How the Pandemic has Affected Opioid Usage

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By: Megan Donny

While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is the top story on most news channels, we need to remember that our nation is facing another crisis: the opioid epidemic. 

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths.  

The AMA said that during this pandemic, more than 35 states have reported increased numbers in opioid-related deaths as well as continuing concerns about substance use disorder. 

Reversing the Trend

The Coronavirus has begun to reverse the strides made in recent years to reduce the effects of the opioid epidemic in the United States. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January showed there was a slight decline in overdose deaths. This was the first reported decline in 28 years. 

But the pandemic is reversing those trends. This is due to the isolation, quarantine and economic devastation many have experienced during this pandemic. 

“When the pandemic hit, some authorities hoped it might lead to a decrease in overdoses by disrupting drug traffic as boarders and cities shut down,” said William Wan and Heather Long from The Washington Post.

But the pandemic brought anxiety and depression, both of which can drive someone to drug use. Because of the pandemic and quarantine, people have been seeking out new dealers, many of whom are desperate for money due to lack of work because of the pandemic. 

Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, many recovery programs and treatment centers had to close to enforce the quarantine and social distancing. Locally, some 12-step programs had to temporarily close because the non-profit facilities they were using were closed to all group meetings. 

Drug Use and Your Child

If you’re worried that your child may be affected by the pandemic and may turn toward drug use, there are signs to look for. These signs include lack of motivation, lack of communication, hostile or angry behavior, secretive behavior, lack of focus, sudden loss of inhibitions, and periods of sleeplessness or high extended periods of energy, followed by a crash and then more sleep. 

Checking their social media is another way to know if they partake in drug use. Their social media posts or their closer friends may point to drug use. 

We’re deeply concerned about both the pandemic and the opioid crisis. Please take the necessary steps to keep your kids, and yourself, safe.

Links

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/01/coronavirus-drug-overdose/

https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2020-07/issue-brief-increases-in-opioid-related-overdose.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/09/coronavirus-pandemic-us-opioids-crisis

About spotting drug use: https://drugfree.org/article/spotting-drug-use/

Can NASCAR Be Your Teen’s New Favorite Sport?

By Seth Woolcock

Growing up, sports were an escape for me. I both played and watched many of them.

However, as I’ve aged, I’ve begun to realize how many issues there can be in the sports world. Players who I once considered role-models sometimes get arrested. Owners, who I’ve spent countless hours and money supporting, get in trouble for all kinds of reasons.

Many of these leagues have lost fans and revenue due to different issues. And many are just barely starting back again, due to COVID-19.

However, one sport is seeing a comeback in a major way – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).

NASCAR and the Drivers

NASCAR, founded in 1948, was getting increasingly popular in the 2000s when I was growing up. But the sport lost some of its popularity, I believe, when some of its most-popular drivers retired, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and my favorite driver, Jeff Gordon. 

Recently, there have been some new faces, like Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Bill Elliott, and Ryan Blaney, also the son of a Hall of Famer. I think these have attracted some new fans to the sport, but according to many sources, NASCAR ratings have still been in decline.

Ryan Blaney (left) and Chase Elliott (right) are two of NASCAR’s most popular young drivers.

But that was before COVID-19.

NASCAR surges ahead during COVID-19

Because NASCAR drivers race in separate cars, it was the first sport in the U.S. that was able to successfully resume competitions during the pandemic. And because it was trying to make up for lost time, many of the races were scheduled for Wednesday evening, in addition to the normal Sunday afternoon race.

It probably helped NASCAR that many other live sports have been shut down over the last few months, but I don’t think that is the whole story. For example, in May, Darrell (Bubba) Wallace, the sport’s only back driver, worked together with NASCAR to ban confederate flags from NASCAR races. People had been attempting to do this for years. Since then, Bubba has become a sports icon and has opened up  NASCAR to a whole new generation of fans.

Why Do I recommend Your Teen Watch NASCAR?

Education

I think one of the biggest benefits of watching NASCAR is the education. While these race cars are not exactly the same as the street-legal car you have in your garage, many of the concepts used in the sport are also true on the street.

I think kids could learn a lot about tire wear, fuel mileage and even some physics, just from spending a Sunday watching a race. It can possibly make them a more aware and responsible driver by the time they turn 16.

And while it’s unlikely your teen is going to be the next great NASCAR driver, there are many other career paths through the sport, such as engineering, mechanics and broadcasting that could pique your teen’s interest and lead them down a great career path.

Sportsmanship

Like any professional sport, sometimes tempers flare in the heat of completion. However, in NASCAR, there is never a lack of respect among not just the drivers for one another, but to the crew chief all the way down to the pit crew. While only one driver wins each race, most when interviewed always talk about what they learned from that race. And they always show their respect for the winner.

Regrettably, there was an incident recently that challenged the entire culture of NASCAR. A noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage before the June 22 race at Talladega. What happened after that, however, was the best of NASCAR. The next day all of the drivers came together and pushed his car to the front of the pack during the pre-race. They showed their support for who is he and made it clear he was absolutely, 100% welcome in their sport. It  created a sign of togetherness and acceptance, and was well covered by the national media.

Darrell (Bubba) Wallace takes a selfie with his fellow NASCAR drivers and pit crew members after they pushed his car to the front as a sign of togetherness after a noose was discovered in his garage stall at Talladega.

Fun and bonding with a parent

As I mentioned before, sports were an escape for me as a kid. NASCAR was no exception. I still remember watching amazing races with my stepfather growing up. It helped us bond and created many lasting memories

NASCAR continues its fun outside of Sundays (and Wednesdays). There are, of course, video games, but also die-cast and matchbox cars that let kids feel like they’re apart of the sport.

Overall, I believe that NASCAR is a fun sport that allows your kid to learn new skills and gain new experiences all from the safety of their living room. Give NASCAR a try. I’m very glad I did.

Useful Links:

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

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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:

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

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By Desmond Brown

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

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

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

Udemy

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Courses:

  • Coding Classes

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

Masterclass

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

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

Recommended Courses:

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

SkillShare

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

Recommended Courses:

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

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

Stay Safe.

Links:

SkillShare:

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

Udemy:

https://www.udemy.com/

Masterclass:

https://www.masterclass.com/

Great things for your kids to watch during quarantine

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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:

5 Great Apps for Kids at Home

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. As if you’re job of monitoring and limiting screen time wasn’t hard enough, it just got a whole lot tougher with 42 states closing K-12 schools in response to COVID-19.

We here at 2020 Parenting will leave it up to you how much screen time is right for your kid in these unprecedented times. But maybe we can help you make that screen time more beneficial to them.

Today we’re going to look at five applications that can help your kid make the most of their screen time.

Marco Polo (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One of the most difficult things about social distancing is not getting to see family and friends. “Marco Polo” is an app that helps keep family and friend groups close, no matter how different their lives and schedules may be.

The app combines elements of texting, social media & video chat. Groups communicate by sending videos & photos to the group.  The beauty of Marco Polo is that, though the videos and images stay in the group, they can be watched and responded to whenever it’s convenient.

Overall, “Marco Polo” is user friendly and can help your kid, you and your entire family stay in touch and keep morale high during these uncertain times.

Here’s what one mom had to say about it:

“Scrabble Go” or “Words with Friends 2” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

Since we really don’t know when schools will open again, this could be a perfect time to have them brush up on their vocabulary.

“Scrabble Go” is the mobile version of the classic board game. It has the same feel as the game you knew from childhood. You can play online with friends or against the computer. There are also some new game modes like “Word Drop,” “Tumbler” and “Rush” that offer a refreshing twist to classic Scrabble.

For more competitive players, there are even leagues and tournaments to take someone’s game to the next level.

“Words with Friends 2” is a newer and trendier take on “Scrabble.” It focuses almost as much on socializing as on word crafting. The game is not overly time-consuming, but I think it is thought-provoking.

Either one allows you to download the game yourself and show them who’s boss.

“Duolingo” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

What could be better than a kid using their screen time to expand their knowledge of the English language? How about learning another language.

I present “DuoLingo” – an iTunes’ Editor’s Choice that specializes in teaching anyone a new language in only 10 minutes per day.

“Duolingo” allows users to study any of 30 different languages. Users can select how intense they want the learning – or how relaxed.  It also offers a placement test for those who have some experience in a language.

It has daily notifications to remind users to do their “Duolingo” for the day. The free version is excellent, but for about $64.00 a year, you can upgrade to the “Pro” version and get rid of the ads and get access to advanced features. By the way, did I mention it is probably the largest, most-downloaded language learning app in the world? It’s a no brainer.

“Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One day, when your kid turns 16 and the DMV returns to business, they’ll want to get behind the wheel. Well, why not begin their driver education from the comfort of your own living room with “Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator?”

It seems like a pretty sharp looking app to me. It puts teens behind a virtual wheel to help them master parking and driving skills. But don’t worry – this isn’t another “Grand Theft Auto” game.  The simulator challenges drivers to follow real road signs and the rules of the road.

The game has 250 levels, more than 135 different cars to choose from, and even a night driving mode.

“Garage Band” (Available on iTunes)

The classic Mac app, “Garage Band,” is now a popular app on most iPhones. Most likely it’s already installed on your IOS device. I think Garage Band has the potential to unlock a whole new side of your kid.

Although the app does have a slight learning curve, once your kid understands how to make different tracks and loops they can really start making music. It even allows them to use several different instruments, including a guitar, bass, piano and more.

If they don’t know how to play any of these instruments, “Garage Band” has a smart version of each instrument, making it easy to create great music.

Garage Band also has a Sound Library which allows them to pull in third-party loops and soundtracks. And of course, they can record their voice or other audio. When they eventually have some tracks and loops created, they can throw them in the app’s editing bay and create their own amazing content.

Whether it’s just making some sample music or an entire podcast, these are real skills that could be used down the road, especially in the media industry.

Again, as parents, you’re going to have some really tough decisions to make when it comes to your kid’s screen time over the next few months. My thought is if they’re going to have it, they might as well use some it to their advantage.

Good luck out there and stay healthy.

Useful Links:

TikTok’s Relaxed Terms Could Be Unsafe for Kids

By Megan Donny

TikTok, one of the most popular content-creating apps children and teens use today, is full of security concerns that parents may not be aware of. 

According to Australian ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean, the app has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts, even after complaints and warnings have been filed against them. 

These accounts could be run by possible stalkers and child predators. And the minimum age to create an account is 13 years old. This is a low age compared to other popular content-sharing apps. 

TikTok’s whole premise is video creating and sharing. Unlike Snapchat, these videos do not disappear after 24 hours. And TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users. 

The app relies on content from children and teens, who make up a majority of the users and content creators. 

While adults understand that we need to look out for our online safety, children as young as 13 might not comprehend the idea that there could be people on TikTok watching their singing and dancing videos inappropriately. 

For example, an investigation by BBC News in the UK found that children were receiving inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and that the platform was full of bullying. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK is now investigating the video sharing app, according to The Guardian. 

“Like any social media platform that has a direct message or commenting feature, there’s always the possibility that your child could be chatting with anyone, including strangers,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.

According to BBC News, even though most of the sexually explicit comments disappear within 24 hours after being reported, most of the users who posted the comments are not removed from the app. 

“Even if you set your own account to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed,” Jordan said. “Ranging from overtly sexual TikToks to physically dangerous stunts that kids may want to recreate, to overtly racist and discriminatory commentary, there is a wide range of concerning content on the platform.”

The app recently launched a new set of parental controls settings in the UK, following the investigations into their app. The new setting, called “Family Safety Mode,” allows parents to be able to manage their child’s screen time, limit viewable content and limit or even shut off the messaging feature on the app. 

If you can’t access the new “Family Safety Mode”, I at a minimum advise that you make your child’s TikTok account private. Common Sense Media advises parents to make sure to turn on all privacy settings for accounts kids are using, so only people you know can interact with their videos or messages on the app. Parents should also teach their children about the possible effects that posting their personal information can have in the long run. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47813350

https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/tiktok-is-a-pedophile-magnet-and-unsafe-for-kids-warns-cyber-security/?utm_source=JERF&fbclid=IwAR23txVdFF13qaNqVEEmjWf5WnDs2VEaPoYk-HGE0kuIUAK4zTHxxX2E7lc

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

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/05/why-tiktok-is-facing-greater-scrutiny-video-sharing-app-child-safety

https://www.parents.com/kids/safety/internet/is-tiktok-safe-for-kids/