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Bots Causing Havoc on Social Media

Automated bots are taking over social media, says Arkose Labs, adding that more than half the logins and a quarter of new social media account applications are fraudulent. These fake accounts have implications for those fighting against cyberbullying and misinformation. The company reviewed 1.2 billion third-quarter transactions across platforms, including gaming and e-commerce, and determined that about 75% of fraud on social media was committed by bots.

Is Frequency of Social Media Use the Culprit in Teen Age Depression?

A recent UK study in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health reports that adolescents who checked social media more than three times daily had increased psychological distress compared with those with lower social media use. Researchers also found that reduced sleep quality and elevated cyberbullying exposure accounted for about 60% of the correlation between very frequent social media use and psychological distress among girls, but only 12% of the association among boys.

How does this translate? It appears that it is not the social media that is depressing kids, but rather their frequent use of it. This is especially so when screen time interferes with getting enough sleep, or if they are being bullied. More time on devices leads to missing out on other positive social interactions, sleep and exercise.

The Debate Over How Screen Time Affects Teens

National Public Radio reports that researchers appear divided over the effect of screen time and social media on teens' -- particularly girls' -- mental health. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says social media in particular may be causing anxiety among teens, however others say that her data is skewed. Critics state smartphone use is almost ubiquitous among teenagers today, while only a small minority report mental health problems, so simply knowing that a teenager uses a smartphone (even for many hours a day) cannot reliably predict that the teenager will become depressed. Factors such as genetics or the presence of childhood trauma can serve as much larger predictors.

So why should the average parent worry about this scientific controversy? Because, one critic says, when parents simply demonize phones, "there's less of a communications channel" about what teens are encountering online. A parent's opportunity to mentor or support positive uses of media is replaced by "confrontation on a day-to-day basis." Well-meaning parents, wrongly believing the phone to be as risky as a cigarette or a beer, may actually be making their children's lives harder by fighting with them about it.

Survey: Teens Get Their News From Social Media But Doubt the Facts

More than half of teenagers 13 to 17 say they receive news on YouTube and other social media sites, according to a poll from SurveyMonkey and Common Sense Media. Much of that information comes from social media influencers and celebrities, although less than half of teen respondents said social media and influencers "generally (get) the facts straight."

LEGO Conducts Survey of Children About Space

An interesting statistic was revealed after a survey conducted by LEGO found that children in the United States and the United Kingdom are 3x more likely to want to be a YouTube Influencer than an astronaut when they grow up.  Respondents in China, however, said that astronaut was the most desirable job, with 56% of kids responding that’s what they wanted to be later in life, while “YouTuber” was the least popular choice in China at just 16%. The children were asked to choose from a list of 5 professions including Astronaut, Teacher, Musician, Athlete and YouTuber/Vlogger. The study came in light of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and polled 3,000 children in the US, UK and China about their attitudes towards and knowledge of space.

Pew Study Looks at YouTube’s Most Popular Content

A recent Pew Research Center report looked at the most watched videos on YouTube and found that videos featuring kids and those targeted to kids are highly popular, clocking in at nearly three times as many views on average as other types of videos. Also revealed is that videos with the keywords "Fortnite," "prank" or "worst" in their title garnered more than five times as many views as those without these search terms.  Content about video games also remains hugely popular on YouTube, with about 18% of English-language videos posted by popular channels during the study period related to video games or gaming. 

A Perspective on the Social Media Use of Generation Z

A recent article from CNBC takes a look at Generation Z (8 to 22 year-olds) and their feelings on social media. The article revealed that in an interview with a group of 17-year-olds, almost all said that they rarely watch regular TV and hardly ever use Facebook. It was also found that members of Gen Z are typically more conscious of privacy concerns when using social media apps than older generations, however they can have difficulty distinguishing between what is paid content from advertisers.

The teenagers spoke to CNBC after a week at London ad agency Isobel, which runs a summer school program for students. Two teams were tasked with creating an ad campaign to warn younger teens of the dangers of social media, before presenting them to a judging panel. One team cautioned children not to share their location on social media with the tagline “Your World is Theirs,” while the second group encouraged youngsters to “Pull the Plug on Online Hate.”

Colleges Jump on the Influencer Train

Forbes has reported that several colleges and universities have adopted social media influencer programs with student ambassadors to promote the schools on channels such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Student ambassadors from the University of Delaware and other schools with similar programs such as Kent State University, Babson College, University of Central Florida or New York University post about anything from game day apparel to what they had for breakfast in the dining hall. These posts that showcase everyday experiences can help prospective students see the university could be a home for them too. Some of the student influencers say that the programs have helped them acquire marketing experience and access networking opportunities.

Instagram Test Hides Likes, Considers Mental Health

The Associated Press reports that Instagram is expanding a pilot program that started in Canada, masking "likes" to users. The test is a response to mental health concerns regarding the way people feel when viewing the engagement on other people’s profiles. People can still see how many people liked their own photos, but won’t see counts for other people’s posts. Critics say that such counts hurt mental health and make people feel bad when comparing themselves to others. One group that may be affected is Instagram “influencers,” the major, minor or micro celebrities who use social media to market products and otherwise influence their hordes of followers. The program is expanding to users in Ireland, Italy, Japan, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.

Flaw in “Messenger Kids” Fixed By Facebook

Facebook has notified parents and corrected a technical error that permitted thousands of children using the Messenger Kids app to join group chats not approved by their parents. The app lets children between 6 and 12 years old message and video chat with family and friends who their parents approve. It's unclear how long the flaw existed. The app has been controversial since its launch in December 2017, and child advocacy groups have repeatedly urged Facebook to shut down the app, arguing it violates a federal law aimed at protecting a child's online privacy.

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