a “bad” grade, but go home and get some distance. There’s no distance anymore—only constant, instant, and public condemnation or praise.

There’s evidence that tweaking the status quo, and acclimating girls at this critical age to more risk taking and failure, makes a difference. Some of the most compelling data links participation in sports to professional success. A study from the accounting firm EY and espnW, ESPN’s women’s site, found that 94 percent of the women currently with C-suite jobs in the U.S. played competitive sports. It’s not only through athletics that young girls can gain confidence; sport is simply an organized and easily available opportunity to experience loss, failure, and resilience. But the same skills can be acquired by participating on a debate team, learning to cook, or speaking up on behalf of a cause like animal welfare—as long as there is a move outside of her comfort zone, and a process of struggle and mastery, confidence will usually be the result.

It’s essential to close the gap, and to do so early, because the long-term effects of these dynamics hurt not only girls, but the women they become, many of whom, within a few years of entering the workforce, experience another confidence drop, and a drop in aspirations. Their rule-following, good-girl methods have been celebrated, rewarded by a structured educational and societal system. It’s a shock to arrive in the adult world and discover a dramatically new playing field: Failure is okay. Risk is worth it. No wonder they struggle: Their whole life, to date, they’ve internalized just the opposite, a societal bait and switch that should be recognized. Girls are adept at learning—they just need the right study guide.

5 Strategies for Getting Kids off Devices

Ever try to pry a tablet from sticky fingers? Check out these tips to avoid the tantrum. By Christine Elgersma 
5 Strategies for Getting Kids off Devices

“Just a sec,” say nine out of 10 parents answering an email when their kid asks them for something. If it’s hard for us to jump out of the digital world, just imagine you’re 3 and the lines between fantasy and reality are already blurred — then throw in a super-engaging, colorful, fun, immersive experience. Or you’re 5 and each episode of Mutt &  Stuff on the Nick Jr. app is better than the last. Or you’re 8 and you’re almost finished building something amazing in Minecraft. Why would you ever want to stop?

This is why getting kids off their devices is so tough. And when threatening doesn’t work, and you discover the research that two-minute warnings aren’t the best option either, what can you do? Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some new guidelinesaround screen use that ease some parental guilt, but you still need to get your kid off the iPad at some point. Aside from being a strong role model, try these tips to minimize conflict and find the balance we’re all seeking.

  • Have another activity lined up (bonus points for making it seem fun). For the youngest device users, transitions are hard — period.  Even if the next “to do” is a “must do” (such as eating lunch), tell your kid what’s coming next. You can rehearse the process: “When I say stop, it’s time for the iPad to go night-night. Let’s see how fast you can flip it shut! As soon as it’s asleep, we can sneak into the other room and paint.”
  • Use visual and sound cues to help kids keep track of time limits. For kids who don’t yet know how to tell time, try a timer that can help put them in charge of the process: “When the time is up, it’ll look and sound like this.”
  • Find apps with built-in timers. Video streamers like Cakey and Huvi throw parents a bone and have internal timers so the app stops on its own. Then it’s up to the parent to make sure kiddo doesn’t just jump into another app.
  • Tell kids to stop at a natural break, such as the end of an episode, level, or activity. It’s hard for kids (and adults!) to stop in the middle of something. Before your kid gets on a device, talk about what they want to do or play, what will be a good place to stop, and how long they think it’ll take. Set the limit together and hold to it, though a little wiggle room (a couple of minutes so they can finish) is fine.
  • Discuss consequences and follow through when kids test the limits. When all else fails, it’s important to have discussed consequences for when your kid won’t give it up. For little kids, the line can be something like, “If it’s too hard to turn off, the tablet has to go away for a whole day.” For older kids it’s more about keeping devices in a public space, setting expectations, and enforcing them. If they show you they can be partners in moderating and regulating themselves, there can be more flexibility.

Why more US teens are suffering from severe anxiety than ever before — and how parents can help

This story was originally published in October 2017.

Nearly one-third of American adolescents and adults are affected by anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s the most common mental health disorder in the country.

And when it comes to teens, severe anxiety is becoming more crippling each year.

In fact, over the last decade, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services, the New York Times reported.

The data comes from the American College Health Association’s 2016 survey of students about the previous year.

Sixty-two percent of undergraduate students in the survey reported “overwhelming anxiety,” a significant increase from 50 percent in 2011.

A separate survey from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, asks incoming college freshman whether they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year.

In 1985, when the institute began surveying students on the issue, 18 percent said they felt overwhelmed.

By 2010, 29 percent said they did. And in 2016, the number jumped to 41 percent.

And since 2012, the Washington Post reported, the Boys Town National Hotline has seen a 12 percent spike in teens reaching out via calls, texts, chats and emails about their struggle with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The rate of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers has also doubled over the past decade.

Recent data from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mirrored a national trend in suicide rates across the board.

But the research found suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

That means for every 100,000 American girls in 2015, five committed suicide.

For teen boys, the rate rose by more than 30 percent.

What’s causing the rise in teenagers with severe anxiety?

Anxiety, along with depression, cuts across all demographics, including both privileged and disadvantaged teenagers.

But privileged teens are among the most emotionally distressed youth in America, Arizona State University psychology professor Suniya Luthar told the New York Times.

“These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,” she said, but there’s “contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting … there’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”

But helicopter parents aren’t always to blame. Many students internalize the anxiety and put the pressure on themselves, Madeline Levine, co-founder of Challenge Success, a nonprofit aimed at improving student well-being, told the Times.

Another expert, psychiatrist Stephanie Eken, said despite the cultural differences, there’s a lot of overlap among teens regarding what makes them anxious.

Eken mentions factors range from school, family conflicts, what food to eat, diseases, how they’re perceived by friends and notably in the last few years, Eken told the Times, to a rising fear about terrorism.

“They wonder about whether it’s safe to go to a movie theater,” she said.

A lack of close, meaningful relationships is also a major factor.

Experts have long said hormonal, mental and physical changes associated with puberty may leave teens especially vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.

And social media doesn’t help, Eken said, adding that teens are always comparing themselves with their peers, which leaves them miserable.

When Times reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis visited Mountain Valley, a nonprofit that offers teens need-based assistance for $910 a day, a college student at the facility said, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,” he said. “Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

But social media can also be used to “help increase connections between people,” CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN in August. “It’s an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials.”

Still, Simon acknowledged that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.

How parents can help

Withington Independent Girls School pupil Sophia Siddiqui, aged 18, is embraced by her mother Farzana Siddiqui as Sophia reveals that she achieved three A* and two A’s in her A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not getting treatment. And anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

While anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful environments and situations, there are specific symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

Generally, someone with anxiety disorder would have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or inappropriate for his or her age.

The anxiety would also affect normal day-to-day function.

Two questions parents should ask themselves: Is my child more shy or anxious than others his or her age? Is my child more worried than other children his or her age?

According to Lynn Miller, an associate proessor at the University of British Columbia, those questions can help predict a child’s potential of developing an anxiety disorder.

If you notice overwhelming feelings of anxiety in your child, the ADAA suggests seeking help and talking to a professional.

While antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can offer relief from symptoms, they’re not treated as cures. Instead, talk therapy is often recommended.

More tips from ADAA.org.

Here are some additional tips to manage anxiety and stress from the ADAA: