Video Games are Taking on Mental Health

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

The Electronic Software Association considers video games a stress reliever for all ages, though some are still skeptical. Many who are not immersed in the gaming world only hear about the violent, shoot-‘em-up type of games.  But recent years new games and new game character type have emerged. And studies are showing that these innovative games can be a new way to treat mental disorders. In fact, later in this article I’ll introduce the first game to be approved by the FDA to help with ADAD. Fur first, let’s talk about the new character types that are representing real life, including mental health issues, in a new way.

New Mental Health Characters

It’s true that previous games depicted characters with mental illness as either comedy or horror types (see Outlast or Borderlands). However, the gaming industry has moved past this way of thinking. Allow me to introduce you to Celeste. On the surface, Celeste is a platform-type game. In this game you have to overcome a series of challenging obstacles by jumping and climbing (think Super Mario Brothers). However, in this story there is a young woman named Madeline.

Madeline has an anxiety disorder. Throughout the game, you see her character experience panic attacks. When this happens, the music becomes sinister and the environment gets darker. She also starts to breath heavy and begin to shake. Although this is a 2D animated character, and very much a game, this is an experience many people have had in real life, including myself.

Having a character such as this has given me the sense that others might be able to feel or know what I have experienced. That representation is important for anyone, but I think it’s especially important for kids growing up. I grew up with and still have depression and mild anxiety. Certain things can trigger panic attacks for me, in addition to the depressive episodes I have where it feels like the weight of the ocean is on my body. Seeing a character in this game who is overcoming a mental barrier just as much as a physical one is very rewarding and comforting to me.

Seeing Someone Like Me

One outcome of this is I think it helped me understand that I needed to be the one to make the changes in my life if I wanted to feel better. I think these games can help children and teenagers figure out things about themselves. Maybe it’s easier to see what you are going through once you project your problems onto a character you are playing. But, fortunately, the game is also still fun to play!

Other games are also depicting real life mental health issues. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice puts you in the shoes of a woman who has a psychosis. Sea of Solitude looks at depression in a metaphorical way as inside a woman’s mind. Arise: A Simple Story is about a man dealing with grief and depression. Auti-Sim places you in the shoes of someone with autism. Each of these games is a way for players, both with and without mental illness, to understand a bit more about others and themselves.

Video Games are Helping with Mental Issues

Recently, games have been built specifically to treat people with mental health problems. For example, EndeavorRX, is the first FDA approved video game that is targeted toward children eight to 12 with ADHD. Studies show that one in three patients who play the game for 25 minutes a day for a week can reduce their attention deficit problems for up to a month (compared to those who did not play). Note, the developers and the doctors who helped with testing both say the game is a supplement to therapy and other medications, not a replacement. But it is widely encouraging that we’ve come this far. You can sign-up for their newsletter to find out when the game will be available at https://www.akiliinteractive.com/get-endeavor

I wanted to write about this topic for parents who may have children with mental illnesses because it is hard to truly understand what someone is going through when they say they have depression or anxiety. Games like these can help everyone understand what your child is going through, or even help treat their symptoms.

Games for Change

If you want to learn more about games like these, I suggest visiting Games for Change. Games for Change is a non-profit that helps bring attention to games like these I’ve mentioned. It also helps produce them by working with developers.

Go to

Home Page

You can also take a look at The Insight Project, a collaboration between Hellblade developer Ninja Theory and Professor Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge. The Insight Project’s goal is to create gaming media that helps alleviate mental distress.

The Insight Project

I know many parents are worried about the negative effects of gaming on their kids. But it’s important to recognize that not all games are created equal. Do the research, set some boundaries, and I’m sure you’ll find that gaming can become a healthy part of your kid’s lives.

Other Links:

More on the game that helps with ADHD:

Great Ways to Learn During the Pandemic

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By Desmond Brown

In this age of the internet, getting educated online is nothing new. But while your students may be using Zoom or other video chat services to connect with teachers during the ongoing pandemic, there are several other ways to learn online.

What I am talking about are “skillsharing” sites like Udemy, Skillshare and Masterclass. These websites offer paid classes that teach everything from English to ethical computer hacking to everything in between. Many of these sites have been around for several years, but they’ve jumped in populating now that we’re all stuck at home. They’ve become places for people to learn new skills and even start new careers – all without having to learn in a face-to-face environment.

However, these sites are not all the same. I will analyze three of the most popular sites for you, as well as suggest some exciting courses for you or your kids to learn.

Udemy

Udemy was founded back in 2009 and is the most popular of the three by far. Udemy boasts over 150 thousand courses and millions of students worldwide. Note, I believe all of the courses are done by taught by volunteers, chosen because of their expertise or because of the reputation of the company they come from.

For example, one of the classes I bought was for a C# coding language course specifically for the Unity Game Engine. Unity is a free game development software platform that offers tons of tools for users to build any kind of game they want. However, many people, like me, don’t know where to start in game design, let alone how to code or “script.”

This course taught me not only a beginner’s knowledge of how to use the C# language but also basic game design. The instructors were industry veterans for over a decade and they worked with Unity to deliver this comprehensive course. Each lecture is broken up into several parts that I could rewind or pause at anytime. I’ve been told that instructors at Udemy do go back to older lessons and update them. They also provide material for students to download and host open QA sessions for students that are having trouble. In general, the community for each course is made up of students that can communicate with each other and they help each other out as well.  Udemy also offers a certificate of completion for finishing a course.

The downside to Udemy, I think, is that each course is volunteer taught, so, therefore, the results may vary. Some might be perfect, but some might also need a lot more work. Fortunately, there is a rating system in place for students to give feedback. It helps new users decide which courses are trustworthy or not.

Pricing wise, the average course costs $200+ each. But, Udemy hosts many sales that knock that price down to about $9.99.  I suggest waiting for one of these sales and buying multiple courses at once.

Recommended Courses:

  • Coding Classes

These classes are some of the best on the entire site. Many coding languages are available for purchase. Thousands of users have cited how easy it was to pick up and start coding with clear and concise instructions. Challenges in these courses are practically based and will push you to test what you’ve learned during a lecture. I highly recommend these classes for any age that wants to begin their journey into coding.

Masterclass

Masterclass is a newer site. Unlike Udemy that has volunteer teaching, Masterclass has many known celebrities teaching classes in different subjects. You can learn creative writing from Margaret Atwood, cooking from Gordon Ramsey, or even filmmaking from Martin Scorsese.

Each lecture is about 10 minutes long and each class is at least 20 lessons long. However, to access any of the classes, you must buy an annual all-access pass for $180 a year. This gives you access to all of the instructors on the site at any time, but it is a bit steep considering there may only be a couple of instructors/courses in the topics you want.

Recommended Courses:

I haven’t bought the pass, so I cannot recommend any of the courses. However, Dr. Lauber says he has taken the Malcom Gladwell course on writing and thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t too advanced for anyone to take and learn from it, but it did offer insights he had never heard – and he teaches writing himself. I think it sounds enticing enough for me that I want to try it out. But I’m waiting for a free trial to pop-up – it’s a little beyond my college student budget.

SkillShare

SkillShare is a bit older than Udemy and is nearly as popular. It offers many of the same things that Udemy does, but its course library is more limited. The main difference is the price. SkillShare is currently offering a free trial for a full month and users can purchase access to all of the courses either monthly or annually. It is significantly cheaper than Masterclass and costs either $100 a year or $15 a month.

Recommended Courses:

I think the strengths of SkillShare are the writing and practical skills courses. I would take advantage of the free month and find some of the results for yourself. I would advise parents to take a look and see if they can find a course they might want to take with their kids?  Nothing says quality bonding time like learning how to write a short story together!

Overall, any of these sites I think can be used to further someone’s journey into education for a relatively low cost. If you would like to check out any of the sites I mentioned the links are below.

Stay Safe.

Links:

SkillShare:

https://join.skillshare.com/jan2020-general/?coupon=google2free&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=paidsearch&utm_campaign=Brand_US_2Free&utm_term=skillshare&matchtype=e&gclid=CjwKCAjwte71BRBCEiwAU_V9h85eT-5urnckCZ-zxeYBr-DtSPoenz5oxgsqV3iDAeQeqyhRGOr0_BoCD8AQAvD_BwE

Udemy:

https://www.udemy.com/

Masterclass:

https://www.masterclass.com/

Great things for your kids to watch during quarantine

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

As much as I hate to admit it, my daily screen usage has gone up significantly during quarantine. 

Since we are all stuck inside most days, it’s likely that both you and your kids have also been on your devices more than usual. While this is completely understandable, most of what your kids may be viewing on their devices is probably not educational or brain-stimulating.  

Instead of letting your kids stream TikTok videos, here are my top five things for your kids to watch: 

Educational and fun YouTube series: 

YouTube isn’t just cute and funny animal videos anymore; it now actually contains channels and show series that can be both fun and educational for your kids. One of my recent favorites is “Some Good News.” Started by actor and dad, John Krasinski, SGN is solely focused on providing happy, fun and good news to its viewers. John Krasinski brings some of his celebrity friends on each episode as well. Other shows I’d recommend on YouTube include The Brain Scoop, SoulPancake and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. 

Aquarium and zoo live streams: 

Many zoos and aquariums all around the country have begun to live stream their animals to show everyone at home how they are doing during this quarantine. The Houston Zoo is one of the most popular with its live streams of giraffes, elephants and more. They also have a Facebook Live series that includes videos of their animals, fun facts and even activities for you to complete at home with your kids. If your kids love sea creatures, the Monterey Bay Aquarium also has live streams as well as narrated feedings during the week. 

Kennedy Center’s Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: 

A great way to get your kids to use their hands for things other than scrolling through social media or clicking on their tablets is to get them to be creative. Mo Willems is the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence. Since the quarantine, he has begun to make videos of himself drawing and exploring different ways to make art. He provides printable worksheets for each of his “Lunch Doodles” on the Kennedy Center website.

Documentaries for kids: 

Netflix, Hulu and all of the other streaming platforms provide a wide variety of different types of documentaries. Many of these can be super educational and kid-friendly. March of the Penguins was the first documentary I watched as a kid and it really opened my eyes and taught me so much about nature and penguins. Disney’s animal documentaries like “Born in China” and “Monkey Kingdom” are super educational and interesting to watch. Some other family-friendly documentaries include “Kindness is Contagious,” “Pick of the Litter” and “The Imagineering Story.” 

Live stream concerts: 

Since artists can no longer perform on stage in front of audiences, they are bringing the concert to you by live-streaming their performances online. Live Nation has a whole page on their site dedicated to telling you when these live stream concerts are taking place. Some family-friendly artists who have begun live streaming are Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kathrine McPhee with David Foster. They have sung songs from your kids’ favorite Disney movies as well as popular musicals. To find out more about who is live streaming, check out Live Nation’s website or your kids’ favorite artist’s social media pages.  

For more information:

https://www.kennedy-center.org/mowillems

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-documentaries

https://www.livenation.com/livefromhome

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org

https://www.houstonzoo.org/explore/webcams/

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: 

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/