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:

YouTube’s New Policy Regarding Your Kid’s Data

By Katie Mest

Your kids are all over YouTube. (But aren’t we all?)

We blog about how your kid might be using YouTube here, but there have been some recent changes in YouTube’s privacy policies and they impact your kids. Don’t worry, though. This time it’s actually good news.

Back in September, the video media giant got into hot water when regulators said it was collecting the personal information of children and using it to target them with ads. To settle the case with the FTC, YouTube’s parent company, Google, paid a $170 million fine ($136 million to the FTC and $34 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.) This was the largest fine collected from the act since it came into existence.

 Enacted in 1998, COPPA prohibits online services doing certain things when the user is under 13 years of age. YouTube violated this by collecting data without the consent of the kids’ parents. YouTube also earned millions of dollars by mining this data and targeting ads toward those kids.

So What’s New?

(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/06/technology/youtube-children-privacy.html)

YouTube tried to get around this by saying that users cannot be under 13 because in order to have an account, you must be 13 and over…probably to avoid this very occurrence. However, you and I both know that YouTube is where kids spend a lot of their time regardless of that requirement.

YouTube has changed its policies to follow COPPA guidelines and better protect your kid’s privacy.

  • YouTube will limit the collection of data from anyone watching videos directed toward children. It has also turned off some features from kid-directed channels. Comments, live chats, and saving videos to a playlist might be disabled depending on the content your child is watching.
  • Ads on these types of videos will be shown based on the content of the videos, not the web-browser and online data from the user watching. And if your kid is watching kid videos, they will more likely be recommended other kid videos.
  • Video producers posting on YouTube will now have to categorize their videos as specifically made for children. Doing so will help determine which videos to turn on data-collecting limitations. Officials also said they could override a producer’s decision if they feel it is incorrect. More info: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9383587?hl=en.

That should make you feel a little safer for a while. It’s highly recommended that if your kid is under 13 they should use YouTube Kids for their content. It’s better regulated by age-appropriate content.

But if your kiddos are 13 and over…let’s just say you should start having conversations about what information they put on the Internet and how services use that information.

How Many Teens Are Using YouTube?

According to Forrester, 96% of teens online are using YouTube. It says 85% of boys ages 13-17 use YouTube daily, while 70% of girls ages 13-17 use it daily.

So, yeah, the short answer is that a lot of kids are using it. And they’ll be watching anything from sports to beauty to gaming to humor to cute puppy videos.

I guess what you should take from all of this is to remind your kids over and over (and over and over) that EVERYTHING they do on their devices has an impact. It’s no coincidence that that ad popped up on their feed after having a conversation about the product.  

More Links:

Should You Worry About Screen Obsession? One Guy’s Take

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

Parents, have you ever honestly thought about what your children are doing with the technology that’s in their hands every day? Guess what: Chances are they’re doing the same things you are.

You get up in the morning and check your phone or the TV for the weather and traffic reports. If you have an office job, the majority of the day is spent on a computer or laptop. If not, you still use your phone when you go on break (or while you’re working, we don’t judge here). And then you come home, turn on the TV, check your feed, text your friends, or read some articles on your device of choice. If you’re like me, you use your phone or TV until you pass out and go to sleep.

Let’s look at it from the kids’ perspective. They wake up, check their phone to text their friends (or call them if they are like my sister) and check the weather. Then on the school bus ride over, everyone around them is either half asleep listening to music from a device or still texting. When they’re at school, they use laptops to work on projects and papers and read off of a projector screen to write down notes. Then they go to lunch and text, or look at the latest YouTube craze, or play Fortnite. Then after more lessons, they go home and text, talk, or play with their friends until it is time to do it all over again the next school day.

Notice how similar their day is to yours?

Newer generations are growing up with technology, but everyone says need protection from the dangerous and addictive nature of social media and “screen time”. The older generations need to be on the lookout and reduce kid’s exposure to screens.

But how much time do adults spend on screens?  How much time do YOU spend looking at a screen each day? 

Sure, there are things to be worried about. And we’ve written about lots of them (see some links below or just search our blog). We do recommend taking the time to learn how your kids are using the Internet, their cellphones, various social media sites. Maybe have them show you how they use it. That way you can understand why they use certain social media and you can work on ways to limit their use, if necessary.  

If you feel the need to cut back their screen time, why not make it a family thing? Start a competition and see who can stay off social media the longest. Suggest ways to keep people’s attention away from the phones. It would be great if you role modeled how to avoid “screen obsession” instead of not “practicing what you preach”.

Anyone a part of modern society is surrounded by technology. There’s just no way around that. But I do think how much time we spend with it is in our control.

I don’t think screen time is “wrong”.  Technology enables children to interact with friends, and create unique experiences. When I was growing up, some of the best times I had were when my friends and I on a Friday night would play our favorite games together online. With technology, I was able to break out of my shell and talk to my friends about anything and everything. Screens are not a bad or good thing. They are necessary to our lifestyles in the 21st century. So, rather than limiting a now normal part of the modern child’s life, I think we should all learn to embrace and understand it. Teach them how to use their time online for creative or productive tasks in addition to the social aspects.

Some of these ideas come from Director of Digital Civility, Laura Higgins. She gives tips to parents on what to do in their households. A link to that article can be found here.

Meanwhile, explore our numerous other blog posts on technology, including social media, video games, online gambling and more.

Links:

Article by Laura Higgins

How to monitor your kids online while preserving their privacy

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

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.

Links:

https://www.bark.us

Shocking Vaping Stats to Know Going into 2020

By Katie Mest

As we head into 2020, vapes are everywhere.

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 year.

Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke Marijuana

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 both.

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 brands.

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 vape.

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.

Links:

https://apnews.com/fc4d6d53d0e722de5cb7be850743d138

https://apnews.com/91b897691ec0b201b912247fd573ff02

Parents: Gaming is all over America

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

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 decades.

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 stats.

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.

Links:

For more information about the study, visit this link:  https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-Essential-Facts-About-the-Computer-and-Video-Game-Industry.pdf

For a more in-depth breakdown, this site has an extensive amount of statistics on different aspects in gaming but you’ll need to set up an account to view the charts: https://www.statista.com/topics/3070/us-gamers/

Danger of Vaping Vitamin E Acetate Appears to Be Real

By Katie Mest

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
  • Irritability
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increasing intolerance to exercise

If you want to learn more about vaping, the American Lung Association website has guides for learning about and talking to your kid about vaping.

What else is in your child’s 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 breath
  • Gastrointestinal: abdominal pain, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea
  • Fever, chills, weight loss

If you find a vape, how do you know if it’s nicotine or THC?

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.

Here’s how you can spot a fake vape cartridge.

If your child starts to experience any symptoms related to EVALI, bring them to the doctor, along with the vape.

The CDC warned that other chemicals could be contributing to this outbreak, but for right now, Vitamin E acetate is the only known culprit.

Want to learn more?

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/vaping-illness-update-fda-warns-public-stop-using-tetrahydrocannabinol-thc-containing-vaping

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/10/01/tips-parents-stop-teens-vaping-illness-thc/2429184001/

https://www.leafly.com/news/health/vape-pen-lung-disease-advice-consumers

Are food advertisements targeting your kids?

By: Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

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. 

Helpful Links:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-kids-see-thousands-of-ads-for-unhealthy-foods-on-social-media-study-1.4154607

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fast-food-marketing_l_5c890150e4b038892f493653

Disney+ is coming to your living room

By Seth Woolcock

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 Companies Disney Owns - TitleMax.com - Infographic

Developed by TitleMax.com

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 streaming?

 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!

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Real Gambling Inside Your Kid’s Video Game

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

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 Everyone. 

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. 

If you would like to read more about how the ESRB reviews their games you can read their FAQ page here: https://www.esrb.org/faqs/#do-esrb-raters-play-the-games-they-rate

For a more in-depth look at why loot boxes are so addicting, check out this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu6pXCxiRxU

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