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:

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

Two Very Popular Apps Your Kid Might Have Going Back to School

by Seth Woolcock

As your kid heads back to school this year with their new blue jeans and Nikes, they may also be taking two new apps along with them.

One is “TikTok,” a popular short-form video sharing app that is currently #1 on the Apple App Store. The other is “YOLO,” a new anonymous question and answer app students can use as a plug-in with Snapchat. It is #18 on the app store.

While these apps might help your kid pass time on their bus ride home or during lunch, there are also some real dangers that parents need to be aware of.

TikTok and Sharing Private Information

TikTok is a social media service that is designed to let users watch, create and share videos. Often times these videos are filled with today’s top music hits, which users have access to for free.

Originally known as “musical.ly,” before that app merged with TikTok in August 2018, this social media channel combines several key concepts from other popular apps.

It has the feel of “Vine,” a former, popular video sharing service that was known for its hilarious 6-second videos. But unfortunately, due to a lack of revenue, Twitter shut down Vine in January 2017.

When I was a tween myself, Vine was insanely popular for a summer. While I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, all my friends were using it. And from what I remember of the app, it was mostly filled with people doing dumb stunts in order to get likes.

TikTok uses the same rabbit-hole tactic that YouTube uses to hook young users. It pre-loads the next video to keep you from leaving the app.

But just like any social media, the real concern is the amount of private information your kid could be sharing with the world. TikTok makes it easy to share too much information with strangers. In fact, by default, TikTok accounts are set to public, which allows ANYONE to see your videos and location information, and it allows anyone to direct message you.

To learn how to change your kid’s TikTok settings to private, check out this short video. It literally only takes a minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgrGwn60yyE

By the way, TikTok had to make a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission this year for illegally obtaining children’s personal information. In response, the app created a section just for children. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/video-social-networking-app-musically-agrees-settle-ftc  However, this can easily be bypassed by providing a false birth date.

Of course, the other major issue with this app is the content kids are watching. Because popular music has a large amount of foul and sexualized language today, your kid might be exposing themselves to this language as well as watching people dance in suggestive ways. Maybe you’re not ready for your kid to watch this.

YOLO and the Danger or Anonymous Apps

When I was growing up, the acronym “YOLO” became popular. It meant “You Only Live Once”.  Pretty tame, I guess, but the app is potentially more dangerous, I think.

The app YOLO encourages users to “get anonymous answers” as soon as they are logged into the app. You can either create your own question to ask, or use the “dice” that will prompt a pre-made question. The app then encourages you to post the answers on your Snapchat story.

I have seen a lot of people say some fairly inappropriate things to others using this app. My big concern is cyber bullying. The app is popular enough that a lot of kids could be targeted by these anonymous comments.

According to, the Pew Research Center (https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/), last year at this time, more than 59 percent of teens said they experienced some sort of cyber bullying.

Former anonymous social media apps, like “Ask.FM,” “Sarahah” and “YikYak,” created social havoc in my high school, in my opinion. There was such an outcry that a letter was sent home to parents asking them to get their children to stop using these apps. If I remember correctly, iTunes and the Google Play store actually kicked off Sarahah from their platforms in 2018, after they received enormous amounts of backlash because of cyber bullying.  https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43174619

Ironically, I believe tweens use these anonymous social media apps so they can get acceptance from their peers. However, they often get the inverse.

I think it’s crucial that kids grow up slowly with these apps. You will want to have a serious conversation with your kid about these apps. Sharing personal information and getting caught up in cyber bullying are just two of the issues you should discuss. Try some of our links if you want to learn more.

More helpful Links:

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

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/18/yolo-app-raises-bullying-concerns/1292307001/

Overly Connected but Feeling Socially Alone

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

In today’s always connected world, we have the means to contact other people with the click of a button. But though we may be more connected than ever, it doesn’t mean feelings of isolation are gone.  For kids growing up in the modern “Internet Age”, isolation may even be worse.

Unfortunately, a recent study at the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 confirmed this. It found that young adults who are the most frequent users of social media experience more social isolation compared to those who use it the least. The authors believe this may be due to a variety of factors. These include viewing friends online having fun and not being invited, seeing people doing things that seem fun and sparking feelings of envy, and spending more time online than having real life experiences. All of these, they speculate, contribute to feelings of isolation.

Social isolation can have big effects

As children grow up today, I think this “social isolation phenomenon” is something to watch out for. Maybe particularly during the tumultuous time of adolescence. Kids are more susceptible to feelings of being left out when their friends are doing things together without them.

One source says that the effects of social isolation are very negative. They include less restful sleep, an increased stress response by the body, more alcohol and drug use, and even a greater risk of suicide.

I remember feeling socially isolated at times when I was in middle school and high school. My friends would post what they were doing on Facebook (which had just started getting widely popular) and I would see how happy they seemed. To teenage me, it was disheartening to see people having fun without me. Sometimes they were meeting up with my friends in real life I’d have to hear or see the stories later.

I’m old enough that this was before Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat blew up. Imagine how your teen might feel today with all of these social media outlets at their disposal. They might see their friends having fun. Maybe they’ll see other people doing an activity they wanted to do.

What can parents do?

One source suggests five things parents can do about this. One is to encourage volunteering. This improves mental health and can be very pleasurable. Does your kid like animals? Or small children? Can they help out at an aging facility? The possibilities are endless.

Also, make exercise a priority. We all know about endorphins and how they help our mood. Don’t just rely on physical ed at school, or team sports. Encourage them to hike with you, or take a family bike ride. Again, the possibilities are endless.

Third, schedule some “off screen” time. Eat a family meal with no phones allowed. Watch a show together. Maybe game with your kid (without the head set).

Also, get them outside. Nature has lots of good effects on our mood and mental health. And finally, talk to your kid. Have repeated meaningful conversations about their friends, about life, and about their mental health. What are they thinking and feeling? Learn how to be patient and helpful, not judgmental or authoritative.

The bottom line

The Internet is a wonderful tool to help connect with others, but it has the potential to make us feel bad also. Parents, try to help your child understand that social media interactions are not the only interactions they can have. And that seeing other people having fun doesn’t mean you’ve been left out. You’ll have that fun when you see them next time.

We have numerous posts that talk about activities you could do with your kids, as well as what you should do to protect your child online. Check out our links below.

Links:

http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/35420/

https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/empowering-teens/teenage-isolation/

Your PTA Can Help With Your Kid’s DIGITAL Life

pic of Erick Lauber
by Dr. Erick Lauber

Have you checked out your local Parent Teacher Association (PTA), or maybe the national PTA website? I recently had the chance to observe an excellent “Digital Families Community Event” held locally by the local PTA president, Kammi Cooper.

Kammi’s PTA Program for Horace Mann Elementary School

The program was provided by the National PTA, but tailored to the local community. It was interactive and fun for the kids and very informative for the parents. The families got to talk about screen time, creating and sharing passwords, favorite apps and social media sites, and what to share and not to share on the Internet.

Kammi was able to put on such an excellent program because she attended a PTA conference and was awarded a small grant to make this program happen. However, you don’t have to wait to benefit from the wonderful resources the National PTA has put together. I went to their website and clicked on the “Family Resources” and then “Digital Safety” buttons.

There I learned that the PTA has multiple programs sponsored by such Internet powerhouses as Google, Facebook, and AT&T.  I particularly liked one called “Smart Talk” put together by LifeLock.

The Smart Talk Program

It is an online learning module you can do with your kid. It helps you answer questions such as:

  • How much screen time is appropriate?
  • How to determine who should “friend” or “follow” your account?
  • When to share photos or videos online?
  • How to respond to negative comments or posts on social media?
  • Whether to use location-based services on apps?

At the end, you can print out the decisions you’ve come to and have it as a record (or kind of contract between you and your kid.) I thought it was excellent!

Go Get More Information

Raising a kid in a digital world is tough. You want them (and you) to be aware of how they spend online. You want them to be mindful of their online presence and footpring.

Check out your local PTA and see if they are hosting any of these programs. If they aren’t, why not initiate one yourself? 

And keep learning. This isn’t the exact same world you grew up in!

Useful Links:

https://www.pta.org/home/programs/connected

https://www.pta.org/home/programs/connected/smart-talk

Are Instagram “influencers” influencing your kid

By Katie Mest

We’ve already taught you what an influencer is (http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/what-is-an-influencer-and-whats-it-got-to-do-with-your-tween/). Influencers are either celebrities or ordinary people who are paid by a company to promote its products on social media.

Maybe what you don’t know are all the harmful products and practices that are popping up on your teen’s social media timeline as a result.

The big player in this game is Instagram. It works well for the influencers (and companies) because of its flashy pictures and cleverly worded captions. It screams “if you use this product, you too can have an Instagram profile as flashy or a body as perfect” as this person.

Well, Instagram recently released some news. And this going to 100 percent affect your kids.

 Soon you and your kids will see more influencers that you aren’t even following. That’s because soon brands will be allowed to promote their influencers’ posts and project them onto the screens of the young and impressionable.

 In a way, this is nothing new. Instagram already has sponsored posts that show up on your feed in between pictures of your friend’s cat and your coworker’s beach vacation. But now these will be labeled “paid partnership.”

Hey, we know you’re already worried about the kind of material your kid/pre-teen is taking in when they spend hours upon hours in front of their cell phones. So here’s a quick list of some products and ideas that have shown up on your kid’s timeline because of influencers.

Flat Tummy Tea

As the name suggests, this company wants you to believe that by drinking this tea, you will lose weight quickly and easily. A few of the Kardashians have come under fire lately for promoting this product. The company sells lollipops, shakes, and supplements as well as tea.

At this point, many experienced social media users know that Flat Tummy Tea is not only not effective, but it’s dangerous and unhealthy, but these are high school and college students. Younger kids may not be up on this kind of promotion. I think the products either “curb hunger” or “help with digestion,” which means to me maybe they make you sick.

Many influencers don’t actually try the product. They just post a picture with a caption that the company told them to include. Read more about Flat Tummy Tea’s Instagram empire here.

See also: any product that claims to be healthy while making you cut weight crazy fast.

YouTuber Logan Paul visiting a Japanese suicide forest

Yes, you read that correctly. Logan Paul posted a YouTube video of himself in the Aokigahara. This is a forest in Japan where many people go to take their lives. Regretably, he showed a body he had come across while filming.

To make matters worse, he kept the same attitude of his other videos and made jokes along the way. If you want to read more about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/01/02/youtuber-logan-paul-apologizes-for-showing-body-in-japans-suicide-forest/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b3cd12d5162e.

Using natural disasters to gain or keep attention

When wildfires broke out in California, many influencers took to social media to send “thoughts and prayers” to those affected.

While the captions might have matched the situation, some of the photographs definitely didn’t, such as selfies or perfectly posed, professional photographer pictures. It was a way for the influencers to stay on top of a trending topic while also gaining likes from being “sympathetic.”

So what can you do?

  1. Research. If your teen wants to buy something that they saw promoted on social media, do your own investigation before purchasing. Look up reviews. If it’s something that will be ingested, like a supplement or diet tea, check the ingredients and find out what’s really in it. Also, look for any possible side effects.
  2. Talk. Ask your kid what kinds of things they’re seeing on social media. How do they feel about them? Do they think the influencer actually uses the product or just gets paid to post about it? Open up the conversation so they know that those influencer reviews aren’t always truthful or thorough.
  3. Be present on social media. Not in a snooping way. But it won’t hurt to make your own account just so you know what’s going on in that social media universe. Follow news stations. Follow celebrities. Get a glimpse of what your teen is seeing on their screen.

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