Video Games Possible Positive Effect on Mental Health

By Steve Langdon

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.

Useful links:

https://www.inverse.com/innovation/video-games-good-for-your-mental-health

Early Tech Usage May Not Be Related to Tech Addiction

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

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.

For more information:

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/family-technology

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201118141726.htm

Lack of sleep will cause kids to become depressed

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By Megan Donny

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. 

For more information:

https://www.georgetownbehavioral.com/blog/impact-of-sleep

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201207150447.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-sleep-tracking-app/

Mood Disorder and Teenage Girls

How to Help Kids Survive Online Schooling

By Brooke Campbell

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.

Pace yourself

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.

Sources:

https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-are-some-kids-thriving-during-remote-learning

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/06/29/back-to-school-reopen-online-classes/3251324001/

https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/online-learning-how-to-prepare-child

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/23/how-effective-is-online-learning-what-the.html

How social media is making parenting today harder

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

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? 

For more information:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/social-media-changed-way-we-parent-4098583

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2016.0259

Also https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/parenting-children-in-the-age-of-screens/

Why parents must watch “16 and Recovering”

pic of Megan D
By: Megan Donny

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. 

For more information:

http://www.mtv.com/shows/16-and-recovering

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2020/09/09/mtv-mental-health-16-and-recovering/

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/01/entertainment/16-and-recovering/index.html

End Summer with These Social Distancing Sports

By Seth Woolcock

As the summer continues to segue into grey September days, this Autumn feels a little different than usual, especially when it comes to youth sports.

Some states have decided to cancel fall youth sports altogether, while others have given the green flag. 

But, whether your kid’s athletics are canceled for the season or still going, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about some different options that they can do to stay active while also staying safe and healthy.

And with social distancing here to stay for the time being, I recommend you check out these sports that can be played while maintaining social distancing:

Running

It’s one of those sports that it seems like you either love it or hate it. It also is something that all you need to get into it is a decent pair of sneakers. 

But either way, running and cross country, especially for would-be varsity athletes, really should be a sport that makes a comeback because of COVID-19.

If you are someone who doesn’t necessarily love sports or is a little self-conscious about being athletic, running is a great place to start mainly because it’s largely an independent activity.

It improves cardiovascular health and also reduces the body’s stress hormones, says a Harvard Healthstudy.

I suggest you do make sure you’re kid does learn some safety protocols and procedures, such as running against traffic in highly-visible clothing.

Pickleball

Pickleball was first played in 1969 in Washington State.

Known as the middle child between traditional tennis and table tennis, pickleball is a similar paddle sport played between two or four players.

In my high school, we had a pickleball tournament every year in gym class. I think one of the coolest things about the game is that so many kids, even the ones who normally didn’t get overly excited about gym class, could get decent at pickleball pretty quickly.

Paddles and balls are relatively inexpensive. And there are more and more pickleball courts in communities today. If your community doesn’t have a pickleball court, you can modify a tennis court by doing the following.

FootGolf

The first footgolf tournament was played in the Netherlands.

So Footgolf is, as you probably guessed, a combination of soccer and golf. Played just like regular golf or disc golf, it is played by golfers using a soccer ball to navigate the course, working around hazards to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of kicks or strokes.

Most footgolf courses are played at regular golf courses, but for a substantially lower price than regular golf. If your kid is into soccer but can’t play this season due to concerns regarding COVID-19, or if they just like kicking things, try taking them to a footgolf course and see how it goes.

Cycling

If your kid isn’t into running, maybe they’d be interested in one of the best alternatives, cycling. The sport has become so popular since COVID-19 hit back in March, that it’s been difficult to find bicycles to buy at times.

But if your kid already has a bike, or you’re able to get your hands on one, enjoy it. Cycling can be a great, healthy sport that the whole family can get involved in.

It seems like more bike trails are being put in yearly, which gives cyclists a safe place to enjoy biking while seeing the world and nature in a different way than they’re used to.

The sport is also another one that provides cardiovascular benefits, while also helping your kid develop better coordination.

Fantasy Sports

Alright, so I might be a little biased here, but I believe that fantasy sports are a great way for teens to keep in touch with the game while still being removed from actually playing it.

While fantasy football is the most popular and well-known fantasy sport, nowadays there is pretty much a fantasy version for every real sport. There’s everything from fantasy golf, to fantasy NASCAR, to even fantasy cricket.

Fantasy sports can be a great critical-thinking challenge and has various stats and trends to follow. Believe it or not, to be a high-level fantasy sports player, you actually need to be decent at math and statistics.

But there is the other side of fantasy sports, gambling. Quite obviously there is a large amount of luck involved in the game and you can quickly lose your buy-in if you’re playing for money. Warn your kids about playing for money. I’ve written other blogs on this site describing how some of my friends went several thousand dollars in the hole. I suggest keeping it low-stakes and for primarily bragging rights. But remember, kids should be able to enjoy fantasy sports without any betting at all.

Useful Links:

Teen Running Safety Guide: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safety-running.html

Is this new Tiktok dance appropriate for kids?

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

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. 

For more information:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpmdy/are-the-wap-lyrics-cardi-b-megan-thee-stallion-too-explicit-for-children

https://au.news.yahoo.com/tik-tok-user-imitating-music-video-challenge-ends-up-in-hospital-070120725.html

https://www.popbuzz.com/internet/viral/wap-dance-tiktok-challenge/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53877956

How the Pandemic has Affected Opioid Usage

pic of Megan D
By: Megan Donny

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

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

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

Reversing the Trend

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

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

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

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

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

Drug Use and Your Child

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

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

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

Links

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

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

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

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

Can NASCAR Be Your Teen’s New Favorite Sport?

By Seth Woolcock

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

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

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

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

NASCAR and the Drivers

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

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

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

But that was before COVID-19.

NASCAR surges ahead during COVID-19

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

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

Why Do I recommend Your Teen Watch NASCAR?

Education

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

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

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

Sportsmanship

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

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

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

Fun and bonding with a parent

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

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

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

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