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Facebook’s Clear History Feature is Coming

Facebook recently announced it is working on a new feature called Clear History, leaving many critics to ask why something like this hasn’t been available all along. The feature will allow you to see which websites and apps send information to Facebook when you use them, let you delete that information from your account, and turn off Facebook’s ability to store that information. While the feature will not be available for a few months, Facebook continues to try to add privacy features to belay user’s heightened concerns about online exposure of their personal data.

Good Vibrations?

Facebook is working on a technique that allows people to feel smartphone notifications through their skin when they are unable to access their device.  According to a paper published by the social media giant’s research team, in-house scientists are working on a sleeve-like prototype that translates words into vibrations delivered by pads onto the arm. The wearable device could be useful in situations when a person is unable to check their smartphone, such as during a meeting or while in class. Undoubtedly that will make for some interesting changes to a school’s smartphone user policies!

Social Media and College Admissions – The Latest Take

How much is social media considered in college admissions? About 68% of admissions officers say they reserve the right to check a prospective student's social media presence, but only 29% reported doing so, according to a series of surveys by Kaplan Test Prep. That’s actually down from the 35% last year who admitted checking an applicant’s social media presence. The data also shows that 20% of schools have set policies around checking students' social media, with just a third of those forbidding the practice.

Schools and Their Use of Facebook

Does your school use Facebook to post messages and news about what is happening at school? In light of the current headlines about Facebook sharing personal data without permission, many schools are worrying about protecting their students. Concerns over data privacy have some advocates calling for increased protections or, more harshly, recommending schools to stop using the platform all together. The National Education Policy Center has deleted its account and has encouraged others to take similar steps, but most schools are keeping their accounts but rethinking what they post.

What Many Are Thinking About Facebook These Days…

A recent survey from Creative Strategies found that 20% of respondents don't use Facebook, and most of those say the top reason is privacy concerns. The research also showed that consumers who do use the platform don't mind ads, but are more worried about how Facebook is tracking the rest of their browsing activity. Almost half the respondents also said they are using Facebook less and limiting how much information they share on the platform.

Teens Worry About Privacy Too

There is a misconception that young people don’t care about privacy, but research is showing that just isn’t the case. The latest take on the subject is shown in a small, but in-depth study by Claire Fontaine of the Data & Society Institute. The study finds that young adults (16-20)  are very aware of online privacy, spend “significant time managing how they present themselves on social media”, and worry about what digital footprints they leave behind.

Perhaps most eye opening about this study is Fontaine’s take on schools and the message they are sending out on privacy. She contends that schools frame online privacy for students as primarily a matter of personal responsibility, which these days really isn’t true. That’s because Silicon Valley's current business practices and a lax regulatory environment can make anyone who participates in life online vulnerable no matter how safety conscious they are. She also feels schools are falling behind in their adoption of new technology and therefore failing to keep up with their students. That failure to keep up makes it harder for teachers and administrators to guide students who have concerns, leaving them alone to wrestle with huge questions about privacy, data collection and distribution that—if recent headlines are any indication—even the adults and institutions in society are ill-positioned to handle.

This interview with the author of the study further explains the findings of the study. As Fontaine puts it, we are seeing the “adultification of teenage-hood. “ We tell kids that online privacy is a matter of personal responsibility, but the truth is that it is likely that no amount of personal responsibility can completely secure your privacy and security online. That means a much better discussion to have with kids is about the tradeoffs associated with the technologies we use. That’s not an easy task, obviously, but undeniably more realistic.”

Facebook Rewrites Terms of Service

Facebook is spelling out in plain English how it collects and uses your data in rewritten versions of their Terms of Service and Data Use Policy. The policies are being rewritten in an effort to be more transparent with users, not to ask for new rights for collecting and using data. The movement for this change came about after Facebook revealed that they think 87 million users (or more) accounts were scrapped for data in what was known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. You can expect to see other updates and changes in these agreements as the company moves forward.

Facebook Offers Feature To Remove 3rd-Party Apps

Facebook has released an option that lets users remove third-party apps in bulk. Now all you have to do is go to the Apps portion of your Facebook settings where you can click on any number of third-party apps with direct access to your data and remove them in bulk. The changes are part of Facebook’s larger efforts to make app access easier to manage and understand, alongside Facebook’s decision to more broadly limit app developers’ access to user data. The company also says it will remove apps from users' accounts automatically if they have not been accessed in more than three months.

Middle School Relationships Have Changed – The Effects of Technology

You are likely aware that dating today is nothing like it was years ago. Smartphones, apps and social media have even affected the relationships of middle-school students. In an article in Wired called The Middle School Relationship Is Dead (As We Knew It), current and recent middle-schoolers share what's in -- Instagram and Snapchat -- and what's out -- human connection.

To Facebook or Delete? Not an Easy Question for Some Students

Concerns about how Facebook has used its users' data have some users pledging to delete their accounts. However it may not be that easy, as schools, teachers, and even parent teacher organizations use Facebook pages to deliver news about what is going on at school or to highlight activities. Some high school teachers also use Facebook as a way to communicate with class members, answer student questions after hours and even enhance instruction. While many schools and teachers have moved on to other apps and learning management systems, it still raises the question of whether or not it is necessary to have a Facebook account.

Hamilton 68

Are you curious about the Russian social media disinformation campaigns that have been a hot topic in the news recently? The Hamilton 68 dashboard tracks Russian social media in real time as it appears on Twitter. Named after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper 68 (on the importance of "protecting America’s electoral process from foreign meddling"), the dashboard initially tracked election-related tweets but has since expanded to additional topics, such as the Parkland school shooting. It is an interesting tool to look at with your kids when talking about misinformation online.

Don’t Take that Quiz – What’s Up with That?

If you've ever downloaded a personality quiz through Facebook, you may be one of the thousands of people who unwittingly supplied information about yourself and your friends for use in highly targeted psychological profiles exploited in the 2016 presidential campaign. Frankly, most of us don't spend much time thinking about online privacy until a breach occurs. Sure, we tell our kids not to tell online strangers where they live, but beyond basic safety precautions, we're pretty hands off. Targeted ads? Who cares. Endless email alerts? Whatever. But now we know one of the key methods of getting personal information: personality quizzes. It may seem like such a menial thing to stay away from, but it is just the tip of the iceberg and serves as a reminder to be mindful of new online marketing methods and updates to your privacy settings. 

All social media offers privacy settings -- some more than others. The companies usually keep them off by default, so you have to go in and enable the ones you want. This is a good time to sit down with your kids and go over their privacy settings. Facebook, for example, offers many levels of privacy for each piece of information it stores. The safest setting to use is "Only Me," which means you're the only one who can view it and Facebook is not allowed to share it. Take a look at this guide for help in reviewing your Facebook settings.

 

Twitter Working to Offer Verification to All

Verification – those blue check marks that appear on certain profiles mainly belonging to celebrities - may soon be an option for any Twitter user, CEO Jack Dorsey announced recently. The company's goal is to widen verification "in a way that's scalable, where ... people can verify more facts about themselves and we don't have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part," Dorsey says.

Girls’ Confidence Can Drop From Social Media Exposure

Technology and social media are contributing to self-doubt, isolation and vulnerability among female students, according to The Girls' Index, a survey of 10,000 5th- to 12th-grade girls conducted by the nonprofit Ruling Our Experiences. The report found 46% of girls entering high school say they don't believe they are smart enough for their dream careers, while students' confidence rate drops between fifth and ninth grades. Other takeaways from the survey include:

  • 30% of the respondents reported having been bullied or made fun of on social media. 19% said they have made fun of someone else on those forums.
  • Many of the girls who were the heaviest social media users struggle in making connections with peers, and they tend to have fewer outside interests
  • Girls who spent the most time using technology are 5 times more likely to say they are sad or depressed nearly every day. Girls who engaged with technology the most were also the least likely to be involved in activities such as clubs, sports, band, music, and theater.
  • Girls who spent the most time on technology are the least likely to say they have supportive friends and supportive adults to talk to about serious issues.
  • 75% of the 12th grade girls who took the survey said  “most students their age send sexually explicit photos.” And more than half of 8th grade girls surveyed had been asked to send a sexually explicit photo.

Survey Offers Insights From Kids on Bullying

About 77% of students between ages 9 and 11 said they have witnessed bullying, and 1 in 5 admits to being a bully, according to a survey commissioned by the Cartoon Network, and reported on by National Public Radio. Students overwhelmingly reported that the adults in their families model good behavior, while only 14 percent strongly agreed that our nation's leaders model how to treat people with kindness. While this survey’s findings are much in line with others on similar topics, it does stand out for drawing attention to the small positive acts that can make a powerful difference in a child's life. More than 8 out of 10 kids surveyed said it would help kids to be kinder if they all had a person in their lives who really cared and listened.

Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.

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.

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