How Games and Video Games Develop Spatial Vision

Spatial vision is a well-known term for those who develop games and apps, or even amongst education professionals, but it is still rarely discussed outside these fields.  

Spatial vision starts to develop when we are babies. Elizabeth Spelke is a psychologist and researcher of Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies, and she has studied children’s cognitive development since 1980. 

In an article published in 2020, she stated that babies can distinguish between changes in angles and shapes in drawings. Through gestures, the little ones can also learn to develop a sense of geometry. 

We spoke to Vânia Cristina Pires Nogueira Valente* about how spatial vision manifests and is improved through games

*Vânia Cristina Pires Nogueira Valente is vice-coordinator of the Media and Technology Post-Graduate Program – Professional Masters – from FAAC/Unesp and a lecturer in Graphic Representation. She is also a professor at the Faculty of Architecture, Arts and Communication from Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho, and author of the book Desenvolvimento da Visão Espacial por Games Digitais, (freely translated to “Spatial vision development through digital games”).

What is spatial vision?

According to Vânia, spatial vision is a set of abilities. It’s a skill which isn’t innate – in other words, no one is born with this skill, it’s instead developed throughout life. 

“Spatial vision isn’t a gift, it’s something you develop just like you learn how to write or ride a bike. Spatial vision can be improved and developed and increasingly sharpened. This skill involves imagining objects and three-dimensional things and conceiving a kind of construction in your head.” 

“For example, Waze is a two-dimensional map, but you can imagine the road and the corner where you will turn. The process of converting from 2D to 3D means you have a well-developed spatial vision skill. Or, when you imagine dice and see them turning in your mind: that’s spatial vision working.”  

How can we develop spatial vision?  

The professor states you need to develop cognitive skills before developing spatial vision. “It’s necessary to have quick thinking, a notion of distance, response speed and reflex. That is why in contact sports, in which you need to reach a goal and calculate the time to get rid of the opponent, such as football, there are several skills that are developed, and all of this helps to develop spatial vision.” 

“Many of these skills, such as quick thinking and reflex, are also developed by games such as shooter games, in which the players have to get rid of their opponents and, in order to do that, they need to think quickly. 

Vânia mentions the game Overwatch in her book as an example of action games that also stimulate the skills necessary for spatial vision development. Games in which there’s speed usually require response speed. Many of them also contain several elements on screen that players need to pay attention to. All these elements develop skills that lead to the improvement of spatial vision, according to Vânia. 

“I like some more specific games, like Minecraft, in which you can look at objects from different points of view. You can navigate around the space, the game’s environment, and you see the same object from different positions: from the top, head-on, and from the sides. That allows the brain to put together 3D objects based on these views. I mention Minecraft to my students to exercise their spatial vision skill,” she explains. 

Developed spatial vision may be necessary for many different jobs: 

The benefits of spatial vision development provide several necessary skills for many professions, according to Vânia. 

“In my case, since I teach engineering, design, and technical drawing, students need to draw objects, projections, blueprints, aerial and front-view drawings and therefore need their spatial vision skill very well-developed.” 

“I used to notice in my lessons how easier it was for students who played games or practiced action and contact sports such as football than it was for the others. Professionally it is very important to have a well-developed spatial vision, and so is for our personal lives.” 

Vânia remarks that spatial vision is also extremely important for driving, since, in order to drive the vehicle, the driver’s attention must be on several places and they have to calculate the space, speed, etc. 

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

Editor’s Note

Now that we’ve seen that many electronic games help to develop spatial vision, a question may arise: what about kids and violent games? This subject has been openly discussed since video games gained traction as a source of entertainment, at least 20 years ago. 

Of course, the later violent games are introduced to kids, the better. But playing this type of computer game or video game isn’t necessarily making kids violent. Behavioral change in kids never stems from one thing only, albeit that doesn’t exclude the possibility of violent games being a trigger for aggressive behavior. That depends on how much time this kid plays every day, if there’s open dialogue between them and the parents, if their older siblings also play these games and even the kid’s personality. 

Specialists’ Opinion

Even specialists disagree when it comes to this subject. There are those who defend that electronic games do influence kids’ behaviors and those who defend that it isn’t something defined by one factor only and that there is a series of events, not an isolated one, which may lead to this type of behavior. 

To this day, when it comes to this theme, it is hard to find an article which has reached a verdict. Most likely because there are many issues involved: the parents’ participation in the kids’ lives, the relationship between the kids and their caretakers, social-economical, gender, and personality issues, and so on and so forth. 

One common ground between them is in relation to screen time according to the kid’s age. Several Pediatric Associations and Councils around the world recommend no screen time at all for kids under the age of 2. From this age forward, the recommendation starts with 30 minutes and increases along the age range. 

Another common ground is in regards to kids who isolate themselves in electronic games, which is a warning sign. Kids who usually play on the computer and video games but take part in other activities and hobbies have a different relationship with electronics than kids who isolate themselves in the computer and in video games. If your kids are isolating themselves, you can: give them more attention, offer another type of activity, take them out, ask them about their friends, etc. Also, help them with whatever they need. 

Outro consenso é em relação às crianças que se isolam nos jogos eletrônicos, que é um sinal de alerta. Crianças que costumam jogar no computador e videogame, mas que fazem outras atividades e hobbies, têm uma relação diferente com os eletrônicos das crianças que se isolam no computador e videogame. Se seus filhos se isolam, vale dar mais atenção a eles, oferecer outro tipo de atividade, fazer mais passeios, perguntar sobre seus amigos e etc, e ajudá-los no que for necessário.

Harvard Analysis

A 2010 analysis from Harvard Health Publishing, from Harvard University, gathers articles from specialists from both sides of the coin. Some articles, more recent at the time, argue that “much of the research on violent video game use relies on measures to assess aggression that don’t correlate with real-world violence”. Even more important than that, “some studies are observational and don’t prove cause and effect.”

According to this document, “Although adults tend to view video games as isolating and antisocial, other studies found that most young respondents described the games as fun, exciting, something to counter boredom, and something to do with friends. For many youths, violent content is not the main draw.

“Boys in particular are motivated to play video games in order to compete and win. Seen in this context, use of violent video games may be similar to the type of rough-housing play that boys engage in as part of normal development. Video games offer one more outlet for the competition for status or to establish a pecking order.”

What may be done at home

Our point is: it’s not the end of the world if your kids play violent electronic games. If that’s the case and you do have some concerns, do the basic

  • Show interest in what your kids are interested in.
  • Try to understand why they like it so much.
  • Play it with them, talk about it. 
  • Do some research on the game and search for more information on it. 
  • Beware of behavior changes and ask the kids what they think, instead of being sure you already know the answer. 
  • Encourage them to play sports.
  • Remember it is important for kids to have limited screen time! If you haven’t set a limit at home yet, see whether that makes sense for you and your family. We’ve talked about this in this article
  • Check whether your kids are playing games appropriate for their age range.* 

* For example: 7-year-old kids playing a teen-rated video game is undoubtedly inappropriate. If this happens, research similar and fun alternatives to offer your kids, in exchange for the first option. For instance, if they’re playing a shooting game, find a paintball alternative, in which the mechanics are the same, but there isn’t as much violence. 

On the other hand, it is very common for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 14 to play mature-rated video games. Is it ideal? No, but forbidding them from playing only makes them feel outraged, in this case. To evaluate this case, take into account your kids’ particularities such as maturity and sensitivity to some themes and talk to them about the game’s content (guns, violence or any other theme you find inappropriate for them. At their age, an open dialogue is better than taking the game away from them). 

Truth and Tales’ stance: we don’t recommend that kids under the age of 4 consume any screen content. For more details, we recommend reading this post: “Kids and exposure to screens: how far is it okay?” 

Mindfulness: a solution to social media stress

This is a reproduction of an article originally published on the Child Mind Institute website. No copyright infringement intended. 

Managing Social Media Stress With Mindfulness

by Rachel Ehmke

It’s hard to imagine life without social media. It has become essential to connecting with our friends, getting updates about what’s going on in the world and being entertained. We can barely remember (if we’re old enough to remember!) how we stayed in touch without it. But teens and young adults are increasingly reporting that social media can also be a source of stress.

What we hear a lot about, especially from teenagers, is that when they’re scrolling through feeds they are often (consciously or unconsciously) comparing themselves to others. People tend to post the highlights — the perfect hair, the perfect friends, the perfect pre-gym selfie—and it’s fun to scroll through them.

But it can also hurt your self-esteem when your life doesn’t feel as perfect as everyone else’s looks. It can make you start overanalyzing your own social media presence, counting the likes your latest post got and pushing yourself to look effortlessly perfect, too, regardless of how you’re really feeling.

Similarly, people are talking so much about the fear of missing out that there’s an acronym for it. Social media is FOMO’s best and worst friend. If you’re worried about missing out, social media is great because you can stay connected to everything, wherever you are. But since there’s always something new, you never feel like you’ve seen everything and you can take a break.

Staying connected 

When everything is online you also sometimes get proof that you are, indeed, missing out. When you see your friends hanging out without you, it feels bad. Watching an ex starting a new relationship hurts.

If spending time on social media is causing stress, the usual advice is to unplug. And while that’s good advice, it’s not very realistic advice, especially for teenagers, who do a huge amount of their socializing online.

And this adolescent socializing is more important than it looks. Teenagers are still figuring out their place in the world, and it is often through their relationships that they begin to make sense of their identity. It isn’t in their interest to stop using social media entirely. But finding a way to have healthy relationships and a healthy self-esteem while still using social media is. Sound tough? Learn how to practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a technique for living in the moment and without judgment. It helps you become more aware of what is happening around you and how you feel. Taking the time to slow down and notice these details helps you regulate your emotions and stress levels. It also introduces a level of reflection and self-awareness that people often don’t have when they’re scrolling through feeds online.

And mindfulness isn’t just for taking a walk in the park or watching the sunset. If it is applied to the social media experience itself, says Jill Emanuele, PhD, a Child Mind Institute psychologist and mindfulness expert, it can help kids manage the emotion generated by all that information about what your friends are doing.

Dr. Emanuele recommends the following mindfulness strategies to make time spent online (and offline) happier.

Check in with yourself

Work on being more self-aware and prioritizing how you feel and what you think when you’re using social media. “The stereotype for using social media is you’re just going going going, not really thinking about the impact it’s having on you,” notes Dr. Emanuele. “You want to try to be mindful of that impact.”

Dr. Emanuele recommends asking yourself: How am I doing right now? How is this app making me feel? How did that picture make me feel? Try to be aware of changes in your mood, and see if you notice any patterns.

It’s okay if you notice that the emotions you are having are negative. Try not to judge how you are feeling, but do acknowledge the emotion. Acknowledging when you are feeling jealous or sad can be very powerful because it actually helps take some of the bite out of the bad feeling. It can also help you process your emotion — without getting carried away by it.

Mindful reality check

However, if something is consistently making you feel bad, practicing mindfulness can also help you identify that and then ask yourself why, and if there is something you can do that might help. Taking the time to notice — and value — how you are feeling is an important skill that will make you happier and more confident in all areas of your life, not just when you’re online.

Mindfulness can also give you reality check. For example, people often try to use social media as a way to cheer up when they’re feeling down or bored. So if you’re feeling bad about yourself, you might post something that’s totally opposite, like a cute selfie or a picture of your great friends. Sometimes projecting something different, or getting compliments online, can get you out of the funk.

But the satisfaction is often fleeting, and you can find yourself feeling like you’re just fooling everyone. If you notice that you actually feel worse afterwards, know that this isn’t uncommon, and look for more reliable ways to improve your mood.

Use technology

Using technology to track technology is another strategy Dr. Emanuele recommends. For example there are apps like Moment and Checky that are designed to help you track how you use your phone.

“Do an experiment to see how much time you actually spend on certain things,” says Dr. Emanuele. “When you’re on it, what are you actually doing? What are your emotions like?”

Likewise, mood tracking apps and diaries remind you to take time to check in with yourself. They also create a record of how you’ve been feeling, which you can revisit after the fact. Gathering data on how you use technology and how technology affects you will help you notice patterns and, if necessary, develop better habits. Seeing the data might be surprising, since we often aren’t aware of how much time we spend once we start scrolling.

If you want to try to learn more about mindfulness, Dr. Emanuele notes there are also apps that guide you through the basics of how to practice mindfulness. Headspace and Smiling Mind are two popular ones. Smiling Mind is designed for young people so it may be a better fit for tweens.

Go offline

The best way to get a little perspective is to take occasional breaks from social media. Do yoga, go for a run, spend time with friends in person, hang out in nature. Whatever it is, doing things in real life can be a big stress reliever and make you feel better about yourself in a way that scrolling through a feed never will.

Try to practice self-awareness during offline activities, too. Notice how you feel in the moment when you are being active, and note what really feels like fun to you. You might surprise yourself. And chances are you’ll find that experience is pretty addictive, too.

:: You can also read: Children’s Games: How Wonderful Are They? ::

Freemium x Premium Apps: how apps earn money and how that affects kids

The mobile apps industry is constantly changing and growing, and one of its most important target audiences is children. Today we are going to talk about the differences between two app monetization models that can make all the difference in terms of content and kids’ lives: the Freemium and Premium (or paid) apps. 

What is monetization? 

Monetization is the strategy used by apps to earn money. There exists a number of app monetization methods: 

  • Paid apps: you pay for the apps and all of their content once. They are free of advertisements. 
  • Subscription apps: you pay for the app periodically. It may be every month, every semester, or every year. Apps that use this strategy release new content and updates regularly for their subscribers to enjoy. Most of these subscription apps are also free of advertisements. 
  • Freemium apps: the app is free, but there are in-app purchases. The items for sale can vary between game packages, extra lives, books, effects, workout programs, etc. They may contain ads. 
  • Advergames/Big brands apps: many brands make their apps and content available, completely free. When this happens, the app is in itself the brand’s advertising, and therefore it makes no sense for this type of app to advertise other brands. 
  • 100% free apps: apps that make all their content available for free. Monetization occurs through ads shown inside the app. In other words, advertisements appear at the end of each stage, each video, after a number of minutes, etc. It is common for the user to be able to skip the ad after a few seconds of having watched it. Sometimes the user receives app rewards for watching the ad (rewarded ads).

Remember: nothing is free on the internet. You may not have pulled out your wallet and spent money on any apps, but you always pay in some way.

Why are free apps not recommended for kids? 

Free kids apps monetize through advertisements. Even though the apps themselves make an effort to ban certain types of advertising, mistakes happen. For instance, we have seen ads for alcoholic beverages being displayed on certain kids apps that we knew had this type of control. 

Kids can only start to understand what is an advertisement around the age of 8, according to Common Sense Media. Before that, they consume it as normal entertainment content, that is, without any filter. 

Advertisers know that the earlier children learn about a brand, the bigger the chances are that they will buy the product later (or beg their parents to buy it). The exposure of kids to advertisements can stimulate the craving for excessive stimuli, non-balanced diets, and, mainly, consumerism. 

Freemium Apps

Free apps can also offer in-app purchases. This is a common practice and it is possible for this type of app to contain ads or not. They are called Freemium: a mixture of free and premium, the latter of which brings to mind the idea of quality. 

These apps sell extra lives, some type of help to level up, clothes and fashion accessories to customize characters, gifts to give to other players, and so on and so forth. 

The problem is how this “trade” is made. In many apps, it is not clear that the purchase is real, that it requires real money, and that it is charged directly on the parents’ credit card. It is common for kids to think it is “make-believe money” and simply part of the game, and then they buy several items because most of them don’t require any type of parental control, password, or gates for the kids to ask their parents’ help. In this video, it is common for children to make in-app purchases unknowingly, especially kids who don’t know how to read yet. 

Another common practice of this type of app is the “impossible levels”, in which players who are already hooked by the game are not able to progress until after a certain amount of tries. This happens on purpose and it is manufactured, akin to some casino slot-machine practices. The only way to level up is to buy items that help. This purchase can also happen through ads, such as for instance: “Watch this ad and earn a power-up”. 

Loot Box

Loot boxes are one of the items sold inside these apps. Loot boxes are surprise boxes with items that can be used in the game. When you buy (or is gifted) a loot box, you don’t know what is inside. That is: many children buy loot boxes in the hopes of finding a rare item, but these chances are minimal, and most of the time the rewarded items are cheaper and more common than the loot box itself. 

This mechanic is the same as the one used in slot machines in casinos: they are addictive and present in many popular kids games. 

Even if many freemium apps don’t have advertising, they were designed for the player to spend as much time as possible inside the app. That is, the content it delivers is addictive. Therefore, even though the player has no more lives or has reached an impossible level, the game uses mechanics and tricks that induce the user to buy extra life packages and hints or even to watch an ad in exchange for a life. 

Data usage

And if you don’t identify the free app that your child uses in any of the options above, it is because it is collecting data. All apps take data from their users, do not be fooled, and for two reasons: improving the app itself and its usability and using this data for marketing purposes. The second option is what practically every “100%” free app does to its users’ data. 

But what is this data? 

The data that apps collect is about how much time you spend on the app, where you click, how much time you spend on each step, which of the app’s content you consume, and during which time you use it. If there are ads inside the app, it is also possible to know which kind of ads you watch in its entirety, which ones you skip, and how much time you spend on each ad, etc. There is so much data it is hard to create an exhaustive list of all its possibilities. 

After all this information is collected, algorithms can create a profile for you: your preferences and what you like to see; the times that you are on your phone, that you take your meals, that you study or work, and that you go to sleep; if you like football, which films and TV shows you watch on TV, etc.  

All of this is sold so that other companies use you as a consumer. Your profile is sold for companies to show you advertisements because your interests match the products they sell.  

This can be quite troublesome since most people don’t know where or for what purpose their data is being collected. But the main point is: kids have no idea what that means. And, for that reason, kids apps are forbidden from using personally identifiable information (PII) from kids under the age of 13. 

In practice 

In order to deceive this system, many apps don’t call themselves kids apps so they can use this data, even though they know most of its audience are kids. They wash their hands of their responsibility and affirm the app is not recommended for kids under 13 despite all the language, design and themes of the app being children-oriented. 

These companies use this data to sell advertisements. What happens to children is that they are then bombarded with ads chosen for them based on their tastes, age, gender, toy preferences, colors, bedtimes, extracurricular activities, etc. And we know that kids don’t take in these ads the same way as adults — it’s a much more violent and dangerous content for them. Beyond that, there is practically no regulating body to supervise these advertisements, specially here in Brazil. 

Why pay for an app for my kids?

Many kids apps are changing their monetization strategy so the user needs to purchase the app. There are currently two common methods: one that charges by the app itself (Premium apps) and another that charges by subscription. The former charges you only once when you download the app in the app store. Usually, you pay this one-time fee and are given access to all available content, but there is no new content after that, only updates to fix possible bugs. 

When the app is subscription-based, you download it for free and only inside the app are you going to purchase its content by subscribing to one of the offered plans. Plans can charge you once by month, semester or year. The purchase is made after you have entered a password and gone through parental gates and “adult” screens that don’t catch kids’ attention, that is, it is very difficult for children to subscribe by accident. 

Subscription-based apps usually offer a free trial period for the child to experiment with the app and for parents to decide whether it is worth the investment. Since it is a monthly investment, subscription-based apps are always updating the app and providing new content for their users.  

Other benefits

These two models are free of advertisements, that is, children’s data is not commercialized. Does that mean these apps don’t collect data from my kids? No, that is not what it means. These apps do collect some data from their users, but this data is not sold for monetization purposes, so that more “assertive” ads pop up for your kids. 

Paid apps use user data to improve the experience inside the app. For example: it is through this data that app developers can identify bugs, or when an important button is not communicating what is necessary because it is not being used. Since these apps do not contain advertisements, the data never leaves them. 

:: You can also read: Yoga for kids: more focus (and fun!) for the little ones ::

A Parent’s Guide to Among Us: everything you need to know about the game

You have probably come across this name at least once in the last few months, hearing it from your kids, other children, or friends, even if you haven’t played it yet. Recently, analytics platform Sensor Tower published data that revealed Among Us was the most downloaded mobile game worldwide in September, for Android and iOS.

All this success can be explained by a couple of things. The Covid-19 pandemic caused many countries throughout the world to practise social distancing. 

Online games, then, in that sense, became a viable alternative source of entertainment, since leaving the house to meet relatives and friends was not recommended by health authorities. 

Still, it isn’t just the frequent internet use and social distancing measures that put Among Us in the position it is today. It is also its functionalities, its narrative and its possibilities that are attractive to both adult and young players. And that is why we are going to explain a little bit more about the game and its features. 

What is Among Us?

Among Us is a game created in 2018 by Innersloth, an American video game developer. Only the mobile version (for Android and iOS) was made available after its initial release, but the PC version was developed by its creators at the end of the same year. 

What is the goal of the game?  

The goal of the game is considered simple and Among Us isn’t the first to propose this same premise. It’s a multiplayer game, that is, you necessarily have to play with other people, there isn’t the option to play alone. Players gather in groups to start the game, and each group must have between 4 to 10 participants. 

As soon as the app starts, players have a few options: they can create their own game and call friends and family to play, or they can join previously created games. 

  • Host: if players want to host a game;
  • Public: if they want to find public games; 
  • Private: players enter a code given by the Host to access the game.

The game happens inside a ship in space, where crewmates are trying to survive the galaxy. Among this crew, there is an “impostor” whose goal is to eliminate the other participants. The impostor is chosen randomly and, depending on the game settings, there may have more than one impostor. 

:: You can also be interested in: Freemium x Premium Apps: how apps earn money and how that affects kids ::

Is there a cost to play Among Us? 

To play the mobile version, you can download the app for free on your smartphone. The Steam version, however, which is for computers, costs R$ 10,89. 

It is also possible to buy “skins”, which is how the characters look. Prices vary greatly and the purchase can be made in the in-game store. 

We should also mention that after games come to an end in the free version, ads pop up on the user’s screen. In the paid version there are no ads. 

Role playing: who is whom in Among Us?

There are two groups of characters in Among Us: the crewmates and the impostor (or impostors). Each character will play a specific role in the game. 

Impostor: the impostor must kill the other crewmates in the ship. They can also sabotage the ship, and, of course, they have to evade accusations that they are the impostor. 

Crewmates: crewmates have to remain alive until the game is finished. They can also perform tasks and accuse participants who they believe are the impostors. 

The role played by each character is secret, and only the players themselves know who they are at the beginning of the game. 

After someone is killed, other crewmates will end up finding the body. Once the body is reported to the other players, an emergency meeting is called, which takes place on a text chat located at the top right corner of the screen.  

This moment is when crewmates will accuse who they believe to be the impostor. Then, each one can vote on the character they think is guilty. It is also possible to skip the vote. 

What happens after the voting ends?

When a player receives the majority of votes, they are kicked out of the game. If they are part of the crew, they become a ghost. If the player ejected is really the impostor, then the crewmates have won the game. 

There is also another way for crewmates to win the game. Should they complete all their tasks before most of them are killed, they win. 

Which elements deserve parents’ attention? 

Age Rating:

Among Us is not a game for kids and it was not created to reach this specific audience. App Store gave it a 9+ rating and Google Play recommended it for kids older than 12 years old. Steam, the platform where the PC version of the game can be downloaded, said it is suitable for all audiences. 

Swearing in the chat:

In the game settings, there is the option to “censor chat”. When the censor chat mode is on, any inappropriate words that appear on the screen will be censored. The game comes with this option already enabled, but it can be disabled at any moment. 

Invitations to voice or video call: 

Many players prefer to play Among Us connected to a voice or video platform, so that they can talk instead of type in the game chat. 

In public games, invitations to join chats outside the game are common. It is also common to exchange WhatsApp numbers and social media profiles, and there is no filter or censor mode to stop this

Inappropriate usernames: 

Players must choose a name once they download the game in order to start to play. Many players adopt inappropriate names that contain sexual content or bad language.

Other inappropriate conducts during the game: 

When a player joins a public game, many times the host ends up banning players with no apparent reason. 

There are also players that use hacks, that is, an alternative menu is added to the “official” menu in the game which offers several options, such as the player always being the impostor, the unlocking of accessories and other functions. 

How can the game experience be safer and more fun? 

The dynamic created by the game attracts adults as well and it can be a fun experience for parents to play along with the kids, for instance, or other close relatives. 

The PC version is the safest version, since it allows the host the ability to ban players that act inappropriately. Creating a private game, even in the free version, is also a good alternative, since only those who know the code can enter the game. 

In this case, guidance is the strongest ally. It is fundamental that you talk to your kids about the risks of offering private information to strangers, or of joining online chats when they don’t know who will be there. 

Since last Thursday, several players have reported the game platform is being the target of multiple spam attacks. 

Messages have been sent to the game text chat inviting players to subscribe to YouTube and Discord channels and threatening those who wouldn’t. Content related to Donald Trump’s reelection in the United States have also been sent by the hackers. 

The game developers have released an update that ended up not solving the problem and therefore recommended that private games are the safest option at the moment. 

This significant attack raised many discussions on social media about the game’s safety and the protection of its players’ data.  

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

Editor’s Note

Among Us is quite popular and forbidding kids from playing “the most popular game of the moment” will result in a lot of frustration. In the article, we explain how the game works and its recommended age, the main dangers it poses to kids and some solutions to them. 

Therefore, our suggestion is: do your kids want to play? Play it with them, be there to keep an eye on things, and, if you see something that doesn’t go along with what you want them exposed to, then you end the game. It’s important to talk to children so that they understand the motive behind your actions. 

P.S: The game contains illustrations and graphics of blood and character deaths.

:: You can also read: Balance with technology: how to find it? ::

Why did Truth and Tales win the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards?

We are proud to announce that Truth and Tales has won the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards! 

The Mom’s Choice Awards is a platform that evaluates products and services developed for children, families and educators. The Mom’s Choice Awards is recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. The Mom’s Choice Awards is a program from the United States, but it has already evaluated thousands of items from more than 55 countries. 

The items are reviewed by the Mom’s Choice Awards in terms of production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. The evaluators of the Mom’s Choice Awards are interested in items that promote good will, that are inspirational and that help families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Truth and Tales has earned the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards by meeting all of the requirements above with excellence, but we can mention some of the highlights. 

What are the Truth and Tales differentials? 

The type of stories

We can start with the quality of the books: the curation of Truth and Tales is done by neuroscientists, doctors and education professionals that attend conferences and events, being in constant update mode. 

That is why the teaching stories were selected for Truth and Tales: they contain important elements that not only assist in the literacy process and in the contact with reading, but also help the child to grow into a mindful human being

Truth and Tales acts in cognitive development, in emotional balance with emotion recognition and in negotiation skills, in addition to developing attributes such as empathy and perception

The narrative 

The narrative was considered so the child would be surprised by the characters: the villain who isn’t evil, the “mistake” which doesn’t go wrong, the adults who don’t know everything. It may seem like a detail, but with a plethora of stories bringing this dichotomy of good guy/bad guy, right/wrong, and adults who know everything/children who know nothing, young readers start to relate this to what happens in life and take it as gospel. 

The degrees of subtlety are also an important factor in Truth and Tales. The tales are profound and perception comes in waves – gradually and bit by bit. The child who read the tales at the age of 5 will have a different experience and perception after reading it later at the age of 8. The penny drops unhurriedly and in very specific and personal ways for each person. Each individual’s needs are quite different, and the teaching stories act in accordance with them. 

Inside Truth and Tales 

The design is undoubtedly one of the strengths of Truth and Tales: in addition its dazzle, it was crafted for calm and peaceful reading, with colors that don’t over excite children’s brain. All of this added to the animated and interactive features that allow for a rich and fun experience

The game mechanics were also very well-considered. Why isn’t it like a normal book, where the child turns the pages? We created an interactive book in which the child has the privilege to explore the characters and the setting. In the beginning of each book, we teach readers how this interaction works without them noticing and, from this moment on, each different touch on the book sceneries is a surprise. To give children the freedom to stop, appreciate, search for details and focus their attention on what they are doing was something we made sure to bring to Truth and Tales. 

Truth and Tales also relies on optimal font for dyslexia throughout the app. The karaoke tool also helps children who are in middle of the literacy process. While the narrator tells the stories, the sentences appear at the bottom corner of the app, turning yellow when the words have been read. 

Truth and Tales was conceived and produced based on the most up-to-date studies and research on games and children. The app was not created for children to never put the phone away, after all, it is not recommended that children between the age of 5 and 7 spend more than 1 hour a day exposed to screens and, between the age of 8 and 10, 1 hour and a half. 

Roblox: The Complete Guide for Parents

Roblox is one of the kids games of the moment, despite all the controversy around it. For this reason, we have brought here an article from Common Sense Media so that parents can better understand what it is and how to let their kids enjoy this online platform safely

This is a reproduction of an article originally published on the Common Sense Media website. No copyright infringement intended. 

:: You can also read: A Parent’s Guide to Among Us: everything you need to know about the game ::

Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Roblox

By Caroline Knorr

Offering both intense multiplayer gaming and a sophisticated game-building tool, Roblox (which boasts some 150 million users worldwide) delivers variety, creativity, competition, and socializing — much of it for free. You can even make money on the game.

Though Roblox has the potential to be a learning tool, similar to Minecraft, it has its downsides. Because all of its content is user-generated, kids can be exposed to a range of material. Much of it is age-appropriate for tweens and teens. Some of it is just annoying, such as advertising and incessant demands to buy “Robux,” Roblox’s in-game currency. And some of it is very concerning, such as predatory behavior and sexually explicit user forums

However, with careful attention to red flags, privacy settings, and other safety precautions, kids can have a rich and thrilling experience playing Roblox. But your understanding of how it works, and how your kids can use it safely, is key. Learn more about the pros and cons of this immersive, creative, and powerful multiplayer gaming service.

What is Roblox?

Roblox is an online gaming platform where you can play games designed by other users and create and share your own games using Roblox’s proprietary game-developing tool, Roblox Studio. Once you sign up, you can play an infinite number of games, build and share creations, and chat with other users – all for free. Some of the most popular games include Adopt Me!, MeepCity, and Work at a Pizza Place, which all boast billions of user visits. If your kids are serious about the game, they’ll need Robux, and they’ll probably want to subscribe to Roblox Premium, which provides additional features for a membership fee.

How does Roblox work?

Roblox offers two equally compelling modes: playing games and creating them. After registering, you have unrestricted access to both modes (however, most kids are just there to play). You can choose from a never-ending and continually evolving supply of creative and fun challenges in various categories, from shooters to murder mysteries to sports to fighting games. (Frustratingly, you can’t sort games by genre, so finding ones you like is often a process of trial and error.)

Gameplay can be uneven, but good creators tend to rise to the top of the feed. Some amateur developers use the platform as a kind of portfolio to showcase their work for potential employers. For kids who are interested in creating their own games, Roblox offers a lot of instructions, a wiki, and a helpful player community. Creators can monetize their games to earn revenue, both by charging people to play their games and by offering pay-as-you-go in-game purchases — usually needed to get ahead in the game.

What age is Roblox for?

Roblox doesn’t specify a minimum age. Users of any age can create and join groups, chat, and interact with others. The company’s commitment to the theory of “constructivism,” which promotes the educational benefits of curiosity, designing, and building, is – in theory – appropriate for anyone who can navigate through a game. In practice, though, such an open approach can pose some risks to kids, especially younger ones. And though Roblox has some safety precautions in place, it remains a target of people with less-than-good intentions. Still, because of the learning potential the game offers, Common Sense Media rates it OK for users age 13+. We urge parents to help kids protect themselves by enabling privacy settings, teaching them how to recognize the methods that online predators use to win kids’ trust and exploit them, and showing kids how to report bad behavior and block users.

What are Robux?

Robux are Roblox’s in-game currency. You use them for a range of things, including special outfits or animations for your avatar, unique abilities in games, weapons, and other objects. There are different ways to get Robux: You can buy them, get them as part of a Premium membership, trade for them, or have someone donate them to you. You can also earn them by charging the users to play games you’ve created and by charging for items in your games.

How much does Roblox cost?

Roblox uses a freemium/premium model. You can do a lot for free, including play tons of games and use the Roblox Studio game builder. But doing anything beyond the basics, such as animating your avatar or buying and trading weapons, requires Robux. The company offers three subscription levels in its Roblox Premium membership, which includes a Robux allowance:

  •  $4.99 per month includes 450 Robux
  • $9.99 per month includes 1,000 Robux 
  • $19.99 per month includes 2,200 Robux

Are there parental controls?

Roblox offers account controls that let parents restrict how kids can interact on the site and the types of games they can play. You can control whether kids can be contacted, who can message or chat with them, and a few other things in the contact settings. To enable these settings, you add your email address to your kid’s account and create a PIN that prevents kids from changing the settings back. The account controls are optional; kids of any age can create an account on Roblox with no parental restrictions. On accounts of kids under 13, Roblox automatically defaults to stricter settings, but a kid could change these if there’s no parent PIN.

Can you make real money?

Yes, you can make real money on Roblox. In fact, dedicated creators can earn major bucks. Roblox offers a few different revenue-generating models, including charging others for access to games you create, charging incremental fees within your game, and trading rare items that other players are willing to pay for. To earn money, you have to be older than 13, hold a Premium membership, and have at least 100,000 Robux in your account. Then you can trade the Robux into the company for real money. 100,000 Robux is worth $350.

Is there chat on Roblox, and is it safe?

Roblox encourages users to interact through its Chat & Party function. All chat is filtered, which means inappropriate language is replaced by hashtag symbols. Chatting in accounts of kids under 13 is more heavily filtered. Roblox also employs human monitors who keep an eye out for inappropriate language and content. However, even with the monitors and filtered chat, people have figured out ways to bypass this, so knowing who you’re talking to is vital for safe interaction.

What are “ODers” in Roblox?

“OD” stands for “online dater.” These are folks who join social networks, including gaming sites like Roblox, to find romantic partners. Games on Roblox can even be designed expressly for ODers. Roblox doesn’t explicitly forbid ODers, and ODers aren’t necessarily preying on kids. (They may be solely looking for other ODers.) Roblox‘s monitors look out for inappropriate conversations and content. And its community rules prohibit chat that’s sexual in nature. If your kid wants to use Roblox, it’s critical that you review online safety, such as how to identify potential predators, how to report and block users, and how to spot “grooming” behavior, which predators use to get their victims to trust them.

How do kids find out about Roblox?

If your kid likes Roblox, he or she can find lots of Roblox-related videos on popular gaming platforms such as Twitch, Miniclip, and YouTube Gaming. There are Let’s Plays — where gamers livestream themselves playing Roblox games — as well as how-tos, news, and analysis by Roblox fanatics. Some of these videos have off-color language, so check out our YouTube guide for tips on keeping kids from overexposure to age-inappropriate content.

Are sexual predators a big problem on Roblox?

There are predators on Roblox, as there are on many extremely popular social networks. Predators take advantage of Roblox‘s easily accessible chat to target their victims. (All you have to do is sign up for Roblox to start chatting, and the Chat & Party window is featured on nearly every page of the site.) Roblox uses human monitors as well as technology to weed out the bad guys, but they still crop up occasionally. To avoid being contacted by a predator, and to play as safely as possible, kids should enable the most restrictive contact settings (found on the Privacy Settings page). You can prevent anyone from contacting you by turning off chat entirely or limiting interactions to only friends. You should coach your kids to not chat with people they don’t know (unless they can verify they’re actually a friend, or a friend of a friend, in real life) and to not accept private messages (PMs) from anyone they don’t know. Make sure they know never to give away personal information, trust their instincts if someone makes them uncomfortable, and never move a conversation to a different platform (a telltale predator red flag). 

Updated March 9, 2021

TikTok: what you need to know about this social network popular among kids and teens

Have you ever heard of TikTok? It is the fourth most-downloaded non-gaming app in the world, according to Sensor Tower. TikTok, previously know as Musical.ly, is a social network centered on video sharing, especially lip syncs, dance, remixes and other types of content that involve music and video editing. TikTok is popular with kids and teens worldwide. We wrote an article based on Common Sense Media’s review of TikTok and on parents’ testimonies. 

In their profiles, TikTok users post funny dubbings and lip syncs, famous choreographies, viral challenges or just themselves singing a Top 40 song. At first glance the idea might sound innocuous: a social network geared towards sharing videos that focus on music, where users can interact momentarily through chats and filters, stickers and augmented reality animation.

 On Google Play and the App Store TikTok is recommended for 12 years old and up, but the website Common Sense Media reviewed the app and suggested that it be used only by those who are 16 or older. Why is that?

Exposure on TikTok

An user can create a private account, but TikTok’s goal is the exact opposite of keeping your personal content private. The app has a high number of videos of children and teenagers dancing, lip syncing or singing, which is available for anyone. In the United States users younger than 13 years old can’t post any kind of content

Data Mining

In february 2019 Musical.ly, the company that owns TikTik, was fined for US$ 5,7mi in the US for illegally collecting children’s personal information. As a result of that the app created a “Kids’ Platform” so that users younger than 13 years old can use the app without having their data mined and so that they can only view content and not post it. That measure is in effect only in the United States. In Brazil children younger and 12 years old can can consent to the collection of their data if they understand what the terms are. 

In other countries children older than 12 who use TikTok have their data collected: contact information, content creation, location, technical and behavioral information and even information shared through TikTokon other social media. TikTok even collects information from messages sent through the platform and, if the user allows access, collects information from the device’s contact list. If the user logs in using another social network, TikTok will have access to all data from that account as well.

Inappropriate Content

Since music occupies a prominent place in the app’s dynamic, videos with swear words are common, once they make use of many song with explicit lyrics. Contents that are oversexualized or portray drug and alcohol use are also criticized by many parents. In these videos, adults and even teenagers do sexualized choreographies, recreate raunchy music videos or explicitly use alcohol or drugs. These videos end up reaching not only the adult and teenager audiences that have posted those contents, but also kids younger than 12.  

:: See also: The Social Media Guide for Parents of the Sharing Era ::

Consumerism on TikTok

TikTok is a social network, so like all social networks it has its influencers: popular content creators with a vast number of followers. These users influence their large number of followers by using and promoting hip and trendy products, compelling people who watch their videos to purchase them as well. Out of 5 possible points, TikTok scored 4 on Common Sense Media’s “Consumerism” category. 

Screen Time

Just like any other social media or entertainment platform, users – kids and adults alike – must be aware of how much time they spend on the app. TikTok offers a feature that limits screen time through a password which changes every 30 days, making it easier to manage how much time kids spend on the app. 

What can I do to protect my kids on TikTok?

  • A family conversation about internet and social media is a good starting point. You should talk about when it is appropriate to share information and which information should be kept private. It is advisable to read TikTok or Musical.ly’s  terms of use and privacy to be sure about the rules. For instance: is it possible to share a private video which only friends can see?
  • Before downloading TikTok talk to your family about song that have content deemed inappropriate for children, using the current most popular songs as a reference. Which songs are allowed? What kind of video are the kids allowed to post?
  • Discuss which songs would be fun to lip sync or some creative way of making a 15 second video. Think of dance moves or choreographies that go along with the song. Engage, participate and make yourself present.