Candy Games = Candy Snacking!

The Wikipedia definition of embedded advertising or marketing is “Product placement, brand integration or embedded marketing is, according to the United States Government “any form of audio-visual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trade mark thereof so that it is featured within a program, in return for payment or for similar consideration”. “

If you see a certain type of soft drink prominently displayed in a movie, be aware that that is not by accident. That brand has paid a lot of money to the producer to be able to subtly promote their brand. Think about any Bond movie – the car brand of choice is the Aston Martin making it synonymous with the “cool” factor of James Bond, the British spy.

Embedded advertising is a very real threat to the minds of our children not to mention our own. Most of the games available today, especially the free ones, are chockfull of embedded advertisements.

Most of the marketing is targeted and tweaked as per the game. So, if you have a shoot ‘em up type of game, you might have ads that aim at buying toys of that genre. Games that have anything to do with candy or food, have ads that push that genre of food. Games that deal with a specific type of toy, e.g. My Little Pony or Barbie, will push that particular brand of toy.

Now all of this works subliminally in our brain without our even realizing it. This kind of marketing tricks our brain into creating a desire for that particular item. As adults, we are able to control it to some extent but not even we are able to escape it totally. Children are completely susceptible to it and have literally no defense against it.

Studies show that after playing a food based game, a child eats anywhere from 55% to 72% more candy than any other food item. Candy which would hit their sugar levels, their weight, etc.

The only way to control this is to educate them in healthy eating from birth and also to limit the access they have to candy. Another way is to limit the time they spend on these games and instead encourage them playing a game that is more educational for them instead.

Ultimately, it is up to the parent to take the hard step of curbing the child when needed.

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Should Children Struggle?

As parents, we feel the need to help our children in any way we can. We finish their projects, know their schedules (sometimes better than they do themselves!), plan our entire days around these schedules, enroll them in extracurricular classes, enroll them in tuitions, study along with them to help them better, etc. We also put them under enormous pressure to perform better than anyone else in their class, to always be an active participant in every single event, to consistently perform well, etc. Kids today have such packed days that it is, sometimes, overwhelming.

Do we realize what we are doing to these kids? Asking them to do their best is not wrong. Every child should know that they are expected to perform at their optimum level. However, every child should also know that if they are not interested in something, they should be allowed to express that feeling and that we will listen to them. Think back to when you were a kid, did you not perform better in certain areas simply because you were interested in it? The same goes for your children.

The balance between pushing them to achieve their ultimate best and the knowing when to back off is difficult to maintain but, as a parent, it is your duty to do so. Do not push your child so much that they forget how to have a childhood. At the same time, do not be so lax that the child thinks they can get away with anything. Establish and maintain expectations for you and your child. Be open to talking to them and to listening to them when needed.

Please do not try to protect them from all of the disappointments they will face as they grow up. It will not help them in the long run. How else will they learn how to handle life and its situations later in life? If everything is handed to them on a silver platter, how will they learn how to find the solutions to life? We expect them to live up to expectations but we do not give them a chance to when we sugarcoat life for them. Remember, they need to figure out who they are on their own.

Struggling helps build character. We did it. Now our children need to do it.

E-mails Off!

Think back to the days of landlines and handwritten letters, the days when technology did not rule our lives. At max, we would plan our days around an important phone call or, better yet, get an answering machine. Technology did not create as much stress for us as it does today simply because it has become an integral part of our lives. Simpler times meant simpler lives. Of course, there are ways of making our lives simpler even in today’s world.

E-mail pressure is now a scientifically proven condition. One of the highest contributing factors is having and using an e-mail application on your smartphone. If you are looking at reducing stress, one of the most immediate ways is to turn it off. Though it is a great way to keep in touch and get work done, it is also an added pressure of having to be at its beck and call 24/7. Most people feel guilty if they do not reply to an email as soon as they get it regardless of the time they receive it, especially if it is work related. Consequently, people tend to check their mails as soon as they get up or the last thing before they sleep.

Everyone now knows that the only way to keep a balance between your work and your personal life is to keep them totally, or as much as you can, separate. Being “at work” even when you are at home, by using this app, does not help in any way. Yes, it is useful in that it helps you get more work done. No, it is not worth the price you pay in the long term impact it has on your health.

Ultimately, you have to realize that you are working to make a better life for yourself and your family. However, not being there with your family or not being healthy enough to enjoy time with them makes you working so hard a moot point.

Switch off the app – your health and your family will thank you for it.

E-toys Off!

With the amount of e-toys accessible to the public nowadays, it is no wonder that even babies have been targeted as a potential market to sell to. Baby laptops, cellphones, talking farms, etc. are just some of the toys available. Though they are marketed as tools to encourage the growth of a baby’s language skills, they are actually detrimental to the same.

Studies have shown that, just like with adults, these electronic playthings actually make it harder for babies to engage in the real world. They are less likely to engage in the verbal give and take with an adult that is essential to their cognitive development.

Parents also respond less to a baby babbling and spoke less when an e-toy was present.  Babies vocalize less with e-toys than with traditional toys like blocks or read board books, etc. The average words per minute spoken by a parent to a baby is anywhere from 50 to 70 words per minute depending on what the activity is. With e-toys, this dropped down to 30 to 50 words per minute.  Since babies learn by imitating what they see around them, this severely cripples their cognitive development.

Another hazard is that e-toys become an instant distraction giving the parent a little bit of breathing space to attend to a phone call, finish making dinner or even just attend to nature’s call in peace. In our day, our instant “nanny” was the TV but we still had a lot of interactions because we were always out of the house with our friends playing.

We did not have e-toys and had to use our imaginations with the simple, basic toys that we did have. E=toys has a negative impact on imagination as well. Since everything is laid out for the child, there is less need for them to imagine anything on their own.

The best thing to do now is to limit the amount of time a baby has with an e-toy. In fact, limit the amount of time any of your children have with any kind of electronic. It will help them in the long run.

 

* Link to article that prompted this post – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/E-toys-hamper-kids-language-development/articleshow/50318000.cms *

Sexting and Teens.

These days, a teenager without access to an Internet enabled, “smart”, device is rare. In fact, most kids nowadays know more about these devices than their parents, making it easy for them to keep whatever they want private. A new and extremely worrying trend amongst teenagers is sexting. Sexting is defined as the act of text messaging someone with a sexually loaded message, image or video.

A lot of teenagers do not realize the exceedingly serious implications of what a single message can do to their futures. Unfortunately, it has now become the cool thing to do and there is a lot of peer pressure to participate. Being an active member of the sexting community brings acceptance and status in the social circles that are created in their respective schools.

A lot of Western countries are now setting up laws to protect children and to prevent the misuse of sexting.

A major danger is from the teenagers themselves. An explicit or nude picture is sent usually to one person. Sadly, it does not end there. The picture could circulate so widely that before one can blink, it is out there on the Internet for the entire world to see which causes immense shame and guilt to the teenager. Additionally, if the picture attracts criticism, this adds to the shame. This causes many teenagers, who are already in the middle of worrying about their identity, to spiral into a depression. Some even end up killing themselves.

A lot of pedophiles, adults who sexually prey on young children, have managed to fool a number of younger teenagers, preteens, into sending them naked pictures of themselves. These are then circulated throughout their own community to provide entertainment to other pedophiles.

As parents, we have a few choices. We have to educate ourselves and keep up to date with the current security measures a parent can take in such cases.

One is to not allow our children access to a device that we do not fully understand and control. Please remember, you are the parent and you pay the bills. Privacy is not walking into their room when they are changing or into the bathroom when they are using it. It has nothing to do with knowing exactly what they do on-line, be it on their phones or other devices.

Secondly, teach our children to not only respect themselves but to respect others. Respecting themselves is of no use if they cannot respect other people. Teach them empathy to allow their more sensitive side understand what happens to a person when their picture is shown to someone other than the one they sent it to in the first place.

Above all, never be scared to share the facts, and show them to your child if needed, of what sexting can do to a person and how it can ruin a family.