Gaming Addiction May Go Up During the COVID-19 Crisis

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

It is a confusing and strange time we find ourselves in. COVID-19 has essentially put a pause on all of our regular activities and pastimes, pushing everyone to use the internet. Whether it’s using Zoom everyday like us college kids or binge-watching shows on Netflix, everyone is using the internet for something. However, the most significant users of internet bandwidth at the moment are gamers, and that could be a concern for parents.

With millions of kids staying at home with no clear indication of when they will return to in-person classes, many parents are struggling to keep their kids from playing games all day, every day during this crisis. Gaming addiction, which has been recently confirmed as a mental disorder by the DSM-5, has been the subject of extensive discussions by those in both the medical field and the gaming industry. We all know it is essential that kids and teens take adequate breaks when playing games. But it’s also essential to look for signs of dependence on video gaming, as opposed to real-world relationships or interactions.

A recent article from the Bloomberg news service warns people about the uptick in gaming addiction. Experts say every risk factor for gaming addiction is on the rise. And many call-in centers have seen a rise in calls, including an increase in gaming addiction patients by psychiatrists. It’s created a real problem for health officials, but right now, combating COVID-19 is the bigger issue. But many expect a big wave in gaming addiction as this carries on.

The American Addictions Centers website lists a set of behaviors to be on the lookout for if you are concerned about gaming addiction. They include:

  • Poor performance in school, work, and other responsibilities.
  • Neglect of other hobbies or friendships
  • Ignoring basic hygiene
  • Irritable mood when not playing or forced to stop
  • Playing games with increased intensity or length to reach enjoyment
  • Symptoms of withdrawal when the game is removed; sleeplessness, loss of appetite, emotional

I offer these up as helpful suggestions to all of you parents out there. But, honestly, I don’t think gaming is as addicting as people make it out to be. When I play, I do find it hard to break away from at times, but only because I’m so engaged in what I’m. But I think gaming is a great pastime. There are countless games and storylines to play through. For many, gaming acts as a way to escape. Whether winning a battle royale or goofing around online with some friends, gaming can be useful in a variety of ways.

For your children, I think they act as something to focus on while they’re sitting around the house. That’s not to say they should sit in bed and play games all day. But gaming can be mentally stimulating. The “Independent,” a British newspaper, recently cited a study of 1,000 gamers.  It showed that most people who play games report they feel gaming helps them relieve stress, make friends, and help them have a feeling of accomplishment.

Now, you can argue that relationships made in games or online cannot rival the ones made outside. However, connecting with friends, whether indoors or outside, is still engagement. It still allows one to have a sense of social interactivity.

Given the circumstances that COVID-19 has placed under, I feel that having a connection with friends online through gaming is a benefit and not a detriment.

But – do be careful. If the medical community it right, some will fall victim to the disorder of gaming addiction. You do want to keep your kid safe.

For more information about gaming addiction:

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/video-gaming-addiction

To read more on the studies referenced in this story, visit these links:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-07/video-game-addiction-poised-to-spread-during-coronavirus-lockdown

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/video-games-stress-playing-strategy-key-gamers-study-a8202541.html

Other blogs we’ve written on gaming:

5 Great Apps for Kids at Home

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. As if you’re job of monitoring and limiting screen time wasn’t hard enough, it just got a whole lot tougher with 42 states closing K-12 schools in response to COVID-19.

We here at 2020 Parenting will leave it up to you how much screen time is right for your kid in these unprecedented times. But maybe we can help you make that screen time more beneficial to them.

Today we’re going to look at five applications that can help your kid make the most of their screen time.

Marco Polo (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One of the most difficult things about social distancing is not getting to see family and friends. “Marco Polo” is an app that helps keep family and friend groups close, no matter how different their lives and schedules may be.

The app combines elements of texting, social media & video chat. Groups communicate by sending videos & photos to the group.  The beauty of Marco Polo is that, though the videos and images stay in the group, they can be watched and responded to whenever it’s convenient.

Overall, “Marco Polo” is user friendly and can help your kid, you and your entire family stay in touch and keep morale high during these uncertain times.

Here’s what one mom had to say about it:

“Scrabble Go” or “Words with Friends 2” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

Since we really don’t know when schools will open again, this could be a perfect time to have them brush up on their vocabulary.

“Scrabble Go” is the mobile version of the classic board game. It has the same feel as the game you knew from childhood. You can play online with friends or against the computer. There are also some new game modes like “Word Drop,” “Tumbler” and “Rush” that offer a refreshing twist to classic Scrabble.

For more competitive players, there are even leagues and tournaments to take someone’s game to the next level.

“Words with Friends 2” is a newer and trendier take on “Scrabble.” It focuses almost as much on socializing as on word crafting. The game is not overly time-consuming, but I think it is thought-provoking.

Either one allows you to download the game yourself and show them who’s boss.

“Duolingo” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

What could be better than a kid using their screen time to expand their knowledge of the English language? How about learning another language.

I present “DuoLingo” – an iTunes’ Editor’s Choice that specializes in teaching anyone a new language in only 10 minutes per day.

“Duolingo” allows users to study any of 30 different languages. Users can select how intense they want the learning – or how relaxed.  It also offers a placement test for those who have some experience in a language.

It has daily notifications to remind users to do their “Duolingo” for the day. The free version is excellent, but for about $64.00 a year, you can upgrade to the “Pro” version and get rid of the ads and get access to advanced features. By the way, did I mention it is probably the largest, most-downloaded language learning app in the world? It’s a no brainer.

“Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One day, when your kid turns 16 and the DMV returns to business, they’ll want to get behind the wheel. Well, why not begin their driver education from the comfort of your own living room with “Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator?”

It seems like a pretty sharp looking app to me. It puts teens behind a virtual wheel to help them master parking and driving skills. But don’t worry – this isn’t another “Grand Theft Auto” game.  The simulator challenges drivers to follow real road signs and the rules of the road.

The game has 250 levels, more than 135 different cars to choose from, and even a night driving mode.

“Garage Band” (Available on iTunes)

The classic Mac app, “Garage Band,” is now a popular app on most iPhones. Most likely it’s already installed on your IOS device. I think Garage Band has the potential to unlock a whole new side of your kid.

Although the app does have a slight learning curve, once your kid understands how to make different tracks and loops they can really start making music. It even allows them to use several different instruments, including a guitar, bass, piano and more.

If they don’t know how to play any of these instruments, “Garage Band” has a smart version of each instrument, making it easy to create great music.

Garage Band also has a Sound Library which allows them to pull in third-party loops and soundtracks. And of course, they can record their voice or other audio. When they eventually have some tracks and loops created, they can throw them in the app’s editing bay and create their own amazing content.

Whether it’s just making some sample music or an entire podcast, these are real skills that could be used down the road, especially in the media industry.

Again, as parents, you’re going to have some really tough decisions to make when it comes to your kid’s screen time over the next few months. My thought is if they’re going to have it, they might as well use some it to their advantage.

Good luck out there and stay healthy.

Useful Links:

TikTok’s Relaxed Terms Could Be Unsafe for Kids

By Megan Donny

TikTok, one of the most popular content-creating apps children and teens use today, is full of security concerns that parents may not be aware of. 

According to Australian ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean, the app has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts, even after complaints and warnings have been filed against them. 

These accounts could be run by possible stalkers and child predators. And the minimum age to create an account is 13 years old. This is a low age compared to other popular content-sharing apps. 

TikTok’s whole premise is video creating and sharing. Unlike Snapchat, these videos do not disappear after 24 hours. And TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users. 

The app relies on content from children and teens, who make up a majority of the users and content creators. 

While adults understand that we need to look out for our online safety, children as young as 13 might not comprehend the idea that there could be people on TikTok watching their singing and dancing videos inappropriately. 

For example, an investigation by BBC News in the UK found that children were receiving inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and that the platform was full of bullying. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK is now investigating the video sharing app, according to The Guardian. 

“Like any social media platform that has a direct message or commenting feature, there’s always the possibility that your child could be chatting with anyone, including strangers,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.

According to BBC News, even though most of the sexually explicit comments disappear within 24 hours after being reported, most of the users who posted the comments are not removed from the app. 

“Even if you set your own account to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed,” Jordan said. “Ranging from overtly sexual TikToks to physically dangerous stunts that kids may want to recreate, to overtly racist and discriminatory commentary, there is a wide range of concerning content on the platform.”

The app recently launched a new set of parental controls settings in the UK, following the investigations into their app. The new setting, called “Family Safety Mode,” allows parents to be able to manage their child’s screen time, limit viewable content and limit or even shut off the messaging feature on the app. 

If you can’t access the new “Family Safety Mode”, I at a minimum advise that you make your child’s TikTok account private. Common Sense Media advises parents to make sure to turn on all privacy settings for accounts kids are using, so only people you know can interact with their videos or messages on the app. Parents should also teach their children about the possible effects that posting their personal information can have in the long run. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47813350

https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/tiktok-is-a-pedophile-magnet-and-unsafe-for-kids-warns-cyber-security/?utm_source=JERF&fbclid=IwAR23txVdFF13qaNqVEEmjWf5WnDs2VEaPoYk-HGE0kuIUAK4zTHxxX2E7lc

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-tiktok

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/05/why-tiktok-is-facing-greater-scrutiny-video-sharing-app-child-safety

https://www.parents.com/kids/safety/internet/is-tiktok-safe-for-kids/

YouTube’s New Policy Regarding Your Kid’s Data

By Katie Mest

Your kids are all over YouTube. (But aren’t we all?)

We blog about how your kid might be using YouTube here, but there have been some recent changes in YouTube’s privacy policies and they impact your kids. Don’t worry, though. This time it’s actually good news.

Back in September, the video media giant got into hot water when regulators said it was collecting the personal information of children and using it to target them with ads. To settle the case with the FTC, YouTube’s parent company, Google, paid a $170 million fine ($136 million to the FTC and $34 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.) This was the largest fine collected from the act since it came into existence.

 Enacted in 1998, COPPA prohibits online services doing certain things when the user is under 13 years of age. YouTube violated this by collecting data without the consent of the kids’ parents. YouTube also earned millions of dollars by mining this data and targeting ads toward those kids.

So What’s New?

(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/06/technology/youtube-children-privacy.html)

YouTube tried to get around this by saying that users cannot be under 13 because in order to have an account, you must be 13 and over…probably to avoid this very occurrence. However, you and I both know that YouTube is where kids spend a lot of their time regardless of that requirement.

YouTube has changed its policies to follow COPPA guidelines and better protect your kid’s privacy.

  • YouTube will limit the collection of data from anyone watching videos directed toward children. It has also turned off some features from kid-directed channels. Comments, live chats, and saving videos to a playlist might be disabled depending on the content your child is watching.
  • Ads on these types of videos will be shown based on the content of the videos, not the web-browser and online data from the user watching. And if your kid is watching kid videos, they will more likely be recommended other kid videos.
  • Video producers posting on YouTube will now have to categorize their videos as specifically made for children. Doing so will help determine which videos to turn on data-collecting limitations. Officials also said they could override a producer’s decision if they feel it is incorrect. More info: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9383587?hl=en.

That should make you feel a little safer for a while. It’s highly recommended that if your kid is under 13 they should use YouTube Kids for their content. It’s better regulated by age-appropriate content.

But if your kiddos are 13 and over…let’s just say you should start having conversations about what information they put on the Internet and how services use that information.

How Many Teens Are Using YouTube?

According to Forrester, 96% of teens online are using YouTube. It says 85% of boys ages 13-17 use YouTube daily, while 70% of girls ages 13-17 use it daily.

So, yeah, the short answer is that a lot of kids are using it. And they’ll be watching anything from sports to beauty to gaming to humor to cute puppy videos.

I guess what you should take from all of this is to remind your kids over and over (and over and over) that EVERYTHING they do on their devices has an impact. It’s no coincidence that that ad popped up on their feed after having a conversation about the product.  

More Links:

Star Wars: The Best Content To Watch With Your Kid

Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes?

By Seth Woolcock

Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes? 

I know when I was 14 or 15-years-old the last thing I wanted to do was watch a movie with my parents. 

It’s probably difficult because tweens are at that awkward stage: Too old for “kids” movies, but not yet ready for adult movies. 

Well, how about a compromise? 

Instead of recommending just a one movie, I’m going to recommend an entire franchise: “Star Wars.” 

What most of you remember as a 1970’s space story about a young Jedi named Luke Skywalker trying to defeat Darth Vader has evolved over the past forty-plus years into an entire fictional-universe that’s comprised of full-length films, animated and live-action television shows, video games, comics and chapter books. 

I think it’s the perfect bridge between you and your kid, particularly if they are a tween. 

Star Wars Basics: 

“Star Wars” was created by George Lucas, owner of Lucas Films. The entire franchise was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2012 for $4.05 billion. 

After the release of the original “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, Lucas went on to release “Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. These are called the original trilogy. Though they are labeled Episodes IV, V and VI, I highly recommend stating with “A New Hope.” Not only does it have one of the simplest hero arcs for a kid to understand, but it easily establishes the light and dark side the force, a key concept in all of the films. Also these are most likely the “Star Wars” films you grew up with, so it might be the perfect place to start bridging that gap. 

Twenty-some years later, Lucas released three more films between 1999 and 20015. This trilogy, known as the “prequels” tells the story of how Anakin Skywalker eventually became Darth Vader. 

Even though the prequels received a lot of scrutiny from critics, they’re still beautiful pieces of art. This trilogy was released when I was a kid. I confess I had a mixed bag of emotions watching Anakin grow from a young boy into a renowned Jedi, and then becoming a force for evil as he turned to dark side. 

Note, this trilogy ends on a somber note as we see the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin change (Anakin becomes head strong and refuses to listen to the advice of his elders.) 

After the prequels were released, Lucas and Disney went on to make three more movies. They pick up where Episode VI ended, so these are Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Currently, “Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is still playing in some theaters after debuting Dec. 18, 2019. It serves as both the end to the Skywalker Saga. 

This last trilogy is probably the one your kid knows best. It’s very female-empowering as the plot follows a young woman, Rey, who becomes the next Jedi. The cast is by far the most diverse in the franchise’s history but still includes legends such as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford returning to play their original roles. 

Importantly, all of these films can easily be streamed on Disney+, excluding “The Rise of Skywalker” which is still in some theaters. But here is where it gets interesting. There is a lot more to the Star Wars Universe! 

Other Popular Star Wars Media 

Spin-off Films 

In addition to the prequel films, Disney and Lucas Films have also released two spin-off movies. One is “A Star Wars Story: Rogue One”. It tells the story of the rebels who stole the Death Star’s plans prior to “A New Hope”. Another is “A Star Wars Story: Solo”. It serves as Han Solo’s origin story. While these films have received mixed reviews by some critics, they both carry strong themes of bravery and justice, and I think they are excellent films. 

Television Series 

You might not know there have been several television series in the franchise’s history. Right now there are two that stand above the rest. 

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is an animated series that ran from 2008 to 2014 on Cartoon Network and retuned on Netflix for a sixth season later that year. Disney recently announced that the series will be returning for its seventh and final season Feb. 21, streaming exclusively on Disney+. 

The show is animated, so that might make it more appealing to your kids than to you. But don’t let that stop you from watching. It has many fans of all ages. A few claim it is the best media the franchise has to offer. 

A new series is really catching people’s attention, “The Mandalorian”. If you haven’t seen it, is the show responsible for the “Baby Yoda” memes you may have seen on Facebook. This show became Star Wars’ first live-action television series when it debuted on Nov. 12, 2019. It was timed to launch with Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+. 

It has been confirmed that the show will return for a second season in the fall of this year. 

Like all of the Star Wars movies and TV shows, it always has a good message. I would sum this one up as “Doing the right thing even when the wrong thing seems easier.” 

Video Games 

Star Wars has also been making a strong comeback over the last several years with their video games. It’s safe to say that “Star Wars Battlefront II” is currently the space saga’s most popular game. 

Available on consoles like PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for less than $20, the game is very entertaining for the price. It is also very appropriate for tweens. While there is obviously some violence, which explains the Teen ESRB rating, it isn’t graphic. Defeated players generally just fall to the ground. If you want, check out this parent review on the game that goes into more detail.

w on the game that goes into more detail.

Final Thoughts 

Maybe you’re not one of those people that reads science fiction and you have a hard time buying into a fictional, galactic-spanning universe of diverse creatures (that somehow still manage to communicate with each other?). But I think it’s the perfect vehicle for bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood for kids in that tween stage. It has action and aliens, but it’s not graphic or grotesquely violent like some franchises these days. 

With new content continuing to rollout, “Star Wars” could be the perfect compromise for your next family movie night. Or your next twelve. 

May the force be with you. 

Useful Links: 

Should You Worry About Screen Obsession? One Guy’s Take

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

Parents, have you ever honestly thought about what your children are doing with the technology that’s in their hands every day? Guess what: Chances are they’re doing the same things you are.

You get up in the morning and check your phone or the TV for the weather and traffic reports. If you have an office job, the majority of the day is spent on a computer or laptop. If not, you still use your phone when you go on break (or while you’re working, we don’t judge here). And then you come home, turn on the TV, check your feed, text your friends, or read some articles on your device of choice. If you’re like me, you use your phone or TV until you pass out and go to sleep.

Let’s look at it from the kids’ perspective. They wake up, check their phone to text their friends (or call them if they are like my sister) and check the weather. Then on the school bus ride over, everyone around them is either half asleep listening to music from a device or still texting. When they’re at school, they use laptops to work on projects and papers and read off of a projector screen to write down notes. Then they go to lunch and text, or look at the latest YouTube craze, or play Fortnite. Then after more lessons, they go home and text, talk, or play with their friends until it is time to do it all over again the next school day.

Notice how similar their day is to yours?

Newer generations are growing up with technology, but everyone says need protection from the dangerous and addictive nature of social media and “screen time”. The older generations need to be on the lookout and reduce kid’s exposure to screens.

But how much time do adults spend on screens?  How much time do YOU spend looking at a screen each day? 

Sure, there are things to be worried about. And we’ve written about lots of them (see some links below or just search our blog). We do recommend taking the time to learn how your kids are using the Internet, their cellphones, various social media sites. Maybe have them show you how they use it. That way you can understand why they use certain social media and you can work on ways to limit their use, if necessary.  

If you feel the need to cut back their screen time, why not make it a family thing? Start a competition and see who can stay off social media the longest. Suggest ways to keep people’s attention away from the phones. It would be great if you role modeled how to avoid “screen obsession” instead of not “practicing what you preach”.

Anyone a part of modern society is surrounded by technology. There’s just no way around that. But I do think how much time we spend with it is in our control.

I don’t think screen time is “wrong”.  Technology enables children to interact with friends, and create unique experiences. When I was growing up, some of the best times I had were when my friends and I on a Friday night would play our favorite games together online. With technology, I was able to break out of my shell and talk to my friends about anything and everything. Screens are not a bad or good thing. They are necessary to our lifestyles in the 21st century. So, rather than limiting a now normal part of the modern child’s life, I think we should all learn to embrace and understand it. Teach them how to use their time online for creative or productive tasks in addition to the social aspects.

Some of these ideas come from Director of Digital Civility, Laura Higgins. She gives tips to parents on what to do in their households. A link to that article can be found here.

Meanwhile, explore our numerous other blog posts on technology, including social media, video games, online gambling and more.

Links:

Article by Laura Higgins

How to monitor your kids online while preserving their privacy

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

When I was growing up, there were not many online safety practices available to my parents to help protect me online. 

Today, we have many more options to help protect children who use mobile devices and computers. 

Bark is a proactive dashboard that monitors your children’s text messages as well as 24 different social media websites like Youtube. 

Many parents don’t have the time or ability to search through their child’s texts, social media accounts and emails for alarming content. 

Bark watches what your children are doing online and reports back to you if it happens to find alarming signs such as cyberbullying, depression, sexting, online predators, adult content and more. 

Not knowing who your children are interacting with online and how they are interacting can be a scary thought. With Bark, your child’s activity is monitored without you having to go through their phones to find information. 

The program even sends alerts to your phone about your child’s online activity along with suggestions on how to help from psychologists. 

The dashboard has prevented 16 school shootings and has detected 20,000 severe self-harm situations since it was developed by a father of two in 2015.

Bark also extends its services to all K-12 public and private schools in the U.S. for no cost and has helped protect children in 1,700 school districts. 

 A lot of children, especially older ones, try to keep their parents out of their business as much as possible. I think that children would prefer this method of monitoring compared to their parents scrolling through all of their messages and content themselves. Bark will protect your children’s privacy by only alerting parents to information that may be concerning. 

I would suggest that parents take advantage of this new technology. I think that it can help you keep up with your kids, without having to sneakily snoop through your child’s phone.

Links:

https://www.bark.us

Shocking Vaping Stats to Know Going into 2020

By Katie Mest

As we head into 2020, vapes are everywhere.

Your family members and friends might have already substituted their cigarettes for the latest in smoking technology. Instead of walking down the sidewalk and being hit in the face with a cloud of tobacco smell, you’re now greeted with scents like cotton candy or bubblegum.

Kids certainly seem to find vaping to be a preferred form of smoking. JUUL proved that. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of JUUL pods on the ground in lieu of cigarette butts.

And vaping is still on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about vaping as we head into a new year.

Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke Marijuana

Picture this: A kid is sitting in the park with his friends smoking a cigarette. You and many others would pass by without giving it a second thought. It’s not necessarily an unusual occurrence.

Now, consider this: A kid and his friends are sitting in the park passing a joint between them. It’s far more obvious they’re smoking marijuana because of their behavior and the distinct smell. They’re more likely to get in trouble for this scenario either with their parents, the law, or both.

There’s a thin line between these two circumstances. Vapes can completely erase that line.

Regardless of the substance in the vape, odds are you’re going to smell something delightful, not tobacco or marijuana. Unless you get up close and personal with the cartridge in the vape, you’re not going to be able to tell what’s in it unless you’re super familiar with the substances and cartridge brands.

Not shockingly, kids are taking advantage of this.

Kids Are Vaping Marijuana (THC)

A survey from the University of Michigan (posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association) found that 1 in 5 high school students have vaped marijuana in the past year.

While more kids are still vaping nicotine (1 in 4 said they had done it in the past year), the number of kids vaping marijuana has taken a huge leap from the previous year.

The survey showed that 1 in 7 kids are considered to be current users of marijuana vaping (meaning that they had vaped it sometime in the month before the survey), while the previous year showed only 1 in 13 were current users. Almost double the amount of kids are taking up marijuana (THC) vaping.

Vaping is making it easier than ever before to take up smoking marijuana. It’s convenient. It takes away some of the paranoia that you’re going to get caught since people near you can’t tell what substance is in the vape.

But black market THC cartridges aren’t just causing your kids to get high. They’re posing some serious health risks for users.

With Vaping-Related Hospitalizations Going Up, Officials Are Cracking Down

More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized for vaping-related lung illnesses since the beginning of the summer, and vitamin E acetate is to blame in most cases, according to the CDC.

Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vape cartridges. You can read more about it in this blog post.

The FDA and the DEA have since shut down 44 sites claiming to sell illegal cartridges. This Associated Press article names Stoners Marketplace and Anonymous Meds as two now-shutdown sites. Investigators were led to some of these sites through interviews with patients. Other websites were shut down because they were scam sites that took money without delivering products.

While studies show that high school kids are decreasing their average usage of alcohol and cigarettes, there has been a slight increase in daily marijuana usage overall and a concerningly large increase in marijuana vaping.

Public health officials are worried about this, and you should be, too.

Links:

https://apnews.com/fc4d6d53d0e722de5cb7be850743d138

https://apnews.com/91b897691ec0b201b912247fd573ff02

Disney hits a home run with “Hero Project”

By Seth Woolcock

Parents, with winter break approaching, chances are your kids will have additional screen time over the holiday. 

So how about this year, instead of letting them scroll endlessly on YouTube or Netflix, watching meaningless, sub-par content, why not suggest something that could actually be worth their time? 

I’m talking about Marvel’s “Hero Project,” streaming exclusively on Disney+.

A Short Series Overview

Marvel’s “Hero Project” is a Disney+’s original series shot in documentary-style. It follows young real-life heroes as they show courage and kindness. These teens inspire positivity and change across their communities. 

Each kid featured in the show will have a comic book written about them – inspired by their real-life acts of heroism. 

It is a 20-episode production and currently has six episodes released, with a new episode debuting every Friday. 

To let you know what you can expect, here’s a quick review of Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan.”

Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan” Review

As most Marvel motion-pictures do, “Hero Project” does a great job of introducing the show. It begins with a voiceover from a Marvel editor who says how they are continuing to be inspired every day by real-life heroes. 

Jordan Reeves is a 13-year old girl with a limb difference – her left arm stops just above the elbow. In the first scene, she is seen cheerleading at a junior high sporting event. Unlike most tweens who struggle with imperfection, Jordan embraces what makes her different. Stubborn and hard-headed from an early age, she comes across as a confident and intelligent teenager. 

Growing up having to learn how to do things a little different than most people, Jordan always had a fascination with design and how things worked. After attending a design workshop in San Francisco, Jordan began working weekly with Sam Hobish, a design mentor, on a glitter gun for her dismembered arm. 

Eventually, because of how serious Jordan took her invention, she went viral – appearing on the “Rachael Ray Show” and later pitching her idea to the cast of “Shark Tank.” 

After her climb into the spotlight, Jordan wanted to do more to help others. She began holding workshops with other kids to help build things that played off their disabilities. She became an activist for more consideration for accessibility in the design community – eventually creating her own non-profit foundation, “Born Just Right”. 

At the end of the episode, Marvel presents her with her own comic book and makes her an official member of the “Hero Project” because of her charitable and forward-thinking work.

Overall Impressions

Altogether, I think Disney does a great job moving an audience with such an inspirational story in just a brief 25 minutes. Even as an adult, I felt a swing of emotions throughout the short documentary, and it left me feeling positive and joyful. There were also some absolutely stunning shots in this episode. 

I’m not a particularly huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, but I was blown away by the show’s overall concept and the beautiful execution in episode one. 

In a world where there is so much pointless and commercialized content out there, that target kids specifically, I think “Hero project” is a great way to combat that. It promotes both critical thinking and positive change. 

It’s a home-run for me and I think it will be with most parents struggling to find good content for their children.

What Parents Are Saying

Mom bloggers and entertainment critics Patty Holiday of No-Guilt Fangirl and Andrea Updyke of Theme Park Parents collaborate on the podcast “Now Streaming Disney Plus”. They break down all the latest Disney Plus news in addition to reviewing the different series from a tween-parent perspective. The two moms also loved the first episode and offer some great insight. You can check that out here.

Useful links:

Referenced in “A Short Series Overview”
Referenced in “What Parents are saying”

Parents: Gaming is all over America

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently released a study on the nature of gaming in America. I’ll say upfront, the ESA is an association made up of the biggest gaming companies and therefore has an interest in portraying the gaming industry in a positive light. With that said, it is probably not surprising that they found that Americans of all ages and all races play video games.

What I found surprising in their report was that most gamers are not just the stereotypical teenage or college boy lying on a couch. It turns out many Gen X’ers (ages 35-45) and Baby Boomers (ages 55-64) play. Many of these having been playing for years or even decades.

What I also found interesting was the information about parents and their child gamers. ESA says that 87% of American parents are aware of the ESRB ratings. I recently wrote a blog post explaining the Entertainment Rating System Board. The Board’s rankings are supposed to help parents decide if a game is too mature for their kid. ESA says that most parents believe the ratings are accurate and that they regularly use these ratings.

The ESA also found that 50% of the surveyed parents limited the time their child could play video or computer games. This was a greater percentage of parents than those who limited their kid’s time browsing the Internet, streaming TV shows, using social media, or watching TV. I found this a bit surprising. However, I think the ESA might be trying to make parents feel safer about gaming. In another area of the report I did see that 9 of the top 20 best-selling games in 2018 were rated “mature.” Maybe the ESA knows parents are worried about the content of video games.  And maybe parents do have a reason to be concerned. “Mature” rated games are very, very popular, even though they are only 9% of all of the games released or available in 2018.

An encouraging statistic I thought was that 57% of parents report playing games with their kids at least once a week. Also, 74% believe video games can be educational. These are healthy numbers in my opinion, and I agree that playing games with your kids is great. I wrote a blog on that a few weeks back. Games can be educational and it is awesome when parents play with their kids.

Another statistic that stood out for me was that 75% of American households have at least one gamer in them. That tells me that gaming is very widespread and we should be paying attention to how parents are coping with child gamers. It doesn’t look like that stat is going to go down anytime soon.

Gaming is now mainstream and the report confirms that gamers come from all age groups. The ESA found that while 21% of gamers are under the age of 18 and 40% of gamers are between the ages of 18-35. This second cohort is the largest group and also the audience that buys the most hardware and software. Gamers between the ages of 36-49 make up 18% and the 50+ age group makes up 21%. Note, the age brackets are not equal – the second group spans a 17-year age range while the third only an 11-yr age range. Not sure why the ESA broke the data down that way, but it does say that less than a quarter of all gamers are high schoolers or younger.

While the ESA did break down the type of game each of the older three age brackets purchased or played, for some reason they did not do it for the under 18 category. This seems like a suspicious omission to me. In another part of the report they say that 26.9% of all games sold are “action” games, and another 20.9% are “shooter”. It stands to reason many of these players must be from the under 18 age bracket. And I’ve already mentioned that 9 of the top 20 games are rated “mature” by the ESRB. I’ll have to leave it to you parents about whether you are concerned by these stats.

What I am glad about is that there is some data about the diversity of American gaming. It’s a huge phenomenon and one that I participate in heavily. I hope that we can all navigate the growing popularity of gaming, including parents and their children. Gaming is going to be around for a long time, and though the ESA is clearly an industry support group, it’s statistics have to be considered when deciding how to react to the new gaming culture.

Links:

For more information about the study, visit this link:  https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-Essential-Facts-About-the-Computer-and-Video-Game-Industry.pdf

For a more in-depth breakdown, this site has an extensive amount of statistics on different aspects in gaming but you’ll need to set up an account to view the charts: https://www.statista.com/topics/3070/us-gamers/