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The Essential Apps Guide

Did you or your children get a new digital device of the Apple, Android or Kindle variety? Whether you are looking for apps to enhance learning, games, or ways to help keep you organized, a great place to start your search is the Essential Apps Guide on the Common Sense Media site. You can even sign up to get app updates by email.

The Dangers of Connected Toys

Did your kids get any “connected digital toys” as holiday gifts? If so you might want to take a look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation notice on the privacy and unapproved contact concerns that such toys can pose. You might also want to take a look at the article A Cute Toy Just Brought a Hacker Into Your Home for some of the safety concerns about the latest toy releases. This includes the Q50 smart watch for kids, the Furby Connect doll, and even the BB-8 droid, which was released with “The Last Jedi” this past month, which some testing services found had an insecure Bluetooth connection.

I Didn’t Know Netflix Could Do That

In the spirit of getting organized for the New Year, take a gander at this article on Netflix tricks to get more out of your subscription this year. Did you know that you get better quality video at off peak hours? How about trying your hand at Netflix Roulette to pick out something at random for you to watch? Want to delete the shows that embarrass you from your activity list? Take a look at the list of hacks.

The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Schools is Growing

The presence of artificial intelligence in schools is expected to grow, with some reports predicting 47.5% growth by 2021. Schools already are using the technology in various ways, such as identifying what math students know and then providing tailored assignments. Experts say this should offer teachers deeper insight in how to help struggling students, but this development does not signal that teachers are going to be replaced by machines.

Making Digital Communications More Accessible

While written for educators, the article Making Digital Communications Accessible on the Edutopia site is also useful to parents who may need schools (or parent/teacher associations) to use some accommodations to make sure the information they provide is accessible. By adding captions to Facebook pictures or turning on image descriptions in Twitter, communication improves. Adding captions to videos and posting transcripts of podcasts and videos by using transcription software can also make it easier for those with hearing or vision issues. And why bother? Accessibility is a matter of civil rights and can also be a legal issue. There are several districts across the country`` that are currently under investigation for issues related to website accessibility. 

Why Kids Need to Learn How to Code

Is your school considering teaching students how to code? Do you understand the reasons why? For some interesting insights take a look at The Future of Coding in Schools on the Edutopia site. Mitch Resnick, who is one of the creators of the popular programming languages for kids called Scratch, outlines why he think that learning to code is akin to learning to write.

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.

Young Americans Favor YouTube

Ninety-six percent of Americans between ages 12 and 17 use YouTube, and nearly 70% use Instagram and Snapchat. However, Facebook's share has stagnated according to a Forrester research report. The study also reveals that 51% of 12- and 13-year-olds say it's “cool” to be associated with brands on social sites. Another major takeaway from the study is that young Americans prefer social platforms geared toward video and visual content.

Facebook Offers Messenger App For Children

As a parent you want to control who your children talk to online, so you can step in if anything becomes a problem. But, how do you do that? Facebook is now offering a solution by developing a messaging program for children younger than age 13 called Messenger Kids. Parents are able to use their own Facebook accounts to create Messenger profiles for their kids. These profiles have most of the features of full-blown Facebook Messenger, but messages are sent and received exclusively from a smartphone, tablet, or web-connected device (only on the Apple platform currently) and are controlled by parents.

 

Control is the key to Messenger Kids. Kids’ names don’t show up in searches of Messenger users. Once parents create an account, they get to decide whom their children are able to talk to. Parents can add friends and family they’re personally connected with–and those users’ kids, if they’re on Messenger Kids–to their offspring’s list of approved chat friends. 

 

Conversations within Messenger Kids are monitored, and should the app’s artificial intelligence detect an inappropriate word or image it won’t be sent. Kids can also report activity they find inappropriate or hurtful, a move that will also send a note to parents letting them know there was an incident such as “Sally reported Bobby.”

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.

Free Keyboarding Practice for all Ages

Learning how to type well is definitely a 21st Century skill, and even Kindergarten students can find the practice useful especially if it comes in a graduated skills game format. Schools don’t always have the time or the technology for all kids to practice keyboarding but a free gaming platform like TypeTastic can be very useful for home practice. Kids can ramp up their words per minute and accuracy by hitting different keys to hop over lily pads, build construction projects and pop bubbles in outer space. The platform includes several different games, each with multiple levels of play so kids can continually test themselves. Unlocking the levels and conquering challenges keeps them engaged and learning. This kind of practice can be vital with schools issuing tests via computers as early as first grade.

Apple Support Now Has Its Own YouTube Channel

Apple is expanding its social media outreach. The company has just launched a new YouTube channel to teach people how to use their Apple devices, like the iPhone and iPad, via video tutorials. The first set of videos focus on common and fairly simple tasks, like taking screenshots, adding attachments to email, deleting photos, changing the wallpaper and more. The videos are short, with most around the minute-and-a-half mark, and the longest being two minutes. They also include English captions for accessibility, and are formatted with instructions on the left with a demo on the device to the right.

Text Messages That Save Lives

Here is a rather scary fact. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates for teen girls, specifically, in the U.S. are at a 40-year high. So how do you target that audience? Crisis Text Line, which launched about four years ago, offers free crisis intervention via text messages. Seven out of 10 texters are women, and 75 percent are under age 25. The stats also skew rural, LGBT and low-income.

 While Crisis Text Line is not set up as an ongoing therapy, volunteers field texts about topics ranging from school stress to suicidal thoughts and work to get first-responders on the scene when needed. And how do people find the service? If you search the hashtag #741741 you will see posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook spreading the word. Fifty million texts were exchanged with Crisis Text Line in the first four years, and they expect another 50 million just within the next year.

The Number of Podcasts Listeners Growing in Numbers and Influence

Still thinking about trying podcasts? Podcast listeners are growing in their influence of how news and entertainment are produced and received, according to a new report by the Knight Foundation and Edison Research who interviewed 29,000 podcast enthusiasts. Some of those interviewed, qualified as super listeners by listening to 10 or more hours of podcasts per week, including 38% of 18 to 24 year olds who fall into that category followed by 43 percent for ages 25 to 34. The number of podcast listeners seems to be growing with 67 million people listening to one or more podcasts per month and podcasts increasingly raking in the cash (the industry is projected to reach $220 million by the end of this year).

                                                   

How Many Accounts Do You Have?

On average, young people (ages 16- 34) have 8.7 social media accounts. According to a survey by GlobalWebIndex, more than 89,000 people across 40 countries between the ages of 16 and 64 have these accounts. The survey also found that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are the most popular ways to communicate out of the over 42 social media networks available. Video watching on social media on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat also continues to be a growing trend with 56% of Facebook users saying they had watched at least one video online in the last month.

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.

Getting Your Kids to Put “Picting” To Good Use

Social Media, Apps, Homework, Digital Savvy, Digital Literacy

Images increasingly are taking the place of words on social media. This is a trend known as "picting," writes educator Chrissy Romano-Arrabito in an article for middle school teachers, but a good resource for parents as well. Romano-Arrabito reminds adults that new studies tell us that 90% of K-12 classroom time in the U.S. is spent with text-based materials, and 10% with image-based materials; but outside the classroom, 90% is spent with image-based materials and 10% with text-based materials. So what does that mean? In a cliché, “a pictures is worth a thousand words” Picting has arrived and to be literate kids will need to know how to create and manipulate images and video in very sophisticated ways to reach their peers – the adults of the future - and understand their world.

What can you do to help your kids use social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and other apps in productive ways? Romano-Arrabito suggests things like using Instagram to do a mini book report or chronicle a school project. Snapchat is an easy way for kids to video themselves speaking and test themselves on new vocabulary in a foreign language. YouTube is a great way to do a creative book report by creating a commercial for a book. Her article is full of other digitally literate ideas for helping kids use technology in creative and sophisticated ways.

Late-Night Screen Time Affects Sleep

Students exposed to blue light from computer screens or other digital devices including smart phones, got less restful sleep in a study by researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel. Data in the study show that, besides getting 16 fewer minutes of sleep, those exposed to blue light from screens also woke up more often during the night and woke up groggy in the morning.

The Status of Fake News

According to a new survey by Pew Research Center entitled, “The Future of Truth and Misinformation online”, most Americans suspect that made-up news is having an impact. About two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographics. Though they sense these stories are spreading confusion, Americans express a fair amount of confidence in their own ability to detect fake news, with about four-in-ten (39%) feeling very confident that they can recognize news that is fabricated and another 45% feeling somewhat confident.

Some Americans also say they themselves have shared fake news. Overall, 23% say they have shared a made-up news story, with 14% saying they shared a story they knew was fake at the time and 16% having shared a story they later realized was fake. When it comes to how to prevent the spread of fake news, many Americans expect social networking sites, politicians and the public itself to do their share. Fully 45% of U.S. adults say government, politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention, 43% say this is the public’s responsibility, and 42% say it is part of the job of social networking sites and search engines.

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