Hinsdale-based online game helps teens make healthy choices – Chicago Tribune

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Hinsdale-based Candor Health Education, formerly the Robert Crown Center, is offering an audience-friendly way of helping teens and preteens learn about making healthy choices about drugs and alcohol.
Pixelton Adventures launched March 14 and allows users to choose their own avatar and move through a series of daily decisions, challenges, and pressures, such as navigating friendships, balancing finals week and managing extracurricular activities.
Pixelton Adventures offers seven different episodes, which means players won’t continue to have the same experience during multiple plays.
Playing the game, available at www.candorhealthed.org/drug-education-portal is free to students and parents, along with teachers for use in school.
“It allows students to make decisions and see the consequences,” said Katie Gallagher, director of education for Candor Health Education. “They create an avatar and go through things they may really encounter.”
Gallagher said Pixelton Adventures, a Minecraft-style platform, is part of a drug education portal that Candor Health Education started in August 2020. The need for this type of teaching is clear, Gallagher said, as according to the National Center for Drug Abuse, 70% of people who try an illegal drug by age 13 will develop a substance abuse disorder. Education and prevention are key to reversing the trend.
“It is never too early to start conversations with children about drugs, alcohol, and the harm they can inflict,” Gallagher, said. “We are hopeful that Pixelton will provide a fun way for students to think through how they will navigate situations and challenges that could lead to drug and alcohol use.”
She said a young person’s brain changes rapidly during adolescence. During this time, the connections between neurons are strengthening and those that are unused go away. Chemical changes to the brain caused by drugs interfere with this process and can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
Matthew Metcalfe, a 15-year-old Lyons Township High School student from La Grange, said Pixelton Adventures seemed interesting when he first heard about it.
“It kind of piggy backs on what we’re doing in health class,” he said. “It’s a good tool because it presents information in a different way than in class.”
Metcalfe said he believes Pixelton Adventures will be of interest to many young people.
“Video games are a really popular form of media,” he said. “It’s a good way to go about learning about drug education.”
Metcalfe’s mother, Sandi Metcalfe, said she is impressed with Pixelton Adventures.
“We talk about drug education in our house all the time,” she said. “(Matthew) loves video gaming, so it definitely seemed like a good idea for him to try it.”
Sandi Metcalfe said she believes Pixelton Adventures offers some good lessons for youth.
“They can kind of learn what drugs do to the brain and body,” she said. “It also can help with peer pressure and how to make good decisions.”
Gallagher said it will be challenging to find out just how well Pixelton Adventures is working.
“We’ll have to gather more feed back from those using it,” she said. “The response so far has been very good.”
Gallagher said Pixelton Adventures has had more than 450 users in its first month.
“Some teachers are using it as a whole class,” she said.
Candor Health Education is a nonprofit organization that educates students, adults and communities on the topics of puberty, sex and drug education. The organization provides science-based information in a safe, engaging environment so that students gain age-appropriate knowledge that prepares them to make informed decisions that positively impact their health.
Chuck Fieldman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.
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