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Do Phones Make Kids More Safe or Less Safe During a School Emergency?

Usually the debate about smartphones at school is about whether they are a distraction or a tool for learning, but the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida  has sparked some debate about whether students are made more -- or less -- safe by carrying cellphones at school. Some say students with the devices can alert others that they are safe when getting to and from school or during an emergency, but others argue that phones can make students less safe during a crisis by distracting them from following directions by teachers or first responders, giving away their location to an assailant, or jamming up communications interfering with those coming to help them.

Wonder Where All that Cellular Data Goes?

Curious about how all that data consumed by sharing and streaming photos, audio and video on your cell phone adds up? You might be interested in getting a quick estimate from a data calculator like the ones on the AT&T or Verizon Wireless sites. Your cellular provider may have it’s own sample measures. 

Interested in some simple ideas for reducing your data consumption? Take a look at Measuring and Managing your Cellular Data Use on The New York Times site.

Don’t Have a Ban, Have a Plan – Cell Phones at School

What is the policy on students’ use of cellphones at your children’s school? A blog article on the Education Week site entitled As Cell Phones Proliferate in K-12, Schools Search for Smart Policies could be an excellent primer on the subject.  It can help parents, teachers and administrators using the evolution of the cell phone policy of the Katy School District in Texas as a sample case study. What is the district’s advice on the topic? Setting clear expectations for cellphone use in classrooms, and establishing models for appropriate use, is the better alternative to simply forbidding their use.

Apple Vows New Parental Controls Amid Child Phone Addiction Fears

Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which together own a $2 billion stake in Apple, asked the company in an open letter, recently, to address the issue of phone addiction among children. Among other things the letter asks Apple to create an option for phones to be set to an interface according to their age group which would include options for limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, and setting up parental monitoring.


In response, Apple has stated that it has plans to create new software features that will make the parental controls – many of which already exist on the iPhone – more easy to use with more choices. The current Settings app on every iPhone has a parental control section that allows adults to restrict website access, control in-app purchases, and install or delete apps, among other things. Of course, in the end, common sense about what is and isn’t too much use of digital devices for your own children is the best course of action, still it will be interesting to see how Apple handles this question about it’s role as a company in the issue of phone addiction.

Smart Speakers Ownership Rapidly Rising

An Accenture study reveals more smart-speaker owners use their smartphones less for entertainment (64%), purchasing (58%) and information searches (56%), and instead rely on devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home for those purposes. The firm projects that by year's end, 40% of Americans will own a smart speaker. The question is will smart speaker manufacturers add an etiquette feature that some parents have asked for since children seem to be picking up on the idea that there is no need to add “please” to a request when talking to an electronic device? Parents have reported that this lack of awareness spills over into children’s relationships with humans!

Use of Recording Devices By Students in Schools in Question

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston is expected to take up a case regarding a Maine student's right to carry an audio-recording device in school. The student in question has autism and a neurological syndrome that affects his speech and he cannot talk to his parents about his school day so the family is fighting for the right for him to carry an “always on” recording device to ensure he is being properly treated during the school day. In other states, parents of special education students have secretly placed audio recorders on their children to expose abuse, which have led to firings or settlements. Opponents say though that this raises serious privacy concerns for other students and that it would actually be “disruptive and detrimental” to his education.


Especially now that every cell phone has a recording option, you may be wondering is it legal for a student to record a teacher? That may depend on whether you live in a one party or two party consent state. While federal law allows for recordings as long as one party to the conversation consents (known as "one-party consent"), several states have stricter recording laws. California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington all require every party to a conversation to consent to recording (known as "two-party consent"). Most states make illegal recordings a felony. For instance Florida's wiretap law makes illegal recordings a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. If you live in a one-party consent state, you (or your children) are probably OK recording a teacher or professor as long as you are present in the class, since you're a party to the conversation and by your action have given your consent to be recording. If you're in a two-party consent state, or are placing a secret recorder on your child, things may get a little trickier. Of course the easiest way to get around the issue may be to let everyone know you are recording, but as these parents in Maine are finding out even that may not satisfy everyone. If you or your children are thinking of doing any kind of recording at school or at college, be sure to check with the institution first.

An Around the World Look At When Kid’s Get Cellphones/Smartphones

While no one seems to know when the best age to give a child a cellphone/smartphone is, a recent article entitled When kids get their first cell phones around the world takes a snapshot of how parents in different countries seem to have answered the question. Cost certainly plays a big factor, but US parents seem to be more willing to give their children phones at an earlier age, starting at age 6. If you are not familiar with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics on media use, you can find a write up on their site.

Brain Changes Found in Teens with Fixated with Smartphones

Teens overly attached to their smartphones show higher levels of a neurotransmitter that slows down brain signals, South Korean researchers reported at the recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The research linked the impact on the brain signals to increased levels of addiction, anxiety and depression, one radiology professor said.

Yondr Cell Phone Pouches Growing in Popularity at Schools and Concert Venues

Have you been to a concert venue where you are given a special locking pouch that keeps phones locked within a designated no-phone zone, outside of which the phone can be unlocked for your use? Most likely those pouches are from a company called Yondr. They are gaining popularity with performers such as The Lumineers, Louis C.K., Alicia Keys, Dave Chappelle to cut down distracting cell phone sounds and texting and talking during their performances.  Dave Chappelle is also using the system to cut down on people video recording his show and sharing the material online, possible driving away others from coming to a performance because they think they have already seen all his new material. Now schools are beginning to use the system as well.

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.

New Study Released on the Effect of Digital Media on Teen-Parent Relationships

Many teens and their parents agree that digital devices are a source of concern, anxiety and conflict, according to a new study from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The study, “The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Digital Devices,” is based on a on a comprehensive survey of 1,200 teens and parents. Conducted in April, it is the first such study of teens and families in Japan, where 90 percent of parents and teens own a smartphone, and the first to compare those insights to existing U.S. data from Common Sense Media on digital media use among families in North America. The study found that most parents of children ages 13-18 felt their teens were addicted to mobile devices, and many parents felt addicted themselves. In both countries, one in three teens thought their parents were addicted to their mobile devices.

In addition, American teens and parents feel that digital devices a greater source of conflict among teens and parents than do those in Japan; in fact, one in three U.S. families reported having an argument every day. More teens in the U.S. also felt that mobile device use has hurt their relationship with their parents, while in Japan, more parents felt their family relationships have been hurt by mobile device use.

Setting a Cell Phone Policy – Schools and Classrooms

With kids getting cell phones at younger and younger ages (10 is now the average), schools are struggling to catch up on establishing proactive policies about when and how the devices can be used. If your school is working on these policies, or if you are interested in how teachers are handling the situation in other schools, check out 3 Tips for Managing Phone Use in Class. While this article is written for teachers, parents may also find it useful in setting up a policy for home, using the questions posed for starting a dialogue about cell phone use.

Ways to Stop Your Technology Addiction

We are living in a time when adults spend an average of three hours a day on their phones, the average work email gets read in six seconds, and forty-six percent of people would prefer to have a broken bone than a broken phone. We are living in a world with technology addiction. A new book by Adam Alter entitled Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked shares ways to survive in the age of behavioral addiction.

One of the things Atler suggests is to think about proximity. If you don’t need your phone by your side, put it somewhere you cannot easily reach it. He also advises to turn off some non-essential notifications. Another tip is to bury those apps that are the most addictive for you to the last screen page. All of these actions can help you control your phone, not the other way around. Interested in more? Take a look at this article on the Time web site.

Your Cell Number – Are You Sharing It Too Freely?

Here’s a bad piece of news. Our cell phone numbers becoming a lot like Social Security numbers: they are the gateway to our identities, providing an entrance to personal data – your email address, physical address, even physical whereabouts—and all the personal information that is kept about you by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and social media networks. Yet when we are asked for our cell numbers for whatever reason, we often give them out without even a second thought.  What can you do? Take a look at these tips and use common sense. If you are asked for your phone number, it never hurts to ask why.

Banning Smartphones for Those Under 13?

A group in Colorado called Parents Against Underage Smartphones is looking into putting a ballot initiative up that would require retailers to submit reports to the state government verifying that they had inquired about the intended user for each smartphone sold, and fine those that repeatedly sell phones to be used by young children and preteens. Many critics understand the reasoning behind the proposed law, but think it oversteps the government's role into private family life. What’s your opinion?

Apple’s New iPhone Operating System (iOS 11) To Feature ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ Mode

When iOS 11 comes to iPhones (and iPads) this fall, the new operating system will include a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode users can turn on. When the feature is activated, your iPhone can tell when you may be driving and will automatically mute your notifications so the screen remains dark. You can also set up your device to send your favorite contacts an automatic reply to tell them you are driving and will get back to them when you arrive. An excellent idea for all drivers, especially teens, so be sure to check it out this fall.

Do Your Apps Have an Appetite for Data?

As kids and their cell phones are about to head into summer vacation mode, you may want to look at ways to help the whole family stop the burn when it comes to cell phone data. One of the best ways to do that is to figure out how much data your favorite apps use and adjust usage accordingly. It is the best way to help you avoid costly overages or painfully slow speeds, depending on your carrier. Not sure where to start? Take a look at this article from USA Today that breaks down the data usage of several popular app data hogs including Netflix, YouTube and Google Play, and gives tips on how to keep your data in check.

What Do You Really Need to Do to Protect Your Smartphone?

Brian Chen of the Tech Fix blog on The New York Times recently prompted a reality check for smartphone users on what is really need to protect your device. Check out his advice on why you should buy a case, and maybe a screen protector, but pass on the extended warranty. If you missed it, also check out his take on tips and myths of how to extend your smartphone’s battery life.

Fooling Your Phone’s Fingerprint Scanner

Fingerprinting has become a standard method of authenticating your identity, being that no two fingerprints are exactly alike. As it turns out, researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found they are hardly foolproof. The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people’s fingerprints. Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they imagine the scheme might not be as successful in real life. Still, it is another link in the reasoning behind more two- step authentication methods for accessing information that many companies are promoting.

Affordable Smartphones

If you are debating whether or not to get your child a Smartphone, you may want to take a look at a list recently published by Time magazine. These 5 Smartphones Under $300 Are Perfect for Kids and Teens is a list of fully capable, durable smartphones that are on the low end of the price range. Each of them are unlocked, contract free and do not require any kind of commitment of service to purchase, making them a great choice for kids.