Here's an interesting opinion peice written in the New York Times talking about a possible reason for the rise in mental health problems in children. The writer believes it is related to the loss of free play time with children.

Link: New York Times

There is preliminary research, published in Nature, that foods with extra Propianic Acic in them may pass that acid through a pregnant woman's body into a fetus. The chemical is used to increase the shelf life of some foods. This chemical may contribute to causing autism. The chemical does occur naturally in humans, but eating foods with it while pregnant might push the amount of the chemical to harmful levels in fetuses. The next step to determine if this actually happens is to test mice.

Link: Nature

Here's an important study done a few years ago, published in the prestigious journal Nature, that should always be kept in mind when trying to blame or praise parents for how their children turn out.

Link: Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies

This looks like a wonderful project that is now on kickstarter. It's a stripped down version of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition combined with adventures specifically meant to help children on the autism specturm learn and practice social skills. Very cool!

Link: Kickstarter Page

Here's an interesting video by one of the stars of the Big Bang Theory TV show talking about how she started playing Dungeons and Dragons with her children. She sees it as a way to connect with her children. Her experience certainly mirrors mine with playing with my children. I'm not sure if she's joking about Playing At The World being a game or not, though...

Here's an interesting article in the latest Scientific American issue. It discusses how social media is damaging to the mental health of young people.

Read The Article

The consumer product safety comission is once again updating it's age rating guidleines. The new guidlines are in draft form right now and are located here.

The age ratings on tabletop games can be highly confusing and misleading to parents, however. This is due to the fact that they bear no relationship to the ratings on video games, movies, and television. Today’s parents have been raised under the mindset of the content ratings applied to electronic entertainment, and naturally assume that tabletop game ratings should work the same way. Unfortunately, they don’t. Age ratings on tabletop games have little to do with issues like violence levels or “adult situations” in the games themselves. Instead the ratings are controlled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission which oversees the ratings on all toys.

TI 99/4A

The public radio program 1A had an interesting episode recently on the World Health Organization categorizing video game addiction as an official mental health disorder. This new classification is quite interesting to me as a Generation X geek who grew up as video games were just beginning. My brothers and I did not have one of the early consoles when we were young (or cable TV when it came out either), but we did have a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer. We loved that system. It had a few games and you could program it. Later we graduated to an Apple IIe as a family. I grew up playing text adventure games (good old Infocom) and role-playing games on those computers. A family down the street had an Atari that we would play on from time to time. Later on another family in the neighborhood got a Nintendo when they came out and we used to play that as well. Much later, our family got a Nintendo. We also, of course, played board games. And we spent a lot of time playing outside with the neighborhood kids.

Here's a funny comic I ran across online. Playing tabletop role-playing games with your children is about as mentally stimulating an activity as you could hope to do with them. The amount of mathematical and creative thought those games generate in their players is simply stunning from an educator's point of view.

comic of mother playing an rpg with child