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News

Meet the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors candidates

Meet the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors candidates

Two candidates have filed to run for the District 7 seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors in the Nov. 4 election. The water district, established in 1929, oversees and protects water resources in Santa Clara County....

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Schools

New LAHS assistant principal focuses on school activities

New LAHS assistant principal focuses on school activities


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Suzanne Woolfolk, assistant principal at Los Altos High, teaches a leadership course for Associated Student Body leaders.

Suzanne Woolfolk – new assistant principal at Los Altos High School – said she is happy...

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Community

Petting zoo, car show highlight Chamber's annual Fall Festival

Petting zoo, car show highlight Chamber's annual Fall Festival


Courtesy of Los Altos Chamber of Commerce
The petting zoo is a highlight of the Los Altos Fall Festival. This year’s event is slated Oct. 4 and 5.

The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce has scheduled its 23rd annual Fall Festival 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oc...

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Sports

Burlingame bowls over Los Altos

Burlingame bowls over Los Altos


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High halfback Sean Lanoza looks for running room against Burlingame in Saturday’s home opener.

The opening drive of Saturday’s game against Burlingame couldn’t have gone much better for the Los Altos High fo...

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Comment

Does Los Altos have a parking problem, or is it a symptom? : Other Voices

Yes, and yes. It appears that the downtown Los Altos parking problem is a symptom of the city’s “Sarah Winchester” approach to planning that instead of resulting in staircases to nowhere resulted in a hotel without parking required by code.(1)

From ...

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Special Sections

Los Altos landmark Four families later, Shoup House goes on the market

Los Altos landmark Four families later, Shoup House goes on the market


Courtesy of Matthew Anello
The Shoup House dining room, above, features original elements. The 100-year-old house on University Avenue earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, a nod to its legacy as the home of city founder Paul S...

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Business

Longtime banker readies for retirement

Longtime banker readies for retirement


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Joanne Kavalaris is retiring at the end of October after spending the past 25 years of her banking career in downtown Los Altos.

A longtime Los Altos banker is calling it a career in a few weeks.

Joanne Kavalaris, Bank o...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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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

Pear builds wonderful 'House'

Pear builds wonderful 'House'


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Betsy Kruse Craig portrays Trish in the Pear Avenue Theatre production of “House,” which closes Oct. 5.

Mountain View’s Pear Avenue Theatre is staging an unusual theater-going experience – producing two plays...

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Spiritual Life

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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