U.S. Faces Possible TikTok Ban

By Katie Mest

A socially-distanced summer has left plenty of time for mindless activities on electronic devices. I used the time to re-watch “New Girl” on Netflix, and I just started watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” at the recommendation of the Internet.

I also downloaded TikTok to see what all the fuss was about. Long story short: I like it a lot. However, this Chinese-owned social media app has taken a lot of heat lately.

India just banned 59 Chinese apps last week, including TikTok, due to security concerns related to geopolitics. You may know that recently Chinese and Indian militaries clashed at the border, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is considering banning TikTok as well as some other Chinese social media apps. This is designed to protect against threats to national security. The fear is that apps are mining data and Tik Tok might be pressured to give it to the Chinese government.

AA TikTok representative responded saying, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Why the fear? Why now?

U.S. lawmakers questioning TikTok’s safety is nothing new. The government opened a national security investigation into the app in November 2019.

This week TikTok is pulling its app off the market in Hong Kong in response to a new Chinese security law. Other tech companies, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, have stopped processing Chinese government requests for regional user data.

This Hong Kong law was created to crack down on those protesting in opposition to Beijing. The law leaves room for lots of questions, like if Hong Kong will now fall under Beijing’s jurisdiction.

What does this all mean for users (i.e., your kid)?

We don’t know the answer to that yet.

TikTok certainly has taken over the world, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to break the news of the ban to the 65 million U.S. monthly app users. I would also miss my daily art and animal videos.

The biggest advice I can give to parents is to do your research.

Know the apps your kids are interacting with and inform them and yourself on the possible ways apps store and/or use your data. Read the different options each app has for privacy and take action. Turn some of the privacy features on.

I would also recommend ConnectSafely.org It provides a great guide for parents on navigating TikTok and keeping kids safe.

Other Great Links:

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:

Helping your kids cope with quarantine emotions

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

Now that America is beginning to open back up, I find myself feeling upset about everything I missed out on because of the pandemic and anxious about the future. 

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one feeling this way. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has created a lot of anxiety in not only adults but children and teenagers as well. 

This can be a confusing and stressful time, especially for children and teenagers. 

All of the stress and memories of the things they are missing out on can cause them to feel depressed or more aggravated than they usually are. 

As a parent of a child or teenager, you’ve probably experienced some of the backlashes from your kids these emotions are creating. When children are angry or upset, many times they express that anger by yelling, being rude or acting out physically by slamming doors. 

According to clinical psychologist Sherry Kelly, many teenagers who are usually mild-mannered are acting out because they are feeling unusually trapped with no control over their lives anymore. 

While nobody can change what is currently happening with the pandemic, there are ways to help your kids process and control their emotions during this time. 

Four Strategies for Coping During These Times

One way, according to Kelly, is to encourage them to focus on the things they can control, rather than the things they can’t control. She recommends helping kids come up with two lists; one of the things they have control over and one for the things they don’t. You can then help your kids focus on the things on one list, and avoid thoughts about the other. 

Many kids are feeling especially isolated from their friends and other family members they may not live with. I know I personally have felt very lonely during the stay at home order and quarantine. It’s not a surprise that kids are feeling this way. To keep your children engaged with their family and friends, encourage them to Skype or play online games with them as a way to connect. 

Keeping an everyday routine for your kids is another way to help prevent negative emotions associated with the pandemic. By creating a new routine for your kids, it will help them feel less anxious about all of the uncertainty they may be experiencing.  

Make sure you also acknowledge your children’s feelings. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and to express any of their worries they may have. Children are likely to feel secure during times like this if they know their parent has acknowledged their feelings and is there to support them.

We know you’re going through a tough time, parents. Hang in there. And remember what Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

Resources:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-ways-kids-happy-home-self-quarantine.html

https://www.today.com/health/quarantine-tips-help-your-kids-stay-physically-mentally-fit-t180028

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/04/23/even-mellowest-teens-are-raging-against-quarantine-heres-how-help-them-cope/

Could Disc Golf Get Your Kid (And You?) Out of the House?

By Seth Woolcock

COVID-19 pressed the pause button on sports at all levels. The professional leagues were interrupted, college athletes were told to go home and youth, your kids, were forced to forgo their spring and summer sports seasons.

However, even as the sports world stands still, discs are still flying and chains are still slapping against poles all across America. I’m referring to recreational disc golf, of course. 

What is Disc Golf?

Disc golf, standardized in the 1970s, is played like regular golf. However, you don’t hit a ball. You throw a disc, much like your regular frisbee disc, into an elevated chain net that catches it. The goal is to get the lowest possible score (least number of throws) through nine holes or 18 holes. 

Via Discraft.com

Like regular golf, there are various “clubs” (discs) that fly in different patterns and different speeds. Therefore, you select your disc for each shot. Disc golf is both an incredibly simple game and easy to start, but also a very complex game as your skill level grows.

Perhaps the most compelling thing about disc golf, especially for teens, is that it is usually free-to-play, as courses are normally built and maintained at public township, county or state parks.

I first started playing the sport when I was 15, right after some of my high school teachers created a course at our neighborhood park. 

Since then, I have played dozens of courses, hit hundreds of trees and improved immensely at the game. I’ve also made great memories and enjoyed a lot of  “hanging with my friends” time.

I think the best part of the game for me has been the places it’s taken me. From the hills in Western Pennsylvania to a small river-town along the Susquehanna River, all the way to an abandoned military base in Maryland – disc golf has shown me beautiful landscapes that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

Why Should Your Kid and/or You Try It?

No, I’m not a parent, but I have teen siblings and cousins. And it seems now, more than ever, that it’s harder to keep kids outside a long time. Disc golf is a sport that turns hiking through a park into a total adventure.

I’ve seen it played by people well into their sixties, so I know you can get out there and do it.  It provides a solid upper and lower body workout if you want it to. It also tests your aerobics and concentration when you’re attempting difficult shots. 

In addition to getting your kid doing something productive outside, like I said, disc golf is usually free-to-play. And the discs, unlike real golf clubs, are actually pretty affordable – generally ranging from $5-30.

My personal favorite disc golf brand is Dynamic Discs. You can usually get a great starter pack for less than $25 on Amazon.  

Future Outlook of Disc Golf:

Disc golf could become more popular than regular golf by 2028, says an article written by Joshua Woods, an Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginian University and founder of “Parked Disc Golf.”

With traditional golf courses declining every year and more disc golf courses continuing to be installed, it might not be too long before disc golf is the new norm. Imagine your kid’s future company having a disc golf outing instead of the traditional golf outing.

Things to Do Before You Go:

I would recommend watching a few YouTube Videos before your first game.  While disc golf is a really easy concept to grasp, having a veteran player to learn from is never a bad thing. There are a few basic terms and ways to throw the discs you may want to learn before you go. It will save your time and frustration in the long run. I think most of the basics can be learned in a short YouTube clip. A video that helped me when I was just beginning was this one.

Second, you may want to download the “UDisc Disc Golf” App.  This handy app, created by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), is a go-to tool for any disc golfer. In addition to acting as a scorecard, the app shows you just about every disc golf course nationwide. You can also add layouts to help first-time players navigate the course, and leave reviews and ratings of courses.

I want you to remember to have fun out there.  While the game is easier than regular golf to pick up, like any sport, there is a learning curve. Try not to get too frustrated in the time it takes to understand your discs. Also, take in your surroundings and enjoy the time you are going to spend with your kids. Like Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the hardest job you will ever love!”

Useful Links:

Are Hard Seltzers as Popular with Kids as Adults?

By Katie Mest

Hey, parents. Do you know the difference between La Croix and Truly? Between bubly and White Claw? Kirkland and BON V!V?

You’re going to want to learn which are alcoholic and which are not. We’ll give you that later.

Last year, hard seltzers brought in more than $500 million in sales and contributed to the decline of both beer and wine sales, according to Nielson.

Why are hard seltzers so popular right now?

Ok. So by now you know that the next big alcoholic drink with teenagers is the alcoholic seltzer. Why? First, they’re low in calories. White Claws and Trulys both have 100 calories per can. Beer ranges from about 50 calories to more than 300 with some heavier options like IPAs. Seltzers are all low calorie options and they are also low in sugar.

They’re also low in alcohol, typically between 4-6% alcohol by volume. And the alcohol in many of them is from fermented cane sugar, not liquor.

They’re the perfect alcoholic beverage for a hot summer day. I’d know. I’ve had them (I’m over 21), and they’re delicious.

Take it from a young person: hard seltzers are fun, and there are plenty of different flavors for everyone.

Some people like the idea that they can get drunk while also hydrating themselves. (Note: It doesn’t work like that. Alcohol dehydrates you – even with hard seltzers.) Others like that they can drink quite a few seltzers before getting full – which would happen much sooner if they were drinking beers. But does mean they can get drunker in a shorter amount of time, because they’ll just keep drinking.

Being packaged in cans is also a selling point. Seltzers, like beers, can be taken on the go. The wine industry saw this appeal and started canning some of its products for the convenience of the consumer.

Seltzers are also versatile drinks. People drink them on their own or use them as a mixer.

So there you have at least four different reasons why they’ve become so popular so quickly.

What are the popular hard seltzer brands?

  1. White Claw
  2. Truly
  3. Smirnoff Sparkling Seltzer
  4. Bon V!V (Bon & Viv)
  5. Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water

You should also know that beer brands like Natural Light and Bud Light have hopped on the seltzer train creating their own additions to the market. They will probably grab significant market share quickly, so this top five might change.

Familiarize yourself with these before your kids do.

If you have teenagers, you’re probably already thinking about the possibility of your underage kids drinking. Who would they drink with? What would they drink? Where would they get it?

The internet has tons of literature on that, so I’ll keep it short.

By age 15, about 29.8% of teens have had at least 1 drink, and by age 18, about 58% of teens have had at least 1 drink, according to the 2018 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Whether you think your kid will drink or not, those are the numbers. And regardless of your personal course of action in handling that, you should at the very least be aware of the products they can be consuming.

I’ve seen stories on social media about parents who have mistaken alcoholic seltzer for normal seltzer. I’m trying to keep you from becoming one of those parents, especially if your kid is sneaky and might try to pull one over on you.

In short, stay up to date on the latest fun drinks your kids are getting their hands on! Educate your kids about the dangers of drinking, and keep an eye on what kind of can they actually have in their hand.

Links:

https://www.datafiles.samhsa.gov/study-dataset/national-survey-drug-use-and-health-2018-nsduh-2018-ds0001-nid18758

https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2019/how-ready-to-drink-beverages-and-packages-are-shaking-up-the-adult-beverage-market/

Great Ways to Learn During the Pandemic

Desmond Brown pic
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/

Teens, the Current Smokeless Tobacco Scene, and maybe an Alternative

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By Seth Woolcock

Although vaping has stolen all the headlines when it comes to teen tobacco use, it’s not alone as a significant threat to teenagers because of tobacco addiction.

That’s right, smokeless tobacco, also known as snuff, dip, cha, whatever you want to call it, is still very present in teen’s lives, despite new vaping technology.

Recent Smokeless Tobacco Trends with Teens

According to a 2017 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.5 percent of high school teens admit to using smokeless tobacco.

While the number of chewing tobacco users definitely favors males, 7.7 percent vs. 3.0 percent for females, keep in mind that these figures could be lower than the actual numbers, as these are only the teens who self-reported using in the last 30 days. 

I know when I was given these self-reporting tests back in high school, many students didn’t take it seriously and answered untruthfully. 

According to the chart below, smokeless tobacco use by males has had a gradual increase since 2005. 

Via CDC.Gov

In my opinion, as one of America’s youth not that long ago, I think the trend will only continue. I think some teens might reason there are clear advantages to being hooked on smokeless tobacco versus smoking cigarettes. The first is price.

Today, the average can of smokeless tobacco costs about $3, compared to the average price of $6.85 for a pack of cigarettes. According to JUUL’s website, pods normally cost between $4-$5  a pod, before tax. If the number one factor for a teen’s tobacco habit is the price, chewing tobacco could be where they land.

Another reason is that it is pretty discrete. While vapes are pretty good at this also, like cigarettes they can also leave some odor both in the air and on the user’s breath. Nowadays that smell might be some sort of minty or fruity smell.

Chewing tobacco, on the other hand, can be hard to trace back to a kid if it’s disposed of correctly.

The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco for Teens

The bottom-line regarding smokeless tobacco is that there is still nicotine in it, an addictive and toxic carcinogen. Because teens’ brains are still developing and they have greater neuroplasticity, it is easier for them to fall victim to an addiction. 

An addiction to smokeless tobacco can cause lip and gum issues, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, oral cancer.

In the most severe cases, smokeless tobacco has been known to cause permanent disfigurement with loss of teeth and/or even bones in the face, according to TeensHealth.

A New, Innovative Way to Wean Off of Smokeless Tobacco

Grinds Coffee pouches

Even though smokeless tobacco use and addiction are continuing to rise in the U.S., so are alternative forms of the product, designed to help users quit.

Parents, I present you, Grinds Coffee Pouches, a tobacco and nicotine-free coffee pouch used by many to actually quit chewing smokeless tobacco.

The startup, originally created by two college baseball players, eventually made its way into Major League Baseball and onto Shark Tank, the entrepreneur reality show on ABC. 

The product comes in six different flavors (Wintergreen, Vanilla, Cherry, Cinnamon Roll, Mocha and Caramel). It gives users an energy boost while helping them wean off of smokeless tobacco. 

Possibly the best part about the product is that the caffeine in Grinds is actually not all that bad for you either, as one pouch only contains about ¼ cup of coffee.

I have a few friends and former-collogues who have used Grinds to quit chewing. If your teen is chewing smokeless tobacco, I highly recommend getting them some Grinds as a healthy alternative. 

Useful Links:

Parents: CDC Advice For Dealing with COVID-19

By Katie Mest

I don’t even have to ask at this point about your mental states, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses, workplaces, and schools. Families who would normally see each other only a few hours in the mornings and evenings during a workday are now seeing each other 24/7.

Parents, we know you already have enough on your plate as it is. Maybe you’re working from home while also trying to occupy and teach your children. You have to worry about keeping yourself and your families safe, and you’re confronted with the thought of potentially getting sick every time you leave the house to go food shopping. It’s overwhelming and fear-inducing for everyone. Including your children.

Check for changes in your kid during this time, especially since their schedules have been wildly disrupted. They have no school, no daycare, no sports, no friend interaction outside of the internet. They just have you. And while they might be getting on your nerves now more than ever, there may be some underlying issues stemming from this whole experience.

The CDC suggests that some of what your child may be feeling could come from how you are reacting to the situation. Being “calm and confident” is the key here. (We know that’s far easier said than done.) Before checking in on your kids, ask yourself honestly how you’re doing.

Here are some signs the CDC says to look out for in children and teens:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

You might even be experiencing some of these yourself. I know I am.

Returning to my classes in an all-online format has not been easy. There are days each week when I struggle to find the motivation to accomplish even simple tasks. My brain is more scattered than ever. I rarely know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. And wine is a tempting treat to counteract the negativity and bad news around me. I get it.

We’re all in this together. Use this time of isolation to support and take care of those you’re now “stuck” with.

What can you do?

  1. Keep routines. The Child Mind Institute says this is the key. The biggest parts of your kids’ schedules have vanished completely. You can help your child through this transition by keeping certain routines in place. Create for them (or if they’re older, help them create) a schedule to follow each day that tells them when they can play, do schoolwork, exercise, etc. Make sure they’re realistic for what your kids can actually accomplish in a day, and factor in breaks from doing work.
  2. Make time for nonelectronic activities (like exercise). Let’s be real, we’re all spending our free time on our devices. Make sure your kids spend some time away from the screen every once in a while and engage in another activity. Try planning a family activity time where you can go for a walk, work on a puzzle, or do a craft together. That way you can get quality family time while also breaking up your days.
  3. Practice good media literacy with them. Especially now, make sure you’re consuming truthful, meaningful media. Certainly, stay up to date with the COVID-19 situation, but don’t let the news add to the anxiety you’re feeling. Similarly, reinforce that your kid (particularly older ones) can tell the difference between fake news and real news. And make sure they don’t spend their days worrying themselves by reading article after article about the coronavirus.
  4. Check-in with your kid. They may come out and tell you the different ways they feel negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Child Mind Institute says that kids throwing tantrums or being more defiant than usual may be experiencing anxiety, and they don’t know how to manage it. Talk through emotions, and you might be able to get to the root of the problem.  
  5. Keep them connected. They miss their friends as much as you miss yours. Allow them to message or video chat their friends because at this point in their lives (teens especially), their friends are one of the most important things in their lives. Remember that there are some issues in a kid’s life that require friends’ input, not necessarily parents’.

The most helpful thing you can do to help your child through this pandemic is to validate their feelings. I don’t know how to manage all the feelings I have about the coronavirus and its impact on the world, but it means a lot to have trusted adults in your life tell you that you’re not silly or childish for feeling this way.

We all feel a little helpless right now. Support your kids, and don’t forget to lean on others for support, too, if you need it.

Read More:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

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: