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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.

Schools and Social Media Policies – An Overview

Is your school looking to update their social media policy? Such a policy has to be flexible enough to recognize and accommodate new apps and innovations like live streaming, but strong enough to address issues that involve the entire school community including parents. An overview of what many schools are doing is part of an article entitled how school are steering social media on the District Administrator magazine site. While written for school professionals, the insights on how various districts are handling issues, especially what happens off campus, can be helpful to parents as well. The article is also a good reminder that schools need to use their responses as a learning opportunity, not just a cause for harsh disciplinary action, when students make mistakes online.

The Trust Project and Fake News

Still worried about falling into a “fake news” trap by reading or passing along something that isn’t factual? A non partisan effort, by a group hosted at Santa Clara University, called The Trust Project is working to address this situation by helping online users distinguish between reliable journalism and promotional content or misinformation. Recently, Facebook started offering “Trust Indicators” which is a new icon that will appear next to articles in your News Feed. When you click on this icon, you can read information the publisher has shared about their organization’s “ethics and other standards, the journalists’ backgrounds, and how they do their work,” according to an announcement from The Trust Project.

It is a work in progress with Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter and other international new organizations committing to displaying these indicators, although not all implementations are in place.

The onus to figure out if something is fake though is still on the user. Instead of labeling content as disputed, Trust Indicators allow users to learn more about the organization behind the news and come to their own conclusions about the content. Whether it will actually help in the long-run, of course, remains to be seen.

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.

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.

Teaching Your Kids Respectful Argument Skills

While the article Teaching Kids to Argue—Respectfully is written for teachers, the resources listed and the ideas included can be helpful for parents who are trying to help kids learn how to argue fairly and respectfully. As one teacher in the article puts it, “If left unchallenged, high-profile examples of name calling or bullying may leave kids to think this is what discourse should sound like. We need to talk with them about why it’s shocking. What’s not acceptable in our community? We don’t want students to be gaslighted into thinking that this is just the way things are.”While the article Teaching Kids to Argue—Respectfully is written for teachers, the resources listed and the ideas included can be helpful for parents who are trying to help kids learn how to argue fairly and respectfully. As one teacher in the article puts it, “If left unchallenged, high-profile examples of name calling or bullying may leave kids to think this is what discourse should sound like. We need to talk with them about why it’s shocking. What’s not acceptable in our community? We don’t want students to be gaslighted into thinking that this is just the way things are.”

The article points out that media, tweets, articles, and video clips need to be analyzed by kids so they can recognize various points of view on issues and recognize that we all suffer from confirmation basis. Also, we strongly tend to seek information that confirms our own judgment, evaluation and interpretation. Take a look at this handout from Project Sharp to help guide your discussion with your kids about bias.

Social Media Continues to Grow as a New Source

The number of people who get at least some of their news from US social media sources continues to grow, a Pew Research Center report states. For example, 74% of Twitter users said they get news from the site, compared with 52% in 2013, while consumers of other platforms offered a similar trend. More people on YouTube, a platform that’s not necessarily known for news content, are also turning to the site for news. In 2013, 20% said they used YouTube for new. Fast forward to 2017, and that number has increased to 32%. News-seeking among Snapchat’s users also increased by 12 percentage points between 2016 and 2017.

Misinformation – How Facts and Fiction Intermingle on Social Media

Now that nearly two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media, we all need to stop and think about how our biases and our exposure to misinformation affects the way we perceive the news and even how we fight against false claims. The New York Times recently featured an article entitled How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media that focuses on just those concerns.

The article reminds us that it is our, often subconscious, psychological biases that make so many of us vulnerable to misinformation. Skepticism about what we read as “news” online is a good start. However, our own innate biases will let certain things pass as “likely,” researchers have found. We all need to remember that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have their own skin in the game and that they are serving up “juicy” news and information that keeps us coming back for more. It’s so easy to pass along stories before you have a chance to really think about them or look at the source. Repetition can also make a story seems credible if you read the same news headline over and over again. As one expert put it, “We overweight information from people we know.” This Sounds like the way news was passed around back in high school, doesn’t it?

Does Digital Literacy Require Open Social Media?

Teachers and principals are increasingly advocating that schools unblock social media sites in the interest of teaching digital literacy. Derek McCoy, a North Carolina middle-school principal, says restrictions should be lifted despite risks because people learn from mistakes and "cannot be governed by fear." Many educators feel that learning how to behave online responsibly and safely, a concept known as digital citizenship, requires access to social media tools in schools.

If you are wondering how pervasive the blocking of social media is in schools, you should know that currently in New York City, if an educator wants to use YouTube or other blocked sites in the classroom, they have to fill out a form, get approval from the principal, and send the request to the city’s Department of Education. The process may seem arduous but actually is rather lax when compared to other districts, where the entire district must agree to block or unblock a website across all its schools.

Do you know how social sites are handled at your school? If sites are unblocked there is a danger of more cyberbullying and other bad actions by students. However, many educators would like to be more in control of when social media can used. As many teachers point out, students use these sites freely at home and in other settings, and the only way they are going to learn to use them responsibly is to use them.

Some of the Pros of Social Media

Social media has received a lot of bad press regarding its negative effects (cyberbullying, depression, etc.) on young people. However, some academics and health professionals say there are benefits too. Social media can help boost self-esteem and give people an outlet for finding emotional support. Matthew Oransky, a therapist and assistant professor of adolescent psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says, "I've seen some of the really big positives, which is that kids who are isolated or marginalized can find a community." Another researcher, John Naslund, at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice suggests that marginalized kids who are looking for that larger community should start cautiously and use pseudonyms when reaching out for advice from strangers.

Kids and Social Media Contracts

The Children’s Commissioner for England and an English law firm have teamed together to release guides, sorted by age group, for the lengthy and jargon-filled terms and conditions of social media sites. The Commissioner has criticized Instagram for its 17-page, 5,000-word terms and conditions. While some critics have replied that there are reasons that the term sheets are quite long, as very difficult concepts have to be explained, most people would still like to have those terms explained in everyday language rather than legalese especially when trying to explain these terms to their children. While the terms of use on many social media sites are different in England than the US, parents may find these guides useful for their overall discussion about the need to read and understand these terms when signing up for a new service and knowing what a person’s rights – young or old -are under these contracts.

Bill Proposed to End Anonymity for Political Social Ads

New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky has proposed a bill that would mandate any political ads shown on Facebook or other social sites to name the person or organization that purchased them. "Not another political ad should run on social media without voters knowing exactly who paid for it," he says. This follows the release Facebook made to congressional investigators of over 3,000 ads bought by a Russian entity to interfere in U.S. politics and the 2016 presidential election. Twitter has pledged to follow suit. The revelation about the source of those ads, and the lack of transparency in who posts them, certainly adds another issue to cover for parents in any discussion of digital literacy.

Instagram Primer for Parents

No doubt as a parent you have heard of Instagram, and maybe even use it yourself. It seems harmless enough - snap a picture or video, add a caption and then share. But have you taken time to consider some of the issues that the app could cause? To consider both the positive and potentially negative sides of Instagram, USA TODAY has created a primer on using the app, why you should worry about your kids using it, and how you can protect them.

Social Networks Not the Best Place to Choose a College Major?

A new survey by Gallup and Strada Education Network has found that when choosing a college major, most students look to friends, family, and information online for help in making the decision. However, amidst the rapidly changing world of work, the report on the study suggests these sources are unreliable and that instead students should be seeking advice from potential employers or university faculty members who have a better finger on the pulse of industry trends, and can help them assess their strengths and skills more fully in light of future job market predictions.