Social Media

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Who Sponsored That Ad?

The Federal Election Commission has drawn up a proposed framework that would require political digital and social media ads to adopt the same sponsorship disclaimer rules as those appearing on TV, read on radio and in print. Political audio and video ads on both social and digital platforms would require candidates paying for the ads to say their names and include the statement, "And I approve of this message," and graphic and text ads would have to display the sponsor's name "in letters of sufficient size to be clearly readable," the proposal says. In addition, Facebook has announced that it will mail postcards to political ad buyers to verify that they live in the US. A code from the postcard will be needed to buy a political ad on the platform, and November's midterm elections will be the first time the process is used.

Is FOMO the Real Cause of Teens’ Smartphone Addictions?

In a recent interview on CNBC, Ana Homayoun, the author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World explains that social media companies “create this system where you always want to be online. And it can create this fear of missing out (FOMO) if we're not online.” But Homayoun argues there are some ways parents can curb addictive behavior including introducing access to mobile communication incrementally by starting kids off with a flip phone instead of just giving them a hand me down smartphone and establishing times and days when the phone is off-limits (especially at night). She also recommends not letting kids use the phone as an alarm clock because that only leads to it being in their room at night unsupervised and using apps like Circle or OurPact to monitor their usage.

Social Media and Shortened Sleep

So the experts have been saying for years that it would be better if we all put our phones away long before bedtime, but now researchers have found some data that may prove that true. The findings in Acta Paediatrica involved a study of 5,242 Canadian youths ages 11 to 20 and showed that those who used social media apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook for just one hour a day had their sleep affected. 63.6% of those in the study who said they used social media for an hour or less every day received less than the 10 to 11 hours of recommended amount of sleep for their age, while 73.4% of whom said they used social media for an hour or more daily showed even worse sleeping habits.

Twitter – Some Positive Uses By Schools

Twitter sometimes gets a bad rap. Early on, education critics bemoaned the idea of kids communicating in 140 characters and warned they would never learn to write properly. But Twitter, like all sorts of social media apps, has now made peace with many educators who have learned to harness its appeal to help them teach, as well as discuss with students the power and the possibilities of social media in an effort to drive digital literacy. A recent article entitled Teach Students To Use Social Media (The Right Way) And The Possibilities Are Endless on the National Public Radio education site (nprED) outlines many of the positive ways educators are using Twitter. This is a good read for parents who may be skeptical or just want to know more about how teachers are incorporating social media into the classroom.

Tips, Tricks and Texts Enhance Learning

Researchers at Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis Labs are sending to parents and caregivers text messages containing educational games and tips on how to engage young children. These "nudge" techniques are designed to prepare children for school and to support their literacy, numeracy and social and emotional skills. The texts seem to be appreciated by parents who find, that since they arrive on their phones, they can scroll back to them and try the ideas on another day if they are too busy when the text first arrives or the resources to do the activity are not at hand. Texts are short and to the point usually suggesting things that can easily be done by parents, but truly enhance a preschooler’s literacy and numeracy.


Should Facebook Be More Like Instagram?

Facebook is trying very hard to fix itself by dealing with the proliferation of fake news on site and doing what it can to keep the trolls at bay. But what if Facebook just needs to be more like Instagram? That’s the premise of a recent article in The New York Times entitled What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram?.

It is an interesting idea. Instagram, while having some issues, has not been overrun by misinformation, hasn’t been as exploited to the same degree and, (this is a good reminder to the older generation) is vastly preferred to Facebook by younger users. It is a simpler cleaner interface with no external links and no ways to “reshare” others posts. Is this the wave of the future? Less is more?

Doing a Finsta

Here is another vocabulary word for your ongoing discussions with your teen about the world of social media, “Finsta.” In the same kind of move that teens have employed for years on Facebook, creating one Facebook page for public consumption and another for their more private revelations, teens who want to post more freely on Instagram start fake, secret accounts known as "Finstas”. This is a combo of the words “fake” and “Instagram.” Teen’s Finsta accounts are typically more unfiltered than their regular Instagram accounts, and are designed to get around those parental and teacher warnings about being careful what you post because school and college administrators, parents, potential employers and others could view it. The term has been around a while but because Instagram seems to be the hotbed of cyberbullying these days, it has surfaced once again.


On the positive side, such acts of digital self-surveillance make sense against the backdrop of widespread media coverage of social media gaffes that teens have probably heard about or witnessed. This includes employees losing their jobs after publishing a distasteful image or a tactless tweet, or a teen losing a spot on a sports team, or a school leadership role because of sexually charged or derogatory items they posted online. But at its worst, Finsta accounts warp into a space where anonymous users hide scandalous or sexual behavior or partake in cyberbullying.


One other thing that you and your teens should know is that even if what a user posts is part of a private Finsta account with an anonymous username, account creators can be traced back by analyzing followers and Instagram activity. And those seemingly private posts can easily surface online if anyone takes a screenshot or records a video of the content. Once again, it can be very difficult to hide even in the seemingly anonymous online world.

Facebook Tops the Charts

Over 2 billion people around the world used a minimum of one of the top five social apps- Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Twitter  - every month in 2017, with Facebook taking top spot in the US and France and its WhatsApp messenger app dominating in the UK, Spain, Russia, Germany, India and Indonesia, per App Annie. Instagram's monthly average user numbers in the US have risen 30% in the past two years across both Android and  Apple’s iOS.

Facebook Users Vet New Sources

Facebook's latest news feed update will include a prioritization of news sources rated as trustworthy by "a diverse and representative sample" of its users, the company's News Feed chief Adam Mosseri wrote in a recent blog post. Publications with lower scores could see a decrease in distribution while there will also be an emphasis on promoting local news. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, recently writing on the same subject said that prioritizing news from trusted publishers is part of Facebook’s broader effort to revamp the News Feed and “encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption.”

Tech Free Rooms in Play

As an answer to the problem of technology addiction and not enough just plain old “face time,” school resource officers in the Hamilton Heights School Corporation in Indiana have created technology-free rooms in the middle and elementary schools.

The rooms were made available by the district following concerns about the social and emotional effect of screen time on young people and made available to students for 30 or 40 minutes during the day as a reward. Once they arrive at the room, kids have a chance to play board games, Jenga and foosball –all for some downtime with face time possibilities.

Defining Online Harassment: Everyone Has A Different Idea

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, defining online harassment is just as complicated for the average American user as it is for huge social media companies — and the line on what is and isn’t harassment gets even more fuzzy when gender or race come into the picture. The survey polled 4,151 respondents on various scenarios and asked them whether each one crossed the threshold for online harassment. For example in one scenario, people had widely varying opinions on when the harassment begins between two friends whose online disagreement becomes public, with one friend eventually being threatened by uninvolved third parties.


Men and women also widely disagreed on when an issue online became sexual harassment for a woman whose post is shared by a popular blogger resulting in her receiving vulgar messages, threats and having her photo edited to include sexual imagery. Men, by a wide margin, didn’t find that to be harassment versus the vast majority of women who did. And even when 82% of respondents found messages in one scenario to include racial slurs and harassing insults, only 57 percent thought the social media platform should step in.


These results show that there are roadblocks in addressing the issue of online harassment when people often have trouble agreeing on what qualifies as harassment in the first place, especially when women or minorities are involved. It also paints a troubling picture where even when people do define behavior as harassment, many still hesitate to hold the offenders accountable for it. This lack of agreement on when the social media platform or others should step in seemingly has troubling implications for those who are cyberbullied and how the matter should be handled.

Is Partying Going to Become a Thing of the Past?

Students who were born in 1995 and later -- known as iGen teens -- are spending less time partying than previous generations of students, data shows. And it is not just partying – college students, for example, are spending an hour less a day with their friends than previous generations.  Of course that means one less hour a day building social skills, negotiating relationships, and navigating emotions up close and personal. One possible reason is that teens are more connected than ever via social media. But what are they doing with all that extra time that they aren’t spending with friends? It isn’t social. Think screen time, including binge watching. Interested in more on this phenomenon? A new book entitled iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean M. Twenge takes up the topic.

Facebook Maybe Losing the War on Hate Speech

Can Facebook actually keep up with the hate speech and misinformation that pores through the portal? Facebook seems to be working on the misinformation side. But even that is coming in fits and starts. Facebook had to retreat from using red flags that signal articles are fake news after discovering the flags instead spurred people to click on them or share them and has gone instead to listing links below the article to related articles with a more balanced view.


Now a new investigation from ProPublica shows that Facebook’s policy regarding hate speech is also having issues. In an analysis of almost 1,000 crowd-sourced posts, reporters at ProPublica found that Facebook fails to evenly enforce its own community standards. A sample of 49 of the 900 posts were sent directly to Facebook, which admitted that in 22 cases its human reviewers had erred, mistakenly flagging frank conversations about sexism or racism as hate speech. The problem is that the company also does not offer a formal appeal process for decisions its users disagree with so seemingly innocent outbursts may also get caught up in the reviewer’s net.


It is definitely a tough issue and this year Germany will enforce a law requiring social-media sites—including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but also more broadly applying to Web sites like Tumblr, Reddit, and Vimeo—to act within 24 hours to remove illegal material, hate speech, and misinformation. Failure to do so could lead to fines of up to 50 million euros, or about $60 million. Is this this what should be done here in the US or is that too strict? Perhaps the topic of policing content is a good dinner table discussion to have with your teens?

Former President Obama Talks to Prince Harry About Social Media

Former President Barack Obama and the United Kingdom's Prince Harry took to the airwaves for a recent BBC interview where they discussed the potential dangers of social media and how it should be used to promote diversity and find common ground. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," Obama stated. The former president also echoed something that parents concerned about their kids growing up in a Digital Age try to communicate to their children reiterating that " the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated." Perhaps, something every cyberbully should remember?

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.”

The Most Liked Tweet on Twitter EVER

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has certainly put that social media platform front and center this year. Curious about what tweets were the most liked or the most retweeted tweets of 2017 (so far)? Take a look at In 2017, Barack Obama beat Donald Trump . . . at retweets from The Washington Post to see the top ten in each category. The most popular tweet of all time?  “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..." from Barack Obama.

Snapchat Takes Aim at Misinformation

Snapchat is taking aim at misinformation with some unconventional changes to the design of the app (which for many parents is an app that has been associated with cyberbullying and sexting in the past). While the app will still initially open to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos that disappear with friends, the new design will try to separate personal (social) side of the app from what is produced by outside media sources. The media part will also be vetted and approved by Snap, the parent company, by humans, not by algorithms. The use of human curators will allow Snapchat to also program content to make sure that users’ preferences are not keeping them from seeing a wide array of opinions and ideas. In addition to winnowing out fake news, this may keep Snapchat from becoming a place that reinforces narrow sets of thinking. This approach is in contrast to Facebook and Google, who have not vetted much of the hate speech, fake news, and even disturbing videos aimed at children that has been proliferated on those platforms over time.

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.

Increased Screen Time Suggests Correlation to Surge in Suicide Rate

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that an increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged between 2010 and 2015. Recent teen suicides are being blamed on cyberbullying and social media posts that depict "nothing but perfect" lives.  Experts say there is a tendency to discount the connection between teen suicides, depression and social media as just the usual “adult” opposition to the latest trends for young people, like television or rock and roll for previous generations. Experts warn that with its immediacy, anonymity, and potential for bullying, social media has a unique potential for causing real harm.