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The Jessi Slaughter videos: Cyber bullying or parents in denial?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 23, 2010 06:19 AM

Last Friday, 11-year-old Jessica Leonhardt of Florida -- who goes by "Jessi Slaughter" and "Kerligirl13" online -- was taken into protective custody for a few days after being harassed when her profanity-laced YouTube video "to the haters" went viral.

"You know what? I don't give a f---. I'm happy with my life," she says in one of the video's tamer moments. "And if you can't realize that and stop hating, I'll pop a Glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy."

It goes on for four more minutes, during which she shows off her new lip piercing ("My mom made me take it out, 'cause I'm getting new ones"), talks about how perfect she is ("Nobody else can be this pretty with no makeup on!"), boasts about her boyfriends ("I have three. Jealousy, much?"), and urges "haters" to perform certain sexual acts and "gets AIDS and die."

The video went viral. Someone posted her real name, address, and phone number online. And then the pranks -- and, according to her parents, threats -- started pouring in.


The stars of "Ramona and Beezus" on family, fun, and facing down fear

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 16, 2010 10:10 AM

Ramonabeezus.jpg"Family" is a familiar refrain for actress and pop star Selena Gomez. What little downtime she has, she says, she likes to spend "sitting on the couch, watching movies, eating junk food, just relaxing with friends and family" or reading (current book: Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson. "I'm kind of a hopeless romantic when it comes to reading," she says).

When she's nervous or anxious, she turns to her mom for advice. She plays the serious and sweet older sister in her new movie, the supremely family-friendly Ramona and Beezus, (based on the classic novels by Beverly Cleary) which hits theaters on July 23. And she's not ready yet to turn away from the younger fans who still love her as Alex Russo on Disney's The Wizards of Waverley Place. "I'm still just a kid myself," she said in an interview yesterday. "I wouldn’t do a role I don’t feel comfortable doing or that my audience wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing."

Her co-star Joey King isn't worrying about reaching out to an older audience just yet, either. Her 11th birthday is at the end of this month, and she's reveling in the similarities between herself and her character, the pesky kid-sister Ramona. "I have a big imagination like Ramona, and the same personality like Ramona as well," she said over the phone. "And I have sisters, just like Ramona, and I have pets!"


New parents: Would you bring your baby to work with you?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 15, 2010 12:46 PM

When I went back to work after my first baby was born, I felt guilty and excited at the same time. Guilty because I'd fallen in love with my baby and wanted to spend more time with her. Excited because I'd be able to have conversations with actual adults again, and be productive in a pre-parenthood way. And guilty, of course, about feeling excited about being back in the office.

Being able to leave the baby at home with my husband made me feel better (here's how we managed that and how I dealt with the second-shift stress), but if my company had offered to allow me to bring her in to the office with me for those first few months, I would have turned them down. It was hard enough trying to concentrate on work once I was back in the office, I can't imagine trying to multitask with an infant at the same time.


Does having kids really make you unhappy?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 7, 2010 10:58 PM

Scores of studies over the years have shown that having kids doesn't make people happier. Ask any parent, though, and many will say that they adore their children, even when they're frustrated by them -- it's the parenting part that's a chore.

In the most recent edition of New York Magazine, Jennifer Senior explores these studies in a piece called "All Joy and No Fun" and makes several key points, including:

1. There's a difference between feeling happy and feeling rewarded.
2. In countries with strong support systems, like Scandinavia, parents feel happier.
3. The gulf between our familial fantasies and reality is huge.

All of which makes sense, but you know what? I think being able to consider personal happiness so carefully is a privilege afforded to those for whom the basic necessities -- food, clothing, shelter -- aren't an issue. And I also think that happiness is relative.


Silly Bandz and the gimme gimmes

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 28, 2010 12:53 PM

sillybandz2.jpgSilly Bandz are the baseball cards of my kids' generation. They collect and trade them like they're going out of style. My 5-year-old likes to wear hers to school -- they reach half-way up her forearm -- where she and her friends compare and discuss them as seriously as I used to stickers and matchbox cars. At some schools they've become so popular -- and such a target for theft -- that they've been banned.
My friend Nataly's daughter has just gotten into the craze, and Nataly brings up a great point on her Work It, Mom! blog:

When it comes to requests that are heavily influenced by what her friends have at school, I find that I hesitate more than at other times. I want her to understand that just because others have something doesn?t mean that she has to have it -- silly bandz today, fancy jeans/cars/houses tomorrow. But I also don?t want to overdo it: Just because her friends have something shouldn?t mean that she can?t have it.

There's a fine line between giving your child what she wants and fostering an out-sized sense of entitlement. Are Silly Bandz a harmless trend, or a gateway to the gimme gimmes?


Kids are washable, remember?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 25, 2010 11:19 AM

Photos of 4-year-old Suri Cruise with her feet adorned with self-applied magic-marker tattoos are drawing more than a few mommy drive-byes from commenters who are taking Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to task for being so lax with their little girl.

Relax, people. Kids are washable, remember? And what little kid hasn't scribbled on his or herself before?


Let down by a role model: Tips for talking to your child

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 23, 2010 08:44 PM

In the Parenthood is in the pages of Thursday's Boston Globe, with a story about kids and parents who are disillusioned about Disney star Miley Cyrus's transformation from goofy tween-age Hannah Montana to R-rated sexpot. (Click here to read the article online.)

We've discussed whether Miley Cyrus has gotten too sexy, too soon, and whether that's just par for the course in Hollywood. But what do you do when your young child's role model is growing up too quickly -- and you don't want your tween to do the same?

I chatted with child and teen development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman, whose book about body image, Good Girls Don't Get Fat, is due out in October; she offers the following tips for talking with your child about role models and the hypersexualization of young stars like Miley Cyrus:


In memory of Henry: A fund to help kids battling with addiction

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 11, 2010 02:11 AM

I didn't know Henry Louis Granju, who died on May 31 at the age of 18, after a horrible beating over an illegal drug transaction. I don't know his family, though I've been a fan of his mother Katie's blog, Mama Pundit, for ages. I can't fathom what his parents and step parents are going through right now -- losing their oldest son after watching him fight for his life for five weeks in the hospital, trying to help their other children cope, just weeks away from the birth of their youngest daughter.

But there are thousands of people who experience the nightmare of losing a child -- young or old -- to drugs. In order to wring something positive out of this pain, Katie Granju and her family have established a fund to assist others who are struggling with the costs of helping their children overcome drug and alcohol addiction.


Would you implant a microchip in your child?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 9, 2010 06:17 AM

With the search still ongoing for 7-year-old Kyron Horman, who disappeared from his Portland, Oregon, elementary school on Friday, some parents are wondering whether it's worth taking the idea of implanted tracking devices for kids more seriously.

The question of whether or not to implant microchips in our children isn't new. In 2002, CNN reported that parents in the United Kingdom were asking for microchip tracking devices for their kids after two 10-year-old girls were abducted and murdered. And Wired magazine wrote about it back in 2003, when Solusat, the Mexican distributor of VeriChip, launched its VeriKid program in Mexico.

What is new is that, in spite of the whole "Big Brother" aspect, and in spite of the obvious privacy issues (not to mention health risks), the microchip may be making a comback.


Dads can develop postpartum depression

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 3, 2010 10:24 AM

New fathers generally don't have a wealth of information to fall back on. Pregnancy books are usually aimed at women, obviously, though there are a few notable exceptions, like Christopher Healy's Pop Culture: The Sane Man’s Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood and Dad's Pregnant, Too by Harlan Cohen. But dads-to-be and new fathers need help as much as moms do: A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10 percent of husbands experience depression sometime between their wives' first trimester and the end of the baby's first year, and 25.6 percent of new dads are depressed during the first 3 to 6 months of the baby's life -- in other words, 3 to 6 months postpartum.


about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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