We’ve put our best stuff, plus a lot of new stuff, in our recently released book. Great as a gift for any caregiver that has to understand the world of our children and youth. In a clear and accessible way, it shines a light on the social and technological environment that parents find mystifying and frightening. It covers a host of important and up-to-date issues including social media, finances and gambling, television, health (alcohol, drugs, vaping, depression, suicide), relationships, bullying, gaming, and many others. The book’s organization into topical chapters allows the reader to quickly find well-researched information on a given issue. A salient feature of the book is that it is largely written by young people themselves who have experienced these challenges yet have done the hard work of thoroughly investigating and reporting each topic. Get it now in Kindle or paperback version at Amazon.com
Video games have been talked about in a negative light for many years. Violent games’ effect on children have been studied countless times.
But does it mean your children should not play any video games? The answer is no, and here is why.
Parents should consider what the game is about before determining whether it is fit for their child to play. There are games that help teach children valuable lessons in life. These games include: LEGO games, “Plants vs. Zombies” and the “Mario” franchise.
All of them teach lessons like how to overcome challenges and strategy. Take for example the LEGO games.
These have collectables that are scattered throughout the game. The player must complete puzzles in order to collect them. It teaches children to think of many possibilities to figure out how to move an object like a box from one side to the other.
“Plants vs. Zombies” and Mario teach strategies that are used to defeat enemies. The former even teaches the player how to reasonably spend money. These are not strategies that could only be used in the game but also in the real world.
The University of Oxford recently released a study on how video games could be good for mental health. They teamed up with Electronic Arts (EA) to see how children felt after playing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” and “Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.”
They discovered, “If players experienced intrinsic motivations and need satisfaction during play, we would expect a more positive relationship between play time and wellbeing compared to players who experienced less intrinsic motivation and need satisfaction during play.”
This means that children felt more positive and relaxed after playing when they were not forced to play. The university said they will continue to perform more studies in the future.
These studies were not done with graphic or violent games. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is rated for “E” for everyone, and “Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville” is rated for everyone 10 and up. They are both for children and could be enjoyed by the whole family.
At the end of the day, your child should not play a really huge number of hours on any video game. But some research suggests allowing them to play a couple of hours on the weekend could improve their mental health. It may also help teach those life lessons as I spoke of earlier.
Always remember to look at the label before buying a game. There are always video game reviews on the Internet, if you are not sure. Be safe and happy gaming.
When I was little, I remember waking up early on Saturday mornings, much against my mom’s wishes, to watch my favorite TV shows. If I didn’t see them then, I wasn’t going to catch them. Fast forward a few years, and I was able to record on our DVR my favorite TV shows. I could watch them at my convenience and delete them later.
Today, we now have Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Peacock, just to name a few. They give us the ability to stream our favorite TV shows and movies 24/7.
These streaming services also have options for younger kiddos. But what happens if a little one starts watching a PG-13 (or higher!) rated show without you knowing? This is where Sensical comes in!
Have you heard of Sensical?
Sensical is a free streaming service set to be launched this year. It aims to provide content specifically for kids ages 2 to 12. The platform will be run by Common Sense Networks and will contain over 15,000 titles and programs at the launch. It is said it will have new titles added monthly following the launch.
Common Sense Networks is a for-profit affiliate of Common Sense Media, and their goal is to “create and curate safe, age-appropriate and engaging content for kids and families.”
What to Expect
Sensical is unique because it is comprised of “short-form” videos, or videos that are 10 minutes or less. They are rigorously selected by a team trained in child development and a rubric created will be used to ensure content is in alignment with Common Sense Media’s ideals. This streaming device is ad-funded, making it 100% free.
Within Sensical itself, there will be three major libraries: Preschoolers (ages 2-4), Little kids, (ages 5-7), and Big kids (ages 8-12). Within these libraries, kids will have the option to search hundreds of specific topics/ideas to find what they are looking for.
There will also be a ‘Sensical Parent Zone,’ where parents will have access to what their kids watched, how long they watched, and even the education values that came along with what was watched.
When can we Watch?
While there is not a specific new release date yet, it was originally set to be released early 2021. Sensical will be in the app store for both Apple and Android, as well as an option on multiple smart TV models. It is also rumored it will work through a website.
So, parents, get ready, because here comes the streaming service you have been waiting for.
When I was in grade school, my mom would only allow me to watch three half-hour episodes of television after school.
Growing up, I only had access to the television and later on, the computer. Smartphones and tablets emerged as I was halfway through middle school. Today, kids not only have the distraction of television but also laptops, smartphones, tablets and more.
Many parents believe that by restricting their child’s usage of technology, they are preventing a future addiction to technology. However, a study done by the University of Colorado Boulder, suggests that technology restrictions on kids has minimal effect on their technology usage later in life.
Lead author Stefanie Mollborn, a professor of sociology at the Institute of Behavioral Science, said that their study just doesn’t show what most people might expect.
“We found that there is only a weak relationship between early technology use and later technology use, and what we do as parents matters less than most of us believe it will,” said Mollborn.
The study was done using a survey completed by 1,200 young adults and is the first of its kind to analyze the evolution of technology usage from childhood into adulthood.
The study was completed before the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, which has drastically increased the usage of technology in both children and adults. The virus has made it even more difficult to limit children’s exposure to technology.
The study shows suggests that setting technology limits on children, whether it be limiting computer usage after school to saying “no” to television during meals, did not effect how often the subjects used social media as adults. Two factors that did increase technology usage included young adults who are in college and ones who are single and whose friends are single.
Mollborn said that college students believe they use technology more because they have to and that these students believe they have it under control. They believe that in the future they will no longer feel the need to use it as much.
While there is a “weak relationship” between parental technology restrictions and technology addiction in adulthood, that doesn’t mean parents should stop enforcing limits on their child’s technology usage. Other researchers believe parents should still encourage their children to refrain from excessive technology usage.
According to social psychologist Adam Alter, author of “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” children should have a healthy, balanced relationship with technology.
Alter said that kids should have a balance in their amount of tech usage and screen time with physical activity and social interactions, just like they have a balanced diet of healthy foods.
Between the distractions caused by technology and the stress brought about by growing up, adolescents today are sleeping less. This has resulted in increased depression rates says a recent study by The University of Ottawa. They claim adolescents today are dealing with more frequent sleep disruption.
This sleep disruption is due to a variety of factors. Of course, the mental strain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has increased the lack of sleep in adolescents. But other factors have also caused a lack of sleep among adolescents. These include increased screen time, online schooling and limited social interactions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In their study completed on adult and adolescent male and female mice, they found that when put under similar conditions, the adolescent male and female mice showed “significantly greater depressive behaviors” compared to the adult male and female mice, who showed no indicators of those same behaviors.
They also found that during sleep delays, the female adolescent mice presented higher stress hormone release as well as activation of stress-sensitive brain areas compared to the male adolescent mice.
It is already known that twice as many females than males are diagnosed with depression today. According to the Child Mind Institute, before puberty, adolescent females and males have the same percentage of the prevalence of potential mood disorders. After puberty, mid-adolescent females are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, like depression, than males of the same age range.
This could be due to many factors, including genetics and emotional stimuli. They speculate that because girls tend to mature faster than boys, it could lead to quicker development of emotional recognition. This can be linked to increased levels of sensitivity, thus making girls more susceptible to depression.
Signs of lack of sleep and adolescent depression:
There are many signs and symptoms of adolescent depression, but sometimes, there can be very minimal or no signs at all for parents or guardians to identify.
Mood changes are a common sign of adolescent depression. These can be caused by a lack of sleep, as well as increased levels of sadness and irritability. Behavioral changes can include appetite, lack of academic performance and concentration, and lower energy levels.
Signs that your child is not getting enough sleep can include bad skin, frequent illness due to an exhausted immune system, poor memory, lower energy and lack of concentration.
What you can do:
While it can be difficult to ensure that your child is getting a healthy amount of sleep, due to the constant distractions in their daily lives, there are a few things you can do to promote healthy sleep among adolescents.
Caffeine and sugar are both directly linked to lowering sleep levels. By lowering these factors in your child’s life, you can make it more likely they get a more restful night of sleep. Exercising can also help burn calories and increase the production of melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep).
You can directly monitor the amount of sleep your child is getting by setting up an app on their cell phone or smart watch that monitors their sleep schedules. My personal favorite is SleepWatch, which is free for Apple, and lets me use my Apple Watch to monitor my sleep at night.
The New York Times article, “The Best Sleep-Tracking App,” recommends SleepScore and Sleep Cycle. These apps are not 100% accurate but they can offer users an objective analysis on sleep cycles, which can help users understand patterns in their sleep.
“Hey mom, I think I want to get my hair done like this.”
*Insert a picture of blonde hair with rainbow-colored streaks plastered throughout. *
“Are you sure?”
*aggressive head-nod by me*
Okay… I’ll make you an appointment.”
When I was an awkward, annoying pre-teen, I was constantly experimenting with finding my true self. The struggle with that was my idea of my ‘true self’ changed every day. One day I wanted to wear ripped jeans and band t-shirts just to turn around and want floral crowns and boho dresses the next day. It was a never-ending cycle of constant shopping trips and hairstyles. Did I mention the hair styles?
I don’t think there was a color of the rainbow that at least part of my hair wasn’t at some point. Actual rainbow strips (I’m talking ROY-G-BIV from my roots to the ends)? Yep. Pink highlights all over? You bet. The entire underneath dyed blue, resulting in stained skin that needed to be covered for a school picture? Oh, absolutely!
Looking back, now that I choose hair colors that are considered ‘plain,’ I try to figure out why I did all of that in the first place. I know I probably looked ridiculous and so damaged my hair, but I didn’t care one bit. Why? Because I was happy with the body I was in. As a pre-teen, now more than ever, there are constant struggles with acceptance among peers and with oneself. Somehow, I managed to like –no–LOVE myself despite this need for acceptance. Which is why I felt free to experiment with who I truly wanted to become, and not pay too much attention to what others thought of me.
Teaching and helping your children to maintain a positive body image is crucial to navigating life as a young teen and into adulthood. There are multiple ways you, as a parent, can assist your child in finding strong body positivity. Here’s some I’m borrowing from Working Mother.
Watch for Negative Body Image Signs
In a world where life is so fast paced and driven, it may be difficult at times to pick up on the subtle negative body image cues your children push out. In fact, they may not even notice they are doing this. These cues can be anywhere from a different change in diet, refusing to leave the house without any makeup on at all, and/or only wearing certain types of clothing. (Keep in mind there are many more cues your children can give you.)
These changes can be normal but watch for them to become obsessive and need-driven.
If you notice these changes, bring them up – SUBTLY! Pre-teens spook easily (I know I did), so approach these conversations with ease and an open set of arms. By showing your kiddos now that you are willing to have an adult-like conversation about issues with them, they may feel more comfortable coming to you with issues like this down the road.
However, your child may not want to talk, and that is okay too! Just express to them that you will always have listening ears when they are ready.
Set a GOOD example
Sometimes, children begin to feel certain emotions and have thoughts based on the environment they are in. It will feel contradicting if you, as a parent, are never happy with the way your body looks (and outwardly express it) and then you go and tell your kiddos to love theirs.
Therefore, love yourself! Trust me, you need it. We all need some self-love. So, model that positive thinking. Reveal your self-praising habits for your kiddos. Let them see the self-love from one of the people they love so dearly. By doing this, you can start to foster positive thoughts in your children and yourself.
Limit Physical Praise
“Oh my gosh you look so cute!!… Don’t you look sharp today… That lipstick color is PERFECT on you!”
It’s force of habit to comment on physical appearances. It’s something we do as humans to make someone else feel good. However, this can have more negative impacts than you think. It can subconsciously train your children to seek out these compliments from anywhere (or anyone), leading to negative body image if they are not received. Don’t get me wrong, physical comments can be given, just don’t make them a habit. Remember, looks are only skin deep.
Instead, comment on their other features. Compliment your daughter on her intelligence – remember, beauty is brains. Tell your son you are proud of him for the way he treats others – kindness is key. Physical acceptance isn’t the only acceptance to seek. Teach your children to become good human beings – that is what truly matters.
Be Open to Changes
Your child may want to cut/dye their hair, change the way they dress, or ask you to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. Be open to these changes! Often times, these decisions are made because your child is striving for a better version of themselves. Accepting your child for who they are is the biggest display of love they can ever receive. And, who knows, these changes may be good for you as well!
These are all things that come to mind when thinking of popular video games. Computers and consoles are becoming more advanced too, making games look like the real world.
One thing to keep in mind if your child does play video games are the effects of playing too long. Your child may spend less time socializing with friends and family and develop poor social skills. It could also result in poor grades says the American Academy of Childhood & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
Do you ever think, “this game does not seem very child friendly” or “should my child be playing this game?”
If so, I may have the answers you are looking for.
Read the ESRB label
This is the first thing every parent should look at before deciding if a game is suitable for their child. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) handles all games found in stores and most found online. There are currently six different ratings that can be put on games: Rating Pending (RP), Everyone (E), Everyone 10 plus (E10+), Teen (T), Mature (M), and Adults Only (AO).
Those ratings can be found at the bottom left corner of every game box. If you are unsure what the rating is, check https://www.esrb.org/. Type the title into the search bar and all the information will be available. Remember to view the label before purchasing.
View the gameplay beforehand
Besides reading the label, it is best to watch some gameplay before buying the game. A quick Google search will lead to dozens of videos and hours of content.
Sometimes the ESRB rating can be lower than it should. And every parent is different. Do you want your child playing this game?
Some parents may be accepting of their child playing rated “T” games when they are 13. Others may wait until their child is 15 before playing those games. It should be you making that determination. Not the ESRB. They provide only a rough guideline. So, watch the game.
Do not give into temptation or “kid” pressure
Arguably the most important suggestion on my list is not to give into temptation. I am sure most parents have heard their kid provide a “compelling” reason why they should play a violent game. “My friends play it all the time.” “If their parents let them play it, why can’t I?” I remember using those “compelling” reasons myself. But there is a good way to control the problem.
I suggest not getting really mad at this kind of situation. It could cause more problems if a screaming match breaks out. I suggest calmly handling the problem. Dr. Lauber suggests reminding them that you are the parent and you are in charge of this house and the toys you bought. For older children, you might want to negotiate some sort of compromise if there are other games you will allow.
I hope these tips are helpful. I know I put up a fight when my parents didn’t allow me to play certain games. But I now see they were wiser than me. Your kids will feel that way too.
Coming back to school can be a difficult thing to adjust to. You know what is harder? Coming back to a computer screen for classes. Online schooling has recently become the new normal for students across America. Either that or taking extra precautions for in-person classes, like wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer at all times. It can cause a lot of stress and be extremely overwhelming. Luckily for you, I have a few tips and tricks that can help ease your child of the pain of online schooling.
Wake up early
This one may sound simplistic, but it is more helpful than you think. I am personally not a morning person, and the thought of getting up early on purpose everyday is not something I choose to do, but it has proven to be helpful in beginning to make a routine for the day. You can start by making your bed, brushing your teeth, and having breakfast. Think of one of those movie moments where the main character wakes up and the shots continue in a montage of happy morning moments. Sounds pretty nice right? The most important outcome of establishing this morning routine is that in a short period of time it becomes the norm, and your body adjusts.
When I am taking classes, I feel like the work begins to stack up, layer on layer…on layer. Did I mention that I think there are many layers? Sometimes it stacks so high it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, ready to topple over. I try to do a million things at once and get stressed out when I cannot complete everything in one sitting. It was not until I dug myself too deep in the work – hole that two important words engrained themselves in my brain. Slow. Down. I know it can be frustrating when it feels like the workload is never – ending, but taking your time to complete tasks is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it is the best thing to do. Scratch that. I think it is the ONLY thing to do. Part of pacing yourself is setting up a schedule before you get bogged down. Working to complete a task in small interests over a period of time is so much better than waiting and letting things pile up. Time management is essential and the secret to getting things done without that last – minute stress. This is not always easy, and many students need help planning this type of work schedule, especially at first, but once they have learned how to pace themselves, it is a tool that will be helpful throughout school and beyond.
Find Time for a Break
Times right now are tough, and putting too much pressure on yourself can be tiresome. Take some time for yourself to do something fun. Whenever I have a break in the day, I make sure I go to the nearest coffee shop so I can drown myself the biggest cup of iced coffee I can find (and I might even go back for more). As something as simple as a coffee break can brighten my mood and relax me. Find something that makes you feel that way. Reward yourself. It can be something as simple as playing on your phone for a little while. Look at Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. You can pull Netflix up, watch an episode, work some more, and watch another episode. It does not matter what it is as long as it makes you feel more relaxed and level – headed when you get back to working on things. You can even schedule these break times into your work routine.
Unwind at the Day’s End
After working all day long, you need time to relax at night. This is the opportunity for you to really unwind and pat yourself on the back for achieving everything you set out to do. Watch a movie or eat a bowl of ice cream. Allow yourself to feel satisfied that you have accomplished a great deal during the day and look forward to a new start tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep and begin the next day rested and relaxed.
While not completely guaranteed, these few simple tips will give your children a push in the right direction. You can even try them out yourself! Children typically learn by example, so if you have a positive attitude towards these steps, and even model them in your own hectic life, they most likely will too. The results could be a more productive, successful, and stress – free life for the whole family.
“Among Us” has officially become the game of the fall season. The game has been around since 2018 but has suddenly taken off with kids and young adults.
The graphics in “Among Us” have a cartoon feel and are more catered to older teens and young adults. Its jump in popularity is partly because it is free on mobile devices and tablets.
The game is simple. Video gamers are put in lobbies consisting of 10 or fewer online players. At least one person at the start of each game is deemed the imposter. The rest of the players are crewmates.
Goals of the game are different depending on your role. The imposter’s job is to eliminate the crewmates, while making sure they do not get caught and voted out. The crewmates’ jobs are to complete a variety of different tasks and determine who is the imposter. Players move a 3D building and don’t see each other when they are out of sight.
Tasks are different each game. They might be connecting the colored wires, clicking one to 10 or a Simon says style minigame.
Although it has a cartoon style, it does get violent when the imposter eliminates crewmates. The animations range from a gunshot to the head to a spear through the head. All of these are violent. This leaves the remains of the character without the top half of their body.
The crewmates must find the body and report it, or if someone is acting suspicious, hit the red button. Everyone must work together and vote someone out.
I’ve played the game many times and I would say this mobile game is not for early teens and younger children. The game feels and looks innocent until the eliminations (bloody deaths). If your teen wants to play it, ask them to let you watch their first game. Then you can determine together if it is appropriate. Remember, the super-violent part doesn’t happen until character gets killed or witnesses a character get killed.
Overall, “Among Us” isn’t a bad game. Lots of my twenty-something-yr-old friends are playing and enjoying it. It teaches you to think of different strategies and has a psychological/manipulative component that is not in a lot of point-and-shoot games. no That makes it a nice change of pace after maybe playing the same games in lockdown for the past half year.
As always, if your kid is a pre-teen or younger, remember – you’re in charge.
Every time I log onto Facebook, I see the daily update my cousin posts about her son.
Parenting has changed drastically since the rise of social media. Today, parents are exposing every detail of their child’s lives. Whether it’s their first steps or their most recent report card, parents are sharing everything with the world.
Instead of enjoying the moment with their children, parents are now pausing to ask themselves “Is this something I want to take a picture of and share?” Then they are grabbing their phones to document the event. This causes them to miss the interaction “in the moment”. They should be having this special time with their kids. They should be enjoying the moment, not documenting it.
Parents also no longer have to go to their kid’s school function or run into another parent to hear all about how their kids got into an honors program or made the varsity soccer team. All this information is now posted on feeds and timelines on various apps.
According to a journal article in “Psychology of Popular Media,” what often happens is that parents compare their own parenting success to other parents through social media. Their own success and failure are now based on how successful they perceive other families are through social media.
Recently, the Pew Research Center performed a study which found that two-thirds of parents in the United States feel that parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago. Many in the group also cited the reasons for this include new technologies, such as social media and smartphones.
68% of parents said they sometimes feel distracted by their phones when spending time with their kids. Younger parents (ages 18 to 49) were more likely to be distracted by smartphones and social media than older parents (50 and older).
Social media has also turned many parents into “oversharers”. Like my cousin, they post about their child far too often for many people’s liking. According to a poll done by The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 75% of parents believe other parents overshare.
There are ways to try to avoid oversharing or from being affected by others’ oversharing. An experiment done in 2016 reported that people who quit Facebook were happier.
While not everyone may want to quit Facebook entirely, reducing the time you spend on social media will reduce your stress levels that are a result of comparing your parenting to others. By setting limits for yourself, like staying off social media when you’re with your kids or before bed, you’ll be less likely to start comparing yourself to others.
Seeing other parents oversharing may make you want to as well, but before you do, make sure you’re posting for the right reasons. Are you posting because you ae truly proud of your child’s accomplishments or because you want to show the other parents on social media that your kid is just as smart or talented as theirs?
When schools abruptly closed in April 2020, and students got two extra months of summer, they never thought returning to school like normal wouldn’t be an option for this fall. Now that school has started this year for your children, let’s check in.
The CDC stressed opening schools quickly and safely this fall for students. However, schools were to make the best decision possible for their students and community when deciding the route for reopening. My sister’s school provided families with multiple different options: all in-person, all remote via the school, or all remote via an outside source. Regardless of your decision, we’d like to help your kids navigate this weird ‘new normal.’
Offer Reassurance and Help
Even if they don’t seem like it, your children actually listen to your advice. If they are stuck on a project and can’t think of ideas, help them! Throw out suggestions and ideas, and just maybe one will stick. Often I find myself texting my mom for ideas and suggestions for papers because I can’t think of anything. Also, keep tabs on their school district’s policies about COVID-19 and everyday maintenance. Sign up for district emails/newsletters, teacher policy updates, and more. The more you know to help your kids, the better.
Find the Good in Each Day
Celebrate little things! Every day after school, especially this year, your child is going to come home (or leave the computer screen) physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I know I walk away from my computer screen drained every day. It is highly important to find the good in every day. Did your child pass their history test? Make their favorite dinner! Did they attend every online class on time today? Give your child a hug and tell them you are proud. Trust me when I say they need to hear it more than you think.
Talk About Mental Health
Self-care is always important, but even more so right now. Be open with your kids about mental health and how to approach these feelings. The best thing a parent can do when their child expresses feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or anything else, is to love them and get help when necessary. Helping your children keep a steady sleep and eating schedule and getting regular exercise can help to boost mood as well. And have discussions with others about the signs you need to look for so you know when to get professional mental health help.
Remind Your Kids that Feelings are Valid
Emotions are running at high speed this year for everyone. Remind your children that their frustration over the absence of extracurricular activities is okay. It’s okay to be upset and frustrated that school dances aren’t happening. It’s understandable to be angry that you can’t go watch your friends play soccer or football. They are allowed to have feelings and express them to you. When the “storm” has passed, it will be okay to go back to regular activities. But meltdowns may happen. Just be there.
Probably the best thing to do is just keep learning. Parenting is one of the world’s most difficult jobs. But as Dr. Lauber has always told us, it’s also the toughest job you’ll ever love. Check out our links below.