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How to Clean Your Laptop

Have you ever thought about how dirty your laptop can be? A most practical article in The New York Times Tech Section entitled How to Clean Your Filthy, Disgusting Laptop starts out with helping you figure what supplies you need all the way to getting rid of stinky smells that sometimes attach themselves to a keyboard.

YouTube Monthly User Base Hits 1.9 Billion

YouTube's monthly user base has increased to 1.9 billion, up from 1.5 billion at the same time in 2017, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan announced in USA Today. "We have creators with viewership that's higher than many cable channels," he said, adding that the platform has been working on brand safety issues especially since some renegade producers have been posting videos that many find in bad taste or even illegal.

Looking for a Guide to Parental Controls?

Screen time is becoming more and more of a family issue and many tech companies are attempting to help parents by providing tools such as Apple’s Screen Time, Disney’s Circle and Amazon’s Freetime. How do you make sense of all the different options out there and figure out which one will fit your needs? National Public Radio recently released a great starting point called A Guide To Parental Controls For Kids' Tech Use that asks you questions that help you zero in on the help you may be needing.

New Study: Children May Benefit From Social Media

Social media use, such as scrolling through Instagram and texting, had positive findings for 9- and 10-year-olds participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, a project of the National Institutes of Health. The study, launched in 2015, gathered information about how young people's brains develop and how they navigate adolescence. The study's results showed that when comparing different types of screen time, social media use led to more physical activity, less family conflict and better sleep compared to time spent watching TV or playing video games. As the author of the study put it, “The most important thing is that not all screen media is bad, if you want to put it in a nutshell. There's a lot of pre-existing biases that if we expose kids to media, something terrible is going to happen. What we show is that's not the case."

New Google College Search Feature

Students who search for a college on Google will now receive extra data about the institution, including cost, majors, outcomes and admissions information. According to an article on TechCrunch, the new search feature uses data from the US Department of Education's College and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. It is available now for only four-year institutions, but it is a good way to take a first look at multiple colleges very quickly.

The Fallout From Outdated Screen Time Recommendations

In a new commentary on the EdSurge site, Nikki Schafer, a technology integration specialist in a Nebraska school district, points out that outdated screen time recommendations from various medical organizations and in the media has increased parental angst to the point that parents can’t differentiate between screen time for entertainment and screen time for learning. This lack of clarification for over a decade has left many parents with anxiety about device use in general and caused a backlash to the use of technology in the schools. In turn, this has put pressure on schools and districts to carefully explain and prove why adoption of digital tools is not only beneficial, but necessary. In Schafer’s district, she explains, they work to help parents understand that not all screen time is created equal. Sometimes screens entertain, sometimes they distract and in many cases they can support a lot of the skills and characteristics teachers and parents have always known to be critical to growth and development.

How Often Should You Clean Your Phone?

Experts say that if you use your phone all the time, especially during meals, you should really disinfect it daily.  Apple and other manufacturers recommend turning off your phone before cleaning, and avoid getting liquid into the device’s charging port or other openings. Also, don’t spray disinfectant directly onto the device. Instead, spray onto a clean cloth or paper towel, or use a pre-treated disinfecting wipe. 


Study Shows Decline in Boy’s Interest in STEM Careers

An annual survey of teenagers by Junior Achievement and Ernst and Young show that fewer boys want to pursue a science, technology, engineering or math career. According to the results, Boys' interest in STEM fields declined from 36% last year to 24% this year, but girls' interest in STEM fields remained unchanged at 11% of all surveyed girls.

App to Keep Students Safe Abroad

Marquette University has adopted a mobile app called AlertTraveler, to help keep students safe while they are traveling outside of the US. About 50 other colleges, including the University of Kansas and the University of Georgia, are already using the app, which was first released in the fall of 2017. AlertTraveler centralizes the communication and risk-awareness efforts that study-abroad offices previously conducted by phone or email. For example, study aboard administrators can use the app to automatically notify students of life-threatening or high-risk situations in their geographic location — such as an active shooter, a natural disaster or seriously political instability — through push notifications, email or text messages, all of which the app supports. The app is also available for use by general travelers as well.

Teen Insomnia and Depression Linked to Screen Time

Adolescents who spent more time doing screen-based activities such as gaming, social messaging, TV watching, or web surfing were more likely to develop symptoms of insomnia and sleep deprivation, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Researchers are speculating the connection of these symptoms to depression as well. “Higher rates of depressive symptoms among teens may be partially explained through the ubiquitous use of screen-based activities, which can interfere with high quality restorative sleep,” said postdoctoral researcher Xian Stella Li, Ph.D.

Twitter Cracking Down on Underage Accounts

If your kids use Twitter, you might have heard about how the platform has been suspending the accounts of users it believes were underage when they signed up for the popular social media service. This move has caused widespread confusion and raised questions for other companies struggling to comply with new data-privacy laws. While it is not certain what has prompted this action, media reports highlight examples of account suspensions that occurred in late May when the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, came into effect. That new provision holds that tech companies processing the personal data of children must obtain explicit consent from a parent or guardian.

Teens Most Likely to Use YouTube

YouTube is the most popular social media platform among teenagers, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Data show that 85% of teens use YouTube, compared with 72% who use Instagram and 69% who use Snapchat. Only roughly half of teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook.

New Apps Help Kids Unplug From Phones

New mobile applications from Apple and Google allow consumers and parents to limit how long their children use apps, including Netflix and social media. The Apple’s Screen Time app, for example, can restrict access to some apps and websites. From Google, an app called Family Link allows parents to see how often kids use certain apps, approve or block app downloads, set screen time limits, and even lock devices remotely.

Social Media Part of Texas School Safety Program

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced several proposals recently aimed at keeping students safe in schools. Among the ideas were stricter policies for gun ownership and social media assessment programs. Abbott noted that social media often gives clues about the intentions of those who want to do fellow students harm and wants to expand a program led by Texas Tech to use telemedicine mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence.


Survey Says Teens Constantly Online

Forty-five percent of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly,” according to a new Pew Research Center study on teens and social media use. That percentage has nearly doubled in just a few years: in a 2014-2015 Pew survey, 24 percent of teens said the same. That rise in the “almost constantly” category is probably linked to “a pretty big jump” in teens who have access to smartphones, researchers say. 95% of teens have access to a smartphone in 2018, whereas three years ago, Pew reported that number was only 73%.

The results were also very interesting when it came to teens answering the question about whether social media has had a mostly positive (31%), neither positive nor negative (45%), or mostly negative (24%) effect on people their age. Adults tend to talk about the negatives of teen social media use in terms of addiction, but instead of addiction, more teens in the survey were worried about social media’s role in bullying and hurting relationships.

Now Watch 48 Seasons of Sesame Street on Demand

Sesame Workshop has launched a new “TV-ready” streaming app. The free-to-download app is available in the Vewd App Store for connected smart TV devices, and provides the ability to stream 48 seasons of Sesame Street and explore “dedicated sections” for main characters like Big Bird and Elmo. The app is part of an overall effort to expand the reach of Children’s Television Workshop leading up to their 50th anniversary next year. Other Sesame Street apps are also available on the Sesame Street site.

The Connection Between Coding and Reading

Kids who are reluctant readers or who have special needs could be more engaged by learning to code first, asserts Kristen Brooks, a K-5 iPad lab teacher in Georgia. In an interesting blog post for parents and teachers, she suggests that coding can help students develop the skills needed to learn how to read, and shares several suggestions to help integrate coding in the classroom that also can be used by parents at home. An article on the National Public Radio site on coding for kindergarteners is also a useful read on this subject.

Technology and School Safety

Can pricey tech prevent school violence? School leaders in some communities are investing in high-tech security systems used by the military and law enforcement to boost campus safety. These modern tools range from instant background checks for visitors and social-media monitoring software to gunshot-detection sensors and ID cards equipped with panic buttons. However, even as the school security market emerges as a multibillion-dollar industry, there is little evidence the tools will prevent another shooting.

eSports Leagues For a New Generation of Athletes

Some US high schools are developing eSports leagues – organizations for playing video games competitively  - and have seen increases in engagement and academic performance from students who are otherwise withdrawn at school. The positive outcomes have moved some educators in California to develop a curriculum around eSports that includes reading books like Ready Player One, and when approved, will satisfy high-school English credits.

How to Videos – A Time Saver for Parents and Teachers?

Here’s an interesting digital idea for teachers, and maybe even something parents and students can help teachers with: creating "how-to" videos. High school teacher Jason Muniz writes in a blog post that creating and showing videos of instructions as part of his lessons allows him to spend more time engaging students and boosting their learning.  In his post, he shares the process and tools he uses to create the videos and addresses some of the challenges he has faced.