First, THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading our blog. Our statistics say we’ve been visited over 45,000 times! That’s fantastic. We’re very grateful that you decided to spend some of your valuable time with us.
But it’s the end of the semester for us, and all of my students are graduating or leaving for their summer job. So we’re going to take a little break this summer and hopefully come back strong in the fall.
If you’ve enjoyed our content, please let us know. And if you have any ideas or topics you think we should cover, feel free to reach out to me.
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.
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.
When I hear MTV television shows, I usually think of reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.”
What I don’t think of, and what I don’t think many people think of, are honest and serious shows with an in-depth look into real life.
MTV’s new four-part show, “16 and Recovering,” details the struggles and hardships of teenage addiction, and how parents and caretakers can effectively help teens with addiction.
I think that parents and teens should all sit down and watch this mini-series, whether its together or separately.
The show takes place at Northshore Recovery High School in Massachusetts, where the MTV film crew, including award-winning director Steve Liss, was given an inside look into the lives of teens with addiction, their families and their teachers.
The founder of Northshore, Michelle Lipinski, is not only the school principal but a confidant, friend and even loved one to all of the students. The students not only trust Lipinski but all of the staff at Northshore. They share their struggles, secrets and hardships with the staff members, as they would close friends.
The teachers and caretakers at Northshore don’t punish students when they relapse or make a mistake. They just express their support and love for their students and encourage them back onto the right path.
I think that the way the Northshore staff handles teen addiction is a perfect model for how parents and caretakers everywhere should handle their own teens who may be struggling. By showing only love and support, with no anger or strong discipline, the kids feel like they can always be honest with them, rather than fear them and hide their wrongdoings.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Lipinski spoke about how she did not wish for the camera crew to record the students using any drugs. She said that the show is about teenage recovery, not the drug use.
The show also shows how mental illness and addiction go hand in hand. In one scene, a student named Alba says how depression and addiction go together like “cheese and crackers.” Many of the students struggle with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, on top of the addictions.
While the series shows how the support and love of family and caretakers can help struggling youth addicts, it doesn’t hide the fact that some teens end up giving in to their addiction and are unable to survive because of it.
MTV hopes to lead the change in the entertainment industry when it comes to depicting mental illness on screen.
The show has four parts, each airing Tuesday evenings at 9 pm on MTV. The first episode aired on September 1.
If your kids are like me and many others, their addiction to the social media video app, TikTok, has tremendously grown since the beginning of quarantine.
TikTok has been all over the news lately, due to the fact that President Trump plans to ban the app because of its connection to China and its government. More recently he has asked that its U.S. assets be sold to a U.S. company. In the past few days, news has been announced that TikTok is now planning to sue the Trump administration because of all this.
TikTok is an app filled with different kinds of short videos including content such as dancing, baking, crafting, pranking, etc. Many kids are very fond of the dancing videos, following popular Tiktokers like Addison Rae, and, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio.
While dance videos aren’t necessarily inappropriate content, some of the Tiktokers and the dances they come up with are provocative and can send the wrong message to kids.
After these TikTok influencers come up with a new dance, it has the possibility to go viral and be recreated by millions. Kids and teens love to recreate the dance videos made by their favorite TikTok dancers. They post these recreation videos and tag their favorite dance TikToker to try to also become as popular as them.
An example of a new TikTok dance challenge that is not exactly appropriate is the “WAP” dance. This dance became a viral sensation on TikTok after the release of the song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan the Stallion. I’m not comfortable telling you what “WAP” means in this blog. You’ll have to Google it.
The lyrics of the song are very raunchy, overly sexual and the context of the song is not something that parents might want their kids listening to. The dance involves lots of twerking, simulated sex acts, high kicks and a split.
The dance is not exactly safe either. One person ended up in the hospital after attempting the dance. This Tiktoker landed on her knee while attempting the dance and had to have her knee popped back into place.
An article in Vice, by Rachel Miller, details how to talk to your children about what the song stands for. She consults Erin Harper, a nationally certified school psychologist, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M and author of Dear Mom, You Don’t Get to Have Nice Things.
In the article Miller and Harper discuss how with adolescents and older kids, the song can actually spark a conversation between parent and child about sexuality and having the freedom to express yourself and to be proud of your body.
Overall, it’s up to the parents to decide what is appropriate or not for their kids’ ears. Even though the song can be a gateway to an open and honest conversation, some parents might not want their kids hearing the lyrics in general.
For younger children, they say that they might be too young to discuss the sexual language and content in the song. Instead, they say parents should tell their kids that the song is “about women who are feeling strong and happy.”
Overall, it’s up to the parents to decide what is appropriate or not for their kids’ ears. Even though the song can be a gateway to an open and honest conversation, some parents might not want their kids hearing the lyrics in general.
Growing up, sports were an escape for me. I both played and watched many of them.
However, as I’ve aged, I’ve begun to realize how many issues there can be in the sports world. Players who I once considered role-models sometimes get arrested. Owners, who I’ve spent countless hours and money supporting, get in trouble for all kinds of reasons.
Many of these leagues have lost fans and revenue due to different issues. And many are just barely starting back again, due to COVID-19.
However, one sport is seeing a comeback in a major way – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
NASCAR and the Drivers
NASCAR, founded in 1948, was getting increasingly popular in the 2000s when I was growing up. But the sport lost some of its popularity, I believe, when some of its most-popular drivers retired, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and my favorite driver, Jeff Gordon.
Recently, there have been some new faces, like Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Bill Elliott, and Ryan Blaney, also the son of a Hall of Famer. I think these have attracted some new fans to the sport, but according to many sources, NASCAR ratings have still been in decline.
But that was before COVID-19.
NASCAR surges ahead during COVID-19
Because NASCAR drivers race in separate cars, it was the first sport in the U.S. that was able to successfully resume competitions during the pandemic. And because it was trying to make up for lost time, many of the races were scheduled for Wednesday evening, in addition to the normal Sunday afternoon race.
It probably helped NASCAR that many other live sports have been shut down over the last few months, but I don’t think that is the whole story. For example, in May, Darrell (Bubba) Wallace, the sport’s only back driver, worked together with NASCAR to ban confederate flags from NASCAR races. People had been attempting to do this for years. Since then, Bubba has become a sports icon and has opened up NASCAR to a whole new generation of fans.
Why Do I recommend Your Teen Watch NASCAR?
I think one of the biggest benefits of watching NASCAR is the education. While these race cars are not exactly the same as the street-legal car you have in your garage, many of the concepts used in the sport are also true on the street.
I think kids could learn a lot about tire wear, fuel mileage and even some physics, just from spending a Sunday watching a race. It can possibly make them a more aware and responsible driver by the time they turn 16.
And while it’s unlikely your teen is going to be the next great NASCAR driver, there are many other career paths through the sport, such as engineering, mechanics and broadcasting that could pique your teen’s interest and lead them down a great career path.
Like any professional sport, sometimes tempers flare in the heat of completion. However, in NASCAR, there is never a lack of respect among not just the drivers for one another, but to the crew chief all the way down to the pit crew. While only one driver wins each race, most when interviewed always talk about what they learned from that race. And they always show their respect for the winner.
Regrettably, there was an incident recently that challenged the entire culture of NASCAR. A noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage before the June 22 race at Talladega. What happened after that, however, was the best of NASCAR. The next day all of the drivers came together and pushed his car to the front of the pack during the pre-race. They showed their support for who is he and made it clear he was absolutely, 100% welcome in their sport. It created a sign of togetherness and acceptance, and was well covered by the national media.
Fun and bonding with a parent
As I mentioned before, sports were an escape for me as a kid. NASCAR was no exception. I still remember watching amazing races with my stepfather growing up. It helped us bond and created many lasting memories
NASCAR continues its fun outside of Sundays (and Wednesdays). There are, of course, video games, but also die-cast and matchbox cars that let kids feel like they’re apart of the sport.
Overall, I believe that NASCAR is a fun sport that allows your kid to learn new skills and gain new experiences all from the safety of their living room. Give NASCAR a try. I’m very glad I did.
The Electronic Software Association considers video games a stress reliever for all ages, though some are still skeptical. Many who are not immersed in the gaming world only hear about the violent, shoot-‘em-up type of games. But recent years new games and new game character type have emerged. And studies are showing that these innovative games can be a new way to treat mental disorders. In fact, later in this article I’ll introduce the first game to be approved by the FDA to help with ADAD. Fur first, let’s talk about the new character types that are representing real life, including mental health issues, in a new way.
New Mental Health Characters
It’s true that previous games depicted characters with mental illness as either comedy or horror types (see Outlast or Borderlands). However, the gaming industry has moved past this way of thinking. Allow me to introduce you to Celeste. On the surface, Celeste is a platform-type game. In this game you have to overcome a series of challenging obstacles by jumping and climbing (think Super Mario Brothers). However, in this story there is a young woman named Madeline.
Madeline has an anxiety disorder. Throughout the game, you see her character experience panic attacks. When this happens, the music becomes sinister and the environment gets darker. She also starts to breath heavy and begin to shake. Although this is a 2D animated character, and very much a game, this is an experience many people have had in real life, including myself.
Having a character such as this has given me the sense that others might be able to feel or know what I have experienced. That representation is important for anyone, but I think it’s especially important for kids growing up. I grew up with and still have depression and mild anxiety. Certain things can trigger panic attacks for me, in addition to the depressive episodes I have where it feels like the weight of the ocean is on my body. Seeing a character in this game who is overcoming a mental barrier just as much as a physical one is very rewarding and comforting to me.
Seeing Someone Like Me
One outcome of this is I think it helped me understand that I needed to be the one to make the changes in my life if I wanted to feel better. I think these games can help children and teenagers figure out things about themselves. Maybe it’s easier to see what you are going through once you project your problems onto a character you are playing. But, fortunately, the game is also still fun to play!
Other games are also depicting real life mental health issues. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice puts you in the shoes of a woman who has a psychosis. Sea of Solitude looks at depression in a metaphorical way as inside a woman’s mind. Arise: A Simple Story is about a man dealing with grief and depression. Auti-Sim places you in the shoes of someone with autism. Each of these games is a way for players, both with and without mental illness, to understand a bit more about others and themselves.
Video Games are Helping with Mental Issues
Recently, games have been built specifically to treat people with mental health problems. For example, EndeavorRX, is the first FDA approved video game that is targeted toward children eight to 12 with ADHD. Studies show that one in three patients who play the game for 25 minutes a day for a week can reduce their attention deficit problems for up to a month (compared to those who did not play). Note, the developers and the doctors who helped with testing both say the game is a supplement to therapy and other medications, not a replacement. But it is widely encouraging that we’ve come this far. You can sign-up for their newsletter to find out when the game will be available at https://www.akiliinteractive.com/get-endeavor
I wanted to write about this topic for parents who may have children with mental illnesses because it is hard to truly understand what someone is going through when they say they have depression or anxiety. Games like these can help everyone understand what your child is going through, or even help treat their symptoms.
Games for Change
If you want to learn more about games like these, I suggest visiting Games for Change. Games for Change is a non-profit that helps bring attention to games like these I’ve mentioned. It also helps produce them by working with developers.
You can also take a look at The Insight Project, a collaboration between Hellblade developer Ninja Theory and Professor Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge. The Insight Project’s goal is to create gaming media that helps alleviate mental distress.
I know many parents are worried about the negative effects of gaming on their kids. But it’s important to recognize that not all games are created equal. Do the research, set some boundaries, and I’m sure you’ll find that gaming can become a healthy part of your kid’s lives.
In this age of the internet, getting educated online is
nothing new. But while your students may be using Zoom or other video chat
services to connect with teachers during the ongoing pandemic, there are
several other ways to learn online.
What I am talking about are “skillsharing” sites like Udemy,
Skillshare and Masterclass. These websites offer paid classes that teach
everything from English to ethical computer hacking to everything in between. Many
of these sites have been around for several years, but they’ve jumped in
populating now that we’re all stuck at home. They’ve become places for people
to learn new skills and even start new careers – all without having to learn in
a face-to-face environment.
However, these sites are not all the same. I will analyze three
of the most popular sites for you, as well as suggest some exciting courses for
you or your kids to learn.
Udemy was founded back in 2009 and is the most popular of
the three by far. Udemy boasts over 150 thousand courses and millions of
students worldwide. Note, I believe all of the courses are done by taught by
volunteers, chosen because of their expertise or because of the reputation of
the company they come from.
For example, one of the classes I bought was for a C# coding
language course specifically for the Unity Game Engine. Unity is a free game
development software platform that offers tons of tools for users to build any
kind of game they want. However, many people, like me, don’t know where to
start in game design, let alone how to code or “script.”
This course taught me not only a beginner’s knowledge of how
to use the C# language but also basic game design. The instructors were
industry veterans for over a decade and they worked with Unity to deliver this
comprehensive course. Each lecture is broken up into several parts that I could
rewind or pause at anytime. I’ve been told that instructors at Udemy do go back
to older lessons and update them. They also provide material for students to
download and host open QA sessions for students that are having trouble. In
general, the community for each course is made up of students that can
communicate with each other and they help each other out as well. Udemy also offers a certificate of completion for
finishing a course.
The downside to Udemy, I think, is that each course is
volunteer taught, so, therefore, the results may vary. Some might be perfect, but
some might also need a lot more work. Fortunately, there is a rating system in place
for students to give feedback. It helps new users decide which courses are
trustworthy or not.
Pricing wise, the average course costs $200+ each. But,
Udemy hosts many sales that knock that price down to about $9.99. I suggest waiting for one of these sales and
buying multiple courses at once.
These classes are some of the best on the entire site. Many coding languages are available for purchase. Thousands of users have cited how easy it was to pick up and start coding with clear and concise instructions. Challenges in these courses are practically based and will push you to test what you’ve learned during a lecture. I highly recommend these classes for any age that wants to begin their journey into coding.
Masterclass is a newer site. Unlike Udemy that has volunteer
teaching, Masterclass has many known celebrities teaching classes in different subjects.
You can learn creative writing from Margaret Atwood, cooking from Gordon
Ramsey, or even filmmaking from Martin Scorsese.
Each lecture is about 10 minutes long and each class is at least 20 lessons long. However, to access any of the classes, you must buy an annual all-access pass for $180 a year. This gives you access to all of the instructors on the site at any time, but it is a bit steep considering there may only be a couple of instructors/courses in the topics you want.
I haven’t bought the pass, so I cannot recommend any of the
courses. However, Dr. Lauber says he has taken the Malcom Gladwell course on
writing and thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t too advanced for anyone to take
and learn from it, but it did offer insights he had never heard – and he
teaches writing himself. I think it sounds enticing enough for me that I want
to try it out. But I’m waiting for a free trial to pop-up – it’s a little
beyond my college student budget.
SkillShare is a bit older than Udemy and is nearly as
popular. It offers many of the same things that Udemy does, but its course
library is more limited. The main difference is the price. SkillShare is
currently offering a free trial for a full month and users can purchase access
to all of the courses either monthly or annually. It is significantly cheaper
than Masterclass and costs either $100 a year or $15 a month.
I think the strengths of SkillShare are the writing and
practical skills courses. I would take advantage of the free month and find
some of the results for yourself. I would advise parents to take a look and see
if they can find a course they might want to take with their kids? Nothing says quality bonding time like
learning how to write a short story together!
Overall, any of these sites I think can be used to further someone’s
journey into education for a relatively low cost. If you would like to check out
any of the sites I mentioned the links are below.