What Parents Should Know About “13 Reasons Why”

It has been over a month since “13 Reasons Why” debut on Netflix and my inbox has been flooded with questions about the show. I have been working hard to put together the best information possible for parents and educators. The more I start to work on this, the more I realize there is to say. In an effort to keep each of these posts short and sweet, I will continue to post information in separate posts. I will include link-backs to earlier posts to help keep all the information together. I have also created a “13 Reasons Why” category which will show you all the posts back-to-back.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for both the show and possibly the book. If you are worried about plot points being revealed, proceed with caution.

Based on the best-selling novel by Jay Asher, the show follows Clay Jensen following the suicide of his classmate Hannah Baker. Clay received a mysterious package containing cassette tapes, which turn out to be Hannah’s suicide note. On each of the 13 tapes, Hannah details the reasons why each person mentioned is responsible for her committing suicide.

SEE ALSO: 13 Reasons Why: Book vs Show AND Why the “Welcome to Your Tape” Meme Needs to Stop

The question that seems to be coming up a lot from parents has been “should I let my kids watch 13 Reasons Why?”

Because the show is on Netflix, which is subscription based, it falls outside the TV Parental Guidelines and therefore is classified as “Not Rated.”

This really leaves it up to parents to decide whether or not the show is right for their kids and I have to agree. I’ve said many times before that I should always be up to the parents to make the decision about what they feel is right for their kids. This applies on all fronts: technology, social media and even television and movies.

You know what your kids can and can’t handle.

As the show has received an insane amount of both positive and negative press, it would be hard to believe that kids haven’t already heard of it. The book has also been taught in some schools prior to the show’s release.

There’s no escaping it.

Even if you decide that you don’t want your kids to watch the show, with the east of access to something like Netflix, it’s almost impossible to keep your kids away even with parental controls in place.

Therefore, I think it’s important that parents have an understanding of the show and use its content to hold constructive conversations on the subject matter.

Open communication is important, especially in the high school years. While you may not feel ready to talk to your child about suicide, sexual assault, and depression these are topics that are coming up more and more, especially within middle and high school settings.

The series does allow an opening to discuss these topics and more including drugs and alcohol.

As someone who deals with depression and anxiety on a personal level, I found it especially hard to watch the show. More so, as an educator in bullying prevention and social media I was beyond frustrated with how many of the situations in the show were dealt with by the grown-ups.

The way I have chosen to look at the story being told by the show is that it is being told from the perspective of the kids living within this world. With the book, we are centered solely around Clay as he spends a single night listening to the tapes. The events of the book are told from his perspective as well as Hannah’s by way of the tapes. Adults and outside stories don’t really exist.

When you take this approach to the show things can start to make a little more sense as to how situations are being handled.

Though, on the same vein, I find it hard to believe that an obscene amount of offensive graffiti like what Hannah’s mother found, would go unnoticed in a school bathroom long enough to be amass gas station bathroom status.

I also find it hard to believe that things like the photos like that of Hannah at the park, Hannah and Courtney kissing, or Tyler’s nude photo taken and disseminated by Clay could go viral within a school setting and not catch the attention of a single adult. The fact that things like the “Hot or Not” list or anything involving the student-run magazine would have been allowed to play out as they did.

There’s so much more to say on all of that but this is not the post. For now, I want parents to have an understanding of the show in general. As I mentioned, I will continue to break down the show in future posts.

For now, here is what parents should know about “13 Reasons Why”

Language

It seems trivial compared to the bigger picture of the show but there is a lot of foul language thrown around by both adults and teenagers in the show. Be prepared for very strong language.

Drugs and Alcohol

Partying is definitely a reoccurring scene during the run of the series. Underage drinking is depicted in just about every episode as teenagers along with recreational drug use.

Nudity

There is some slight nudity over the course of these series. This was actually one of the things that really bothered me as a viewer. I know the actors are all adults but the portrayal of supposed underage nudity was troubling. This comes in the form of a boys locker room scene and a nude photo of Tyler which is taken by Clay and distributed around the school as revenge for his role in Hannah’s suicide.

It Romanticizes Suicide

You’ll find this to be a common theme in many articles written about the show and I can’t help but agree. When people, especially teens, consider suicide, they often fantacize about the aftermath. They envision their funeral and who will attend, who will be happy to see them go and who will regret not being nicer to them when they were alive. The show fuels that fantasy as Hannah’s tapes are passed around.

The Show Does Nothing to Address Mental Illness

The show is sparking a lot of conversations, which was the intention of the author as well as the producers but I’m not sure it’s in the way they had hoped. The show does nothing to address mental illness. It would seem that Hannah is perfectly healthy and simply living in a world of sick, cold-hearted people. The show fails to address that mental illness is treatable and thoughts of suicide are often a sign of depression or other issue.

It Reinforces Victim Mentality

Hannah has created these tapes and had them sent out to specific people so that they’ll understand their role in her decision to end her life. She doesn’t take responsibility for this decision and this portrayal reinforced the victim mentality in those who blame others for their problems.

Adults Are Depicted as Incompetent

As I mentioned above, adults within the world of 13 Reasons Why are shown to be absolutely clueless about what is going on. Those who do know what is happening don’t seem to care. In the final episode, Hannah reaches out for help from her guidance counselor, telling him she was raped. His advice to her was to move on.

Sexual Assault Isn’t Implied; It’s Shown

After the publishing of the “Hot or Not” list Hannah is repeatedly harassed by her classmates, including being fondled by one in a convenience store. During a party we see a drunk Jessica being raped by Bryce and, in a later episode, Hannah’s rape by the same offender. The series doesn’t hold back and it is incredibly uncomfortable to watch. Powerful. Important. But uncomfortable.

Hannah’s Suicide Is Shown

In the book, Hannah commits suicide by overdosing on unnamed pills. The show takes a different route as Hannah cuts her wrist in the bathtub. The scene is incredibly graphic and painful to watch. It shows how she does it, where and everything in between.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Talk.

It’s important to get a conversation started not only about the show, but the content. Even if your kids haven’t seen they show, they’ve heard of it. There’s a chance they may have already read the book. Find out what they know and use this to fuel constructive conversations.

Discuss what and how they feel about the show and its depiction of reality. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit that the show gets right. This is an unfortunate reality.

I will be posting more in the days to come. Possibly once or twice a week until I’ve gotten through everything I want to get out there.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their website.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

13 Reasons Why: Book vs Show

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for both the book and the TV show. If you are worried about something being ruined for you, proceed with caution.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I will be diving into the world of Netflix’s newest show, 13 Reasons Why. What most people don’t realize is that the show is actually based on a 2007 novel written by Jay Asher.

Now, you will need to have read or watched to know exactly what I’m talking about which may make this post useless for some, but this is information I wanted out there before I continued writing about the show.

As I have been compiling my research and figuring out how to go about presenting it, I realized that it’s important to understand some of the differences between the show and the book. Like any adaptation, what’s on the page can’t always translate to the screen and in the case of turning a stand-alone novel into a series, a lot needs to change.

Take a look at Orange is the New Black, for example. The show is wildly different from the book simply because it needed to create something from nothing in order to last as long as it has.

Netflix is in the business of creating entertainment and 13 Reasons Why is no different, the show worked hard to leave loose ends to set up future seasons of the show. Personally, I feel this should be left as a mini-series but I’m not in charge and Netflix has a business to run. The show has proven wildly popular and they have left room for continuation.

I feel this is a mistake because it will ultimately detract from what producers claimed to have been hoping to accomplish with the series, which was to create a narrative for bullying and suicide awareness.

Whether that is accomplished is another post for another day.

For now, I want to dive in to some differences in Book vs Show.

The Timeline

For the sake of creating a compelling drama, the show takes place over a period of days, possibly weeks and with that, Clay’s consumption of the tapes takes just as long. Tony even comments that Clay is the slowest listener so far. In the book, Clay binge-listens to the tapes in one, caffeine-fueled evening.

Tony

Within the world of the Netflix show, Tony is revealed to be watching Clay far sooner than in the book. Clay realizes that Tony is watching him almost right away after he receives the tapes. In the book, it is not until Clay has reached tape four that he realizes that Tony is Hannah’s secret keeper. This is also when Tony confronts him about stealing the walkman.

Social Media’s Influence

It’s hard to imagine there was a time before most social media but there was. While Facebook and Twitter were around in 2007, they weren’t as big in the high school crowd as they are today. Instagram was still three years away from making its debut. As a result, the role of social media within the world of the book is almost non-existent. In the book, gossip and rumors find their way around through old-fashioned word of mouth. The show brings the story to the present-day and adds technology into the mix. It’s also worth noting that the story is actually taking place ahead of our current time. In the last episode when the depositions are taking place, note the timestamp says November 2017.

The Bakers and the Lawsuit

Hannah’s parents hardly exist in the world of the book but within the show they play a large role in both past and present. Again, for the sake of creating compelling entertainment, the Baker’s receive a full story-arc. This includes changing their profession from shoe store owners to struggling pharmacy owners competing against a corporate giant. They are also going after the school in a lawsuit claiming that more should have been done to protect their daughter from bullying. Mrs. Baker, in particular, plays a large role as she conducts her own investigation, finding the hurtful graffiti in the in the bathrooms along with Alex’s “Hot or Not” list.

Parents In General

Clay’s parents, as well as everyone else’s, play little to no role within the book as the setting is limited to flashbacks and Clay in the coffee shop. Within the world of the show, more side-stories are created in an effort to flesh out the world surrounding Clay. His mom, for example, ends up being the lawyer representing the school in the Baker’s lawsuit.

Clay and Hannah’s Relationship

The book presents Clay and Hannah’s relationship as being very one-sided with him pining for her but being too afraid to act on his feelings. They are friendly but don’t talk too much outside of their work relationship at the movie theatre. In the show, the two are far closer which sets up more missed opportunities on Clay’s part to realize there is something going on with his friend.

Courtney and Hannah

Within the world of the book, character’s race and sexuality don’t come into play at all so the storyline between Coutney and Hannah is very different. The trap they set for Tyler in the book simply involves innocent gossip and a staged, slightly risqué, encounter which was very innocent. In the show, the two girls break into Hannah’s parent’s liquor cabinet and get drunk. They two begin to kiss and this moment is captured on film and ultimately shared by Tyler. Courtney worries about the photo getting out as no one knows she is gay.

The Order of the Tapes and their Fate

The tapes play out differently in the book which shows ones of the biggest changes for the sake of the show. In the book, Clay is reason number 9 rather than 11. In the show he moves to confront Bryce, number 12, rather than passing on the tapes out of fear they would be destroyed. He then passed them off to number 13, Mr. Porter, leaving it to him to determine their fate. In the book Clay finishes the tapes and passes them on per Hannah’s orders and what happens from there is unknown. In the show Tony creates digital copies of the tapes and passes them on to Hannah’s parents in the finale. The tapes are also mentioned in the student’s depositions despite spending the entire series working to suppress them.

Hannah’s Suicide

In the book Hannah’s suicide was by an overdose on unspecified pills. Clay mentions this towards the beginning as “took a bunch of pills.” In the show, Hannah commits suicide by cutting her wrists in the bathroom. A scene which I am still bothered by days later. More on that to come.

Alex and Tyler

In the final episode we learn that Alex is in critical condition after a suicide attempt. It would seem that producers may use this, along with the Baker’s lawsuit, as fodder for a potential second season. Another loose end not found in the book is Tylers stash of guns. We see him purchase a gun during one episode and then learn that he has a cache of weapons stored in his room. It would seem he is planning revenge against his own bullies as a result of Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s actions against him in the show. None of this is found in the book.

After writing this all out, I realize that it may come across as incredibly vague if you haven’t digested either form of 13 Reasons Why and for that I apologize. I orignianlly intended for only one post about the show but, as I mentioned, so much more needed to be said and rather than one giant post, I wanted to break things up.

I promise this information will come in handy as I continue on.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their website.

Why the “Welcome to Your Tape” Meme Needs to Stop

Over the next week or so, I plan on unleashing a lot of information about Netflix show ’13 Reasons Why’ but there is one issue I wanted to address sooner rather than later.

A meme.

The first meme I encountered for the show came Easter morning when this gem showed up on my Facebook newsfeed:

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At this point I hadn’t seen the show but knew enough about the premise to know that I was not amused by what I was seeing.

I started watching this show this morning after a few parents had emailed me asking about the show. Since then I have fallen down the rabbit hole of internet memes discovering a lot of misplace humor regarding “the tapes.”

For those that haven’t seen the show yet, the “welcome to your tape” meme is a direct reference to ’13 Reasons Why’ which tells the story of Hannah Baker who commits suicide, leaving behind a series of tapes for her classmates to listen to.

Each tape is dedicated to a person who she believes has wronged her. On the very first tape, Hannah explains, “If you’re listening to this tape, you were one of the reasons why. I’m not saying which tape brings you into the story, but fear not, if you received this lovely little box, your name will pop up. I promise.”

Hannah specifies who she is talking about on each cassette by saying “welcome to your tape.” A line that is repeated throughout the series.

This is where the meme has found the fuel for its fire.

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Then, yesterday Netflix took the opportunity to make a jab at rival Hulu with the meme:

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The internet finds itself divided on whether or not the joke was a step too far considering the show’s content.

Now, I totally understand that this is a television show and these are fictional characters so I’d appreciate no one jumping down my throat on that front.

But I also understand that this show is about a young girl killing herself and leaving behind these tapes are her form of a note. And I also know that suicide is not a joke.

The truth is that suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. Furthermore over 15 million in the United States are living with some form of depression.

By taking Hannah’s words and turning them into a joke we are belittling the feelings of those who are suffering from depression.

When you suffer from a mental disorder, it can be really hard to talk about it with others. I’m speaking from personal experience. For four years I have suffered from the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it wasn’t until very recently that I was comfortable telling even my best of friends.

When others make light of something or poke fun at it, it makes it more difficult to discuss because it just appears to be a joke to those around you.

Depression and suicide are not a joke, so let’s stop turning it into one. Let’s start with this meme. Let’s end it here.

As we have learned from past events and we are learning through watching this show, everyone’s choices, words and actions have consequences.

Let’s make sure that we’re not mocking someone else’s suffering. Even if you think it’s just about a TV show, you never know when it could be so much more.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

 You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About DisneyMix

Disney has thrown their hat in the social media messaging ring. This may come as a surprise to some but Disney has been in the social media business for a while with popular platforms like Club Penguin and Marvel Kids.  The app serves to be a contender with apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and more but with a safer user in mind.

Disney started developing the app with what they had learned from Club Penguin and grew from that point. New tools for moderation and education were implemented to set Disney Mix apart from other apps.

Upon signing up for the service, users agree to a series of community rules that are strictly enforced for all users.

Stay Safe – Don’t share details about yourself with people you don’t know. That includes your real name, phone number, home address, email address, social networking information, school name, and/or personal blog.

Respect Others – Be respectful and kind to other Disney Mix users. Treat others how you’d like to be treated! Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated.

Keep it Clean – Inappropriate language is not allowed in Disney Mix. You should only use language that you would feel comfortable using in front of your parents and teachers.

Users found to be violating any of these rules will find themselves either temporarily or permanently banned from using the app.

tK1wuYl07fPx8uiT4C9zmGYFlWl43vFjo-uOUCvWn8t7AIGnh-5Ayzyp5PMS51yP6g=h900Upholding the rules are a team of moderators that monitor usage but can also be called into situations using the “Whistle” icon at the top of every chat thread. This action reports a chat thread to the moderators who will step in to help handle the situation. Users have the ability to remove people from their friends list with a simple swipe.

Disney Mix is rated 4+ in the app store but will more than likely resonated with older, teen, users and parents.  The chat allows users to send stickers of popular characters like some of my favorites: Flash from Zooptopia, Hank (my spirit animal) from Finding Dory, and my absolute favorite Stitch!

What sets Disney Mix apart from a standard messaging app is the ability to play interactive, built-in games like Spike, Elsa’s Winter Waltz and Cards of Doom. These games can be played with friends within the chat screen.

Is DisneyMix safe for kids? Absolutely! With Disney behind the app, it offers a level of safety and security you won’t be able to find of Kik, Snapchat, Tumblr and others.

The app is username based so the only way people can communicate with users is if they have their username. This puts control of who has access to your account strictly in your kids hands.  Remind them that they should be selective with handing out their username and restrict it to people they know in the real world.

Encourage them to report inappropriate behavior and be sure to go over the Community Guidelines with them.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Instagram Launches “Stories”: What Parents Should Know

I’ve found, over the past year, the best way to describe the difference between Instagram and Snapchat is by looking at how we share. For Instagram we are highlighting moments from our day or week in a one off way that sticks around forever. Snapchat allows a you to share so much more by posting a continuous stream of pictures and video clips into a mini-movie called a story. As each segment of your story is posted, it received a 24 hour expiration. After one day, it’s gone.

This past week, Instragram launched the “Stories” feature on its app. Instagram fully gives credit to the creators of Snapchat for the idea for the sharing format. In a recent interview Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom admitted, ” “They deserve all the credit,” but insisted “This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

Despite it’s insane popularity, sharing on Facebook-owned Instagram was down 15% in the beginning of 2016. The reasoning, according to Systrom, is that people don’t want to overwhelm their friends feeds with photos so they are selective about what is posted and as a result don’t post as often. “Stories” allows people to share those “in between” moments.

Systrom explains that “It basically solves a problem for all these people who want to take a ton of photos of an event or something in their lives, but want to manage what their profile looks like and not bomb feed, obviously, as that’s one of the no-nos on Instagram.”

Facebook has attempted this before with other apps like Poke, Slingshot, and Instragram Bolt but people didn’t want yet another app to keep up with. Instead of trying to create something new, Instagram has decided to go with what works.

Here’s the breakdown of the differences and similarities between the apps:

The same

  • The Stories format laces the last 24 hours of 10-second-max photos and videos you’ve shared into a slideshow you can tap to fast-forward through
  • Everything you post disappears after 1 day
  • You shoot full-screen in the app or upload things from the last 24 hours of your camera roll (recently added to Snapchat with Memories)
  • You adorn your photos with drawings, text, emojis and swipeable color filters
  • You can save your individual Story slides before or after posting them
  • Your followers voluntarily tap in to pull your Story and view it, instead of it being pushed into a single feed
  • People can swipe up to reply to your Stories, which are delivered through Instagram Direct private messages
  • You can see who’s viewed your Story

Different

  • Instagram Stories appear in a row at the top of the main feed instead of on a separate screen like Snapchat, and are sorted by who you interact with most, not purely reverse chronological order like Snapchat
  • Anyone you allow to follow you on Instagram can see your Instagram Stories, though you can also block people, as opposed to building a separate network on Snapchat
  • You don’t have to be following someone to view their Instagram Stories, which can be viewed from their profile as long as they’re public
  • You can swipe right or tap the Stories icon in the top left to open the Stories camera, as opposed to Snapchat defaulting to the camera
  • You can hold the screen to pause a slideshow, or tap the left side to go back a slide, as opposed to Snapchat’s time-limited, constantly progressing Stories
  • You can’t add old content to Instagram Stories unless you re-import or screenshot, while Snapchat lets you share old Memories with a white border and timestamp around them
  • Instagram offers three brush types for drawing: standard, translucent highlighter and color-outlined neon, as opposed to Snapchat’s single brush
  • Instagram offers custom color control for drawing with an easy picker, as well as pre-made palettes like earth-tones or grayscale, while Snapchat custom color control is much more clumsy
  • Instagram currently lacks location filters, native selfie lens filters, stickers, 3D stickers and speed effects, but you can save content from third-party apps like Facebook-owned MSQRD and then share them
  • You can’t see who screenshotted your Instagram Story, while Snapchat warns you
  • You can’t save your whole day’s Story like on Snapchat, but you can post slides from your Story to the permanent Instagram feed

 

For me, I plan on sticking to Snapchat because I have a lot more control over who can see it as my Instagram account is public. But as a business owner and social media personality, I can see the appeal of utilizing a service with an already established audience.

For more information about “disappearing media” be sure to check out “What Parents Should Know About Snapchat“.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

The Internet is For Porn: Important Information Parents Should Know

Anyone who has attended one of my workshops knows that I’m not the biggest fan of statistics. They are tough to fully track and they change at the drop of a hat. However, a conversation with a friend about kids and pornography got me a tad curious about the numbers, especially since the conversation spawned from her catching her 5 year old looking at inappropriate content online.

When it comes to pornography on the internet, there are some numbers I thought important for parents to know:

The average age of children being exposed to pornography is 11 years old according to a report released by PornHarms. As kids are receiving smart devices at younger and younger ages, this number age can be expected to lower over the next few years.

90% of pornography depicts violence against women. The Guardian documented the violence of internet pornography in an eye-opening article:

Rape Crisis South London carried out simple research that involved typing “rape porn” into Google and then quantified the results: 86% of sites that came up advertised videos depicting the rape of under-18s, 75% involved guns or knives, 43% showed the woman drugged, and 46% purported to be incest rape.

37% of the internet is pornography. Software security company Optenet did a study, looking at 4 million registered URLS.  Rougly 1.5 million of them contained pornographic materials.

Around 85% of exposure to pornography occurs in the home. While terrifying to think about, it’s actually a positive.  It’s a reminder that, as a parent, you have control of what your kids are able to access in your home. Start with constructive conversations about appropriate usage of the internet and discuss consequences for breaking these rules. Establish standards for your kids and start young to help them develop stronger morals into their teen years.

90% of internet pornography is free. In a study run by International Secure System Lab of 35,000 pornography domains found that 90% of them offered free access to content. These sites are given free content from paid porn sites in an effort to drum up business for themselves.

Have you talked to your kids about pornography? Now might be the time!

First, discussions about pornography should be a part of ongoing conversations about sex and sexuality. As they start to question gender differences and where babies comes from, use this as a gateway conversation. Continue this through the teen years as they start developing relationships with their peers. You know your child best so use your judgment.

Second, as your kids get older they are exposed to more and more of the online world. Be sure to remind them of responsible use of devices. Look into installing safeguards onto laptops, desktops and mobile devices to filter out certain content.

Third, don’t avoid the topic but don’t overreact to it. Many times I’ve heard of parents not wanted to mention a topic because they don’t want to put an idea into their kids head. Trust me, it’s there. It’s important to discuss it with them because it lets them know you have the topic on your radar and might make them this twice. Avoid overreacting as you run the risk of your child shutting down and shutting you out. Let them know you are available to answer questions.

Now’s the time for conversation! Maybe take a nice Pokemon Go walk and have a chat!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

I will be the first to admit that until about a week ago, I really knew nothing about Pokémon other than the absolute basics. I never was much into the card game though I totally rocked it on my GameBoy (I might be old). Love em or hate em, those adorable little creatures are back with a vengeance!

Within homaxresdefaulturs of launching, Pokémon Go became the most popular gaming app, beating out Candy Crush by an impressive margin.

The game was released to mixed, overall, reviews due to constant app crashes and server issues. The app seems to be stabilizing and I have a feeling a good chunk of the problems were due to the insane and instant popularity.

The game is a location-based augmented reality game that allows users to hunt and capture Pokémon in the real world.

Pokémon Go has had some amazing, unexpected benefits that I think are important to know about before I get into the nitty gritty of it all.

Physical Health: In order the catch Pokémon you have to get out into the real world. As a result people are out and about a lot more. I’m an active person already but the game has definitely added to that. In addition having to get out of the house to catch Pokémon, the game requires you to be moving to perform actions like hatching captured Pokémon eggs and earning badges.

People Are Exploring Their World: Within the game are places called PokéStops where486234394 players can earn items  required for capturing and caring for their Pokémon. These stops are centered around landmarks such as art instillations and historical points. Not only are people getting out of the house but they are also exploring the world a bit more closely than before. When I was playing with a friend we decided to go for a morning walk before going to breakfast to catch some Pokémon. We ended up discovering an amazing bakery and opted for breakfast there over heading to Starbucks.

Community Impact: People have become social again! I grew up in a small town where people always said “howdy” when they passed you in the street. This mentality seems to have waned with the advent of social media an mobile devices. No one really talks to each other anymore.  Pokémon Go has changed that. While playing my friend and I encountered groups of kids who were more than happy to chat and share tips and good spots to catch some Pokémon. It was a welcome change from everyone just ignoring each other.

Cultural Impact: With PokéStops being located at places of cultural significance, places like museums have seen increased attendance since the game has launched. Many businesses have embraced this by placing “lures” (more on those in a bit) at the Stops to drive even more people to them.  Charitable organizations have gotten in on the actions by asking players to walk shelter dogs while playing adding a benefit to the player and the animal.13716248_668832679948316_2126915807547160753_n

Mental Health: With people being forced to get up and out of the house to play, many have seen a positive impact on mental health especially for those dealing with depression and social anxiety.  According to Kashmira Gander of The Independent, the social nature of the game provides easy avenues for those with social anxiety to interact with people of all backgrounds. Numerous players also reported increased motivation to exercise and improved moods. Dr. John Grohol, founder of Psych Central, stated that Pokémon Go was unique in the magnitude of people “expressing the benefits of playing video games to their real-world mental health status”. According to Grohol, the game facilitates exercise and creates a “strong reinforcement for people to go out and become more active” He also attributed the premise of the game, social interaction and fun rather than for exercise, as a key factor in its success.

With all that in mind there are some key things parents should know and be aware of before they send their kids out to catch ’em all.

Hidden and Not So Hidden Costs: While the game itself is free, there is the ability for in-app purchases so parents should be aware and set up restrictions on your child’s phone to prevent unauthorized purchases.  Additionally, the game depends and operates on constant location tracking which requires the use of your phone’s data. Be sure to monitor your child’s data usage or look at upgrading your plan to avoid overage charges.

Stranger Danger:  While it’s great that communities are coming together and people are chatting with one another, there is a danger in that as well. Encourage kids to Poke hunt in groups and avoid going into unfamiliar areas. Each PokéStop and Gym require you to be nearby and this can draw people from all walks. Be sure to set up guidelines for your kids when it comes to talking to strangers as well as curfews to help avoid issues.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: A downside of the game is that you need to be paying attention to your screen and this can lead to some major problems. While it’s hardpokemon-go-loading-screen to sort myth from reality, there are many stories of people getting injured while playing the game. From walking into objects or, worse, into traffic, there are dangers out there.

Don’t Hunt and Drive: For teenagers, be sure to reiterate the importance of keeping the phone off while driving. No fictional creature is worth getting into an accident.

Be Respectful: The game is designed for Pokémon to spawn anywhere in the world but that doesn’t mean that we should be pulling out our phones every second of the day.  I’m personally hoping the games geofences areas like cemeteries, the Holocaust Museum , etc, places where people have, thoughtlessly, disturbed the solemn nature of the memorials looking for Pokémon.

Don’t Trespass: It’s important to be sure not to enter places that you shouldn’t be going for the sake of finding Pokémon. Remind kids to respect other people’s property and places that are off-limits.

All said and done, I see no big fault in the app aside from some safety concerns mentioned above. While many people have taken to hating on the game, I think it has been a welcome distraction from the current state of the world. People of all ages have taken to hunting Pokémon and it’s something that’s made them happy, gotten them out exercising and socializing.

Let’s get out there and be happy!

Good hunting all!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.