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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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How new social-media trends harm children

The insults kept pouring in, the middle-school girl told me, until she read one that made it nearly impossible to concentrate on her schoolwork.

“U should die,” an anonymous poster had written.

She had stopped me after a presentation I’d given at her school and explained the nightmare she suffered over the previous school year after creating a profile at Ask.fm, a social-media site that allows people to leave nameless, faceless comments on others’ profiles. Over the past two years, Ask.fm comments have been linked to at least seven teen suicides.

Hours later, I gave a presentation for 200 parents at the young girl’s school. When I asked how many of them were familiar with Ask.fm, only two hands went up.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen teens shift their social-media habits to apps and sites that provide illusions of ephemeral and anonymous interactions – illusions that are quickly eroding their social and emotional well-being and that can have deadly consequences.

The Snapchat syndrome

In less than three years, Snapchat has exploded in popularity, with 400 million messages and photos sent through its system each day. Snapchat’s primary demographic is 13- to 23-year-olds, with at least 13 percent of teens admitting to using Snapchat regularly.

Many teens gravitate to Snapchat because they believe that messages and photos they send disappear seconds after recipients open them. In reality, Snapchat recipients have up to 10 seconds to capture a screenshot, and numerous Snapchat hacks allow users to save screenshots without notifying the sender. The FBI warns that pedophiles use Snapchat to lure young victims. A quick Web search of “Snapchat screenshots” reveals photos clearly unintended for public viewing, and begs the question: Who really believes in this online ephemerality?

Online whispers

The fixation with online anonymity is not limited to Ask.fm. There’s also Vine, Instagram, WhatsApp, Frankly, Skim, Ansa and Whisper, a mobile app that entices users to “share secrets, express themselves, and meet new people,” allowing them to make confessions or pose questions in hopes of eliciting an online reaction from others. Posted statements range from the innocuous (“I can’t believe I looked forward to growing up when I was young”) to the far more revealing (“I want to commit suicide”).

While some teens may look online for support with problems they feel uncomfortable discussing with family or friends, many experience how quickly and easily these apps can become an outlet for aggression and hostility. One in five teens claims that he or she has been harassed within the past 12 months, with 16 percent of them tormented online or via text.

The wrong conversation

Many young people feel that the Internet isn’t fun anymore. We’ve created so much fear around getting caught that we’re pushing them into hiding. A 2012 McAfee study revealed that 70 percent of teens actively attempted to conceal their online behavior from their parents.

Adolescents who are still building social and emotional resilience are often unable to cope with the onslaught of anonymous online interaction, and yet many of these latest apps target them as the key demographic. It is far more difficult for young people to develop empathy skills when they hide behind a computer screen – and nearly impossible when they falsely believe that their interactions will disappear and remain anonymous.

There is no simple solution to the complex world of teen online socialization. Most adults remain painfully unaware of the nuances, in part because they never experienced it themselves. Even adults who try to stay informed face an uphill battle as popularity constantly shifts. Teens are fickle – app popularity varies on a consistent basis.

Changing the conversation

The seventh-grade girl I talked with decided to delete her Ask.fm profile altogether. In less than a week, she felt a monumental difference.

“I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” she pronounced triumphantly. “I am going to have a really great year this year.”

Teen online socialization is not going away. Parents, educators and young people must build awareness, set better guidelines around use and spend more time learning how each app works.

It’s no secret that adolescents should spend more time offline. A 2012 Stanford University study found that too much screen time could be detrimental to the social and emotional development of tween girls, and that the powerful antidote was simply spending more time conducting face-to-face conversations.

Ana Homayoun, author of two books for parents, is founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, 302 Main St., Suite 201, Los Altos. For more information, visit greenivyed.com.

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