Digital Parenting

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YouTube Implements New Policy To Flag Inappropriate Videos Targeted at Kids

Medium post and New York Times article recently highlighted an ongoing problem with YouTube Kids.  There are bizarre and disturbing videos, like the popular character Peppa the Pig drinking bleach or the characters from Paw Patrol getting killed off.  These videos, aimed at young children, are found by using relevant key words and popular children’s character’s names. Now, YouTube says it is putting in place a new process to age-restrict these types of videos in the main YouTube app. Videos from the main platform will not appear on YouTube Kids for several days, giving extra time for users to flag questionable content and for teams to review flagged videos. One suggestion is that until this problem is resolved parents should be very mindful of the kinds of videos kids are consuming on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

We Need to Talk

A new book of interest for parents in the digital age is We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. Author Celeste Headlee mentions new research that suggests even the mere presence of a cell phone can negatively impact the quality of a conversation and that humans, even with all our protests to the contrary, cannot multitask. A podcast of her recent appearance on NPR on September 19, 2017 called “Could Your Conversations Be Better?” can be found on the 1A podcast directory list.

Educators Worry About Emails From Parents

Thinking about sending your child’s teacher an after hours email? You might want to wait until the next school day. Some educators in Australia are asking for a break from the burden of answering emails sent by parents after hours and on weekends. The State School Teachers Union there says that some parents expect lengthy, instant responses, which is why they are seeking to include a provision that offers teachers a reprieve in their contracts.

Can Minecraft Boost Problem Solving and Empathy Skills?

Playing the video game Minecraft may help boost students' social and emotional skills, according to a recent survey from Getting Smart and Microsoft. Data shows that 86.6% of teachers who use the education version for group play in their classrooms said playing Minecraft had a positive effect on students' communication skills, including problem-solving (cited by 97.7 percent), creativity (95.5 percent), critical thinking (93.3 percent) and collaboration (91.1 percent).

Limiting the Checking of Online Grading Portals

Leaders in some school districts are placing limits on when -- and how often -- parents can check online grade portals, writes teacher and author Jessica Lahey. In a commentary in The New York Times, she shares the potential downside of parents "overchecking" grade portals, writing that in high-pressure school districts, parents will view the district’s invitation to constantly monitor grades and scores on the portal not as an option, but as an obligation. This obligation adds to the mounting anxiety students and parents feel in these districts.

Red Light, Green Light

In one Arizona district, high schools have implemented a "traffic light" system to help with managing digital device use in the classrooms. Posters in individual classrooms display red, yellow or green signals indicating if students can, or cannot, use their digital devices during class. Students say it lets them know what to expect when coming into a class and gives them a break to concentrate on the tasks at hand. They also say it helps keep them from getting their phone confiscated.

Virtual Schooling: Pros and Cons

Is your child thinking about virtual schooling on the high school or college level? Flexibility, personal attention from teachers, and developing time-management skills are among the benefits of virtual schooling, assert two graduates of virtual high schools and colleges. In a Q&A on the EdSurge site, the graduates address common questions around distance learning, including socialization, but also acknowledge that while they were successful, virtual schools might not suit all learners.

Get Up to Speed on Snapchat Ghost Mode

As you may have observed with your own teens, Facebook and Twitter are fading and Snapchat is the app of choice these days. Even if you are familiar with Snapchat, you may need to get up to speed on a new feature called Snap Map. The feature lets users see where Snaps (messages or pictures) are being composed from. If users want to keep that information private (versus letting the whole world know where they are), users must choose Ghost Mode. Need more information on how to set up Ghost Mode and Snap Map? See Talk to your teen about Snapchat Ghost Mode on the USA Today site.

Assistive Technology – It’s Not Just for Kids with Disabilities

Jenny Grabiec, the Director of Technology at The Fletcher School, has a free book out called iCan with iOS: Apps, Tools & Strategies for Students with Learning and Attention Issues, but as she points out in an article on the Edutopia site, assistive technology can benefit all students. Grabiec states that for all students, with or without learning differences, using text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools are shown to read longer, write longer, and show a great improvement in spelling. Clock apps, with timers and alarms, can help students stay on task and be used for important reminders during the day. Interested in these kinds of apps? Take a look at the Edutopia Assistive Technology: Resource Roundup as well.

Is the Internet Like a Drug?

A study by researchers at Swansea University and Milan University find that symptoms of Internet withdrawal -- increased anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate -- are close to what drug addicts experience. Participants in the study, ages 18 to 33, were self-confessed Internet addicts who reported spending an average of five hours a day online.

Instagram, Snapchat and the Mental Health of Teens

A survey done in the UK by #StatusofMind, part of the Young Health Movement and Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), indicates that overuse of the more image driven apps such as Instagram and Snapchat may be affecting the mental health of young people. While YouTube came out as having the most positive impact of all the well-known social media, Instagram and Snapchat came out in the study of 1,479 teens and young adults as fostering feelings of inadequacy and anxiety among youths who engage often with them. Experts commenting on the study reminded both professionals working in the field of teen mental health and parents that “it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Living Life Without Filters

“If Beyoncé thinks her body needs to be edited, what on Earth does mine need?” writes teenager Sarah Kendrick in a commentary on the KQED site (a National Public Radio/ Public Broadcasting System affiliate). As Kendrick points out, it takes courage to buck the pressures of social media and post real, unaltered, “unPhotoshopped” images of oneself online. She goes on to challenge other teens to ditch image-editing tools and embrace the beauty of their imperfect, natural selves.

“Picting” May be the New Literacy

"Picting" – the usage of image-based materials - is the new literacy for today's students, assert professors Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway in a recent blog post. In the post they examine how social media's reliance on images and the amount of time youths spend on social media is changing literacy and that it is something that parents, teachers and even employers need to pay attention to. Students spend much more of their time outside of school using and communicating with pictures than text. Popular social media applications for youth, such as SnapChat and Instagram, are primarily photo-based, so this begs the question: will pictures really come to be worth a thousand words?

Gender Stereotypes about Coding Ability Start Very Early

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that experience with programming robots can make young girls more interested in technology and more confident in their abilities in related subjects, however programming experience did not diminish girls' gendered stereotypes about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ability. The first graders in the study, girls and boys alike, thought that boys were better at programming and robots.

This is the first study to find that children as young as age six have stereotypes about programming and robotics ability, wrote the researchers. It was surprising to see that gendered stereotypes about programming took hold so early, noted Allison Master, a research scientist at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and the lead researcher of the study. She also mentioned that these attitudes are part of a well-established and much larger trend of thinking in society.

Screen Time May be Tied To Infant and Toddler Speech Delays

Mobile devices are so common these days it is not unusual to own more than one, and it can be extremely tempting to hand one of them off to a squirmy infant or toddler to help amuse them. According to a new Canadian study though, children ages 6 months to 2 years whose parents reported increased use of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and electronic games were more likely to have expressive speech delays. In fact, each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time was tied to 49% higher odds of developing speech delays. On the positive side, the findings showed that handheld-device use wasn't associated with other communication delays such as social interaction, gestures or body language.

Teens and Breaks from Social Media – Forced VS. Unforced

It all used to be so simple: Break the rules, get grounded and be forbidden from hanging out with your friends. These days, of course, social media makes anywhere a teen hangout, and parents looking to ground their kids might choose to cut off access to social media instead. But that punishment might not have its desired effect — and could even have some harmful consequences for teenagers, according to a new study published recently.

Teens forced to take a break from social media lose more than just a few days gossiping with friends, according to the research funded conducted by the University of Chicago's independent research organization, NORC. “The side effect of  [a forced break] is taking away from potential emotional support and from access to information,” said Amanda Lenhart, the study's lead researcher and an expert on social media behavior. “That's not just what's happening in friends' lives, which is one component, but also hard news, current events and that type of information.”

There is no denying that grounding a child from social media makes an immediate impact, Lenhart says. But the survey suggests that it may have a more negative effect than parents realize. The 38 percent of teens who were forced to take a break were more likely to report being anxious about being away from social media and more likely to increase their social media postings after being allowed back on their networks. On the other hand, teens who opted to take voluntary breaks from social media — 65 percent of those surveyed — tend to handle the lack of constant contact with friends and the online world much better than teens who had it snatched away from them. Across the board, these teens were more likely to say they felt relieved about taking a break and thought the break helped them connect with important people in their lives.

Boy's Note About Video Game Class Goes Viral

A mother shared a picture of a note on Reddit online written by her 7-year-old son that has gone viral. The note suggested that his teachers wanted him to “stay up late playing video games.” The note, signed "the school," indicated the boy is performing poorly in "video game class." Both the boy’s mother and teacher appreciated the creativity of the fraudulent note!

Thinking Like a Computer

Are your children interested in computer coding? Is there talk about adding a programming course to the curriculum at your children’s school? A recent article in The New York Times takes up the topic of “Learning to Think Like a Computer” and reveals some of thinking behind what educators see as the advantages of everyone knowing more about how the digital world works.

What Happens To Your Kid’s Language Skills When You Check Your Phone

It may not come as a surprise that research shows the quality of conversational interactions you have with your child is more important than the quantity of words they hear as they develop their language skills. Researchers also say that when you stop a conversation with your kids to check your phone, you break the ability for this very important back and forth learning interaction to happen.  Researchers also say this formation of language skills can help predict the course of a child’s future when he or she starts the formal schooling process.

Screen Time and Kids: The Debate Continues

A new study published in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly suggests that the link between heavy screen time and teen depression is actually quite minimal, and that spending some extra time on the phone or computer is not as damaging as many believe. Study leader Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University believes that the strict attention to limiting screen time by policy makers and advocacy groups is uncalled for. Instead, Ferguson sees more value in focusing on how media are used — for example, as a tool for learning and socialization — than on consumption time alone. Until late last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended only two hours of screen time a day for youth, but dropped the recommendation completely from their current guidelines. This change reflects the fact that the data guiding these recommendations is somewhat unclear and that screen time suggestions are simply experts’ best guesses.