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/

Are food advertisements targeting your kids?

By: Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

Every day, children access a wide variety of media platforms that are filled with advertisements through their phones, tablets and laptops. 

Food and beverage advertisements have been found to be the most viewed on apps such as YouTube and Snapchat. 

A Canadian study found that children view over 100 advertisements for food each week on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. 

These advertisements are specifically targeting younger viewers who have low impulse control and low healthy dieting behaviors. 

Social media has made it so much easier for marketers to target consumers. They can use digital tools like location settings, preferences and past purchasing data to more accurately grab the consumer’s attention. 

According to a study done at the University of Michigan, when children view these frequent, and sometimes persistent food advertisements, it makes them desire the reward of food. 

In the study, it shows that when adolescents see unhealthy food commercials, it activates the reward centers of the brain. This then causes the child to want to seek out any type of food related to what they saw in the advertisement. 

How you can limit your child’s advertisement exposure: 

While it’s practically impossible to completely remove all types of advertisements from your child’s life, there are ways to prevent food advertisements from appearing on their screens. 

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t rely on advertisements for revenue and your kids will not be exposed to any type of advertisements on these apps. 

Also through the settings section in apps like Instagram, you can see the advertisements that have been shown to your children as well as learn about what to do if you see an ad you wish to hide. Many of these also have parental control options.

Websites like Common Sense Media can help parents learn about the different apps and streaming services their children use as well. 

Helpful Links:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-kids-see-thousands-of-ads-for-unhealthy-foods-on-social-media-study-1.4154607

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fast-food-marketing_l_5c890150e4b038892f493653

Disney+ is coming to your living room

By Seth Woolcock

Here at 2020 Parenting, we’ve touched a lot on streaming services, and how they’ve changed the way kids today consume television shows and movies.

By now, most parents are probably familiar with the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. They’re probably also familiar with the streaming process as a whole. And how unlike cable, streaming service customers can handpick which content they want to watch when they want it.

For better or for worse, the already-crowded industry is about to get one more competitor – one that has the potential power to change the future of streaming forever and knock out cable television, as well as its other streaming competitors, for good.

Parents, I present you, Disney+.

What is Disney+?

Although Disney+ has been in the works for a little over two years, the new streaming service is set to launch on Nov. 12.

Like most of the major streaming services today, Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream using Roku, Apple and Android devices, in addition to being able to steam using gaming consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

For $6.99 per month, or $69.99 a year, Disney+ customers will have access to an overwhelming amount of Disney-created and Disney-purchased content.

Unlike Netflix’s non-premium tier, Disney+ allows subscribers to stream to four devices simultaneously and have access to 4K content for no additional cost.

While most expect that the service will eventually increase their price, Disney has also said they will eventually offer a Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 a month, the same price as Netflix.

What’s all included?

While it’s hard to fully understand how much is currently owned and underneath the Disney umbrella, the graphic below can help break it down for you.

The Companies Disney Owns - TitleMax.com - Infographic

Developed by TitleMax.com

The main content featured in Disney+’s pitch is Disney content itself, (animated and live-action films, and television shows), Pixar Films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Star Wars and National Geographic.

 It will also feature Fox’s content such as the “X-Men” series, all 30 seasons of “The Simpsons” and “The Sound of Music.” It will also have classic Disney Vault films such as “The Fox and the Hound” and “Bambi,” and will continue to add new films not too long after they appear in theaters.  Think, “Captain Marvel” and the new live-action version of “Aladdin.”

 However, maybe the biggest appeal to life-long Disney fans, is the exclusive Disney+ Originals set to debut with the service next month. Some titles already released include: “Star Wars: The Mandalorian,” Marvel’s “Hero Project” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” These hyped-up exclusives will surely excite some kids.

How will this change streaming?

 In all honesty, Disney+ was built on the concept of nostalgia and recreating your childhood. If you grew up with Disney as a kid, check out this short trailer and tell me you don’t feel something?

 Personally, I grew up watching the Disney Channel and its films. Disney was constantly on in our house. Watching that trailer gave me the chills – even though today I prefer sports over animated series and films.     

According to JP Morgan, this nostalgia will lead Disney+ to quickly rivaling, and eventually even passing, Netflix’s 139 million subscriber count. JP Morgan is predicting Disney will get to 160 million subscribers fast.

While this is partially because of the attractiveness of Disney+’s model, it is also because Disney plans on removing all of its’ content from rival streaming services like Netflix.

Oh, and did I mention that Disney+ is going to allow users to download all of its’ available content for no additional charge. This means no matter where you are – even when you’re without Wi-Fi, you could be enjoying Disney content.

What do Parents need to know specifically?

While the launch of Disney+ could very well lead to even more kid streaming, some of the best news for parents is that the service will have parental controls. The website Deseret details some of this.

Because there will adult content like the “The Simpsons” on the service, Disney+ will encourage a little bit of peace of mind to parents by allowing them to block some content. (Though, how hard is it for a tween to get that password?)

In the end I think this is going to be a positive development for parents. You can get all of that wonderful Disney content all in one place, and if you don’t need much other television, you can get it all for one low price.

But don’t forget, folks. It’s still screen time. Monitor that closely and set boundaries to how much time your kid spends in front of a screen.

Until next time – here’s to keeping that Disney magic alive!

Other useful links:

Real Gambling Inside Your Kid’s Video Game

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

A while ago, I posted a blog about how the ESRB can help you make better decisions about games your kids. However, I failed to look into how they actually rate their games. It turns out, the ESRB does not actually play the games. Instead they watch a trailer of the game produced by the video game maker. Per the ESRB’s official page, it must be “a video showing typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, including the most ‘extreme’ content. Unplayable content (i.e., ‘locked out’), if it is pertinent to a rating, must also be disclosed.”

Why is this important?

Because I think, based on the ESRB’s own review procedures, developers might slide features like gambling and pay-to-win loot boxes past the reviewers’ eyes. I’m not saying every game developer does this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.

I think it’s a problem when raters don’t actually play the game. Recently, some games have been called out for having predatory practices towards a younger audience. NBA 2K20 revealed gambling style mini-game complete with roulette and slot machines to win certain items in-game through a trailer prior to release. 

This game was rated E for Everyone. 

If children play this game and have access to a credit card, they can spend real-world money to gamble for items with in-game currency. While this may come down to a parent’s decision, I wanted to bring this to your attention. You may want to be even more careful about what games your kid plays than just relying on the ESRB rating. 

Personally,I don’t think gambling should be allowed at all. It has no place in a game that allows real-world money to be used. And I think any game that is rated “E for Everyone” should not require parental oversight. 

If you would like to read more about how the ESRB reviews their games you can read their FAQ page here: https://www.esrb.org/faqs/#do-esrb-raters-play-the-games-they-rate

For a more in-depth look at why loot boxes are so addicting, check out this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu6pXCxiRxU

Links:

How to Talk to Your Daughter about her Clothes

pic of Megan D

by Megan Donny

“Go back upstairs and change.” 

My father said those words to me about 5 minutes before I had to leave for my first high school dance. 

Despite my anger, I retreated to my bedroom where I changed into a less revealing dress for the dance. 

Hearing your own father chastise your fashion choices as a teenage girl with a fragile self-esteem was a devastating experience for me. 

Parents tend to restrict what their young daughters wear in order to avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves and their children. While parents almost always have their children’s well-being in mind, at times they can step over the line. 

How parents can cross the line 

For the last year, I’ve worked at a popular girls clothing store and have watched parents tell their children what they can and cannot try on.

While it is understandable that a parent doesn’t want their children wearing items they don’t deem to be appropriate, some parents don’t understand why their daughters are dressing the way they do. 

Most middle school and even high school girls aren’t dressing scantily because they are seeking male attention. They dress in the clothing marketed to them by every clothing store with a teenage demographic. 

When parents don’t have an open and honest discussion with their children about why they do not want them dressing a certain way, the children usually end up feeling angry or insecure about themselves or their bodies.  

When I was told I could not wear the dress I had picked out for the school dance, I felt as if my father did it just to spite me. He never explained to me why he believed I shouldn’t wear it to the dance. If he had told me he was worried about what other people might think of me and my family, we could’ve had a discussion that ended with me going to the dance feeling better because I would have known he had my best interests in mind.

By limiting what their children wear, parents are restricting their children’s self-expression and potentially leading their child to instead sneak around their parents when they don’t approve of their clothing.  

How social media affects children and parents

Today, everyone’s lives are exposed like tabloids on social media. What a lot of young teenagers don’t understand is what they are seen wearing in pictures on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook can affect how people think about them as well as their family. 

When a teenager posts an OOTD (outfit of the day) picture of herself in a bikini, more people see the picture than she probably knows. One of her friends may see the photograph and then show it to her own mother, who will then make assumptions about how the mother of the girl in the bikini chooses to parent her daughter. 

Parents try their best to avoid being perceived as having a careless or relaxed parenting style. Which is why social media has become every parent’s worst nightmare. Now that children can share as many photos of their clothing choices as they want, more parents are being criticized for letting their children wear what many stores are selling today. 

By talking to your children about how social media can impact how people view them and their family today as well as in the future, hopefully they will choose to be more cautious about what they post online. 

How to talk to your daughter about her clothing choices 

Approaching the subject on what you believe your daughter should or should not wear can be tricky, especially since most teenage girls are stubborn and have a very sensitive self-esteem. You don’t want to accidentally offend them by saying that they shouldn’t be wearing a certain article of clothing to school. 

Parents.com author Kara Corridan discusses different ways to speak to your tween daughter on what she wears. She suggests speaking to your child about her clothing choices when she is “feeling relaxed and not in the spotlight.” This means the best time to talk isn’t when she is trying to pick out an outfit before school or when you are shopping. Instead, Corridan says to speak to your daughter when you are both spending some down-time at home. 

Corridan also suggests having an open discussion with your child where you ask them questions about their style in a non-judgmental tone.  Instead of shutting the conversation down with a few words like “go change,” ask them “why did you choose that outfit?” By understanding why your daughter chooses to dress in clothing you may object to, it will be easier to explain your concerns to her. 

Author/educator Michelle Icard says that honesty is the best policy when it comes to talking about this subject with your daughter. She proposes telling your daughter that she is old enough to make her own choices and that she should know when her clothes may draw unwanted attention. 

While this approach may not be best for every parent, some need to know when to let their daughter make her own choices and when to intervene. Sometimes it’s best to let your children make their own mistakes and learn from them. Teenage girls express themselves through fashion and they need to be able to experiment with new styles. How you choose to handle what they wear is up to you. 

Useful Links:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/heidi-stevens/ct-life-stevens-wednesday-how-daughter-dresses-0814-story.html

https://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/parents-perspective/how-to-talk-to-your-daughter-about-what-shes-wearing/


What are today’s teens and preteens streaming into their TV?

By Seth Woolcock

It was the summer of 2011. The final episode of Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life on Deck,” starring Dylan and Cole Sprouse, was on. It marked the end of my childhood, as I knew it.

I was 13-years-old and three years removed from my other favorite tween cable shows, “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” “Drake & Josh” and “Zoey 101”. All ended, I might add, prematurely.

Growing up, my parents weren’t always around when I got home from school. So, with my Spaghetti-O’s or Easy Mac in hand, I watched them every afternoon. I felt like I grew up with these actors and actresses.

When they were over, I felt lost. Like a chapter of my life was suddenly over. All the laughs, all the stories and all the countless life lessons – gone!

I knew it was time to find new show, even though the constant reruns on “Teen Nick” were some comfort. Of course, I could just wait around until ESPN decided to start speculating again if Brett Favre was going to come out of retirement. But in July, football season seemed so far way. (Yes, even at 13 I was hooked on football.)

I began exploring new channels. What I stumbled upon was a collection of great ‘90s, coming-of-age series, like “Saved by the Bell” and “Boy Meets World”. Thanks to Mr. Belding and Mr. Feeney I continued to learn valuable life lessons, like, tell a close friend the truth even if it will make them made, and, be very careful of caffeine pills.

I also came across shows more grown up shows, like “That’s 70’s Show,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “How I Met Your Mother.”  Masterpieces, but I was too naive at the time to get all of the drug and sexual references went over my head.  However, kids these days are exposed to more on social media. They might not be so clueless.

Today’s Tween/Teen Shows

Let’s face it. Today’s kids stream. This means they don’t have to choose from just the 5-6 cable channels I had to choose from. They can log into Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc… and find any show they want.

It’s hard to single out what teens are watching from all of the data, so let’s look at the top streamed shows on Netflix, the hottest service amongst preteens/teens. In January, Netflix released data on some of its most viewed shows. It’s measured as a percentage of all Netflix shows, with the data pulled from web browsers from January 2018- November 2018.

pic of Netflix top shows
Netflix top streaming TV shows in 2018

I’ve pulled out a few of them that I think many teens are watching. Maybe your kid is watching one of these. If so, do you know what’s in it?

“Shameless”

Showtime’s “Shameless” began airing in 2011. It wasn’t until 2017 that the show exploded on Netflix. Suddenly everyone was talking about the ups and downs of the alcoholic Frank Gallagher and his six children.

This show can come across as extremely entertaining and seemingly realistic. However, it is very inappropriate for preteens or teens. There’s swearing, nudity, sex and drug references throughout, make it tough watch for even some adults. While some may say it teaches important lessons, overall, we agree with this review, that parents will find it is best suited for age 17+.

“13 Reasons Why”

Originally released as a Netflix Original in March in March 2017, “13 Reasons Why” builds a story around a topic often left out of popular media – suicide.

The show follows Clay Jensen as he listens to a series of audio tapes left behind by Hannah, his deceased classmate and former love interest. 

Since the show’s release, there has been both praise and disapproval of the show’s premise. Some say it commercializes suicide and mental health related diseases.

Recently, Netflix actually removed two scenes after the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published a study showing that suicide by people aged 10-17 “dramatically increased” in the months following the release of the show. You can check out what some parents are saying about the show and decide for yourself if your preteen/teen is ready to watch it.

“Stranger Things”

Another Netflix original, “Stranger Things,” is a science fiction horror series that has three seasons available for streaming on Netflix.

On the surface, the show is a sci-fi that follows events in a fictitious town called Hawkins, Indiana. It’s set in 1983 and it follows the disappearance of a young boy. Many other supernatural events also take place but there’s also a lot of I’m not diving into the show myself, but I suggest you take five minutes and watch YouTube parent Nick Shell. He has a very interesting take on the show.

“Riverdale”

This show starts one of my early favorite childhood actors, Cole Sprouse (remember, the “Suite” life shows?)   “Riverdale” was released in 2017 but it’s already very popular.  It’s based on the Archie Comics, but it’s much darker than the comic book you might remember. I think you may want to leave this one “on the shelf” for your preteen/teen. Some of the mysteries revolve around the murder of a local boy and an affair between a student and teacher. One reviewer called it “adult content packaged as a kid show.”

Finally

Hey, there’s always going to be new TV shows. And your kid may know about them faster than you. What can you do?  For starters, you can at least look up the title and see what others are saying about the show.

Here are two links we thought were very useful. Keep them bookmarked. Don’t be shy about asking your kid what they’re watching.

And don’t be afraid to have them watch an old favorite. The “Suite Life” series never gets old. Will they ever get out of that hotel or off the boat? I hope not.

Useful Links:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/reviews

http://w2.parentstv.org/main/

The New Switch = Your Kid Gaming Everywhere!

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

Parents, have you ever thought “Well, at least they’re not gaming here in the (car, restaurant, doctor’s office, bathroom, …)!”

Kiss that thought good bye. Maybe you’ve heard of or have a Nintendo Switch. It’s built to be portable, but mostly people still hook it to their TVs. However, Nintendo is about to release its Nintendo Lite. It cost $100 less, and it’s really meant to be portable. It doesn’t hook to your TV and it maintain’s its high graphic quality on the go.

But now you’re thinking, “Well, what’s wrong with that? Mario Bros.? Zelda? Donkey King?”

Nintendo has that game?

But did hear? Nintendo is growing up. Yes, that’s right. Nintendo now has games on the Switch like Batman, L. A. Noire, Doom and Skyrim. All dark cop or monster type games. And they even have South Park: The Fractured But Whole.  Want your kid walking around Wendy’s repeating lines from that TV show?

Of course, you don’t have to buy those games for them. But see our other gaming blogs to learn how easy it is for kids to get games.

The New Switch Lite

So how does the Switch Lite differ from the regular Switch? As well as being smaller, it is lighter, has a more traditional directional pad, has a slightly longer battery life, and does not have the HD rumble or IR features. It will come in new shades of yellow, grey, and turquoise. The Switch does use cartridges but it can also download games straight onto the system from the Nintendo E-shop.   The Lite will be available worldwide September 20th this year.

The New Nintendo Switch coming out Sept. 20th, 2019

It’s important to recognize that these systems have far higher fidelity graphics than even a decade ago. You’ll want to set up the parental controls on your child’s Switch in order to limit what your child is able to play or see.

And remember, the trend of high-quality 3D games being played on the go is not going to stop – it is only going to grow.

Useful Links:

You can see more Switch details here.

If you want to explore what’s available, you can find games for the Switch on these sites:

https://www.nintendo.com/games/switch/

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=switch+games&rh=p_89%3ANintendo&dc&encoding=UTF8%3F&qid=1562883628&rnid=2528832011&ref=sr_nr_p_89_1

Maybe Your Kid Is Not Ready for The “Barstool”? (“Barstool Sports” that is!)

By Seth Woolcock

I first came across Barstool Sports during my freshman year of college. Thankfully it was then, and not sooner.

Barstool Sports logo

Parents, while you may not know very much about Barstool Sports, you may have come across their logo (seen above). Maybe you’ve seen their memes, like “Saturdays are For the Boys.” (By the way, that slogan is so popular, Barstool’s founder, Dave Portnoy, trademarked the slogan in 2016. At one point he even threatened to sue the NFL because “they jacked our slogan” when they used a similar phrase on a t-shirt design. Story is here.)

What is “Barstool Sports”?

Barstool started as a print publication in 2003. Then it focused on gambling advise and fantasy football projections. However, it was relaunched in 2007 as an internet blog that Portnoy filled with entertaining content that some found to be “rude, crude, sexist and often mean-spirited,” said Entrepreneur contributor Jason Ankeny in this article.

After selling a majority stake to the Chermin Group in 2016, the company continued to make headlines. Despite a controversy around a 2010 blog written by Portnoy that purportedly encouraged a “rape culture”, and hosting “Blackout Tour” parties in Boston where they were accused of promoting and allowing excessive and underage drinking, Barstool didn’t stop exploding.

So, ESPN jumped on the bandwagon. In October of 2017 they debuted “Barstool Van Talk”. However, the show was cancelled after its first episode because several employees, including NFL Live host Samantha Ponder, pushed for the show to be cancelled.

Are they important?

To be fair, the company does promote some charitable causes. It helped raise $250,000 after the Boston Marathon bombings. It teamed up with a Cleveland Browns quarterback last year to benefit Special Olympics Ohio.

Currently Barstool ranks number 4,700 in global internet engagement websites according to Alexa. This means it sure is popular.

The real issue is not whether the content is in poor taste or even rude, but rather what does this content mean for your kids, especially boys? Many argue this site finds it acceptable and even encourages vulgar behavior. It personally reminds me of a 6th year fraternity brother who lacks respect for women and any authority.  Is this what you want your kid exposed to?

Here’s my problem…

And though Barstool, I argue, certainly fosters just plain old traditional problems, like sexism and binge drinking, it’s also big on the new problems, like vaping. In fact, Barstool Sports blogger and personality Tommy Smokes appeared on Fox News last year supporting the overwhelming favorite vaping device for teens, JUUL. (See our recent blog post here about vaping and your kid.)

Hey, the world is full of digital influencers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate some of them and help your kid make intelligent choices. Sure, Barstool might be fun for some grown up men – though I’m not endorsing it.  But you may want to keep your kid off of the “barstool” until they get some real life experiences under their belt. I mean, you don’t HAVE to act like a jerk just because you watch something on TV, the movies or the Internet. But if you watch it nearly every day? And your buddies are all watching it? And no one tells you not to? 

Well, what do you think happens?

Useful Links:

Jason Ankeny article: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229401

Story on “Blackout Tour” parties: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/barstool-sports-rape-joke_n_1293328

Article on ESPN cancelling show: https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/10/23/barstool-van-talk-cancelled-espn-one-episode

Influence of Barstool Sports: https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/barstoolsports.com

Where is your kid purchasing their video games?

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

You may know that video game consoles are not the only machines that games can be played on. PCs and Mac computers can also play many of the same games available on PlayStation or Xbox. However, the most popular places to buy games for computers are not the typical places that you might know. Over the past decade, gamers like myself have purchased thousands, if not millions of games through the online game distribution service known as Steam. Steam is owned by video game publisher and developer Valve and is the primary source of game purchases for the PC or Mac.

When I was 12 years old, I would chat with friends on Steam’s voice chat system late into the night. I had my own account and my parents had no idea what Steam was. I asked for gift cards and bought games to play with my friends. This included mature games that I would have had to show ID for if I were buying it at GameStop. So, this is something you’re going to have to look out for.

Steam is not only home to AAA (big budget and marketed video games like Call of Duty or Madden) but also independent video games – indies for short. Indie games are usually made by smaller, lesser-known developers They like having full control over their games and don’t have any need for a big publisher if they sell directly on Steam.   Steam is popular because it has a wide variety of game types. Some of these are exclusively sold on Steam. But through just Steam these developers can reach thousands and thousands of players.

screen grab of a page from the Steam store
Screen grab of a page from the Steam store

Steam and “indie” games

However, if you purchase an indie game, there is a risk. These games can be crass, crude, or a variety of other things not appropriate for a pre-teen/teen. However, indie games can also be some of the most creative and imaginative games on the market. I think you’ll have to do some research on each game before you decide if you want your kid to purchase. Though not all of these games show up on the ESRB rating system (see our blog about that system here), Steam does have it’s own rating system.  It requires extensive vetting of both the game itself and the intentions of the developer.  This means each developer has to explain the type of content that the game will contain.  Steam/Valve then places a specific age rating on the game when it releases. Steam restricts access to these games by asking the user to verify their age.  Truthfully, it’s not too hard to lie at this step. (Though I’ve read that Steam will track if the user is under 18 and will block any further attempts at accessing games of that nature. I don’t know how it does this.)

Screen grab of Steam age verifier
Screen grab of Steam age verifier

Family-friendly Steam(?)

As I mentioned, Steam has chat functions, friend lists and other social functions that can connect users worldwide. However, these options do not have explicit parental controls. Even on games with age restrictions, these functions might still work.

Thankfully, Steam does have a parental control you can put on your account called “Family View”. There are step-by-step guides for parents to follow when accessing this feature. From Family View, parents can set parameters for the content their child can access. This includes specific items like gore or violence, games with chat functionality, profile pages, access to the game catalog, and much more. You can even use the Family Game Library to restrict access to specific games for your kid to play on that account. Each of these features is PIN protected.

Screen grab of Steam "Family View"
Screen grab of Steam “Family View”

The Epic game store

Steam is not the only place PC and Mac games are distributed. Last year, Fortnite developer Epic Games created the Epic Games Store, a platform similar to Steam but without a lot of the social media and chatting features that Steam possesses.

The reason I even bring up the Epic Games Store is that if your tween plays Fortnite on a computer, they already have the store installed as well. Epic included the store with the launcher for the game.

Screen grab of the Epic game store
Screen grab of the Epic game store

 The Epic Games Store has no parental controls whatsoever. There is no way to keep your kid from accessing a mature game. However, there is a significant difference in the availability of games on the platform. There are less than a hundred games up for purchase on the Epic Games Store and many of those are still not available to play yet. However, Epic has offers for free games twice a month, giving access to potentially inappropriate games at no cost to your pre-teen/teen.

Also, every game on the platform has an ESRB classification. This means Epic doesn’t have a rating system…yet. In order to protect your kid from playing a game you feel inappropriate, it is best to view more information about the game yourself like you would if they were buying it in a store.

So, my recommendation is to get the “Family View” account set up before you let your kid get on Steam, do not give them gift cards or a credit card to make their own purchases (you should purchase each game individually), and monitor their use of the social media functions of Steam. If they are purchasing through Epic there are not as many indie or mature games (yet), but you will still want to monitor every purchase.

If you do all of this, you should be good. And, hopefully, you’ll join in on the games. Video game playing can be a great way to bond with your kid. But more on that another day.

Here are some useful links:

Steam information:
https://store.steampowered.com/

“Family View” on Steam: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=5149-EOPC-9918

Epic game store: : https://epicgames.helpshift.com/a/epic-games-store-and-launcher/

Read out review of the ESRB system: http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/do-you-understand-the-esrb-video-game-rating-system/