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Video Games Teach Kids To Smoke Tobacco, Drink Alcohol, Study Says

Medical Daily – Elana Glowatz

“Popular video games might make young people more likely to smoke or drink, a new study has asserted. Many of the bestselling games contain explicit use of alcohol or tobacco, implied use, or paraphernalia, and in a paper in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, U.K. researchers suggest that young people “who play these video games are more likely to have experimented with tobacco and alcohol.” The authors compared this influence to that of films, noting that exposure to alcohol- and tobacco-related content in movies makes adolescents more inclined to try the drugs themselves. However, “tobacco and alcohol content is highly prevalent in a range of other popular media, and the interactive nature of video games provides multiple opportunities to promote products and behaviors.” The team from the University of Nottingham looked at a few dozen of the bestselling video games in the U.K. in 2012 and 2013 that had avatars that look and behave like actual people, and took surveys of more than 1,000 kids between 11 and 17 years old that involved self-reported substance abuse.”(more)

Videogame addiction leads to sleep loss, obesity, and cardiovascular risk in some gamers

Science Daily – Staff Writer

“Some children and youth with high videogame addiction tendencies may be at risk of sleep deprivation and disorders associated with obesity and poor cardio-metabolic health, Hamilton researchers have found…Using fitness trackers, the team monitored the sleep duration and compared that to the youth’s videogame usage. The data showed that videogame addiction symptoms resulted in shorter sleep which, in turn, was related to elevated blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high insulin resistance…”This is an important phenomenon to understand…It affects a vulnerable population of children and youth, can impact social interactions amongst youth and, as our research shows, can drive health issues,” said Dr. Katherine Morrison, co-author of the study.”(more)

Study: Candy Crush Games Exacerbate Poor Food Choices

Education News – Grace Smith

“According to a recent study published in the journal Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, the year’s most popular video game may also be the worst for a child’s health. The report, authored by Frans Folkvord, a behavioral scientist at Radboud University in The Netherlands, suggests that games that are related to candy, such as Candy Crush, can increase the number of calories a child takes in…The researcher and his team measured the effects of masked online food advertisements, used by Candy Crush and other games like it, on the eating behavior of over 1,000 children. In between playing these “advergames” in which there were real or embedded food ads, children were given five-minute breaks. During that time they were offered an apple or a piece of candy. The kids who played the games with embedded food advertisements consumed 55% more of the offered candy. They also ate an average of 72% more calories than children from the control group…The researcher added that supportive parenting can make a difference in this behavior…”(more)

Why Our Daughters Should Play More Video Games

The Huffington Post – Samantha Parent

“According to the U.S. Department of Education, girls today are steering away from math, science and computers in record numbers. The percentage of women graduates in computer science is at a 39-year low…While the lack of women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is attributed by some people to a lack of interest on the part of women, a more likely explanation is that societal beliefs, or stereotypes, color our view — insidiously sending our girls the message that women don’t have strong math and technical skills and that men make better engineers and computer scientists. So how do we reverse this trend?…Sheryl Sandberg, the outspoken CEO of Facebook and a role model for women in technology, gave some interesting – and very simple advice on how we, as parents, can encourage our daughters to take an early interest in the STEM fields. Sandberg’s advice? Encourage our daughters to play more video games — and even play with them — to pique their interest in computers.”(more)

Why Financial Literacy Courses Often Flunk

Nerdwallet – Emily Starbuck Crone

“As April – National Financial Literacy Month – comes to a close, some may puzzle over why so many Americans struggle when it comes to managing their money. After all, there are countless programs available to help them free of charge. Yet most of these efforts don’t produce long-term results. The evidence can be seen in the millions of people pursued by bill collectors, stuck in debt traps or mired in other avoidable situations each year. The reasons range from inadequate saving, overspending and abusing credit to simply living without a budget. So what’s wrong with the nation’s approach to Fin Lit education and how can it be fixed? Critics fault established programs, where they exist, for taking an unemotional approach, skipping over the need for basic math skills and offering little reward for developing good habits. There isn’t a national policy on the issue, and more often than not it’s left to parents to help their kids learn money skills.”(more)

Building the brain

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


You may have inherited your mother’s eyes and your father’s nose, but probably not their brains. The brain is a biologic computer. But unlike a laptop that contains chips programmed with exact code, the brain has the ability to customize itself based on experience and exposure.


According to Dr. Lise Elliot with the Chicago School of Medicine, “We know…that an infant’s experience can have permanent effects on the wiring of the brain.” At birth the brain contains the cells necessary to handle trillions of processes. If signals are sent between brains cells, the connections become hard-wired. However, if signals are not sent between cells, the connections are discarded. Most researchers believe the hard-wiring/discarding process is complete at the beginning of puberty, leaving adults with many fewer brain connections than infants.


Learning certain basic skills, such as language and music, becomes much more difficult with age. According to FSU professor Dr. Karen Glendenning in her book Brain, Behavior and Learning, “After birth there are continuing changes in the brain. For example, cell populations in the language area, may decrease by 30 percent between the ages of two months and 18 years…”


These findings create a challenge. We don’t want to pressure-cook our kids, but we do want to expose them to things early so critical brain connections are not lost. One easy way to start the process may be to limit screen time.


According to educational psychologist Dr. Jane Healy, “Too much television — particularly at ages critical for language development and manipulative play — can impinge negatively on young minds.” Even though a tremendous amount of information is available from these sources, the information enters the brain in similar ways and deprives the brain of other critical experiences.


Most experts believe it better to encourage children to build, create, experience, and explore. This not only helps children learn about the world, but also helps build fine motor skills and spatial abilities. One might also think carefully about focusing young children completely on the arts, sports, math, language arts or the like. Instead it makes more sense to encourage children to participate in a combination of things – art, science, music, math, sports, foreign language, public speaking, building…


If we can just step out of our “old”, inflexible brains for a minute and keep ourselves from becoming too rigid, our children have the potential to be a lot smarter than we are.