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Preventing AutoPlay Videos

Find yourself tripping into autoplay videos on Twitter, Facebook, Goggle Chrome and Safari? Not only does it grab your attention, but the attention of everyone around you as well! While publishers have already figured out that most people mute them, they are working on other ways to grab your attention. In the meantime, learn how to disable autoplay here.



Does Snapchat Cause Body Dysmorphy?

Ever thought about how great everyone looks on Snapchat because of the photo editing capabilities? Now people are translating that to real life. Plastic surgery patients increasingly are requesting procedures to look more like the versions of themselves they see when they use Snapchat filters, according Boston University School of Medicine doctors writing in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. The doctors describe this phenomenon as a kind of body dysmorphic disorder.


Should Schools Sell Ad Space in Emails?

Response has been mixed to a Florida school district's plan to sell ad space in emails that go to students, parents and teachers. The school board approved the program, aimed at raising funds for student travel, but some teachers were not happy to learn that school emails would be used for solicitation purposes. How would you feel if your district instituted such a policy?


STOPit App Fights Cyberbullying

While schools shouldn't rely solely on an app to fight cyberbullying and create a positive, supportive culture among their students, the STOPit app is a new tool being used by some districts this fall. A simple design and setup make it easy to get help quickly, especially for cyberbullying issues. On the app, students can anonymously report any bullying, self-harm, or violence concerns. A school administrator on the receiving end can then respond to address the issue. As some administrators point out, kids are often more comfortable reporting issues using technology rather than face-to-face.


Your School’s Social Media Policy

Getting parental input in creating a social media policy will allow schools to support the proper use of social networks and guard against potential privacy violations, writes Common Sense Media's Jeff Knutson in a commentary in T.H.E. Journal. Knutson outlines important things to include when drafting such a policy, such as parent opt-out forms and establishing teacher and student guidelines for protecting and respecting student privacy.


How to Keep Facebook From Bringing Back Bad Memories

Facebook’s “Memories” feature is a cute way to reminisce on fun times and take a look back at how your children have grown over the years, but what about those posts (or people) you don’t want to remember?

To filter out someone you don’t wish to see in these nostalgia posts, point your browser to When you land on the page, click the Preferences button. In the box that appears, click the Edit button next to People and enter the names you wish to filter out. You can also filter out events on certain dates.


Facial Recognition Software – Not Yet Up to Snuff?

Some schools are going to be testing out facial recognition software this next school year as a school security measure. Privacy experts have complained that the software does not do a good job especially with the faces of teen girls and minorities. Apparently it can also have trouble with other more familiar faces as well.  In a test of Amazon’s facial recognition software, the American Civil Liberties Union ran photos of members of Congress against a database of 25,000 mugshots. The software concluded that 28 of the lawmakers were criminals, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Amazon said the software, which is being tested by police departments, was a tool and not a final authority. Just good to know if your school tries out this technology this fall.


The Myth of Multitasking

Ask any kid while they are using their cell phone if they are listening to you, chances are they will reply in the affirmative even though they will have trouble recounting what has been said. That’s what Arnold Glass, a psychology professor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick thought, but his students told him that using various digital devices in his class had no negative effect on their performance, so he decided to test it out. His study shows that digital multitasking can adversely affect students' long-term retention of material, a study you might want to tell your kids about.


Who is Tracking Your Use of Your School’s Website?

Education technology expert Douglas Levin recently revealed findings that are not sitting well with privacy advocates. A recent NY Times article cites Levin’s study in stating that most public  while you are on it you are likely being tracked. All but one public-school website out of 159 examined by Levin were found to have some type of ad tracking or online surveillance technology embedded in them (placed there by the company who sold the software to the school), meaning that based on what you look at, that information may be sold to outside third parties who will then push ads and other information your way. While this kind of tracking is considered fair game by some, others have raised concerns about data privacy including the fact that children may be being tracked illegally while on a school’s website retrieving information about mundane things such as a homework assignment.


Google Glass Help Autistic Kids

It has been a while since Google Glasses have been in the news. While they never quite made out to become the newest social trend, they are helping some children with autism better understand facial expressions, according to findings published in npj Digital Medicine. Children use a smartphone app that works with the Google Glass headset and it gives the wearer information on what emotions other people are expressing. Researchers say the social skills of study participants improved after about 10 weeks of treatment.


Wear this Device or Face a Fine

Here is one sure to get a conversation started with your kids. Students at a private school in France are being asked to wear Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that will allow teachers to instantly take attendance and find students if they are not in class. Students who do not wear the device or forget it at home could be subject to a fine.


Facial-Recognition Tech For School Security Raises Questions

The Associated Press is reporting that some companies are offering US schools free facial-recognition software that is also used on city streets and among government agencies and businesses. At odds with this move, digital-rights advocacy groups are expressing concerns about the software's effects on privacy, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has asked the state's education officials to prevent schools' implementation of the software. Others question the technology’s cost and effectiveness, given reports like one released in February by MIT and Stanford University that found some facial recognition programs don’t work well in correctly identifying people who belong to racial minorities or women.


Dealing with an Online Scam Involving An Old Password of Yours

A recent email hack includes information including an old password you might have once, making you believe they have information on you. These sorts of online extortion schemes — which try to guilt people into paying off hackers claiming to have compromising information — are nothing new. As for the inclusion of a real password, after years of database breaches from major sites and services like Yahoo, eBay, Sony PlayStation and dozens of other companies, varying amounts of people’s data are floating around the internet, often for sale on the black market. That data is now being integrated into traditional phishing scams.

According to the Krebs on Security blog, several recipients of this particular blackmail campaign observed that the password included in the message was old, some by about a decade, and not currently in use. For those who haven’t changed their passwords in years, the ruse could appear more realistic, and the hustle itself may become fine-tuned as the perpetrators weave in fresher bits of stolen user data.  Important to keep in mind for yourself, but also for discussing with your children who may fall prey to these schemes as well. Remembering to update your passwords frequently is a good security practice. You can also report phishing incidents on the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center site.


A Parents Guide to Fortnite

With school out for most, digital gaming often becomes the first way kids seek to stay entertained. If you are finding that your children, like so many others, are spending inordinate amounts of time playing a game called Fortnite, you might want to look at A Non-Gamer’s Guide to Fortnite, the Game That Conquered All the Screens, from The New York Times Personal Tech page. The article does a great job of explaining the game and letting parents foresee issues that they might want to discuss with their children.


Schools in the United Kingdom Start New Program on Online Safety

Schools  in the United Kingdom are to receive new guidance on lessons in online personal safety. The lessons, focused in part on social media, are to begin as early as age 4. The authors of the new guidelines write “Today children have to learn to cope in two worlds: the virtual one and the real one – and this is giving old problems a dangerous new edge.”


Possible Link Between Screen Time and ADHD

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that too much screen time may boost teens' risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, according to a study of 2,587 10th-graders in Los Angeles. Findings show that students in the study who were high frequency users of 7 or 14 digital media platforms were more than twice as likely to develop ADHD symptoms as students who didn't have a high frequency use rate of any of the online social activities.


Flick and Tricks on an iPad

Been having trouble typing on an iPad recently with different characters than the ones you thought you pressed showing up? Apple’s current iOS 11 update for the iPad includes a new feature in the system’s built-in software keyboard called Key Flicks — which may be inadvertently disrupting your text entry. With Key Flicks enabled, most of the onscreen keys can enter different characters depending on how your fingers touch the glass.

The alternate characters for each key are shown in gray above the larger black standard letter or punctuation marks. If you tap the T key normally, you get the letter T. However, if you tap the T key and your finger happens to linger and slide down a bit, the Key Flicks software will use the alternate character for that key — which is the number 5.

Want to turn it off and return to what it was like before? Go to the iPad’s home screen and open the Settings app. Tap General, and on the General screen tap Keyboard. In the list of settings, find Enable Key Flicks and tap the button to the right of it to disable the feature and go back to using the multiple keyboard levels to insert numbers and other characters.


Cyberattacks May Increase Warn Feds

Cyberattacks against the US are on the rise and have reached a critical point,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently. Coats identified China, Iran, North Korea and Russia as the biggest threats, saying that they target federal agencies, state and local governments, businesses and even schools every day.


Useful Apps for the Classroom (and Home)

Are you interested in finding some good educational apps for your children?  The National Public Radio site recently offered an article titled iTeach: A Guide To The Most Useful Apps for Classroom that offers an array of highly reviewed apps for classroom and learning use. The list includes a variety of tools for the classroom, such as Kahoot! a quiz game creator app, and Seesaw, a digital journal creator, and highlights what experts think are the best apps for using at home, for home-school communication, or to suggest at your school.


Khan Academy for Early Learners

Nonprofit Khan Academy has launched an educational app designed for early learners (ages 2-5) called Khan Academy Kids. The full app is available free for iOS and is in beta for Android, and includes thousands of original activities, books, videos and lessons, and combines subjects like math and reading with creative activities like drawing and storytelling.