When I was growing up, there were not many online safety practices available to my parents to help protect me online.
Today, we have many more options to help protect children who use mobile devices and computers.
Bark is a proactive dashboard that monitors your children’s text messages as well as 24 different social media websites like Youtube.
Many parents don’t have the time or ability to search through their child’s texts, social media accounts and emails for alarming content.
Bark watches what your children are doing online and reports back to you if it happens to find alarming signs such as cyberbullying, depression, sexting, online predators, adult content and more.
Not knowing who your children are interacting with online and how they are interacting can be a scary thought. With Bark, your child’s activity is monitored without you having to go through their phones to find information.
The program even sends alerts to your phone about your child’s online activity along with suggestions on how to help from psychologists.
The dashboard has prevented 16 school shootings and has detected 20,000 severe self-harm situations since it was developed by a father of two in 2015.
Bark also extends its services to all K-12 public and private schools in the U.S. for no cost and has helped protect children in 1,700 school districts.
A lot of children, especially older ones, try to keep their parents out of their business as much as possible. I think that children would prefer this method of monitoring compared to their parents scrolling through all of their messages and content themselves. Bark will protect your children’s privacy by only alerting parents to information that may be concerning.
I would suggest that parents take advantage of this new technology. I think that it can help you keep up with your kids, without having to sneakily snoop through your child’s phone.
Your family members
and friends might have already substituted their cigarettes for the latest in
smoking technology. Instead of walking down the sidewalk and being hit in the
face with a cloud of tobacco smell, you’re now greeted with scents like cotton
candy or bubblegum.
Kids certainly seem to find vaping to be a preferred form of smoking. JUUL proved that. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of JUUL pods on the ground in lieu of cigarette butts.
And vaping is still
on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about vaping as we head into a new
Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke
Picture this: A kid is sitting in the park with his friends smoking
a cigarette. You and many others would pass by without giving it a second
thought. It’s not necessarily an unusual occurrence.
Now, consider this: A kid and his friends are sitting in the
park passing a joint between them. It’s far more obvious they’re smoking
marijuana because of their behavior and the distinct smell. They’re more likely
to get in trouble for this scenario either with their parents, the law, or
There’s a thin line between these two circumstances. Vapes can
completely erase that line.
Regardless of the substance in the vape, odds are you’re
going to smell something delightful, not tobacco or marijuana. Unless you get
up close and personal with the cartridge in the vape, you’re not going to be
able to tell what’s in it unless you’re super familiar with the substances and cartridge
Not shockingly, kids are taking advantage of this.
Kids Are Vaping Marijuana (THC)
A survey from the University of Michigan (posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association) found that 1 in 5 high school students have vaped marijuana in the past year.
While more kids are still vaping nicotine (1 in 4 said they had done it in the past year), the number of kids vaping marijuana has taken a huge leap from the previous year.
The survey showed that 1 in 7 kids are considered to be current users of marijuana vaping (meaning that they had vaped it sometime in the month before the survey), while the previous year showed only 1 in 13 were current users. Almost double the amount of kids are taking up marijuana (THC) vaping.
Vaping is making it easier than ever before to take up smoking
marijuana. It’s convenient. It takes away some of the paranoia that you’re
going to get caught since people near you can’t tell what substance is in the
But black market THC cartridges aren’t just causing your
kids to get high. They’re posing some serious health risks for users.
With Vaping-Related Hospitalizations Going Up, Officials Are Cracking Down
More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized for
vaping-related lung illnesses since the beginning of the summer, and vitamin E
acetate is to blame in most cases, according to the CDC.
Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vape cartridges. You can read more about it in this blog post.
The FDA and the DEA have since shut down 44 sites claiming to sell illegal cartridges. This Associated Press article names Stoners Marketplace and Anonymous Meds as two now-shutdown sites. Investigators were led to some of these sites through interviews with patients. Other websites were shut down because they were scam sites that took money without delivering products.
While studies show that high school kids are decreasing their average usage of alcohol and cigarettes, there has been a slight increase in daily marijuana usage overall and a concerningly large increase in marijuana vaping.
Public health officials are worried about this, and you should be, too.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently released a study on the nature of gaming in America. I’ll say upfront, the ESA is an association made up of the biggest gaming companies and therefore has an interest in portraying the gaming industry in a positive light. With that said, it is probably not surprising that they found that Americans of all ages and all races play video games.
What I found surprising in
their report was that most gamers are not just the stereotypical teenage or
college boy lying on a couch. It turns out many Gen X’ers (ages 35-45) and Baby
Boomers (ages 55-64) play. Many of these having been playing for years or even
What I also found interesting was the information about parents and their child gamers. ESA says that 87% of American parents are aware of the ESRB ratings. I recently wrote a blog post explaining the Entertainment Rating System Board. The Board’s rankings are supposed to help parents decide if a game is too mature for their kid. ESA says that most parents believe the ratings are accurate and that they regularly use these ratings.
The ESA also found that 50% of the surveyed parents limited the time their child could play video or computer games. This was a greater percentage of parents than those who limited their kid’s time browsing the Internet, streaming TV shows, using social media, or watching TV. I found this a bit surprising. However, I think the ESA might be trying to make parents feel safer about gaming. In another area of the report I did see that 9 of the top 20 best-selling games in 2018 were rated “mature.” Maybe the ESA knows parents are worried about the content of video games. And maybe parents do have a reason to be concerned. “Mature” rated games are very, very popular, even though they are only 9% of all of the games released or available in 2018.
An encouraging statistic I thought was that 57% of parents report playing games with their kids at least once a week. Also, 74% believe video games can be educational. These are healthy numbers in my opinion, and I agree that playing games with your kids is great. I wrote a blog on that a few weeks back. Games can be educational and it is awesome when parents play with their kids.
Another statistic that
stood out for me was that 75% of American households have at least one gamer in
them. That tells me that gaming is very widespread and we should be paying attention
to how parents are coping with child gamers. It doesn’t look like that stat is
going to go down anytime soon.
Gaming is now mainstream and the report confirms that gamers come from all age groups. The ESA found that while 21% of gamers are under the age of 18 and 40% of gamers are between the ages of 18-35. This second cohort is the largest group and also the audience that buys the most hardware and software. Gamers between the ages of 36-49 make up 18% and the 50+ age group makes up 21%. Note, the age brackets are not equal – the second group spans a 17-year age range while the third only an 11-yr age range. Not sure why the ESA broke the data down that way, but it does say that less than a quarter of all gamers are high schoolers or younger.
While the ESA did break
down the type of game each of the older three age brackets purchased or played,
for some reason they did not do it for the under 18 category. This seems like a
suspicious omission to me. In another part of the report they say that 26.9% of
all games sold are “action” games, and another 20.9% are “shooter”. It stands
to reason many of these players must be from the under 18 age bracket. And I’ve
already mentioned that 9 of the top 20 games are rated “mature” by the ESRB.
I’ll have to leave it to you parents about whether you are concerned by these
What I am glad about is that there is some data about the diversity of American gaming. It’s a huge phenomenon and one that I participate in heavily. I hope that we can all navigate the growing popularity of gaming, including parents and their children. Gaming is going to be around for a long time, and though the ESA is clearly an industry support group, it’s statistics have to be considered when deciding how to react to the new gaming culture.
Chances are you’ve already seen your local news outlets covering a large number of people ending up in the hospital because of vaping.
Vaping consists of the user inhaling and exhaling “vapor,” which is actually aerosol, as well as substances like nicotine, according to the Center on Addiction. Vaping is your kid’s generation’s version of experimenting with cigarettes. It seems to them like a lot of people are doing it, but like smoking cigarettes, it can be harmful to their well-being.
How would you know if your kid is vaping? The American Lung Association says nosebleeds and increased thirst are two signs your child might be vaping.
Some other symptoms you should look for in your child if you suspect they are vaping:(from USA Today and the CDC)
Frequently leaving groups to go to a certain
place (outside or the bathroom) to vape
In addition to nicotine, kids might also be vaping THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that causes you to get high. Kids can just as easily put a THC cartridge in the same vape they would use for nicotine. (You can read more about THC here.)
Marijuana is recreationally legal in only a few states, but
that doesn’t mean these cartridges are difficult to get in a state where it’s
illegal. Odds are your kid knows someone who knows someone who has access to
marijuana or THC cartridges.
Whether you’re for or against vaping, the most pressing issue is: some people are ending up in the hospital after using these products.
The CDC has named Vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” in vaping products related to the recent string of deaths. It is used as an additive and a thickening agent in some black market THC products. Vitamin E acetate is usually harmless in the form of a supplement or when it is applied to the skin, according to the CDC, but when it is inhaled, it can disrupt lung function.
As of Nov. 13, about 2,200 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injuries (EVALI) have been reported, including all states besides Alaska and including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (source: CDC). The ages of the patients ranged from 17 to 79 with a median age of 52, so young smokers are not the only ones being affected.
The CDC documented symptoms that these EVALI patients came in with, many of which are similar to flu symptoms.
Here are symptoms you should be aware of, so you know when to ask for help (pulled from the charts of 339 EVALI patients):
Respiratory: cough, chest pain, shortness of
If you find a vape, how do you know if it’s nicotine or
The look of vapes can vary, so it can be difficult to tell if your teen is vaping nicotine or THC. A USA Today article said narrower cylinder vials are more likely to contain THC, while wider and larger ones generally have nicotine. THC oil is thick and wouldn’t seem to move in the cartridge if turned upside down. Nicotine would move more easily. You can purchase home drug tests for the vials, but they will tell you only the contents, not the percentage of substance. Some THC cartridges have been found to have as much as 80% pure THC. For reference, the joints from the 1960’s had about 1-2% THC.
How will you know if the cartridge your kid has is one of
the bad ones?
The CDC is working on that. A cartridge with Vitamin E
acetate is a cartridge that has been tainted.
When people buy cartridges from someone other than a dispensary, they don’t know what they’re getting. They won’t know what’s been added. Keep in mind, a few states have allowed full legalization of marijuana, so the market for cheap goods is in high demand. And that’s where problems come in.
Dealers on the street aren’t reliable. They can’t always get users exactly what they asked for. Also, some cartridges will have additives to make them last longer – like the Vitamin E acetate – and some might even have other unknown substances. They might seem cheap, especially to young people, especially in comparison to legal products that can only be used in certain states by those age 21 and up, but at what cost?
Numerous newspapers have reported that health officials have found Vitamin E acetate in some products by Dank Vapes, TKO, Off White, Moon Rocks, Chronic Carts and West Coast Carts. This doesn’t mean every cartridge by these brands will have the chemical, but of those cartridges associated with EVALI patients, these brands came up.
Every day, children access a wide variety of media platforms that are filled with advertisements through their phones, tablets and laptops.
Food and beverage advertisements have been found to be the most viewed on apps such as YouTube and Snapchat.
A Canadian study found that children view over 100 advertisements for food each week on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.
These advertisements are specifically targeting younger viewers who have low impulse control and low healthy dieting behaviors.
Social media has made it so much easier for marketers to target consumers. They can use digital tools like location settings, preferences and past purchasing data to more accurately grab the consumer’s attention.
According to a study done at the University of Michigan, when children view these frequent, and sometimes persistent food advertisements, it makes them desire the reward of food.
In the study, it shows that when adolescents see unhealthy food commercials, it activates the reward centers of the brain. This then causes the child to want to seek out any type of food related to what they saw in the advertisement.
How you can limit your child’s advertisement exposure:
While it’s practically impossible to completely remove all types of advertisements from your child’s life, there are ways to prevent food advertisements from appearing on their screens.
Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t rely on advertisements for revenue and your kids will not be exposed to any type of advertisements on these apps.
Also through the settings section in apps like Instagram, you can see the advertisements that have been shown to your children as well as learn about what to do if you see an ad you wish to hide. Many of these also have parental control options.
Websites like Common Sense Media can help parents learn about the different apps and streaming services their children use as well.
Here at 2020 Parenting, we’ve touched a lot on streaming services, and how they’ve changed the way kids today consume television shows and movies.
By now, most parents are probably familiar with the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. They’re probably also familiar with the streaming process as a whole. And how unlike cable, streaming service customers can handpick which content they want to watch when they want it.
For better or for worse, the already-crowded industry is about to get one more competitor – one that has the potential power to change the future of streaming forever and knock out cable television, as well as its other streaming competitors, for good.
Parents, I present you, Disney+.
What is Disney+?
Although Disney+ has been in the works for a little over two years, the new streaming service is set to launch on Nov. 12.
Like most of the major streaming services today, Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream using Roku, Apple and Android devices, in addition to being able to steam using gaming consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
For $6.99 per month, or $69.99 a year, Disney+ customers will have access to an overwhelming amount of Disney-created and Disney-purchased content.
Unlike Netflix’s non-premium tier, Disney+ allows subscribers to stream to four devices simultaneously and have access to 4K content for no additional cost.
While most expect that the service will eventually increase their price, Disney has also said they will eventually offer a Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 a month, the same price as Netflix.
What’s all included?
While it’s hard to fully understand how much is currently owned and underneath the Disney umbrella, the graphic below can help break it down for you.
The main content featured in Disney+’s pitch is Disney content itself, (animated and live-action films, and television shows), Pixar Films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Star Wars and National Geographic.
It will also feature Fox’s content such as the “X-Men” series, all 30 seasons of “The Simpsons” and “The Sound of Music.” It will also have classic Disney Vault films such as “The Fox and the Hound” and “Bambi,” and will continue to add new films not too long after they appear in theaters. Think, “Captain Marvel” and the new live-action version of “Aladdin.”
However, maybe the biggest appeal to life-long Disney fans, is the exclusive Disney+ Originals set to debut with the service next month. Some titles already released include: “Star Wars: The Mandalorian,” Marvel’s “Hero Project” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” These hyped-up exclusives will surely excite some kids.
How will this change
In all honesty, Disney+ was built on the concept of nostalgia and recreating your childhood. If you grew up with Disney as a kid, check out this short trailer and tell me you don’t feel something?
Personally, I grew up watching the Disney Channel and its films. Disney was constantly on in our house. Watching that trailer gave me the chills – even though today I prefer sports over animated series and films.
According to JP Morgan, this nostalgia will lead Disney+ to quickly rivaling, and
eventually even passing, Netflix’s 139 million subscriber count. JP Morgan is
predicting Disney will get to 160 million subscribers fast.
While this is partially because of the attractiveness of Disney+’s model, it is also because Disney plans on removing all of its’ content from rival streaming services like Netflix.
Oh, and did I mention that Disney+ is going to allow users to download all of its’ available content for no additional charge. This means no matter where you are – even when you’re without Wi-Fi, you could be enjoying Disney content.
What do Parents need to know specifically?
While the launch of Disney+ could very well lead to even more kid streaming, some of the best news for parents is that the service will have parental controls. The website Deseret details some of this.
Because there will adult content
like the “The Simpsons” on the service, Disney+ will encourage a little bit of
peace of mind to parents by allowing them to block some content. (Though, how
hard is it for a tween to get that password?)
In the end I think this is going to
be a positive development for parents. You can get all of that wonderful Disney
content all in one place, and if you don’t need much other television, you can
get it all for one low price.
But don’t forget, folks. It’s still
screen time. Monitor that closely and set boundaries to how much time your kid
spends in front of a screen.
Until next time – here’s to keeping
that Disney magic alive!
A while ago, I posted a blog about how the ESRB can help you make better decisions about games your kids. However, I failed to look into how they actually rate their games. It turns out, the ESRB does not actually play the games. Instead they watch a trailer of the game produced by the video game maker. Per the ESRB’s official page, it must be “a video showing typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, including the most ‘extreme’ content. Unplayable content (i.e., ‘locked out’), if it is pertinent to a rating, must also be disclosed.”
Why is this important?
Because I think, based on the ESRB’s own review procedures, developers might slide features like gambling and pay-to-win loot boxes past the reviewers’ eyes. I’m not saying every game developer does this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.
I think it’s a problem when raters don’t actually play the game. Recently, some games have been called out for having predatory practices towards a younger audience. NBA 2K20 revealed gambling style mini-game complete with roulette and slot machines to win certain items in-game through a trailer prior to release.
This game was rated E for
If children play this game and have access to a credit card, they can spend real-world money to gamble for items with in-game currency. While this may come down to a parent’s decision, I wanted to bring this to your attention. You may want to be even more careful about what games your kid plays than just relying on the ESRB rating.
Personally,I don’t think gambling should be allowed at all. It has no place in a game that allows real-world money to be used. And I think any game that is rated “E for Everyone” should not require parental oversight.
Those are the two words you see when you open any of the multiple websites that offer online birth control prescriptions.
While this method of obtaining birth control may be helpful for women trying to renew their previous prescriptions, it’s also an easy way for young tweens to bypass a doctor’s trip to obtain a prescription.
Websites like “The Pill Club” and “Nurx” offer first-time birth control prescriptions to women as young as 13 years old. Girls under 18 do not need parental approval to get a birth control prescription.
These websites offer birth control options such as the pill, the ring and the patch. They also offer emergency contraception pills and at home HIV and HPV screening tests.
The process for obtaining a prescription is simple: you provide information about yourself, select the kind of medication you want, a doctor reviews your request, fills the prescription, and your new medication gets mailed right to you.
It is very easy to bypass questions in the process that are important, like if you’ve had your blood pressure measured in the last 6 months and the current medications you may be on. However, if you don’t answer the questions as accurately as possible, you may be prescribed a medication that negativily affects your health.
Insurance information is not required to obtain a prescription from these websites. Nurx, one of the most popular online contraceptive websites, says that you will pay as little as $15 without insurance.
Many young women dread telling their parents when they have become sexually active. The process can be awkward for both the child and parent. But it is necessary for the child to know the dangers that come with sexual activity.
Online birth control websites give young women the opportunity to skip the awkward talk and get a prescription without their parent’s knowledge.
The problem with getting birth control online for a first-time prescription is that many young women do not get informed about different methods of birth control and the side effects that may occur.
Some medications can affect young women suffering from mental and physical health problems. It is very important for anyone considering filling an online prescription for birth control to get well-informed.
As your kid heads back to school this year with their new blue jeans and Nikes, they may also be taking two new apps along with them.
One is “TikTok,” a popular short-form video sharing app that
is currently #1 on the Apple App Store. The other is “YOLO,” a new anonymous
question and answer app students can use as a plug-in with Snapchat. It is #18
on the app store.
While these apps might help your kid pass time on their bus
ride home or during lunch, there are also some real dangers that parents need
to be aware of.
TikTok and Sharing Private Information
TikTok is a social media service that is designed to let
users watch, create and share videos. Often times these videos are filled with
today’s top music hits, which users have access to for free.
Originally known as “musical.ly,” before that app merged with
TikTok in August 2018, this social media channel combines several key concepts
from other popular apps.
It has the feel of “Vine,” a former, popular video sharing service that was known for its hilarious 6-second videos. But unfortunately, due to a lack of revenue, Twitter shut down Vine in January 2017.
When I was a tween myself, Vine was insanely popular for a
summer. While I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, all my friends were
using it. And from what I remember of the app, it was mostly filled with people
doing dumb stunts in order to get likes.
TikTok uses the same rabbit-hole tactic that YouTube uses to hook young users. It pre-loads the next video to keep you from leaving the app.
But just like any social media, the real concern is the amount
of private information your kid could be sharing with the world. TikTok makes
it easy to share too much information with strangers. In fact, by default,
TikTok accounts are set to public, which allows ANYONE to see your videos and
location information, and it allows anyone to direct message you.
Of course, the other major issue with this app is the content kids are watching. Because popular music has a large amount of foul and sexualized language today, your kid might be exposing themselves to this language as well as watching people dance in suggestive ways. Maybe you’re not ready for your kid to watch this.
YOLO and the Danger or Anonymous Apps
When I was growing up, the acronym “YOLO” became popular. It meant “You Only Live Once”. Pretty tame, I guess, but the app is potentially more dangerous, I think.
The app YOLO encourages users to “get anonymous answers” as soon as they are logged into the app. You can either create your own question to ask, or use the “dice” that will prompt a pre-made question. The app then encourages you to post the answers on your Snapchat story.
I have seen a lot of people say some fairly inappropriate things to others using this app. My big concern is cyber bullying. The app is popular enough that a lot of kids could be targeted by these anonymous comments.
Former anonymous social media apps, like “Ask.FM,” “Sarahah” and “YikYak,” created social havoc in my high school, in my opinion. There was such an outcry that a letter was sent home to parents asking them to get their children to stop using these apps. If I remember correctly, iTunes and the Google Play store actually kicked off Sarahah from their platforms in 2018, after they received enormous amounts of backlash because of cyber bullying. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43174619
Ironically, I believe tweens use these anonymous social
media apps so they can get acceptance from their peers. However, they often get
I think it’s crucial that kids grow up slowly with these apps. You will want to have a serious conversation with your kid about these apps. Sharing personal information and getting caught up in cyber bullying are just two of the issues you should discuss. Try some of our links if you want to learn more.
In today’s always connected world, we have the means
to contact other people with the click of a button. But though we may be more connected
than ever, it doesn’t mean feelings of isolation are gone. For kids growing up in the modern “Internet
Age”, isolation may even be worse.
Unfortunately, a recent study at the University of
Pittsburgh in 2017 confirmed this. It found that young adults who are the most
frequent users of social media experience more social isolation compared to
those who use it the least. The authors believe this may be due to a variety of
factors. These include viewing friends online having fun and not being invited,
seeing people doing things that seem fun and sparking feelings of envy, and
spending more time online than having real life experiences. All of these, they
speculate, contribute to feelings of isolation.
Social isolation can have big effects
As children grow up today, I think this “social
isolation phenomenon” is something to watch out for. Maybe particularly during
the tumultuous time of adolescence. Kids are more susceptible to feelings of being
left out when their friends are doing things together without them.
One source says that the effects of social isolation
are very negative. They include less restful sleep, an increased stress
response by the body, more alcohol and drug use, and even a greater risk of
I remember feeling socially isolated at times when I
was in middle school and high school. My friends would post what they were
doing on Facebook (which had just started getting widely popular) and I would
see how happy they seemed. To teenage me, it was disheartening to see people
having fun without me. Sometimes they were meeting up with my friends in real
life I’d have to hear or see the stories later.
I’m old enough that this was before Instagram,
Twitter, or Snapchat blew up. Imagine how your teen might feel today with all
of these social media outlets at their disposal. They might see their friends
having fun. Maybe they’ll see other people doing an activity they wanted to do.
What can parents do?
One source suggests five things parents can do about
this. One is to encourage volunteering. This improves mental health and can be
very pleasurable. Does your kid like animals? Or small children? Can they help
out at an aging facility? The possibilities are endless.
Also, make exercise a priority. We all know about
endorphins and how they help our mood. Don’t just rely on physical ed at
school, or team sports. Encourage them to hike with you, or take a family bike
ride. Again, the possibilities are endless.
Third, schedule some “off screen” time. Eat a family
meal with no phones allowed. Watch a show together. Maybe game with your kid
(without the head set).
Also, get them outside. Nature has lots of good
effects on our mood and mental health. And finally, talk to your kid. Have
repeated meaningful conversations about their friends, about life, and about
their mental health. What are they thinking and feeling? Learn how to be
patient and helpful, not judgmental or authoritative.
The bottom line
The Internet is a wonderful tool to help connect with others,
but it has the potential to make us feel bad also. Parents, try to help your
child understand that social media interactions are not the only interactions they
can have. And that seeing other people having fun doesn’t mean you’ve been left
out. You’ll have that fun when you see them next time.
We have numerous posts that talk about activities you
could do with your kids, as well as what you should do to protect your child
online. Check out our links below.