Teasing your kids at home might turn them into bullies, this study suggests

By Katie Mest

The problem of bullying in schools stretches across generations, and though there are new media through which kids can now bully their peers, bullying itself is nothing new.

A study from Florida Atlantic University suggests that how parents interact with their child at home might have a lot to do with the way their child then treats their classmates. You probably know that mean parents lead to mean kids, but just how mean do they have to be to make an impact?

This study says it can be as small as just belittling or not praising your kid.

We know parenting isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve built this blog about how your kid’s world is different from the one you grew up in. But this study says to take a hard look at how you’re interacting with your child. Are you telling them you’re proud of them even for small accomplishments? Do you zone out when they’re talking about their interests, or are you actively listening?

If they feel frustrated by some of their interactions at home, they might go to school and take it out on other students since they can’t say anything to you. How bad is bullying in today’s schools?

National Statistics on Bullying

  • About 20% percent of kids aged 12-18 report that they have experienced bullying, according to the 2017 School Crime Supplement from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_10.asp).
  • 70.6% of kids say they’ve seen bullying in their schools, and 70.4% of school staff say they’ve witnessed bullying. Note, 62% of school staff say they witnessed bullying two or more times in the month prior to the survey, and 41% say they witnessed bullying every week.
  • Middle school students report they’ve been bullied a variety of ways, including name calling (44.2 %), teasing (43.3 %), spreading rumors or lies (36.3%), pushing or shoving (32.4%), hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%), being left out (28.5%), threatened (27.4%), stolen belongings (27.3%), sexual comments or gestures (23.7%), targeted in e-mail or blog (9.9%).

Name calling and teasing are the most common. Maybe not surprising, these are also two of the types of bullying that can occur at home.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to tease your own kid. Maybe it feels like you’re teasing yourself. You probably share characteristics. Do you feel like you’re too short, have big ears, or can’t do math? Maybe you’re just repeating what you’ve heard before.

Or maybe you think your comments are harmless, but your kid sees them as serious: “You missed a couple goals today in the game. Maybe we should be paying more attention at practice instead of talking with our friends the whole time.” Or “You spend a lot of time in your room. Try socializing with the rest of the family every once in a while.”

Each kid is different, and just because they came from you doesn’t mean they think exactly like you. Heck, they’re not even your age. If you’re going to poke fun at them (every great once in a while), make sure it’s lighthearted and not hurtful. Watch their reaction. Make it obvious you don’t mind if they tease you back. There is a find line between mutual teasing and one-sided, being picked on.

Regrettably, the study suggests if kids are teased daily, they transfer that behavior into other areas of their lives. If it’s acceptable at home, then it’s acceptable at school or practice, right?

And I have to point out: kids can’t lash out at their parents every time they feel they’ve insulted or belittled.  It’s obviously easier to take it out on kids their own age.

I don’t know a clear path to stopping bullying but understanding some of the risk factors that go into it must help. If parents are name calling and teasing their kids, and these are the number one and number two most frequent ways kids are getting bullied at school…?  There has to be a connection.  

I suggest talking to your kids the same way you want them talking to their peers. Ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel bad? If my parent said this to me when I was a kid, would I be hurt?

And ask them for feedback. Let them know that they can tell you if you’ve gone too far. Did they take that as the joke you intended, or did you offend them. Meanwhile, tell them if they’ve gone too far. You’re training them in conversation and human relations. Make sure they know how to communicate effectively – and nicely.  

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/


Helping Your Kids with Negative Emotions

By Katie Mest

Parents, I’ll be honest with you. There have been quite a few times I’ve had to lock myself away in my room or run to the bathroom at school to cry out a problem.

Most of the time, the problem itself wasn’t a big deal. But small issues pile up until sometimes you feel an overwhelming wave of emotions crashing down on you.

Often I’ll have a week in which this seems to happen every other day.

And that worries me.

I’m aware of the current statistics of mental health-related issues in people my age. It’s not uncommon to come across a friend who’s in therapy (or should be) for depression or anxiety.

Every time I get to a place where I feel I might be getting into the “I need more help than just myself” territory, I take a step back and evaluate where I am, the severity of my problems, and how I can stop the panic mode.

I know I’m not the only one with that self-awareness. So that leads me to the latest news regarding your teen and their mental health.

Examine negative emotions

A new study from the University of Rochester (June 2019) shows that kids who are able to describe their negative emotions have a better chance of warding off depression than those who struggle with verbalizing their feelings. (Depression in this case can mean depression-like symptoms after a stressful event or actual clinical depression later in life.)

Science Daily interviewed the lead author of the study, who said that thinking through your emotions can help you develop a plan to then overcome those emotions.

What this means is that communicating with your teen is key to their mental health. Not only will you have a better understanding of what’s going on in your child’s head, but you can actually help them be more mindful of their own thoughts and feelings.

Find the source of stress

Midterm exams. A big game. A rocky relationship. Friend drama. The list can go on and on.

The trick is finding the source of the negative emotions and dissecting how and why it made your kid feel bad.

Is she upset that her friend ignored her one text, or does she think that she and her friend are drifting apart? Is your son angry that he missed a goal that could’ve won the game, or is he feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on the field because his grades are slipping?

Is it overthinking? Are the negative emotions valid? Do they have too much on their plate?

Make “talking it out” a normal part of the process

 Think of how much time you could save yourself if you analyzed every situation that stressed you out. You’d be golden.

It’s not an easily attainable goal, but it’s one we should all strive to have.

I’ve designated my mom as my go-to person for emotional issues. Sometimes she gets a very detailed text listing all the bad things that happened in my day that led to the bad mood I was in while writing the text. Sometimes I just share with her that I decided to skip coffee that morning because I knew I would have a busy morning and caffeine would only heighten my anxiety.

She sits on the phone with me when I need to talk out my problems out loud. She gives me advice to lessen my stress factors. And sometimes all I need is validation that the emotions I’m feeling about a situation aren’t completely moronic and childish.

What if you and your teen don’t have the kind of relationship in which you have heart-to-hearts every other day?

Offer anyway. It will always be in the back of their mind that mom or dad is there if they really need help.

Also, share your own experiences. It makes you relatable. Your kid can think of you more as a peer instead of an authority figure and in turn might be more open to opening up.

Encourage them to find their go-to person. If you know in your heart that there’s no way your teen is going to come to you with something like this, suggest that they consult with a good friend whenever they get stressed or overwhelmed.

Useful Links:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190628120447.htm

https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2019-35689-001

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 Bret Farve 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 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

Is Social Media Influencing Your Child’s Body Image?

pic of Morgan Rihn
By Morgan Rihn

Picture-perfect food, beaches, boats, vacation photos, selfies…  All of these flood social media. They portray a perfect life – that no one possesses!

The pressure to look and feel perfect is higher than ever before. Everyone can fake their lives. And shove it in everybody else’s faces. You know all of this isn’t the real truth. But does your adolescent?

Most Influential: Social Media

There’s your child, scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any other social media platform. They find numerous accounts and pictures of people with perfect bodies at perfect places posing perfectly. Celebrities and influencers getting paid to post picture-perfect content.

But do you compare yourself to these images? Doesn’t it make it easier to see the flaws you have?  Young girls and boys are extremely susceptible to this. Phys.org reports “teens who reported posting more pictures on social media, had a heightened awareness of their appearance, which was related to feeling more negative about their body.” The more time a teen spends online, the more likely they are to have a negative body image.

But you and I know the pictures that flood social media are unnatural in pose and quality. No one has perfect skin or a perfect figure. “Fitspiration” accounts, designed to promote one fitness expert over another, can influence adolescences to create unhealthy eating habits and extreme exercise regimes. Fashion models post about their “everyday” life and young minds tend to wonder why their life is not like that. The standard that is being held up to your child is unrealistic. One natural outcome is bad feelings about their body, and shame.

How to Help

There is help out there. Psychologytoday.com offers an acronym to help teach your child about this aspect of the media.

F.A.C.E.

F – Filter out content that makes them feel negative in anyway.

A – Avoid letting them spend all their time on social media.

C – Careful of comparing others lives to how their life is going.

E – Evaluate what the differences are between real and fake photos.

It is important to teach your children that real life is not supposed to look perfect. Real life is beautiful in its own, unique way. It is different for everyone. Being comfortable with the way you look with today’s Internet is hard. However, for your child’s sake, teach them that everyone is perfect in their own way, on both the inside and outside.

Links:

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-reveals-selfies-teenage-body-image.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-people-don-t-diet/201902/teens-body-image-and-social-media

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/is-your-tween-spending-too-much-time-on-youtube/

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.

Here are more helpful links:

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/