Do You Need a Family Game Night?

by Morgan Rihn

Family life is chaotic.

School events. Sports. Concerts. Church. Socializing.

Lots to do. It can seem pretty stressful sometimes. You’re running them around. Maybe you’re feeling you don’t have any real quality time with them.

So, have you considered a family game night?

My Family Game Nights

I grew up in a very rural area.  Hardly any neighbors. This meant no other kids close by I could play with. So my family and I ended up pretty close.

When we weren’t running around for school functions and sports, we would sometimes have family game night. Turns out, these were my favorite nights. Dad might teach us how to play poker or other card games. Maybe we’d break out an old board game like “The Game of Life”. Sometimes we’d play Wii sports games or Xbox Kinect games. If you don’t know, these are games where you actually get up off the couch and pretend to play ping pong or throw a bowling ball. We were very competitive, but playing these games was always fun. And it created a bond between us that I think will last forever.

Benefits of Family Game Night

Others have talked about the benefits of a family game night. This article at Www.cbc.ca talks about family game night can teach good sportsmanship.  No one really stays mad at a family for every long, and Mom and Dad are always there to role model how to be a good loser. You also learn how to take turns and follow rules. Sometimes you get to practice an actual skill. 

The article also says you can work on your communication skills, and perhaps even negotiation skills. You should see the wheeling and dealing we do playing Monopoly. And of, some games require cooperation and teamwork.

I think all of these are important to learn at a young age. You’ll use them over and over and family game night was one of the most enjoyable time I had while building stronger relationships with my family.

Family Game Night Ideas

If you’re stuck on what kind of games to play, here’s a brief list from Www.today.com. It includes classic boards games al the way to video games. Some of them are actually quite recent. Some of their picks include:

  • Trouble
  • Clue
  • Candyland
  • Operation
  • The Game of Life
  • Telestrations
  • What Do You Meme?

I also recommend the “get off the couch” video games that come with PlayStation, Xbox, or Wii. Coommonsensemedia.org has a list of family video games and includes things like “Family Game Night: The Game Show”, “Hidden Folks”, “Trivial Pursuit”, “Wii Sports”, “Disneyland Adventures”, “Just Dance”, “Guitar Hero”, and many more.

Lastly, if you’re looking for more active games, and ones that you may be able to conjure up from items laying around the house, consider “Minute To Win It Games”. This was a popular TV show, but now refers to a while category of games that are fun and can be completed in a minute or less. A quick Google search can provide you with a list of “Minute To Win It Games” with instructions and videos. Of course, don’t forget the old classics “Twister”, “Nerf Gun Battles” and “Legos”.

I think you’ll enjoy family game night. Give a few tries, however. If you haven’t done it before, it will take some experimentation to figure out your own “house rules”. You’ll see what I mean.  Enjoy!

Some useful links:

https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/family_game_night_is_more_than_just_fun

https://www.today.com/home/game-ideas-kids-adults-teens-family-game-night-t118566

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/family-video-games

Best Game Ideas from Chaos and Clutter

Quizlet: A new study tool? Or the easiest way for your kid to cheat?

By Seth Woolcock

In a world where technology is supposedly making learning “better and better”, is it “better” if every quiz and test is suddenly “easier”?

Welcome to the new world of online test help – the free app Quizlet.

It’s an app initially created to allow students to study items with online flash cards. It now also has a variety of learning tools and games.

But Quizlet is today so much more than a study aid. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to cheat on a quiz ever invented.

But is it popular? Does my kid even know about it?  Yes. If not now, then soon. Quizlet itself says more than two-thirds of high school students and one half of undergraduate students use Quizlet. 

I first heard about Quizlet my senior year in high school.  My accounting teacher told me a fellow classmate of mine had put all of the vocabulary cards on Quizlet. She said I could use it to study if I wanted to. I didn’t. I preferred old fashioned paper back then.

But once I got to college my use of Quizlet changed dramatically. Suddenly it seemed whenever I couldn’t find the answer to just about any general question, from any class, I could find it on Quizlet. From “Intro to Theater” to “Chemistry For Everyone”, Quizlet always had my back.

What is Quizlet?

So, a guy named Andrew Sutherfurland made Quizlet back in 2005. I’m sure he never imagined it would become as big as it is. Quizlet was originally just a site for virtual flashcards. Like the classic paper flashcards, these cards have two sides; one side with a term or a question and the other side with the answer.

After creating the cards, you could just test yourself or play a game like Match and Gravity.

Quizlet recently expanded by introducing Quizlet Diagrams and Quizlet Learn. Quizlet Diagrams is exactly as it sounds; diagrams that help you study. Quizlet Learn is powered by Quizlet’s new learning assistant platform that helps create an individualized study plan for each student. For more information about Quizlet try this Wikipedia link, or the Quizlet website.

How does Quizlet help enable cheating?

 After you make a set of cards you make them public.  Most students seem to do this. However, most students simply re-type the questions they see in the book or get handed back to them on quizzes or tests.

Because the Quizlet items are public, when a different student types that exact question into a Google search bar, the Quizlet card, or an entire deck of cards, comes up. Click on the link and suddenly you’re on Quizlet with lots of potential cards that match your search phrase. If the page is long, then most student’s know they can simply hit Control+F (on PC) and Command+F (On Mac).  It searches for the first word of the question on the page and takes you right to the answer you want, bypassing all the other cards with ease.

Is this a real problem? Institutions of higher education think so. Read this link article about how rampant Quizlet cheating is. Warning: 12 students got suspended from college in this article.

 What can you do?

 As a parent obviously you want your kid to learn, not cheat. I would suggest monitoring their homework activities. Are they doing their homework with their phone or a computer out? If so, how are they using it?

Also, maybe have a conversation about the value of a true education. Explain that it will eventually catch up to them if they are the kid that didn’t learn the content and other kids did.

And, finally, talk about ethics. There is such a thing as a “slippery slope.” If you become comfortable cheating in this way, won’t it be easier for you to let yourself cheat in a different way, maybe on something more serious?

I wish you good luck parenting. Your kid’s world is not the same world you grew up in.

Some Useful Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quizlet

https://quizlet.com/help/2444083/what-is-quizlet-and-how-can-i-use-it

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/05/14/professors-warned-about-popular-learning-tool-used-students-cheat

Also try some of our other social media blogs:



Do you know the ESRB? And how it relates to your tween’s video games?

By Desmond Brown

Have you seen these images on your kid’s video game box? It is the symbol for the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating system. Like movies and television, video games have a rating system. It signals to everyone which games are “age-appropriate” for various ages.  

In the United State, games are given ESRB ratings before they are sold. The ratings are based on the content. Below I explain the various rating categories.

But before I do, allow to me explain that this system is pretty much voluntary. With one exception, the rating “AO” that means essentially “pornography”, stores don’t have to check the ID of a teenager or restrict sales of games because of the ESRB rating.  The courts in the United States have ruled restricting video game sales is the equivalent of restricting free speech. So, in theory, your tween can “buy” a violent, mature-only video game. Fortunately, all national retailers voluntarily restrict sales to minors for “M” games. This is probably because they would suffer a severe public backlash if they didn’t. However, any tween that really wants a game, and can play it without their parent’s knowledge, can just “aquire” it from someone older.

So, here’s the rating system:

E – For Everyone

These games are for everyone and are typically family or party-type games. Think Wii Bowling or Super Mario Cart. Common descriptions include Comic Mischief, Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Cartoon Violence. “Cartoon Violence”, by the way, means the artwork looks very flat and cartoony. “Fantasy” means the artwork is more realistic.

E 10+ – For Everyone Ten and Up

This means the game is more suited for children aged 10 or up. These games typically have: Crude Humor, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes, and Mild Language.

T- For Teen

“Teen” means “13 or higher.” These games feature Crude Humor, Mild to Moderate Violence, Mild to Moderate use of Language, Suggestive Themes, Sexual Themes, and Mild Realistic or Animated Blood.  Please note, these games are allowed to feature the use of tobacco or alcohol. As I said above, tweens are still able to purchase these games without the presence of an adult.  Most stores won’t check for an ID if the customer looks like they are in their teens.

M – For Mature

“Mature” games are typically the most controversial games because of their violent and suggestive content. Games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty are associated with the “M” rating. They feature Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Sexual Themes, and Partial or Full-Frontal Nudity. Parents or someone above 17 are typically required to be present when a “M” rated game is purchased. However, websites usually require just a button is pressed that “certifies” the purchaser is over 17.

A – For Adult (or AO – Adult Only)

“Adult” rated games are the most severely rated games by the ESRB. These games are only available for people 18 or older and often have pornographic content. Very few games today are given an “A” rating and very few stores like GameStop or WalMart even sell these games.

While the ESRB rating system is important for parents to know (the ESRB provides its own “parent discussion guide” here), parents should also consider going online to look at how other parents view a particular game. Try “Google-ing” the game name and “parents” or “parent reviews”.

You should also know that another important element of games that many manufacturers will display is the Interactive Elements of the game. These can include In-Game Purchases, Users Interact, Shares Location or Unrestricted Internet. Unfortunately, these labels might not be detailed enough. Does “In-Game Purchases” mean buying skins for a character, buying loot, adding powers, or turning off annoying features?  Does “Users Interact” mean only text chatting, or is voice added? Or video? Parents will have to do additional research whenever they see these markings.

You will also want to know if a game is an online multiplayer game. In many cases, game manufacturers do not filter the online connections by age group, so your tween could be playing a game with a complete (adult) stranger, if you are not careful. Dr. Lauber told us a story of walking by his tween playing an online game and hearing, through the kid’s headset, several adults swearing. He immediately changed the “game playing while online” rules at his house.

I don’t want to imply that all game playing is harmful. I don’t think it is. I’m an avid video game player myself.  But, I’m not a tween, and many of today’s most popular games were not around when I was young.  Parents, you must be careful. Not “every game” is for “everyone”.

Links:

For more information on ESRB’s policies and how they rate games, you can visit their website at http://www.esrb.org/

To see what the ESRB has to say directly to parents, try

https://www.esrb.org/about/familyguide.aspx

To see the Federal Trade Commission’s discussion on what parents can do to limit the access of children to video games, try

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0270-kids-parents-and-video-games

The Family Online Safety Institute also offers this advice: https://www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting/tips-help-manage-your-kids-games-and-apps/

Is your tween making a bet on March Madness?

By Seth Woolcock

March may be in the rear view mirror, but we’re still in March Madness. Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Virginia are this season’s Final Four.

Only 8,000 brackets (less than 0.05 percent) of the 17.2 million brackets created on ESPN’s website this year predicted these four teams. That’s sheer madness!

But last year the United States legalized sports gambling – nationwide. According to the website WalletHub (link) one-in-five adults in the United States will bet on the tournament. That’s about 60 million Americans. For some perspective, only 126 million Americans voted in the last presidential election!

However, only 3 percent of the $10 billion that will bet on the tournament will be legal, sanctioned bets. Most bets will be done in large, illegal betting pools, or small, informal office/fun pools. Still, it is estimated Las Vegas will make $100 million on just the March Madness tournament from betting. That’s because twice as much money is bet legally in Las Vegas on March Madness than on the Super Bowl.

How much money are the college’s making? Well, the cost of the television rights has increased 4,535 percent since 1986 and right now, Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, makes about $8.9 million a year. The combined salary of Duke University’s president AND the governor of North Carolina is only $1.4 million. The University of Kentucky’s basketball program is valued at over $246 million.

And $0 is what the NCAA pays the players for participating in the tournament (though the NCAA President Mark Emmert makes $2.1 million a year.)

So, does your kid bet on the tournament? I did. I do. I started in the 6th grade. And because I’ve won my small pool a couple of times over the years, I bet more this year than ever before. Not enough to break my bank, thank God, because I did miserably this year. My bracket’s been busted for a while. But many, many kids get their first exposure to betting by filling out a bracket for March Madness.

Sure, the basketball tournament can have a positive impact on your child. It exposes them to college athletics and may inspire them to work hard at their own sport. It can also create a bonding opportunity for family and friends. Arguably it might also teach how to lose graciously. Typically, only one person can win a bracket each year, so there are lots of losers.

But, are you also teaching your kid about the dangers of betting? If not, check out our recent blog on sports gambling (link).

If you want some advice on how to talk about your kid about gambling, I recommend this link to the National Center for Responsible Gambling. (link)

And if for any reason you don’t think your child’s in any danger from gambling, read these sobering statistics (link).   Gambling by tweens/teens is only getting bigger. This is not the world you grew up in.

Here’s a listing of our links:

http://www.ncrg.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/ncrgtalktochildren2015hi.pdf

http://knowtheodds.org/blog/talking-child-problem-gambling/

https://wallethub.com/blog/march-madness-statistics/11016/

The Top 3 Viral Challenges from the Past Year

By Katie Mest

Everyone likes a good challenge, your kids included. When a dare is involved, kids have no choice but to step up to whatever challenge they’ve just been confronted with – innocent, funny or extremely dangerous.

2018 brought more dangerous ones than anything else. Here are the top 3 and the lessons they’ve taught parents and caretakers.

The Drake “In My Feelings” Challenge

The “In My Feelings” Challenge had kids walking along the passenger side of a car dancing the choreographed steps to the Drake song. Most times, the car was rolling along with no help from acceleration, so the speed was close to nothing. While it could have been mostly harmless if kids chose to do the challenge in an empty cul-de-sac or a quiet street, many accepted the challenge at stop lights and on regular-traffic, two-lane roads. (link1 and link2)

The Danger:
  • Putting themselves in the way of passing cars
  • Not slowing the car enough and injuring themselves getting out
The Lesson:
  • Any challenge involving a car is mostly dangerous, especially when the passengers/drivers are barely legal or not legal to drive the vehicle.

Tide Pod Challenge

This challenge needs little explanation at this point. Earlier in 2017-18, kids decided to start eating Tide Pods. Toxic laundry detergent. It’s not necessarily new that kids ingest things they shouldn’t. But the U.S. poison control centers had 10,000 calls because of the pods in 2017 alone. (link)

I confess, when I was in middle school/high school, many kids were eating mouthfuls of cinnamon and choking when their mouths got too dry.  They also tried the “Chubby Bunny” challenge. They stuffed their mouths as full as they could with marshmallows. Many people ended up choking or throwing up.

The Danger:
  • Using a poisonous substance
  • Using items for something other than their intended purpose
The Lesson:
  • Even though your tweens are growing up and you don’t think you have to remind them not to eat unsafe items…
  • …remind them not to eat unsafe items.

Zoom Challenge

This is when the subject sits on the ground, motioning like they’re shifting gear in a car, and a second person pulls their legs, so they speed away out of the frame. (link1 and link2)

The Danger:
  • Pulling the subject so hard they smack their head off the ground
The Lesson:
  • It looked harmless on the surface, but having someone else in control of your body will likely result in injury at some point in time.

2019 is looking a little more promising when it comes to challenges.

So far, we’ve seen the “What the Fluff” Challenge, confusing dogs by “disappearing” behind a blanket; the “Snoot” challenge, making a hole with your fingers and having dogs stick their noses in it; and the “Trash Tag” challenge, encouraging people to take before and after pictures of an area of nature filled with trash and cleaning it up.

The moral of the story is not all challenges are bad, but analyze the challenges you see popping up on your social media and ask yourself (a) would my kid try this, and (b) do I want them trying this.

But remember, many times your kid will see a new viral challenge before you do. Encourage them to practice commons sense and think about the consequences of their actions.

For a little bit more from us on pop culture and social media, try…

Be Careful With Those Buy/Sell/Trade Apps

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. This one’s about YOU and YOUR KIDS. 

It’s always important that you keep up with the latest “technology” trends. Particularly if they might pose a risk to you and your family. A Twitter thread that recently went viral was posted by SaraSuze (@tragedythyme). It was a reminder about using apps to meet up with strangers.

pic of tweet by SaraSuze

(Here’s a link to the tweet: https://twitter.com/tragedythyme

Luckily, the tweet did not tell of an attack, but it did go viral. Probably because many women want men to know it isn’t as easy for them to do something that most men don’t worry about – like meeting a stranger to buy, sell or trade something.

Sara was using the app LetGo. It’s a very popular app. Currently #26 on the Apple App Store.  Many similar apps are also popular, like Offer Up, Vinted, and DeClutter.

It’s true that these apps are slowly phasing out traditional trading sites like eBay or Craiglist. And no one really thinks the younger generation is going to be reading the classified ads (if newspapers still exist). So it’s likely your kid will eventually use one of these apps.

On the positive side, the apps are easy to navigate, and many have filters that make them a more convenient buying and selling experience.  But it is still the case you don’t necessarily know who you’re communicating with. Fortunately, I’ve had mostly good experiences. 

For example, I’ve also used LetGo. It is a basic buying and selling app. Users post items for sale, communicate with potential customers, and hopefully sell the item once you meet up in person. The biggest con many might experience with the app is that you can’t pay within the app, so sometimes closing the deal can be a drag.

I bought a Long Board once using the app, and it was as easy as showing up at a lady’s door, handing the woman $25, and taking the board home.

I’ve also used Facebook’s Marketplace. Ironically, this might be one of the safer methods because you can easily check out the person’s profile before you meet with them. Of course, just because the person’s profile looks legit doesn’t mean it always is. There are some fake bot profiles that post items and vehicles that are too good to be true, in an attempt to scam you. But, I actually did buy my car off of Facebook Marketplace and it went surprisingly well. I got a reliable car for a great deal from an honest guy who was moving South with his family. But I’ve also had friends whose experiences did not go as well.

It doesn’t take much work to find a news story about a bad buying experience on one of these apps. Pooja St. Amand, of Middletown, Connecticut, told ABC News in a 2017 interview that she was robbed after attempting to sell an iPad. Although she took proper precautions by meeting the stranger in a populated community center parking lot, she still felt she was put in serious danger.  (link)

I’ve also used OfferUP.  It’s pretty much identical to LetGo, though some say it has worse customer service. I used this app when I sold some old KC Lights that go on top of a car. I had a good experience and the buyer came the next day to pick them up for his Jeep Wrangler.

Some other apps I haven’t tried include Vinted, a sales app used for trading older clothing and other vintage items specifically, and, Declutter, an online yard sale. There’s also thredUp, a newer app for selling secondhand clothing.

Tips to stay safe when buying and selling online

Although all of my online buying and selling experiences were OK, they did get me thinking after I read @tragedythyme’s tweet. What if they hadn’t? And what if I was smaller, or a woman, or teen? I was a guy, over 18 years old, and I did take a few precautions.

So after a little bit of research I discovered these tips for using buy/sell/trade apps:

Call your local police department to find a safe meet-up spot.

People used to say to meet a stranger in a public space, such as the parking lot of a McDonalds. It used to be just make sure there is enough light so you are visible.

But because of recent stories of assaults and robberies during meet-ups even in public areas, some local police departments have set up designated safe meet-up spots. Most of them are located in the parking lot of the police station. I agree – that should work.

Bring a friend.

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, it’s always good to be on the safe side and make sure you or your kids are not meeting a stranger alone. The more the merrier, I think.

Use your phone.

That might feel obvious, but it bears repeating – always have your phone. And maybe make sure other people know you are making a transaction. Share your location with your friend, spouse or family member. And keep “location tracking” turned on.  To learn how to enable this on your iOS device or Android, click here.

Use cash and avoid giving out personal information.

I discovered you should only bring the agreed upon amount of cash. And while it’s always nice to meet a friendly face, don’t let your guard down. Also, avoid giving up crucial personal information, such as your address, bank information, occupation or social security number.

Trust your gut.

At the end of the day, you have to listen to that little voice inside your head. Be aware of your surroundings and leave if things somehow begin to go south. No amount of money is worth your safety and well-being.

Will this danger get worse in the future?

As time goes on, it seems likely the dangers of meeting strangers with buy/sell/trade apps will only grow. For example, very recently, three LetGo-related attacks occurred in a small Delaware community (link )

Most of these occurred while people were buying or selling a smartphone. The attackers took the victims’ cellphones and wallets. One victim was even injured.

 So, at the end of the day, YOU and YOUR KIDS need to be careful with these apps. You have to be sure to set a good example. And be aware of your kids online behavior. Are they going to start buying and selling things online? You’ll want to know.

For some of our other blogs on your kid’s technology, try:

Can the Internet be a Positive Thing for Your Tween?

pic of Morgan Rihn
by Morgan Rihn

The Good in The World is ALSO at their fingertips

In a world full of negativity, it can be hard sometimes to spot the positive. Media companies purposefully hype up the bad news because it gives them more customers (and therefore, more money through advertising). Why is that? Because, sadly, we want bad news.  Numerous studies have confirmed it (for example, click here and here) and when a news site goes totally positive, it loses readership big time (click here).

But positive things are happening every day. Sometimes they happen slowly, so they don’t make great news stories. For example, CNN recently thought of a few great things that happened in 2018:

  • North and South Korea ended the Korean War.
  • The United States’ unemployment rate was the lowest it has been since 1969.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia were finally allowed to drive.
  • Researchers developed a 10-minute cancer test.
  • 157 new species were discovered in Southeast Asia.
  • A record number of minority and gay athletes competed in the Olympics.
  • NASA’s Insight captured the first sounds of wind on Mars.

The Online World and your Tween

So, good things are happening. But what about the online world?  Any parent knows that today’s kids are more plugged in than ever before. In fact, one estimate is that, because of smartphones and computer screens, 1 in 3 Internet users are now adolescents or children.

And I must confess: we here at 2020 Parenting have even written several blogs warning about the dangers of Internet “stuff”: Too much time on YouTube?, Is FOMO worse because of the Internet?, Is Instagram hurting self-esteem?, and so on….

But maybe it’s not all bad (as a recent Huffington Post article declared). A really cool book that came out in Jan. 2019 (link at bottom) argues that several good things are happening because your kid can access the Internet:

Learning is possible anytime.  As our own example, consider DuoLingo, a free app that allows anyone to learn a language on their phone 24/7. Dr. Lauber is currently using it to learn Spanish and he says he loves it. Your kid will have more opportunities to learn than any generation before. And online communities are forming around these platforms. This will allow your children to find friends who share their hobbies and interests.

Social media can help tweens strengthen their current relationships. Did you know that more than 90% of teens say they use social media to connect daily with people they know in real life? And that’s even true for gaming. More than 75% say they play with real friends and they feel more connected because of it. Teens say they are staying in close touch with their family members through the Internet. Again, our example? Dr. Lauber says he is hasfar better communication with this three kids, who have left the house, than he ever had with his own parents because of the Internet.

The Internet allows your child to participate in cultural change and social movements. Did you know Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl that got shot on a bus by the Taliban but went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, started at age 12 by blogging about girl’s rights in 2009? All over the world young people’s voices are being heard because the Internet allows that to happen.

Social media can also contribute to volunteering, voting, and donating. Many young people are civically engaged in their own neighborhoods and communities because of the power of social media. In fact, one 16-year-old created an app called “Sit with Us” to help kids find a group of students to eat lunch with so they would never again have to eat lunch alone.

Finally, creativity is also prospering through the Internet.  Apps and software for writing, photography, videography, and more, are popular with tween and teens. They allow even the youngest to discover their expressive and creative side.

What can you do?

We think you can help your tween by focusing on the good happening in the world. And by remembering that technology is just a tool. It can be used for good or bad. Teach them appropriate use of each app or software they install. And role model good behavior. Maybe you can show them how to learn about volunteering opportunities in their own community. Or how to turn their passion for any social cause into progress and action by learning how to communicate and possibly mobilize their community.

In the end you have a far greater influence on your tween/teen than they are likely to admit.  Keep it positive. Balance out all of that “bad news” media. And teach that an act of kindness really does go a long way. Even farther, in many ways, than the Internet.

For more good stuff like this, check out Diana Graber’s great book “Raising Humans in a Digital World”.

Is Your Tween Spending Too Much Time On YouTube?

By Lily Whorl

So, you may know the expression “going down the rabbit hole”. It means going into the unknown and perhaps having unique or disorienting experiences. It comes from Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.

If your kid hasn’t already done this several times with YouTube, they soon will.

For example, imagine checking on your child. You’ve presumed their off playing with their toys or maybe their father. And instead you find them watching another kid on YouTube play with his toys – and perhaps his father.

Meet Ryan Toys Review. A 7-yr-old YouTube sensation with 18 million subscribers and an estimated net worth of $22 million.

Many of my younger cousins and nephews, and even the children I nanny for, are glued to their iPad or phone. Out of curiosity, I tend to peak at what they’re doing. I’d say about nine times out of ten they are viewing YouTube videos. Though I can’t lie and say I don’t enjoy watching YouTube videos also, I do find it mind blowing the amount of YouTube and screen time these kids will spend in a day.

And I know Ryan and his parent’s mean no harm by their successful YouTube Channel, it does get you thinking. Why would a child enjoy watching someone ELSE play with toys instead of just playing with toys THEMSELVES? I don’t have the perfect answer to that. Maybe it takes less energy. Maybe it’s about discovery and they already know about all of their own toys. I’m not sure.

But I did do a little research. Did you know kids between 0 and 5 only spend 50 minutes online but kids from 8 to 12 spend six hours a day? And it goes up to 9 hours a day for teenagers? (This comes from the website Common Sense Media .)  Sure, this can be the time you get your household chores done, but in the end, are you allowing a YouTube obsession to get started in your kid? 

And does it get better with age? Here’s a graph that shows over 25% of Americans visit YouTube several times a day. That’s a quarter of us!

Frequency of YouTube use in the United States

So, what do you want to do about it?

This is completely up to you. But I think the first step is NOT deleting the app or banning the computer.  I hope instead you consider simply limiting screen time. Plus there are parental controls in most of these apps, including YouTube. One thing you can do, for example, is turn off or pause the search history. This will stop new videos from magically appearing once the current video is done. That blocks the rabbit hole. Or makes it less inviting.

 I also think it’s important to sit down with your child and actually observe what they’re watching on YouTube. Many times it will be fine, though you may want to look out for videos that are essentially commercials. We all know that kids are a prime target audience for marketers and there are far less restrictions about what they can do on YouTube than they can put on TV, for example.

You may also want to subscribe for your child some educational channels. No harm in that, right?

And finally, why not sit and talk with your child about what they find so fascinating about their favorite YouTube videos? Maybe there’s a chance you could duplicate that intrigue in some real world activity? 

And wouldn’t that be cool. Instead of art imitating life, you could figure out to get life to imitate art. YouTube art that is.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to run now. Those kitten videos aren’t going to watch themselves!

Check out our blogs posts on Cyberbullying or how today’s social media contributes to FOMO.

Some Helpful Links:

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2018-04-30/managing-your-teens-screen-time

https://www.verywellfamily.com/strategies-limit-your-teens-screen-time-2608915

https://www.statista.com/statistics/256896/frequency-with-which-us-internet-users-visit-youtube/

I’m scared of my kids getting into marijuana. You should be too.

pic of Erick Lauber
By Erick Lauber

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of marijuana. If you are, then simply don’t read any further. You don’t need to get yourself upset. And I don’t need your angry posts and emails.

If you’re still here, there are a few points I want to make.

First, “yes” there is such a thing as marijuana addiction. If you’re above 30 yrs of age, perhaps you’ve known someone who’s become addicted to marijuana. They might have any of several symptoms. The two worst, I think, are occasional psychosis (losing touch with reality) and “amotivational” syndrome (not wanting to do anything). These effects have been documented extensively and are accepted by the medical community. A percentage of long-term marijuana (THC) users will get these, but not all users. At least not with the doses that have been researched. We simply don’t know yet what the more potent marijuana available today will do.  (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. CBD is another chemical in marijuana that supposedly doesn’t get you high.)

Regular users can also find it hard to sleep without taking a “hit”. Sometimes they can’t eat without marijuana (THC). In these cases, the body has simply adapted to the outside chemical and expects (requires) the drug in order to function normally.

If you don’t think there is anything such as “marijuana addiction”, I suggest you check out these sources (NIDA and The Atlantic), or just call any doctor. By the way, the chance for dependence or addiction is much, much higher if you start as a teenager.   

My second point is marijuana (THC) use is far more widespread than when I was a kid – and it was around a lot even back then. This is not the world you grew up in. Maybe you smoked marijuana back then. But things have changed drastically. Oh, and by “spread” I also mean “it is socially accepted”.  May kids today don’t think there’s anything wrong with marijuana. 

And what happens when teenagers do or do not think something is harmful?  Below are two charts from a real, national survey called Monitoring the Future conducted every year. The graph on the left shows that as “perception of harm” from smoking goes up, actual smoking goes down.

pic of 12th grade perception of harm and use patterns

The chart on the right shows that the same relationship exists for marijuana. When perception of harm goes up, smoking marijuana goes down. Except that, for some reason, around 1992, teens turned a corner and started perceiving marijuana as less harmful. Notice how marijuana use jumped up after that? (The two scales do not exactly match, by the way. Marijuana use is generally higher than cigarette smoking through all of these years!)

In my state (PA) we have a survey that students do every two years. Most schools participate. It’s called the Pennsylvania Youth Survey or PaYS.  When I looked at that data, here is what I found…

(You can see some of this data yourself at http://www.bach-harrison.com/payswebtool/Categories.aspx )

This graph shows the percentage of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders who self-reported using these substances sometime in their life. It shows, logically, that usage goes up from 6th to 12th grades. Marijuana use was relatively low, i.e. it was below cigarettes and about where smokeless tobacco was. However, I’m a little suspicious of this self-report data. Marijuana use might be under-reported because it is still illegal in PA, whereas the others are at least legal.

What surprised me about this graph was the height of the vaping bars. They are almost as tall as the alcohol lines. Recently I read that vaping has seen a 900% increase in teens in the last few years.

And then I recalled that my students have told me that you can vape THC. You can buy vape cartridges full of THC. They can be as much as 80%-90% THC. The marijuana you grew up, by the way, was between 1-10% THC.

They’ve also said you can put “dab” in a vaping device. Dab is a very pure form of marijuana (THC) that is in wax form. It will vaporize in the pen, I’m told. (Here is a bit more on dabbing.)

Now, I know the vape shops sell “flavored” juice in their vape cartridges. They also sell nicotine cartridges. (By the way, the amount of nicotine in vape cartridges can be scary high. But that’s for another day. I think we are making another generation addicted to nicotine.) My students tell me it is really easy to get cartridges with THC – even here in Pennsylvania where that is supposedly illegal.

And here’s another scary graph I found.  When do kids start trying illegal substances? 

graph of when kids try illicit drugs

This chart says by age 18 already 24% of students (nearly a quarter!) have already tried an illicit drug. Of course, that doesn’t jive with the PaYS data, where the numbers are even higher.

Ok. So, I don’t have a real answer for this. I think many kids are going to try this stuff and many are going to have a problem with it. My point is THC use is on the rise, and this may partly be because kids don’t see any harm in it.

Well, I can’t solve this, but at least I can sound the alarm. We’re not going to solve this overnight, parents. My message is simply “Stay vigilant! Do you want your teenager getting in to marijuana?”

(By the way, “marijuana” means “THC”. It’s the chemical that does the harm – even if your kid is no rolling a plant into a cigarette or smoking it in a bong.)

If you are a pro-marijuana or pro-vaping advocate, I know you’re all fired up to “set me straight”. But I’m simply trying to reach tween and teen parents. Maybe we need a more in-depth conversation about all this.

I don’t want my kids or ANY KIDS doing this stuff.

And that’s all I’m trying to say.

Other links:

Here’s a reaction to New York State’s push to legalize recreational marijuana  https://ncadd-ra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Marijuana-Separating-Fact-From-Fiction-in-NYS-SAM-NY.pdf

And for some quick fact sheets about marijuana try “Smart Approaches to Marijuana – preventing another big tobacco” at  https://learnaboutsam.org/toolkit/ 

NIDA

The Atlantic

Is a busy kid a happy kid? Studies say maybe not.

By Katie Mest

The world is moving faster and faster, and it has definitely changed since you were a kid.

As soon as children reach the teenage years, they go from all the leisure time in the world, with planned snack breaks and scheduled play dates, to no free time whatsoever. The moment they walk through the middle school doors, they are pushed to join clubs and activities that will help them on their journey to their dream college.

The only catch is that while they need to maintain their grades for their higher education ambitions, they also need: the right extracurriculars to complement their future majors (as if they would know what those might be as an incoming middle schooler); sports teams to stand out on college applications; teacher relationships for recommendations; and so on …

You get the point.

They need diversity in their interests, but consistency to show these interests are real and not just being used to build a resume. They have to do everything they can – but there is still only 24 hours in the day.

From Me to You

I‘m comparing myself to my peers constantly. I can’t help it.

Especially when I do particularly bad on an assignment. I can’t help but peak at my neighbor’s paper to see how they did. This isn’t exactly something I’ve just recently picked up.

I had a lot of overachievers in my high school. The kind that are now at Ivy League schools pursuing the many varieties of engineering degrees. It’s hard to be around that much success when you aren’t physically, mentally or intellectually capable of that same success.

So what am I supposed to do?

I overcompensate now by overworking myself. Can I join a new club? How about get another job? If I can’t get that summer internship I want, I can at least make some money.

But, I’m realizing, I need to be able to stand out with the talents I was given. But it never feels like enough. It always feels like I need to be doing more.

But there are still only 24 hours in a day.

I never consider it an option for me to drop one of my tasks, even in my most stressed out times.

And here’s my point. More likely than not, your kid is in the same boat.

The Facts

A UCLA survey of college freshmen found that incoming students at four-year colleges and universities spent half as much time socializing in their final year of high school as those who entered college in 1987 (that’s you, parents!) Kids today are spending more time keeping up with the busy day-to-day schedule they’ve created for themselves.

There are some negative effects to this, such as developing high amounts of stress. And maybe your kids are making decisions based on anxiety, rather than any real interest in the activity. Or, maybe you’re taking control of your kid’s after school activities. Are your decisions based on anxiety about their future? (For an article with a balanced view, try this: 2013 New York Times article.)

Importantly, I just had to do a little bit of research to turn up some surprising facts. Kids today are too busy to maintain even the basics of what you held down at 16, i.e. a job. About 60 percent of teens in 1979 were employed. About 34 percent of teens today have jobs, according to Business Insider. And that number is projected to go down even further.

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

Can’t teens even be motivated by money?

Well, maybe. But there is something more important. College.

Kids today are not only competing with the best and brightest in their school, many of whom are applying to the big Division I and Ivy League schools, but they’re also competing with just many, many more of their peers. More high school grads are going to college (and many, many fewer are taking STEM or trade jobs – which is a problem we’ll discuss another day.) Dr. Lauber has told us that when he went to college, only 50% of this high school peers in his small town went to college. Now, its more than 80%. Nationwide, college applications and college attendance has sky rocketed. In 1990 there were around 12 million undergrads. Today , there are 20.8 million (National education stats.)

Maybe this is all starting at too early of an age. I believe today kids want to know how they stack up in their classes. And with each new grade level, there is an even fiercer competition.

Quick question: have your “future plans” for your kid seeped into their “KID years?” Do they have to have perfect grades, two or more extracurriculars and a squeaky-clean record. If your kid thinks this, are they handling this pressure well?

How you can help

OK. I’m not a parent. So just ignore what I’m about to write if you want. But I want to be helpful if I can. So here is a quick summary (of what other people have written) about “what you can do about this.”

  1. Keep a family planner. Encourage your child to have their own planner to keep track of assignments and after-school activities. But also keep one at home in a place you and your child will see every day, such as a bulletin board in the kitchen.
  2. Talk through commitments with them before they decide to join. This saves a lot of stress in the long run. Are they joining because they want to? Or because they think they should? Is it worth taking that time away from homework and other obligations?
  3. Make goals for each new activity. For sports and clubs, the goal might be to “always enjoy the work they’re putting in.” If they stop enjoying the activity, it might be time to re-evaluate spending time on it.
  4. Prioritize with them. Add some perspective to which of their activities deserve the most attention when life gets busy. With school work, sports practice, a club meeting and an after-school job all in the same night, things can get hectic. which should they do first?
  5. Make sure they have time to themselves each week. Not time just with friends. Not just time with family. Time alone. Reflection periods are necessary to the recharging process for kids (and you too, parents!) Let them play music in their room, or veg out on the couch at least some time each week.
  6. And talk with them. How are they doing? A quick check on a car ride home, or maybe while gathering the laundry can make a real difference and alert you to things you want to respond to further.

To learn more about the inner struggles your child may be facing when it comes to Instagram, read our other blog post here.

Or check out this one on cyberbullying.

Some more links:

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

New York Times article on over-scheduled children