Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kids and Networking

While reading about the importance of social networking in the Rainie and Wellman reading, I came across this line “…a few important family members, close friends, neighbors, leaders and community groups (churches and the like) constituted the safety net and support system for individuals”. I was reminded of a speaker that came to my high school to talk about the importance of strong connections for kids. Just like it was important for Trudy and Peter to have a wide range of connections to get them through a tough time, the same is especially true for kids as they grow up. This is essentially what Phlight Club (the organization that came to speak) was trying to get across, but in a really unique way that also opened my eyes to why people respond and recover to stress and hardship differently.
               I want to start off explaining the activity Phlight Club had us do with inflated balloons. There were all sorts of different colored balloons, of all different sizes and shapes. The point was to not let any of the balloons touch the floor, which proved to be difficult for the smaller ones, since they weren’t very buoyant and would fall to the ground faster and more often. The activity was analogous to the way some kids get into more trouble, and need more support to recover when they are faced with hardship. I often wondered why it was so difficult for some of my peers to cope with homework, stress, and confidence in general, and I would often get impatient with them. Phlight Club explained that these differences are because we all have a different “web of support”. Your “web of support” is made up of adults that have “high expectations and provide opportunities, teach skills, and celebrate relative best”. They can be your parents, neighbors, coaches, teachers, or any adult you are close with. However, some kids don’t have as many of these supportive adults as others do. Generally, the more adults in a kids “web of trust”, the more successful, independent, and confident they are. These kids are the balloons that you’d only have to hit once, and they’d float up in the air for a long time. On the other hand, kids that don’t have many adults in their web aren’t as easy to “keep afloat”. From a teacher’s standpoint, they require a lot more prompting, supervision, and checking in than the others do. As a rule of thumb, Phlight Club suggests each kid has at least 5 trusted adults in their web.
So what exactly is the ‘web’ made up of? Each trusted adult contributes ‘strings’ in the web. They can be support, opportunities they offer, encouragement, values, etc. They can also be talents, characteristics, and other abilities these adults help kids realize they possess, and in bringing them to light, builds their confidence.  The more adults there are to contribute, the less gaps there are in the web, which means less opportunities for the ‘balloons’ to fall through. There are several other factors that contribute to the web, which Phlight Club represents by using colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) to help remember. They are:
Red The Rule of Five (Anchors for the “Web of Support”): The foundation for each youth’s own personal village is having five caring adults (or more) in their lives, who have high expectations and provide opportunities, teach skills, and celebrate relative best in appropriate ways.
Orange Tangible Supports (Adding strings to the “Web of Support”): Measurable supports provided through the youth’s Anchors that shape their home, school, and community environment.
Yellow Intangible Supports (Adding strings of virtues to the “Web of Support”): Important, yet difficult to measure, beliefs, values, and behaviors that are being taught to and caught by the youth.
Green Growing Your Balloon: A person’s innate character- isitcs, natural abilities, and talents that increase the likelihood they will remain connected to their Web of Support.
Blue Scissor Cuts: Reducing or eliminating the conditions, actions, and attitudes that erode the strings being created by the Anchors.
Indigo Caring for the Carers (The web beneath your Anchors): Supporting those who anchor your web so they do not drop out of your life, even when circumstances in their own lives change.
Violet Social Norms (The storm that affects the entire web): The climate and culture of the social environment (home, school, and/or community) that have been accepted or agreed upon by
            As a kid, having a strong network of adults really helps you build your web of success. But what I didn’t realize before learning about these concepts was how much I relied on my parents to start building my web while I was too young to do it. They were obviously the first ‘anchors’of my web, but they also found other potential anchors for me in the future. By getting me involved in sports, arts, taking me to see family, introducing me to the neighbors, and then setting examples (and also values) that would help me be successful, my parents started weaving me a strong web, with few gaps, until I could take over (thanks mom and dad!). Unfortunately, some kids are in different situations, and must do much of the web building themselves (or networking), often starting out with many large gaps since no one was there to start it for them. This was an important concept that I came to realize through Phlight Club. I began to understand the way my friends work, and also how they may need more of my support and patience as well. Success is all about networking (and web building). The more trustworthy people you have access to, the more you can use them and all the resources (and moral support) they have to offer.
More info about Phlight Club:

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