Digital Safety

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Facial-Recognition Tech For School Security Raises Questions

The Associated Press is reporting that some companies are offering US schools free facial-recognition software that is also used on city streets and among government agencies and businesses. At odds with this move, digital-rights advocacy groups are expressing concerns about the software's effects on privacy, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has asked the state's education officials to prevent schools' implementation of the software. Others question the technology’s cost and effectiveness, given reports like one released in February by MIT and Stanford University that found some facial recognition programs don’t work well in correctly identifying people who belong to racial minorities or women.

Schools in the United Kingdom Start New Program on Online Safety

Schools  in the United Kingdom are to receive new guidance on lessons in online personal safety. The lessons, focused in part on social media, are to begin as early as age 4. The authors of the new guidelines write “Today children have to learn to cope in two worlds: the virtual one and the real one – and this is giving old problems a dangerous new edge.”

Cyberattacks May Increase Warn Feds

Cyberattacks against the US are on the rise and have reached a critical point,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently. Coats identified China, Iran, North Korea and Russia as the biggest threats, saying that they target federal agencies, state and local governments, businesses and even schools every day.

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.

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. 


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 Using New Way to Counter Misinformation

Twitter has announced that user behavior, not simply tweet content, will now be a factor in the way conversations are modified, or even blocked from general consumption. Content from users could be demoted by the platform's algorithm if the users have been blocked frequently, if they have multiple accounts using the same IP address, or if they regularly tweet to a large number of accounts that they don't follow.

An Idea For Your School? A Digital Floor Plan for First Responders

Anaheim High School in California is believed to be the first in the nation to create a digital map of its building for first responders. Julian Harvey of the Anaheim Police Department feels the technology is a "game changer" for responding to incidents, as often the floor plans they are using are outdated or don’t always have details such as what might be behind a door.

Be Best

First Lady Melania Trump is offering a new initiative for American children on the subjects of well-being, social media and opioid abuse. Her program is called simply, “Be Best.” Although the program focuses on some of the biggest issues facing children today, it has also received some criticism for merely being a repackaging of projects that already exist, including an initiative by the National Safety Council that encourages people to talk to their doctors about opioid abuse, and guidelines distributed by the Federal Trade Commission on children’s social media activity. Others have also criticized the title of the campaign, pointing out that children often worry too much about being the “best,” leading to issues such as depression, loss of self esteem, and even thinking that they deserve to be bullied because they feel they are not the “best.”

YouTube to Offer Handpicked Selection of Kid’s Videos

YouTube will soon launch a new choice for parents seeking programming for their children with a version of its Kids app that offers only videos handpicked by YouTube staff  - aka the “whitelisted” version. The algorithmically suggested version will still be available, but this new version should, in theory, cut down on the number of videos that sneak through the automated selection process that could include language and jokes inappropriate for kids.