The amount of close and comforting contact that babies young infants receive doesn’t just keep them warm, snug, and loved. A 2017 study says it can actually affect babies at the molecular level, and the effects can last for years. Based on the study, babies who get less physical contact and are more distressed at a young age, end up with changes in molecular processes that affect gene expression.
The team from the University of British Columbia in Canada emphasizes that it’s still very early days for this research, and it’s not clear exactly what’s causing the change. But it could give scientists some useful insights into how touching affects the epigenome – the biochemical changes that influence gene expression in the body.
During the study, parents of 94 babies were asked to keep diaries of their touching and cuddling habits from five weeks after birth, as well as logging the behaviour of the infants – sleeping, crying, and so on. Four-and-a-half years later, DNA swabs were taken of the kids to analyse a biochemical modification called DNA methylation. It’s an epigenetic mechanism in which some parts of the chromosome are tagged with small carbon and hydrogen molecules, often changing how genes function and affecting their expression.
The researchers found DNA methylation differences between “high-contact” children and “low-contact” children at five specific DNA sites, two of which were within genes: one related to the immune system, and one to the metabolic system. DNA methylation also acts as a marker for normal biological development and the processes that go along with it, and it can be influenced by external, environmental factors as well.
Then there was the epigenetic age, the biological ageing of blood and tissue. This marker was lower than expected in the kids who hadn’t had much contact as babies, and had experienced more distress in their early years, compared with their actual age. “In children, we think slower epigenetic aging could reflect less favorable developmental progress,” said one of the team, Michael Kobor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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
It is rare to find children who enjoy doing homework. We know the phrase “Have you done your homework?” is a pretty common household question and is usually followed by an argument between parents and their children.
Nowadays, increasingly younger kids are coming home from school with piles of work. Is studying more important than playing and resting? To what extent is homework really effective and necessary?
The text below is a reproduction. No copyright infringement intended.
By Heather Shumaker
“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”
This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the work debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value.
When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent.
For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, these activities provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. “The research is very clear,” agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.”
Before going further, let’s dispel the myth that these research results are due to a handful of poorly constructed studies. In fact, it’s the opposite. Cooper compiled 120 studies in 1989 and another 60 studies in 2006. This comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit at the elementary level. It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school.
This is what’s worrying. Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.
Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.
When this activity comes prematurely, it’s hard for children to cope with assignments independently—they need adult help to remember assignments and figure out how to do the work. Kids slide into the habit of relying on adults to help with these activities or, in many cases, do their homework. Parents often assume the role of Homework Patrol Cop. Being chief nag is a nasty, unwanted job, but this role frequently lingers through the high school years. Besides the constant conflict, having a Patrol Cop in the house undermines one of the purported purposes of homework: responsibility.
Homework supporters say this teaches responsibility, reinforces lessons taught in school, and creates a home-school link with parents. However, involved parents can see what’s coming home in a child’s backpack and initiate sharing about school work–they don’t need to monitor their child’s progress with assigned homework. Responsibility is taught daily in multiple ways; that’s what pets and chores are for. It takes responsibility for a 6-year-old to remember to bring her hat and lunchbox home. It takes responsibility for an 8-year-old to get dressed, make his bed and get out the door every morning. As for reinforcement, that’s an important factor, but it’s only one factor in learning. Non-academic priorities (good sleep, family relationships and active playtime) are vital for balance and well-being. They also directly impact a child’s memory, focus, behavior and learning potential. Elementary lessons are reinforced every day in school. After-school time is precious for the rest of the child.
What works better than traditional homework at the elementary level is simply reading at home. This can mean parents reading aloud to children as well as children reading. The key is to make sure it’s joyous. If a child doesn’t want to practice her reading skills after a long school day, let her listen instead. Any other projects that come home should be optional and occasional. If the assignment does not promote greater love of school and interest in learning, then it has no place in an elementary school-aged child’s day.
Elementary school kids deserve a ban on homework. This can be achieved at the family, classroom or school level. Families can opt out, teachers can set a culture of no homework (or rare, optional home activities), and schools can take time to read the research and rekindle joy in learning.
Homework has no place in a young child’s life. With no academic benefit, there are simply better uses for after-school hours.
By Jennifer Granneman
You’re confused by your kid. She doesn’t act the way you did when you were growing up. She’s hesitant and reserved. Instead of diving in to play, she’d rather stand back and watch the other kids. She talks to you in fits and starts—sometimes she rambles on, telling you stories, but other times, she’s silent, and you can’t figure out what’s going on in her head. She spends a lot of time alone in her bedroom. Her teacher says he wishes she’d participate more in class. Her social life is limited to two people. Even weirder, she seems totally okay with that.
Congratulations: you’ve got an introvert.
It’s not unusual for extroverted parents to worry about their introverted children and even wonder if their behavior is mentally and emotionally healthy. Of course, children can suffer from anxiety and depression, just as adults can. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of childhood depression; sometimes withdrawal from friends and family and low energy signal something more than introversion.
Many introverted children, however, are not depressed or anxious at all. They behave in the way they do because of their innate temperament. The more you embrace their natural introverted nature, the happier your child will be.
How to care for your introverted child
1. Know that there is nothing unusual or shameful about being an introvert
Introverts are hardly a minority. Numbers vary based on a study, but introverts make up 30-50 percent of the U.S. population. Some of our most successful leaders, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates, Emma Watson, Warren Buffett, Courteney Cox, Christina Aguilera, J.K. Rowling, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, have been introverts.
2. Understand that your child’s temperament is due to biology
Think your child can just “get over” hating raucous birthday parties? Think again. Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains are “wired” differently, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. She writes that children’s temperaments are innate (although parents play an important role in nurturing that temperament).
Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains use different neurotransmitter pathways, and introverts and extroverts use different “sides” of their nervous systems (introverts prefer the parasympathetic side, which is the “rest and digest” system as opposed to the sympathetic, which triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” response). Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortices, which is the area of the brain associated with abstract thought and decision-making. If your child tends to be more cautious and reserved than her extroverted peers, rest assured that there’s a biological reason for it.
3. Introduce your child to new people and situations slowly
Introverts often feel overwhelmed or anxious in new environments and around new people. If you’re attending a social event, don’t expect your child to jump into the action and chat with other children right away. If possible, arrive early so your child can get comfortable in that space and feel like other people are entering a space she already “owns.”
Another option is to have your child stand back from the action at a comfortable distance—perhaps near you, where she feels safe—and simply watch the event for a few minutes. Quietly observing will help her process things.
If arriving early or observing isn’t possible, discuss the event ahead of time with your child, talking about who will be there, what will likely happen, how she might feel, and what she could say to start a conversation.
If your child is nervous about starting a new school year, visit your child’s classroom, introduce her to her teacher, and find the bathroom, the lunchroom, and her locker before the hustle and bustle of the first day of classes.
No matter what new experience you’re getting him accustomed to, remember: go slowly, but don’t not go. “Don’t let him opt out, but do respect his limits, even when they seem extreme,” writes Susan Cain about introverted children. “Inch together toward the thing he’s wary of.”
4. Remind your child that she can take breaks from socializing if she feels overwhelmed or tired
While extroverts feel energized by socializing, introverts can feel drained. If your child is older, she can excuse herself to a quieter part of the room or a different location such as the bathroom or outside. If she’s younger, she might not notice when she’s tapped out, so you’ll have to watch her for signs of fatigue.
5. Praise your child when she takes a social risk
Let her know you admire what she did. Say something like, “Yesterday, I saw you talking to that new boy. I know that was hard for you, but I’m proud of what you did.”
6. Point out when she ends up enjoying something she was initially afraid of
Say, “You thought you were going to have a miserable time at the birthday party, but you ended up making some new friends.” With positive reinforcement like this, over time, she’ll be more likely to be able to self-regulate her feelings of nervousness and dread.
7. Help your child cultivate her passions
Your child may have intense—and maybe even unique—interests. Give her opportunities to pursue those interests, says Christine Fonseca, author of Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World. Softball and Girl Scouts may work well for some children, but don’t forget to look off the beaten path and consider writing classes or science camps. Intense engagement in an activity can bring happiness, well-being, and confidence (think Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s state of flow), but it also gives your child opportunities to socialize with other children who have similar passions (and perhaps similar temperaments).
8. Talk to your child’s teachers about her introversion
This will help your child’s teachers know how to interpret her behavior. Some teachers mistakenly assume that introverted children don’t speak up much in class because they’re disinterested or not paying attention.
On the contrary, introverted students can be quite attentive in class, but they often prefer to listen and observe rather than actively participate.
Also, if the teacher knows about your child’s introversion, the teacher may be able to gently help her navigate things like interactions with friends, participation in group work, or presenting in class.
9. Teach your child to stand up for herself
Teach her to say stop or no in a loud voice when another child tries to take her toy from her. If she’s being bullied or treated unfairly at school, encourage her to speak up to an adult or the perpetrator. “It starts with teaching introverted children that their voice is important,” Fonseca says.
10. Make sure your child feels “heard”
Listen to your child, and ask questions to draw her out. Many introverts—children and adults—struggle with feeling “heard” by others. Introverts “live internally, and they need someone to draw them out,” writes Dr. Laney in her book. “Without a parent who listens and reflects back to them, like an echo, what they are thinking, they can get lost in their own minds.”
11. Be aware that your child might not ask for help
Introverts tend to internalize problems. Your child might not talk to you about a difficult situation she’s dealing with at school or with a friend although she wishes for and/or could benefit from some adult guidance. Again, ask questions and truly listen—but don’t pry or make your questions feel like an interrogation.
12. Don’t label your child as “shy”
“Shy” is a word that carries a negative connotation. If your introverted child hears the word “shy” enough times, she may start to believe that her discomfort around people is a fixed trait, not a feeling she can learn to control. Furthermore, “shy” focuses on the inhibition she experiences, and it doesn’t help her understand the true source of her quietness—her introverted temperament.
13. Don’t worry if your child only has one or two close friends
Introverts seek depth in relationships, not breadth. They prefer a small circle of friends and usually aren’t interested in being “popular.”
14. Don’t take it personally when your child needs time alone
Anything that pulls your child out of her inner world—like going to school, socializing, or even navigating a new routine—will drain her. Don’t be hurt or think your child doesn’t enjoy being with the family when she spends time alone in her room, perhaps reading a book, playing on the computer, or playing an imagination game. Most likely, once she has recharged, she’ll want to spend time with the family again.
15. Celebrate your child’s temperament
“Don’t just accept your child for who she is; treasure her for who she is,” writes Cain. “Introverted children are often kind, thoughtful, focused, and very interesting company, as long as they’re in settings that work for them.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Activities like create new games or play popular games should not be restricted to only moments of leisure.
Teachers, researchers, and educators are increasingly integrating play into their classrooms since it is an alternative that offers countless benefits to children’s learning process.
Play develops children’s specific skills, needs, and traits in a lighthearted, enjoyable way. It also brings people together and, in turn, lightens up the environment, filling it with surprises — not only for the kids, but also for the adults, whether at home or at school.
A scientific study published in 2016 by the American Psychological Association reinforces the benefits board games can bring to children’s learning.
The study observed how groups of kids can be more inflexible towards the conventional rules of a game or activity when said rules are taught to them, rather than when they make up their own rules. However, they still sat for hours playing simply because these activities were pleasurable and fun.
The result was an increase in levels of concentration and motivation. It is a complex article gathering data that, ultimately, proves it is possible to learn and acquire skills by playing board games.
The University of Harvard, in the United States, is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world. At Harvard, there is the Center on the Developing Child, where many studies with and about kids are conducted, with countless partnerships with other American institutions and from around the world.
One of the materials made available on the website of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard explains that the science of child development points to three basic principles that can orient what society needs to do to help children and their families to prosper. These principles are: to support responsive relationships, to strengthen essential skills for life, and to reduce sources of stress. Play in early childhood is an effective way to support these three principles.
Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director of the Association of Children’s Museums, states that, when we play, we can reach our maximum happiness, but we can also handle great difficulties. When we play, we engage in complex interactions with other people at the same time that we build our brains. When we play, social interactions become relationships. We need play in order to connect these three basic principles.
Lynneth Solis, researcher at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, asserts that “…as a child, play prepares me to better respond in the face of the unknown and the uncertainty of the environment where I live.”
Play strengthens essential skills for life. It is possible to observe these skills during some moments in a game or activity:
Lynneth Solis explains that play reduces stress levels and develops essential life skills that allow kids to assess a situation and know how to change it, in a way that they don’t feel attacked or stressed. We also know that it develops confrontation skills as well as reduces parents’ and caregivers’ stress levels.
The logical reasoning used in many games stimulates the search for alternative approaches to everyday situations. Reflecting about the possibilities when faced with a challenge and understanding what can or cannot be done makes kids experience their day-to-day events in a significant way.
Games are also about the possibility of experimentation — imaginary scenarios full of different perspectives. In order to look at these perspectives and at all the angles created by them, focus and concentration are needed, which is then reflected on other routine moments in which kids go through similar situations.
Chess is a game which brings together several of the benefits mentioned above. It not only reinforces the importance of concentration and attention, but also teaches to respect others, to trust in yourself, and to be creative during each possible move in the game.
In december 1986, FIDE (International Chess Federation) and UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) created the “Commission For Chess in Schools” with the goal of diffusing and democratizing chess as a learning tool inside schools.
The creation of this commission has made chess even more popular within the school environment worldwide. Beyond that, its creation reinforces the aforementioned benefits brought by this game.
Before you make a move in a chess game, players must also think about their opponent’s reaction. Moves are made mentally and both players can predict what will happen. Of course, there are unexpected moves — and that is why, after each match, those who play chess always learn a bit more from their own mistakes and victories, as well as from their opponents.
Acting compulsively and making a move before giving it much thought can bring negative consequences to the chess player. For this reason, chess cultivates players’ ability to “think before they act”.
Chess also develops autonomy and decision-making in kids, without adult interference. Before making each move, kids need to search their own memories for all the possible moves, without relying on other people’s help.
Another game that offers many benefits to kids is the classic puzzle. The practice proposed by the game is very positive for the short-term memory as well as for quick-thinking since you need to be agile and assertive in order to find the missing pieces.
Just like in chess, puzzles consist of solving a problem — and in order to do that, a lot of concentration is needed. The trial and error approach to putting the pieces in the right place drives logical thinking. Visual perception and a notion of space are also present in the game. Figures, numbers, and words formed by completed puzzles will enrich kids’ vocabulary and knowledge.
The act of putting puzzles together makes kids learn to control their movements — the ones necessary to fit in the pieces. Sight is also an important ally to this game, alongside the careful attention to details.
These games can not only provide all the benefits mentioned above but also bring kids and their parents, siblings, educators and caregivers together.
Each failed or successful attempt is lived together, which is extremely important for socialization. These classic games are also a great alternative to spending hours glued to a screen.
Kids communicate through play, and it is through that that they express themselves freely while having fun. Chess and puzzles can be allies to this communication. Let’s play more games with our kids, shall we?
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
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.
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.
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.
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 ::
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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? ::
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.
Monetization is the strategy used by apps to earn money. There exists a number of app monetization methods:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 ::
Childhood is a period filled with experiences that stay in our memory. Who has never remembered a game or activity from childhood and felt nostalgic about it?
The importance of these games goes beyond their being part of our affective memory. Activities that encourage creativity and result in spontaneous discoveries leave a mark in other ways as well, providing countless benefits for kids to reap later in life.
The dynamics created during early childhood can also stimulate behaviors which will be repeated for many years, even after the child has become an adult.
Activities that involve body movements, for example, when practiced frequently, become a habit in children’s lives and are also directly linked to their physical, emotional and psychological development. We have explained here in detail about how games and physical activities during childhood are positive to kids’ health and development.
Some activities, however, demand structure and specific orientations in order to be practiced. During today’s challenging times, those that can be executed at home have become an excellent option. For this reason, today we are going to talk about yoga practices for children.
Yoga is a practice that has existed for more than four thousand years. Those who practice it also follow philosophies that go beyond body movements. Yoga has gained visibility in the media over the last few years and, for that reason, most people already have an idea of its definition.
Proof of that is that yoga is part of the National Policy of Integrative and Complementary Practices (PNPIC), an entity created by the Brazilian National Board of Health, whose main goal is the implementation of alternative treatments based on evidence from the country’s public health network, by means of the Unified Health System (SUS – Sistema Único de Saúde).
Children-oriented yoga has become more popular lately, precisely due to its benefits. The moments of concentration, breathing and stretching that are encouraged during yoga are extremely positive to kids. There are even some schools which have included yoga classes as part of their school programs.
The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) has recently released a document in which the Workgroup in Physical Activity from the entity brings several tips and recommendations with respect to the practice of physical activity for children and teenagers.
Amongst their suggestions, the practice of yoga is mentioned. “Yoga, an ancient practice which may be performed by individuals of any age, represents a relevant tool for improving physical health as it encourages the development of flexibility and muscle strength. In addition, Yoga can be especially important for the current moment since it allows physical distancing during the practice and contributes to the stabilization of emotional and mental health, helping to cope with stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms,” informs the document.
The document also reiterates its recommendation for children and teenagers to practice around 60 minutes of a physical activity a day, alternating between the intensity of these activities.
The postures are inspired by animals and nature elements, characteristics that awaken children’s curiosity. The movements can be done in a playful way, with songs and stories, which makes yoga a quite pleasurable activity.
The little ones are also more flexible and, therefore, performing the exercise sequences can be fun. The developing musculature is strengthened by doing the postures, which has an effect on children’s postural balance.
The practice of yoga done by the kids happens in stages, which go through breathing, concentration, and only then does the introduction of the postures occur, which, in turn, evolve and become more intense over time.
Respecting the limits of the body is also extremely important, since some movements tend to stretch a lot.
Breathing is one of the fundamental properties of yoga. For the postures, children will need to breathe through their noses and belly instead of their chests. This technique is beneficial for the breathing system and it also regulates the breath, resulting in tranquility and relaxation.
Due to it being an activity that does not involve competition, yoga can encourage self-esteem and self-confidence in children since the results are seen individually.
Despite such individuality, the role played by the instructor, parent, or another person who is alongside the children during the activity also reinforces cooperation and collaborative learning.
As we have mentioned before, paying attention to the breath is fundamental in yoga. It is necessary to observe this aspect and also to keep the focus when doing the postures. This way, children develop their concentration and find that other spheres of everyday life become easier.
Nowadays, technology has made this process easier. There are videos, apps and websites that introduce yoga in a very simple way. However, despite how easy it is to find these resources, it’s important to have caution. Check the source of these materials, and, mainly, if your children practice them, watch their reactions during the exercises: extreme pain and discomfort are not a good sign.
By respecting the limits of the body and by having patience and willingness to learn, yoga can be a part of children’s routine in a light and positive way!
:: You can also read: Balance with technology: how to find it? ::
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Hello! You are probably here because you have a few questions about Truth and Tales’ subscription. Below are some of the main topics answered to help you clear out any doubts. If your question is not here, feel free to contact us. We will promptly respond!
No. The Truth and Tales app has always been free, while its content, on the other hand, premium — that is, you need to pay in order to access it.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we made one of the stories available for free in the app to encourage reading and as a high-quality content alternative for kids during this period of social distancing. Such a discount applied only to one story while the other two kept their prices.
All Truth and Tales content is paid-for. You can still download the app for free, but in order to access all content, you need to subscribe to one of the available plans. Today there are two options: the monthly and the annual subscription plans.
You can choose between the monthly and annual subscription. They make all the content of the app available during the time you choose to subscribe to.
If you choose the monthly plan, you will pay for the month and have access to all content during one month as of the date of subscription.
The annual subscription follows the same principle as the monthly plan, but it will last one year as of the date of subscription.
By subscribing to the monthly plan, you pay to access all the content from Truth and Tales for a month as of the date of subscription. The subscription will renew automatically, that is, if you no longer wish to be a subscriber, you need to cancel it.
You can cancel your subscription whenever you want, but it is worth remembering that, even if you cancel just one week after the last billing date, you will be charged for the next billing month since you will continue to have the same access to the content and benefits of your subscription for the remainder of the current billing period.
By subscribing to the annual plan, you pay to access all the content from Truth and Tales for a year as of the date of subscription. The annual plan offers better value for money since the discount equates to two installments of the monthly plan.
The subscription will renew automatically, that is, if you no longer wish to be a subscriber, you need to cancel it. If you cancel your annual subscription before your one-year term is over, you will continue to pay the remaining installments of the package value.
No one who bought the books before the app became subscription-based needs to worry because the stories will not be lost! They will remain available as normal even if you do not subscribe to any of our plans.
But beware that only the stories you bought will be available. The stories you did not buy and other new content will stay locked if you do not choose a subscription plan. If you only read the story which we had made available for free, please notice it will no longer be available in the subscription.
If you have an iOS device, you need to restore the purchases for the previously-bought stories to become available again.
If you have an iOS device, you need to restore the purchases for the story to become available again. In order to do that, open Truth and Tales and click on the round icon at the top-right corner of the screen.
Passing through the parental control, you will arrive at the Parents Area. When you get there, go to settings at the top-right corner and choose the last option, “RESTORE PURCHASES”.
Yes, you get a special discount on the annual plan! Yay!
To recover the password to your Truth and Tales account, you will need to go to the Parents Area. It is located at the top-right corner of the screen as a round, clickable icon.
When you click on it, you will need to enter your year of birth, which is the parental control. Once you have entered the Parents Area, you will click on the gear icon at the top-right corner of the screen.
A window providing several options will appear, and you will click on the last button, which says “Manage Account”. This section contains all the information about your account and subscription plan. If you are already registered, click on “Sign In”.
Once the login page opens, click on “Forgot Password?”. The app will ask for your email address and then send you an email with a link through which you can reset your password.
If you only want to change your password, you can follow the same steps. If you have already signed in, click on “reset”, type your email address when the app requests it, and wait for our password reset email to arrive!
You will be charged as soon as you subscribe to the monthly plan, marking the beginning of your billing period. If you cancel your subscription before the next billing date, you will still be charged for the whole month. But don’t worry! All the content and benefits of your subscription will also remain until the month is over.