TIME Parenting

What Bill Gates’ Kids Do with their Allowance

How do you teach insanely wealthy kids how to manage money?

The rich are different from you and I, but they still want to give their kids an allowance. So what do the world’s richest man’s kids do with their money? Melinda Gates came to TIME’s offices to talk about her new focus on women and children and especially on contraceptives, but she spilled some secrets about how she tries to get her kids to be purposeful with their money.

First of all, she tries to be true to her values, to articulate them and live them out. Then, they do a lot of volunteering together, at “whatever tugs at their heartstrings” says Gates. And of course, they’ve traveled with her. “They have that connection I think to the developing world,” she says. “They see the difference a flock of chicks makes in a family’s life. It’s huge.”

Read the 10 Questions with Melinda Gates here

Gates has always made a point of getting into the streets and poorer neighborhoods when she travels for meetings and conferences. And sometimes she takes her kids. It’s there, she says, that she meets mothers who tell her that their biggest struggle is having so many children. Although Gates was raised Catholic, she is heading up an initiative to get family planning information, contraceptives and services to 120 million more women by the year 2020. That includes new technology, better delivery system and a lot of education, including for men.

She’s similarly rigorous about her home life. Her kids save a third of their allowance and designate a charity they’d like to give it to. (They can also list donations to charities on their Christmas wish list.) As further incentive, their parents double whatever money they’ve saved. Which means they may be the only children in the world to get a matching grant from the Gates Foundation.

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TIME Parenting

5 Million Strollers Recalled After Fingertip Amputations

The company received 11 reports of fingertip amputation, partial-fingertip amputation and finger laceration on faulty hinges

Graco is recalling almost 5 million strollers after complaints that children’s fingers were at risk of being amputated.

A hinge on the side of the stroller can pinch a baby’s finger, according to federal officials; Graco received 11 reports of fingertip amputation, partial-fingertip amputation and finger laceration.

The company is reaching out to parents to contact it for a free repair kit to be shipped next month that includes hinge covers. In the meantime, the company advised parents to exercise caution:

“While waiting for a repair kit, caregivers should exercise extreme care when unfolding the stroller to be certain that the hinges are firmly locked before placing a child in the stroller. Caregivers are advised to immediately remove the child from a stroller that begins to fold to keep their fingers from the side hinge area.”

TIME Parenting

The 5 Trends Driving the Surge in ADHD

Jupiterimages;Getty Images

Researcher says it's less to do with brain chemistry and more to do with money

Until recently, 90% of all Ritalin takers lived in the U.S. Now, America is home to only 75% of Ritalin users. But that’s not because Americans are using less of the drug, says a Brandeis professor. That’s because ADHD diagnoses, and treatment via pharmaceuticals are growing in other parts of the world.

In a recent paper in the journal Social Science and Medicine, sociologists Peter Conrad and Meredith Bergey looked at the growth of ADHD in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Brazil and found that prescriptions for Ritalin-like drugs have risen sharply, particularly in the U.K. and Germany.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a controversial subject among many parents, educators and medical professionals. Some doctors insist it’s a genuine neurological condition, if occasionally over-diagnosed and not treated properly. Others believe parents are giving their children drugs unnecessarily. (For a look at what it’s like to be, or parent, an ADHD child, read TIME’s special report, Growing Up with ADHD).

Conrad and Bergey, while not doctors, fall into the second camp. They list five possible reasons for the jump in ADHD diagnoses that have little do with medicine.

1) Pharmaceutical companies are well-resourced and determined lobbyists, and have coaxed some countries to allow stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall to be marketed more directly.

2) Treating patients with counseling and non medical therapies is becoming less popular than treating them with medicine. (Many insurers, including Medicaid, will pay for drugs but not for psychotherapy, for example.)

3) The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the bible of mental disorders, is gaining more traction in Europe and South America. The DSM has slightly broader standards for diagnosing ADHD than the system used by many other countries, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), hence more folks are falling within the standard.

4) ADHD advocacy groups are raising awareness of the condition.

5) Because everybody is occasionally fidgety and distracted and nearly everybody despairs of not getting enough done, people turn to the internet for answers and find checklists put up by drug companies, with overly general questions like: “Are you disorganized at work and home?” and “Do you start projects and then abandon them?” and encourage people to ask their doctors about medication.


According to the study, fewer than 1% of kids in the U.K. had been diagnosed with ADHD in the 1990s, but about 5% are today. In Germany, prescriptions for ADHD drugs rose 500% over 10 years, from 10 million daily doses in 1998 to 53 million in 2008. Conrad, author of The Medicalization of Society, worries that we may be addressing a sociological problem with a chemical solution.

“There is no pharmacological magic bullet,” says Conrad, who suggests that the one-size-fits-all compulsory education system might be more to blame for kids who can’t sit still rather than a flaw in brain chemistry.

“I think we may look back on this time in 50 years,” writes Conrad, “and ask, what did we do to these kids?”

TIME women

I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of It

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Tetra Images—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Lauren Apfel is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine.

Writing about motherhood is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued

Call a woman a “mommy blogger” and you might as well be slinging mud. The expression, as it is most commonly used, is patronizing at best, derogatory at worst. What’s more is that it manages to offend on dual levels: a seeming contempt for both motherhood and the way mothers write about themselves. And yet, suffice it to say: I am a mommy blogger and proud of it.

Before I became a mommy blogger, I wrote a monograph titled The Advent of Pluralism: Diversity and Conflict in the Age of Sophocles. The book was about the meta-ethical theory of pluralism as it manifested itself in pre-Platonic Greek thought. Now I have a website, where I write about parenting and children—the tragedy of sibling rivalry as much as the comedy of a six year old’s staged wedding. Is this a change in subject matter tantamount to a fall from grace? I imagine many among the literati would consider it so.

The idea that motherhood is a topic worthy of serious reflection is only in its infancy. “Women have mothered since life began,” writes Katherine J. Barrett, the editor of Understorey Magazine, an online publication dedicated to “unspoken” stories about mothering. But “the history of books about motherhood spans roughly 40 years.” Whatever the root cause of this fundamental imbalance—and I suspect it’s closely linked to the general undervaluing of what was once referred to as “women’s work”—times they are a changin’. Today the web is crawling with women trying to make sense of their topsy-turvy lives as parents by encapsulating that process of analysis in some kind of narrative form.

Blogging serves as an emotional and intellectual outlet for mothers, but it is becoming more than that too. Now mommy blogging is a new line of “women’s work.” As is true for many of my fellow bloggers, my original career path careened off its track once I had children. And because my previous existence as an academic—like the lawyers and publicists and educators I know who occupy the mommy blogosphere with me—had natural touching points with the written word, it wasn’t terribly surprising that I turned to the keyboard for something to do, for a way back to myself, when the babies came one after the other and I decided to stay home with them. Nor was it surprising that the creatures who filled my days would also be the ones who filled my pages.

Nobody, of course, objects to writing about motherhood or children in principle. Mommy blogging gets a bad rap in particular because of its origins in a certain sort of confessional writing that can be traced back to the “weblogs” of the early noughties. Lisa Belkin, herself the creator of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, describes one of these prototypes, dooce.com, as “a daily reality show on a smaller screen.” That is to say: gritty, highly personal and animated by a sense of “the wartier, the better.”

This “bad mother,” “oversharenting” rendition of the mommy blog is one of the most popular, the locus classicus of the genre. It is a trope made famous by Ayelet Waldman in her 2009 book and the fodder for hugely popular websites like Scary Mommy. Here we have women chronicling their mundane parenting “fails,” but also, in a more sublime vein, probing the ambiguity they feel about becoming mothers in the first place. It’s easy to dismiss this type of writing as navel-gazing fluff, the epitome of the first-world problem. But the psychological effect of being able to articulate such feelings in a public space, in an age when parenting is an increasingly isolated and pressured endeavor, is not to be underestimated.

And yet, just because these essays have healing power doesn’t make them especially literary (though some, like Waldman’s, invariably are). That’s fair enough. What skeptics have to realize, however, is that the self-deprecating, bad-mommy blog is only one fish caught by a rather large net. For as it has evolved over the last decade, mommy blogging has moved beyond the merely confessional to blossom into a multi-faceted branch of the online publication industry. “Mommy lit,” as Barrett urges, has indeed grown up. One need only look at the highbrow creative nonfiction at sites such as Brain, Child Magazine or the important advocacy work being done on topics such as special needs and postpartum depression.

Furthermore, parenting writing is no longer its own contained niche. It is stretching its tentacles into other fields, with sophisticated results. Revered humor sites such as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency publish parenting pieces. Prestigious literary magazines such as the Rumpus and cultural magazines such as Aeon do as well. There is rigorous evidence-based analysis of salient childcare questions at Slate’s Double X. Major broadsheets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have their own parenting blogs. And they even publish parenting-themed articles in their regular opinion and style sections.

Do these articles still count as “mommy blogging”? I submit that they do. Because what they all have in common is the belief by the women who penned them that their lives as mothers—their struggles as much as their successes—are worthy of documentation and publication, that they are, in fact, worthy of the craft of writing itself. This is the true legacy of the mommy blog and it is one we should embrace because of the label’s groundbreaking beginnings, not in spite of it.

For what we are doing as mommy bloggers, with our diverse voices and approaches, is a collective exercise in cultural counterpoint. It is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued and it is a backlash against the debilitating contemporary notion that there is only one right way to do it. And for those of us who write about motherhood when we could be writing instead about, say, the ancient Greeks, it is a way to use history or philosophy or whatever other tools we have at our disposal to better understand the essence of our shared humanity and, in turn, to better understand ourselves.

Lauren Apfel is a writer and mother of four (including twins). She blogs at omnimom.net and is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Woman Sues Peppa Pig Producers Over Goat That Shares Her Name

Peppa Pig rides her bicyle in a scene from one of the "Tickle U" series of cartoons.
Peppa Pig rides her bicyle in a scene from one of the "Tickle U" series of cartoons. Cartoon Network/AP

Grown woman says she's been mocked because she shares a name with a children's character

An adult Italian woman who shares a name with an animated goat in the popular Peppa Pig children’s series is demanding €100,000 ($124,500) in compensation from the show’s producers because she’s been “teased” about it.

Gabriella Capra, 40, is suing London animation firm Astley Baker Davies for damages after she was mocked by her presumably adult friends for sharing a name with “Gabriella Goat,” a minor character in a television show aimed at toddlers.

“Capra” means “goat” in Italian, so when the series was broadcast in Italy, “Gabriella Goat” became “Gabriella Capra,” the Guardian reports.

In the show, Gabriella Goat is a friendly Italian goat who shows Peppa Pig around when she and her family visit Italy on vacation. She is also the niece of Uncle Goat, who makes pizza. She bleats, because she is a goat.

Capra says she will donate any damages to charities for abandoned children.

[The Guardian]

 

MONEY First-Time Dad

The One Book All New Parents Really Need to Read

Luke and The Giving Tree

Fifty years from its first publication date, The Giving Tree remains a relevant allegory for modern parenting, says first-time dad and MONEY reporter Taylor Tepper.

I try to read one book a day to my son, Luke—which works slightly better in theory than practice.

Luke’s a restless infant, who is as eager to sit still in my lap for 10 minutes as he is to fall asleep. So I spend as much time reading as I do extending the pages beyond his grasp. Often he simply bores of the exercise, and I’m left talking out loud to no one in particular.

One of my favorite stories to read on these occasions is The Giving Tree.

The tiny book—which turned 50 this year—is perhaps the most important book in my life. I’ve loved it ever since I was a boy.

I recently discovered, though, that my adoration of Shel Silverstein’s classic is not universally shared.

What the Book Is About

For those unfamiliar, The Giving Tree is the story of a relationship between a tree and a boy the tree loves. At first, the boy and the tree engage in what everyone would consider to be a healthy relationship. He plays on her limbs, eats her apples, and sleeps in her shade—all of which makes the tree happy.

Nothing stays perfect forever, though, and as “time went by,” their encounters changed. The boy started to grow up and wanted new things.

Rather than playing in her branches, he wanted money and a house and a boat to escape his life. The tree gives up her apples and branches and trunk for the boy’s sake, rendering herself nothing but a stump.

Through it all, the tree is forever happy when the boy returns for his next request and willing to give anything she has. In the end, the boy uses her stump to sit on “and the tree was happy.”

Why It’s So Hated

When I told friends of my affection for the book, they were incredulous: How could I find meaning in a story where one character repeatedly and unrepentantly takes and takes from the other? Was I some kind of martyr?

My friends were not alone in their hatred for the book. In doing a bit of research for this column, I found that many academics and authors, liberals and conservatives alike, find its supposed commentary on parenting distasteful, amoral and depressing.

Dr. Lisa Rowe Fraustino of Eastern Connecticut State University is among the haters. In an essay titled “The Rights and Wrongs of Anthropomorphism in Picture Books,” she writes:

“Representing the symbolic mother as a literal tree may be what makes so many readers blind to the conceptual metaphor staring us in the face: GIVING TREE IS WOMAN. Even if it’s true that patriarchal culture has traditionally cut woman down and used her up, assigning her to the role of mother with her only happiness being with her son, is that an underlying moral we want to keep imparting to young children? Is it ethical?”

A post in The American Conservative says:

“Human love simply doesn’t leave its subjects ‘spent’ in this way; there is death, to be sure, but that’s not a consequence of love in the way that the tree’s destruction follows upon the boy’s exploitation of it.”

An entry in the New York Times’s Motherlode blog writes,

“Parenting should not strip and denude, but rather jointly fulfill. The parasitic part is supposed to end with pregnancy. After that the point is to teach a child to make his own way in the world.”

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel.com, wrote,

“Of course, maybe we’re just projecting, but to those who would say that Silverstein’s book is a moving, sentimental depiction of the unyielding love of a parent for a child, I’d say, learn better parenting skills.

Others claim that the book teaches kids to become narcissists—that the world is built for their taking, that they’ll never have to grow up.

Shel himself simplified the book to its essence, but warned readers from thinking the book has a happy ending.

“It’s just a relationship between two people; one gives and the other takes,” he’s quoted as having said.

In any case, apparently you’re a naive sentimentalist if you enjoy the thing.

Why It Should be Loved

Like most times in life, I think I’m right and those that disagree with me are wrong. Those critics that see a dark tale are misunderstanding something fundamental to the nature of parenting.

The infantilization of “emerging adults” is a hot topic these days, as more Millennials decide to return home after college due to a difficult job market, historic levels of student loans and soaring housing prices.

MONEY recently published a long feature on the stress parents face supporting their kids into their mid-20’s and on: Nearly three quarters of parents aged 40 to 59 said they’d helped support an adult son or daughter in the prior year. Half said they provided their child’s primary means of support.

No parent wants to be a stump.

But with all due respect to the critics who say this is a book about kids taking advantage, I think they are missing the point. At the same time, those who say The Giving Tree exemplifies unconditional love undersell its depth.

When Luke was first born, my wife and I were scared. We weren’t scared because we were now charged with caring for a human life (an alien experience to both of us), nor were we terrified that our lives would change forever (though they have.)

The scary thing was that we, of our own will, introduced something into the world that we loved so much. And that newborn would soon be an infant, then a boy, then a teenager and on and on.

Just as we’ve struggled to find ourselves, to carve out our own little piece of happiness in our nearly 30 years, so he would too.

When you consider the weight of that decision, when you realize that you’ve suddenly foisted the world’s beauty and ugliness onto this tiny thing, that he’ll have to reconcile it just as you did, you become scared. (And then he has a dirty diaper, and you move on.)

To me, the Tree does not represent mom or dad, so much as it symbolizes an aspect of parenthood. Parents are obviously more than stumps for their children: We have lives, hopes, dreams, disappointments completely separate and apart from the goings-on of our progeny.

But when it comes to them, when they must grow up and face the world head on as adults, we want to be there to give them apples and branches and anything else we have to make their struggle a little easier.

“The Giving Tree” is beautiful because it lets kids know they’re never alone. I think that’s why I loved it so much as a child.

And that’s why I think all new parents should read the book. It will help you put the task before you in perspective.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

 

TIME Parenting

What We Can Learn From the Lena Dunham Debacle

Lena Dunham at her book launch for 'Not That Kind Of Girl' on Oct. 31, 2014 in London, England.
Lena Dunham at her book launch for 'Not That Kind Of Girl' on Oct. 31, 2014 in London, England. Stuart C. Wilson—Getty Images

While I'm not sure that this unfortunate lapse in judgment should be a teachable moment, it does illustrate a need for a broader discussion about children and sexually harmful behavior

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I know, I know: you’re already tired of the Lena Dunham conversation.

I can’t blame you. It has been a seemingly endless conga line of vitriolic, ill-conceived thinkpieces that do little to advance the discussion. The National Review’s Kevin Williamson wants you to shame and pity her. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams wants people to stop calling Dunham an abuser and taking her out of context. Katie McDonough hates that Dunham detractors are ignoring her sister’s perspective. Dunham herself considers the scandal a right-wing smear campaign and is threatening to sue Truth Revolt, the conservative outlet that broke the story. The conversations currently happening on social media aren’t much different; a number of high-profile feminists and celebrities are taking to Twitter to defend Dunham, dismissing the encounter as childhood curiosity.

By now, you’ve already seen the disturbing excerpt from Dunham’s New York Times’ bestseller, “Not That Kind Of Girl.” If you haven’t, the passage is one quick Google search away. In it, she describes how she would bribe her baby sister with affection. It comes off as predatory and abusive, and naturally, people were alarmed. It is handled with all the finesse of a bad sketch comedy writer. It’s the type of thing that no decent editor should ever, ever greenlight.

On one hand, I can understand the vigorous defense: Lena Dunham is, quite possibly, the most accessible and relatable feminist celebrity in recent history. She’s a Girl-Powered Everywoman who abashedly lays herself bare, literally and figuratively, for the world to see. She isn’t model-thin or classically beautiful. And she is rarely, if ever, apologetic about how she lives her life. Ideally, she is the Fourth Wave Prototype.

But no hero is without imperfection, and when said hero messes up on a nuclear level, it’s okay to not only acknowledge it, but to hold the hero accountable for their actions. We don’t have a problem with doing it when it’s Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski, or Chris Brown; it’s always easier to call out the folks we don’t like. But mainstream feminism’s outright refusal to even approach this objectively alienates those of us who identify as abuse survivors, and it reinforces the idea that certain people can get away with bad behavior if the others really, really, really like them a lot.

While I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the idea that this unfortunate lapse in judgment should be a teachable moment, it does illustrate a need for a broader discussion about children and sexually harmful behavior.

According to Stop It Now!, a non-profit that focuses on child abuse prevention, over a third of all sexual abuse is committed by someone under the age of 18. (My abuser, a family friend, was 17.) A child using tricks and manipulation to gain sexual favors from another may not even realize that she’s engaging in harmful behavior, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child will have a predilection for sexual violence. Still, Stop It Now! suggests that professional help is the best route for any child struggling with impulse issues.

It wasn’t until the week before I left for college that I told my mother what had happened with that family friend, but there were definitely warning signs along the way. One particular incident involved a seven year-old me “acting out” with a couple of other kids in my afterschool program, and I hated getting undressed for anything. But I was too afraid to tell my mother because didn’t want her to fall out with one of her dearest friends. Though she was an abuse survivor herself, she probably wouldn’t have known what to look for, or what to do besides ripping off the boy’s genitalia and throwing it in Lake Michigan.

Stop It Now! has a checklist for parents and caregivers to know the signs. Here are a few:

  • Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
  • Seems distracted or distant at odd times
  • Has a sudden change in eating habits
  • Refuses to eat
  • Loses or drastically increases appetite
  • Has trouble swallowing
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
  • Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
  • Talks about a new older friend
  • Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
  • Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge

Also, trusting your gut could make all the difference, according to the site. Most parents expect their children to come to them when they’re being abused and that rarely happens, which contributes to denial, along with common misunderstandings about sexual abuse, says Stop It Now! Speaking up is the best form of prevention.

The Dunham debate will probably rage on for the weeks and months to come, and people will continue to rehash and regurgitate eveything that’s already been said. But the silver lining, as I see it, is that we will finally be able to talk about this in a more thoughtful, productive way. And, hopefully, spare some children a lot of pain.

Jamie Nesbitt Golden is a journalist originally from Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

Close up of teenage girl texting on mobile in bedroom
Getty Images

Girls have quietly repurposed the photo-sharing app into a barometer for popularity, friendship status and self-worth. Here's how they're using it.

Secrecy is hardly new on Planet Girl: as many an eye-rolling boy will tell you, girls excel at eluding the prying questions of grown ups. And who can blame them? From an early age, young women learn that to be a “good girl” they must be nice, avoid conflict and make friends with everyone. It’s an impossible ask (and one I’ve studied for over a decade) – so girls respond by taking their true feelings underground.

Enter the Internet, and Instagram: a platform where emotions can run wild – and where insecurities run wilder. The photo-sharing app is social media’s current queen bee: In a survey released earlier this month, three quarters of teens said they were using Instagram as their go-to app.

Instagram lets users share their photos, and “like” and comment on their friends’. The competition for “likes” encourages creativity in young users, who can use filters and other devices to spruce up their images. And its simplicity – it’s just pictures, right? — comforts parents haunted by the cyberbullying they hear about on Facebook and Twitter.

But Instagram’s simplicity is also deceiving: look more closely, and you find the Rosetta Stone of girl angst: a way for tweens and teens to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I included in that picture?), even how many people like them (if you post and get too few likes, you might feel “Instashame,” as one young woman calls it). They can obsess over their friendships, monitoring social ups and downs in extreme detail. They can strategically post at high traffic hours when they know peers are killing time between homework assignments. “Likes,” after all, feel like a public, tangible, reassuring statement of a girl’s social status.

That’s not what the app creators intended, of course, but it does make psychological sense: as they become preteens, research shows that girls’ confidence takes a nosedive. Instagram, then, is a new way for girls to chase the feeling of being liked that eludes so many of them. Instagram becomes an popularity meter and teens learn to manipulate the levers of success.

Here are a few of the ways that girls are leveraging Instagram to do much more than just share photos:

To Know What Friends Really Think Of Them

In the spot where adults tag a photo’s location, girls will barter “likes” in exchange for other things peers desperately want: a “TBH” (or “to be honest”). Translation? If you like a girl’s photo, she’ll leave you a TBH comment. For example: “TBH, ILYSM,” meaning, “To be honest I love you so much.” Or, the more ambivalent: “TBH, We don’t hang out that much.

To Measure How Much a Friend Likes You

In this case, a girl may trade a “like” — meaning, a friend will like her photo — in exchange for another tidbit of honesty: a 1-10 rating, of how much she likes you, your best physical feature, and a numerical scale that answers the question of “are we friends?” and many others. Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.

As a Public Barometer of Popularity

Instagram lets you tag your friends to announce that you’ve posted a new photo of them. Girls do the app one better: they take photos of scenes where no person is present – say, a sunset — but still tag people they love and add gushing comments. It’s a kind of social media mating call for BFFs. But girls also do it because the number of tags you get is a public sign of your popularity. “How many photos you’re tagged in is important,” says Charlotte, 12. “No one can see the actual number but you can sort of just tell because you keep seeing their name pop up.”

To Show BFF PDA

That broken heart necklace you gave your bestie? It’s gone the way of dial up. Now, girls use Instagram biographies – a few lines at the top of their page — to trumpet their inner circle. It’s a thrill to be featured on the banner that any visitor to the page will see — but not unusual to get deleted after a fight or bad day, in plain, humiliating sight of all your friends.

A Way to Retaliate

Angry at someone? Don’t tag the girl who is obviously in a picture, crop her out of it entirely, refuse to follow back the one who just tried to follow you, or simply post a photo a girl is not in. These are cryptic messages adults miss but which girls hear loud and clear. A girl may post an image of a party a friend wasn’t invited to, an intimate sleepover or night out at a concert. She never even has to mention the absent girl’s name. She knows the other girl saw it. That’s the beauty of Instagram: it’s the homework you know girls always do.

A Personal Branding Machine

Girls face increasing pressure not only to be smart and accomplished, but girly, sexy and social. In a 2011 survey, 74% of teen girls told the Girl Scout Research Institute that girls were living quasi-double lives online, where they intentionally downplayed their intelligence, kindness and good influence – and played up qualities like fun, funny and social. On Instagram, girls can project a persona they may not have time, or permission, to show off in the classroom: popular, social, sexy. Cultivating a certain look is so important that it’s common for girls to stage ‘photo shoots’ with each other as photographers to produce shots that stand out visually. (Plus a joint photo shoot is more evidence of friendship.)

A Place For Elaborate Birthday Collages

Remember coming to school on your big day, excited to see what you’d find plastered to your locker? Now girls can see who’s celebrating them hours before they get off the bus. Birthday collages on Instagram are elaborate public tributes, filled with inside jokes, short videos, and pictures of memories you may not have been a part of. “There is definitely a ‘I love you the most. I’ve loved you the longest edge to these birthday posts,” one parent told me. Collages that document the intensity or length of a relationship are a chance to celebrate a friend – or prove just how close you are to the birthday girl. Although most girls know to expect something from their closest friends, not getting one is seen as a direct diss, a parent told me. And it can be competitive: another parent told me her daughter’s friend stayed up until midnight just so she could be the first to post.

While girls may seem addicted to their online social lives, it’s not all bad — and they still prefer the company of an offline friend to any love they have to click for. (In a survey that would surely surprise some parents, 92% of teen girls said they would give up all of their social media friends if it meant keeping their best friend.) And, of course, likes aren’t everything. As 13 year-old Leah told me, “Just because people don’t write me a paragraph on Instagram doesn’t mean they don’t like me.”

Rachel Simmons is the co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence.” Follow her on Twitter @racheljsimmons.

Read next:

TIME Television

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Early (Sunny) Days of Sesame Street

Sesame Street Cover
The Nov. 23, 1970, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BILL PIERCE

The classic TV show debuted 45 years ago, on Nov. 10, 1969

The history of children’s television changed for good 45 years ago today, on Nov. 10, 1969, when the first episode of Sesame Street aired. Though some adults took a little while to catch on, kids got it right away. Decades later, the show has become a cultural institution, peopled with puppets whose names are known around the world.

But, in the spirit of Sesame, there are still plenty of things to learn. So let’s make like Count von Count and total up five surprising facts from TIME’s coverage of Sesame Street‘s first year:

1. Within its first year, the show scored a hit song: The song? “Rubber Duckie,” natch. Ernie’s anthem debuted in Sesame Street‘s fourth month on the air and, by the time the show made it to the cover of TIME, had spent nine weeks on the charts. Nor did it stop there: “Rubber Duckie” eventually sold over a million singles, and peaked at 16 on the Billboard charts.

2. Richard Nixon was a big fan: In February of 1970, President Richard Nixon sent the show perhaps its most notable piece of fan mail. “The many children and families now benefiting from ‘Sesame Street’ are participants in one of the most promising experiments in educational television in the history of that medium,” he wrote. “The Children’s Television Workshop certainly deserves the high praise it has been getting from young and old alike in every corner of the nation.”

3. Its format was originally inspired by commercials: Though PBS-aired Sesame Street may seem like one of the least commercial TV shows ever — even Kermit the Frog was deemed too commercial to appear on it — it was, ironically, inspired by that profit-minded world. As Children’s Television Workshop executive director Joan Ganz Cooney told TIME the week the show premiered, she realized that the aesthetics of advertising were far more advanced, and more appealing, than the aesthetics of children’s television at the time. “Face it—kids love commercials,” she said. That was why each episode of Sesame Street contained a dozen short spots “advertising” letters, numbers and basic ideas. And the return-on-investment was one that would make any business-minded executive proud: with a budget of $28,000 per episode and an estimated audience for the first season of 7 million preschoolers a day, five days a week, the show cost less than a penny per child.

4. Its educational benefit was immediately measurable — and for good reason: Within the show’s first year on the air, the Children’s Television Workshop commissioned the Educational Testing Service (yes, the folks who bring you the SAT) to study whether it was making a difference. By looking at about 1,000 kids, mostly from disadvantaged families, the study found that the more kids watched Sesame Street the more they knew. A child who watched every weekday would see an average 19% increase in general knowledge. Younger kids, at the low end of the show’s 3- to 5-year-old target demo, were helped even more. In the years between Sesame Street‘s conception and when it finally aired, an education expert spent 18 months studying children’s’ attention spans, interests and eye movements so that the show could maximize the concentration it would get from its viewers. (One finding? No need to waste time with transitioning between segments; kids are fine with jumping from bit to bit with no extra introduction.)

5. Though it’s now one of the most diverse shows on television, Sesame Street had to make changes to get there: The human cast of the first season of Sesame Street was fairly diverse from the get-go — the hosts comprised two white men and a black couple — but it also faced very modern-sounding criticism of the make-up of its staff and cast. The National Organization for Women suggested that its female host should have a job; within a year, she became a nurse. In addition, the show added a Spanish-speaking guest host and, behind the scenes, a female writer.

Read TIME’s 1970 Sesame Street cover story, here in the archives: Who’s Afraid of Big, Bad TV?

TIME Opinion

Is Your Kid Still Eating Halloween Candy? Read This.

What is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats?

It’s Day Seven post-Trick or Treating and while the Halloween costumes are old news, the siren’s call of that big stash of processed sugar goes on. And good luck trying to stand between a child and their yearly candy harvest. It becomes a daily battle that almost always ends with someone near tears. (Usually me.) Is the only course of action left to eat all the candy myself?

I could always blame Jimmy Kimmel. The late night comedian staged his now-annual Halloween prank where he has parents inform their children they ate all their Halloween candy and record the inevitable meltdown. The reactions are both funny and sad, but while some saw the prank as uproarious and others viewed it as a cruel hoax, I thought: Hey, that’s not a bad idea. If the candy just disappeared, the struggle would be over in one fell swoop. Off with the proverbial band-aid and on with the limited intake of sugar. But it’s kind of mean and the ensuing tantrum would not be fun to weather. As a parent, though, do I need to make the healthy choice for my kid, whether he likes it or not?

In general, my kid can usually take or leave sugary junk food, but he spent a lot of energy collecting his plus-sized bag of Halloween treats and seems to view it as his own personal Candy Land version of Mt. Everest. Like a wizened mountaineer, he must surmount it, simply because it’s there. At this point, if the FDA had an RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowances, of carnauba wax, I assure you, it’s been met as he determinedly makes his way over Mt. CandyCoatedChocolate. He doesn’t care about my equally large mountain of studies showing that while delicious, copious amounts of sugar are simply not healthy.

But what is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats? Some parents are lucky enough to live near wily dentists who will buy Halloween candy for cold hard cash and deliver them to troops via Operation Gratitude. The more organized among us plan in advance with the brilliant Switch Witch gag where a “witch” steals the candy in the middle of the night and switches it out for toys. It’s a great ploy for those of with enough free time to pull it off. (Some of us would pay $2,700 for an extra hour in the day in which to plan a Switch Witch-style swap.)

If a parent doesn’t want to be seen as a real witch, though, what are the options? It’s just us vs. the candy and currently, the corn syrup is winning. At the risk of getting that Frozen song stuck in your head again, should we just let it go? Double up on the vegetables and double down on the flossing and brushing and let the kids eat every last fun-sized morsel and just let the sugar industry win this round, despite the studies that show that sugar is the only cause of tooth decay?

Maybe?

I know it’s something that my hippy mother struggled with when I was a child. Normally we were allowed no processed sweets—seriously, I got a box of sugary cereal from Santa each year, otherwise it was all health food store versions of Cheerios—so Halloween was a bonanza for us and a nightmare for my mother. Each year she had a new approach to the onslaught of sugar. One year we were allowed two pieces a day, which stretched the candy consumption until March and quickly became a supposedly fun-sized thing she would never do again. The next year we were told to eat all we wanted on Halloween and the rest would be done away with, the result being a now-infamous evening of candy-colored vomiting. After that, each year the candy trove seemed to be eaten by the dog, despite the fact that the stash was hidden on a tall shelf in the back of a closet and the dog was an overweight corgi with no vertical lift.

As a parent now, blaming the dog for a disappearing candy hoard doesn’t seem like a bad option at all, but I think I am going to attempt to strike a balance. I’ll let him have a few pieces a day for a few more days, while carefully supervising brushing and flossing and vegetable intake and side-eying a copy of the Year of No Sugar. After a week of daily candy intake, though, it might be time to take a page from my mother’s book and blame the dog when the stash disappears.

And if you don’t have a dog, well, there’s always Jimmy Kimmel to blame.

 

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