The global pandemic has upended the rhythm of life for most families. Parents are either doing their best to homeschool their kids while working from home, or heading out to do essential jobs. Kids are missing the structure and routine of school, extracurricular activities, sports - and now even summer camp is endangered.
Much attention is being given to the psychological toll this is taking on adults and children alike, but there is another lesson emerging in this time of lockdown. While parents are busy working to find solutions for the new challenges they’re facing, kids are being given greater freedom to structure their days. They are figuring out their own ways to be creative, both online and outdoors, in ways we haven’t seen in years. Some would say that they are flourishing.
On Wednesday, May 27, Stephen Balkam, Founder & CEO of FOSI, moderated a discussion with two remarkable experts in their fields to help us explore the new (and old) ways that kids are adapting to new normals within this national crisis:
Peter Gray is an author and research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is a founding board member of Let Grow, and president of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE), which is aimed at creating a world in which children’s natural ways of learning are facilitated rather than suppressed.
Lenore Skenazy is co-founder and president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, and the author of Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). At Let Grow, Lenore oversees school programs, an online community, and legislative efforts all promoting the idea that when adults step back, kids step up, growing resourceful, resilient -- and ready for the world.
Founder & CEO
Family Online Safety Institute
For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.
Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.
In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.
Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.
Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.
Co-Founder & President
Lenore Skenazy is co-founder and president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood. Ever since her column “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone” created a media firestorm, Lenore has been declaring that our kids are smarter and stronger than our culture gives them credit for. She is the author of Free-Range Kids, the book-turned-movement that garnered her the nickname, “America’s Worst Mom.” At Let Grow, Lenore oversees school programs, an online community, and legislative efforts all promoting the idea that when adults step back, kids step up, growing resourceful, resilient -- and ready for the world. Lenore lives in New York City with her husband. Their sons have flown the coop, which is good for “proof of concept” purposes…but she misses them.
Before all this, Skenazy was a reporter and columnist at the New York Daily News and New York Sun. And, bragging here, she also used to write for Mad Magazine. (And Cracked.)
Department of Psychology, Boston College
Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 8th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books). He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine. He is a founding member and president of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE), which is aimed at creating a world in which children’s natural ways of learning are facilitated rather than suppressed. He is also a founding board member of the nonprofit Let Grow, the mission of which is to renew children’s freedom to play and explore outdoors, independently of adults.