Digital Smarts Blog

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22
Dec

Free Keyboarding Practice for all Ages

Learning how to type well is definitely a 21st Century skill, and even Kindergarten students can find the practice useful especially if it comes in a graduated skills game format. Schools don’t always have the time or the technology for all kids to practice keyboarding but a free gaming platform like TypeTastic can be very useful for home practice. Kids can ramp up their words per minute and accuracy by hitting different keys to hop over lily pads, build construction projects and pop bubbles in outer space. The platform includes several different games, each with multiple levels of play so kids can continually test themselves. Unlocking the levels and conquering challenges keeps them engaged and learning. This kind of practice can be vital with schools issuing tests via computers as early as first grade.

21
Dec

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.

20
Dec

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.

19
Dec

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.

18
Dec

Text Messages That Save Lives

Here is a rather scary fact. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates for teen girls, specifically, in the U.S. are at a 40-year high. So how do you target that audience? Crisis Text Line, which launched about four years ago, offers free crisis intervention via text messages. Seven out of 10 texters are women, and 75 percent are under age 25. The stats also skew rural, LGBT and low-income.

 While Crisis Text Line is not set up as an ongoing therapy, volunteers field texts about topics ranging from school stress to suicidal thoughts and work to get first-responders on the scene when needed. And how do people find the service? If you search the hashtag #741741 you will see posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook spreading the word. Fifty million texts were exchanged with Crisis Text Line in the first four years, and they expect another 50 million just within the next year.

15
Dec

Help With Posters

Is a poster in your child’s school project future? Are you in charge of an event for which you need a good looking flyer? The free templates on the Lucidpress can help. Each template is ready for customization with colors, photos and fonts. The poster then can be printed or distributed digitally. The site is great way for kids to practice using digital tools and get professional design tips.

15
Dec

Help With Posters

Is a poster in your child’s school project future? Are you in charge of an event for which you need a good looking flyer? The free templates on the Lucidpress can help. Each template is ready for customization with colors, photos and fonts. The poster then can be printed or distributed digitally. The site is great way for kids to practice using digital tools and get professional design tips.

14
Dec

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.

13
Dec

The Number of Podcasts Listeners Growing in Numbers and Influence

Still thinking about trying podcasts? Podcast listeners are growing in their influence of how news and entertainment are produced and received, according to a new report by the Knight Foundation and Edison Research who interviewed 29,000 podcast enthusiasts. Some of those interviewed, qualified as super listeners by listening to 10 or more hours of podcasts per week, including 38% of 18 to 24 year olds who fall into that category followed by 43 percent for ages 25 to 34. The number of podcast listeners seems to be growing with 67 million people listening to one or more podcasts per month and podcasts increasingly raking in the cash (the industry is projected to reach $220 million by the end of this year).

                                                   

12
Dec

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.

11
Dec

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.

8
Dec

YouTube Implements New Policy To Flag Inappropriate Videos Targeted at Kids

Medium post and New York Times article recently highlighted an ongoing problem with YouTube Kids.  There are bizarre and disturbing videos, like the popular character Peppa the Pig drinking bleach or the characters from Paw Patrol getting killed off.  These videos, aimed at young children, are found by using relevant key words and popular children’s character’s names. Now, YouTube says it is putting in place a new process to age-restrict these types of videos in the main YouTube app. Videos from the main platform will not appear on YouTube Kids for several days, giving extra time for users to flag questionable content and for teams to review flagged videos. One suggestion is that until this problem is resolved parents should be very mindful of the kinds of videos kids are consuming on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

7
Dec

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.

6
Dec

Cyberbullying’s Latest Trend: Self Inflicted

Nearly 6% of US teens said they bullied themselves online, according to a study done by the Florida Atlantic University's Cyberbullying Research Center. The findings, based on a national survey of about 5,600 students ages 12 to 17, showed that boys were more likely to report digital self-harm. Additionally, the risk of digital self-harm was three times higher among non-heterosexual youths and 12 times higher among those who were already or had been cyberbullying victims. Those who engaged in self-inflicted cyberbullying offered explanations including self-hate, attention, wanting to appear victimized to justify cyberbullying others, feeling depressed or suicidal, trying to be funny or make fun of themselves, and boredom. 

Researchers are calling this behavior "digital self-harm” and the trend was brought to researchers' attention by the death of Hannah Smith, a 14 year old from Leicestershire, England, who hanged herself after months of apparent online harassment. After her death, officials from Ask.fm, a social media site where users can ask each other anonymous questions, found that 98% of the messages sent to Smith came from the same IP address as the computer she used. Many other sites like Tumblr and the now defunct Formspring also have had an anonymous question feature, which could allow teens to anonymously send themselves hurtful messages and then publicly respond.

5
Dec

Bunk – The History of Plagiarism, Hoaxes and Fake News

We continue to need to talk to kids about how to evaluate sources online and off, but we all should probably know more about the history of the hoaxes, plagiarism and fake news. A new book entitled Bunk – The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, PostFacts, and Fake News by Kevin Young draws connections between the days of P.T.Barnum and the 21st century and compares terms like swindler and confidence man to contemporary buzzwords like plagiarismtruthiness and fake news. More than just telling tales of hoaxes revealed, Young discusses the theory of the hoax and the effects of the deception on politics, online news and everyday life then and now

4
Dec

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.

1
Dec

Late-Night Screen Time Affects Sleep

Students exposed to blue light from computer screens or other digital devices including smart phones, got less restful sleep in a study by researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel. Data in the study show that, besides getting 16 fewer minutes of sleep, those exposed to blue light from screens also woke up more often during the night and woke up groggy in the morning.

30
Nov

Research Shows Spike in Children’s Media Use

Children younger than eight are more likely to have their own tablet device now than in 2011. These children are spending an average of 48 minutes on those devices (up from five minutes in 2011, according to an updated report from Common Sense Media). Findings also show this same increase across all income levels. What does this mean for parents? It is even more important to model good behavior when it comes to digital devices. That means putting your phone away at mealtime, turning screens off before bedtime, and talking about what kids are watching and playing.

29
Nov

The Status of Fake News

According to a new survey by Pew Research Center entitled, “The Future of Truth and Misinformation online”, most Americans suspect that made-up news is having an impact. About two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographics. Though they sense these stories are spreading confusion, Americans express a fair amount of confidence in their own ability to detect fake news, with about four-in-ten (39%) feeling very confident that they can recognize news that is fabricated and another 45% feeling somewhat confident.

Some Americans also say they themselves have shared fake news. Overall, 23% say they have shared a made-up news story, with 14% saying they shared a story they knew was fake at the time and 16% having shared a story they later realized was fake. When it comes to how to prevent the spread of fake news, many Americans expect social networking sites, politicians and the public itself to do their share. Fully 45% of U.S. adults say government, politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention, 43% say this is the public’s responsibility, and 42% say it is part of the job of social networking sites and search engines.

28
Nov

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.

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