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Tech Free Rooms in Play

As an answer to the problem of technology addiction and not enough just plain old “face time,” school resource officers in the Hamilton Heights School Corporation in Indiana have created technology-free rooms in the middle and elementary schools.

The rooms were made available by the district following concerns about the social and emotional effect of screen time on young people and made available to students for 30 or 40 minutes during the day as a reward. Once they arrive at the room, kids have a chance to play board games, Jenga and foosball –all for some downtime with face time possibilities.

Defining Online Harassment: Everyone Has A Different Idea

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, defining online harassment is just as complicated for the average American user as it is for huge social media companies — and the line on what is and isn’t harassment gets even more fuzzy when gender or race come into the picture. The survey polled 4,151 respondents on various scenarios and asked them whether each one crossed the threshold for online harassment. For example in one scenario, people had widely varying opinions on when the harassment begins between two friends whose online disagreement becomes public, with one friend eventually being threatened by uninvolved third parties.


Men and women also widely disagreed on when an issue online became sexual harassment for a woman whose post is shared by a popular blogger resulting in her receiving vulgar messages, threats and having her photo edited to include sexual imagery. Men, by a wide margin, didn’t find that to be harassment versus the vast majority of women who did. And even when 82% of respondents found messages in one scenario to include racial slurs and harassing insults, only 57 percent thought the social media platform should step in.


These results show that there are roadblocks in addressing the issue of online harassment when people often have trouble agreeing on what qualifies as harassment in the first place, especially when women or minorities are involved. It also paints a troubling picture where even when people do define behavior as harassment, many still hesitate to hold the offenders accountable for it. This lack of agreement on when the social media platform or others should step in seemingly has troubling implications for those who are cyberbullied and how the matter should be handled.

Twitter Expands Hate Speech Rules

Twitter recently has said that it will begin to enforce new rules related to how it handles hateful conduct and abusive behavior taking place on the platform. New guidelines will address hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user’s profiles. The announcement is Twitter's latest attempt, in a difficult year for the company, to clamp down on what many people consider its most pressing issue: disgusting behavior from a significant number of users. Many of the problems on Twitter came into focus after President Trump retweeted videos from a far right group in Britain.

Former President Obama Talks to Prince Harry About Social Media

Former President Barack Obama and the United Kingdom's Prince Harry took to the airwaves for a recent BBC interview where they discussed the potential dangers of social media and how it should be used to promote diversity and find common ground. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," Obama stated. The former president also echoed something that parents concerned about their kids growing up in a Digital Age try to communicate to their children reiterating that " the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated." Perhaps, something every cyberbully should remember?

Online Tools Implemented for Reporting Bullying

Several states, including Nevada and Colorado, have opened online systems that allow students and others to report bullying incidents. New York City is spending 8 million dollars on a similar system set to launch in 2019. Daniel Kelley, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says online options can make it easier for students to report bullying that occurs in and out of school. Right now most schools have a paper based reporting system that has created issues because of the stigma attached to being seen filling out this kind of form. Schools are finding that it is very important to document bullying incident reports otherwise parents may allege that administrators did not address an incident adequately.

France to Ban Cellphones in Schools

Primary- and secondary-school students (up to age 15) in France will not be permitted to use cellphones on campus beginning in September 2018. The country already bans the devices in classrooms, but the total ban will include use during breaks and outside of the classroom. French educators note that 40 percent of punishments in French schools are related to mobile devices and hope the move will be a way to cut down on cyberbullying. However, parents are skeptical that the schools can pull it off. Emmanuel Macron spelled out his intention to ban mobile phones in schools in his campaign platform before his election as French president in May 2017.

When Should Cybersecurity Education Start?

Educators and government officials met recently to discuss cybersecurity education for elementary and high school students at a conference in Nashville, Tenn. A number in attendance expressed the need for cybersecurity education to begin as early as elementary school to prepare students for possible technology careers as reports of cyberattacks multiple. One of the keynote speakers even went as far as saying, "If you're in high school, it's almost too late." Experts are asking teachers to weave cybersecurity principles into core academic subjects.

The Most Liked Tweet on Twitter EVER

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has certainly put that social media platform front and center this year. Curious about what tweets were the most liked or the most retweeted tweets of 2017 (so far)? Take a look at In 2017, Barack Obama beat Donald Trump . . . at retweets from The Washington Post to see the top ten in each category. The most popular tweet of all time?  “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..." from Barack Obama.

Snapchat Takes Aim at Misinformation

Snapchat is taking aim at misinformation with some unconventional changes to the design of the app (which for many parents is an app that has been associated with cyberbullying and sexting in the past). While the app will still initially open to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos that disappear with friends, the new design will try to separate personal (social) side of the app from what is produced by outside media sources. The media part will also be vetted and approved by Snap, the parent company, by humans, not by algorithms. The use of human curators will allow Snapchat to also program content to make sure that users’ preferences are not keeping them from seeing a wide array of opinions and ideas. In addition to winnowing out fake news, this may keep Snapchat from becoming a place that reinforces narrow sets of thinking. This approach is in contrast to Facebook and Google, who have not vetted much of the hate speech, fake news, and even disturbing videos aimed at children that has been proliferated on those platforms over time.

Increased Screen Time Suggests Correlation to Surge in Suicide Rate

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that an increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged between 2010 and 2015. Recent teen suicides are being blamed on cyberbullying and social media posts that depict "nothing but perfect" lives.  Experts say there is a tendency to discount the connection between teen suicides, depression and social media as just the usual “adult” opposition to the latest trends for young people, like television or rock and roll for previous generations. Experts warn that with its immediacy, anonymity, and potential for bullying, social media has a unique potential for causing real harm.

Cyberbullying’s Latest Trend: Self Inflicted

Nearly 6% of US teens said they bullied themselves online, according to a study done by the Florida Atlantic University's Cyberbullying Research Center. The findings, based on a national survey of about 5,600 students ages 12 to 17, showed that boys were more likely to report digital self-harm. Additionally, the risk of digital self-harm was three times higher among non-heterosexual youths and 12 times higher among those who were already or had been cyberbullying victims. Those who engaged in self-inflicted cyberbullying offered explanations including self-hate, attention, wanting to appear victimized to justify cyberbullying others, feeling depressed or suicidal, trying to be funny or make fun of themselves, and boredom. 

Researchers are calling this behavior "digital self-harm” and the trend was brought to researchers' attention by the death of Hannah Smith, a 14 year old from Leicestershire, England, who hanged herself after months of apparent online harassment. After her death, officials from, a social media site where users can ask each other anonymous questions, found that 98% of the messages sent to Smith came from the same IP address as the computer she used. Many other sites like Tumblr and the now defunct Formspring also have had an anonymous question feature, which could allow teens to anonymously send themselves hurtful messages and then publicly respond.

Can Learning Why Kids Are Bullied Help Prevent It?

No two cases of bullying are alike and some students are more likely to be bullied than others. That’s what a new survey by the nonprofit organization YouthTruth found after posing questions to more than 180,000 students across 412 schools between 2012 and 2017. Of those surveyed, seventy three percent said that most harassment occurs in person, while 23 percent reported being bullied online. The biggest reason being reported for why the bullying occurred is “how kids looked” and the group that suffers the most, is students who don’t identify with a specific gender. In the world of schools and districts that struggle with policies on bullying, the results may help teachers be more proactive or construct more consistent approaches for preventing abuse.

tbh – Can an App Make a Generation Happy?

Tbh, which is a teen speak acronym for “to be honest,” bills itself as the only anonymous app with positive vibes for teens. The app isn't a standard messaging app like Sarahah that has become almost synonymous with cyberbullying. Instead, users are presented with a series of pre-programmed prompts about their friends like, "Should DJ every party" or "Hotter than the sun", and four options for friends (that come out of their Contacts list) that best fit that description. The name of the app follows a similar trend among teens who use the phrase "tbh" on Instagram to say something nice about their friends. There is no typing by the user required or allowed which keeps the attributes offered up about friends positive.

So what do you as a parent need to know about the app? Try reading 5 Things to Know About 'tbh,' a New Anonymity App Popular Among Teens to get updated and stay tuned in. Someone always seems to be able to turn even the most positive apps into cyberbullying tools.

Strategies To Prevent Bullying - Advice From a Charter School

Positive school culture and strong relationships are important foundations for academic achievement, and are crucial in creating a bulwark against bullying to create safe spaces for students, writes Erin Hearn, Director of Social Emotional Learning for Uplift Education, a charter school network in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. One interesting tool the network uses is the Panorama Student Survey, which is completed biannually to gauge the quality of students’ relationships with their peers and teachers, among other social and emotional components. It also helps teachers and administrators pinpoint issues and concerns students are facing.

Additionally, the school network employs a Safe Space program, encouraging faculty whom are willing to intervene in a bullying situation to wear a pin that signifies their readiness to help (this is very interesting as this “readiness” is something not all teachers embrace, as other critics have recently noted). Staff training on diversity, equity and inclusion is also a component of their anti-bullying strategy. Moreover, the school is one of the pioneer districts using Rosalind Wiseman’s Owning Up curriculum. Owning Up teaches young people to understand their individual development in relation to group behavior, the influence of social media on their conflicts, and the dynamics that lead to bullying, discrimination, and bigotry.

Does Digital Literacy Require Open Social Media?

Teachers and principals are increasingly advocating that schools unblock social media sites in the interest of teaching digital literacy. Derek McCoy, a North Carolina middle-school principal, says restrictions should be lifted despite risks because people learn from mistakes and "cannot be governed by fear." Many educators feel that learning how to behave online responsibly and safely, a concept known as digital citizenship, requires access to social media tools in schools.

If you are wondering how pervasive the blocking of social media is in schools, you should know that currently in New York City, if an educator wants to use YouTube or other blocked sites in the classroom, they have to fill out a form, get approval from the principal, and send the request to the city’s Department of Education. The process may seem arduous but actually is rather lax when compared to other districts, where the entire district must agree to block or unblock a website across all its schools.

Do you know how social sites are handled at your school? If sites are unblocked there is a danger of more cyberbullying and other bad actions by students. However, many educators would like to be more in control of when social media can used. As many teachers point out, students use these sites freely at home and in other settings, and the only way they are going to learn to use them responsibly is to use them.

Parents Need to Talk about Kids and Smartphones

Each generation of parents has worried about the new technologies that have impacted their children’s lives from radio up to today’s mobile devices. Today’s devices are inescapable, and coupled with the allure of social networking,  are having a profound impact on the way adolescents communicate with one another and spend their free time. While some experts say it is too soon to sound the alarm on smartphones, a recent article in Time magazine entitled,” We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones” points out that the latest statistics on the incidence of teen suicide and depression are rising sharply and may be connected to the proliferation of smartphones. These statistics alone make this an issue that parents should be talking to each other about and to their teens as well.

The Hard Truth About School Bullying – Perception is Everything

Whether you have had a child who has experienced bullying online or at school and have approached your school about it, or you just want to be prepared in case it happens, you may want to read “A hard truth about school bullying “.  The point of view of the author, Jim Dillon, who has been an educator for over 40 years, is that there are two very different perceptions of bullying in our schools: the version of bullying that many school staff members believe and the version that students experience daily. As evidence for these two contrasting views he offers the fact that in anonymous surveys of teens, approximately 20% of secondary school students report being bullied approximately two to three times per month. Over 75% of the schools in many states report zero incidents per year. 

What accounts for these two contrasting views? Dillion says that if school staff members are being candid, they do not thinking bullying is a serious problem in schools. As for students, most students don't bully others and aren't bullied, so all the anti-bullying rules and pledges they are required to follow reflect just another set of adult rules. In reality, the student version of bullying is intertwined and concealed in the social world of how people treat or mistreat each other. The result of these two versions (and the article spells out both versions more fully) is that many school environments inadvertently not only ignore the bullying that students experience, but also contribute to its existence and persistence. All students learn the wrong lesson when they see peers endure mistreatment and witness educators who appear unconcerned and/or unable to stop it.  This article is worth a read and may explain why your school treated a bullying issue, that you may have reported, the way they did.

Instagram Primer for Parents

No doubt as a parent you have heard of Instagram, and maybe even use it yourself. It seems harmless enough - snap a picture or video, add a caption and then share. But have you taken time to consider some of the issues that the app could cause? To consider both the positive and potentially negative sides of Instagram, USA TODAY has created a primer on using the app, why you should worry about your kids using it, and how you can protect them.

Drama, Drama, Drama – Apps That Can Stir Up Trouble at School

Common Sense Media has posted a list of new social media apps that you should know about that could be stirring up trouble at your child’s school. While many of them are similar in ways to apps you are probably already familiar with, such as Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp, some of them have new features such as live streaming and group video chatting.  While you cannot keep up with every single detail of how every new app works, it is good to familiarize yourself with the names and intents of these apps. Of course, the most important thing is just to keep talking to your kids about what they are seeing and doing online.