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Amazon Adds New Kid Friendly Features to Alexa Enabled Devices

Amazon has unveiled several new features for children on Alexa-enabled devices, including Kid Podcasts, Kid Routines and Kid Activity Skills. The features are designed to help with morning and after-school routines, and they include new podcasts such as "Brains On," "Story Pirates" and "Ear Snacks." Amazon’s Kid Activity Skills are also getting a revamp in this latest update, and will now feature offerings such as Train Like an AvengerAnimal WorkoutOregon TrailStar Wars Missions and Animal Rescue.


Ideas for Educating Teens About Social Media

Teen centers in New Jersey are spearheading efforts to teach students about the effects of social media use. The counseling and educational awareness sessions also focus on how to safely use social media and mobile devices, with emphasis on understanding how much of an impact the use of technology can have not only on a specific individual, but on those around them.


The Fortnite Craze – Pros and Cons

According to NBC News, some parents are hiring tutors to help improve their childrens’ Fortnite skills, with one tutoring company receiving up to 1,000 inquiries a day. Boosting popularity at school, becoming a teen influencer for gaming companies or receiving an esports college scholarship are among the reasons parents cite for hiring a tutor. However, there are other parents who are still worried about facets of the online game, including safety and privacy concerns and the chance for being cyberbullied. If you need more information about Fortnite, start with this parent’s guide to the game.


Some Thoughts on Teachers Hawking Technology Products on Social Media

More teachers are using their social media presence to act as paid brand ambassadors for education-technology products, writes Kipp Bentley of the Center for Digital Education. In a commentary, he asserts that these individuals should take steps to preserve their objectivity as educators and that school districts should adopt clear policies governing this practice especially when those products are being offered to students and parents. Is there an ethics policy in your district to cover this kind of interaction between teachers and families?


School Issued Devices a Plus Survey Shows

A recent study shows that students who are issued devices from their schools are more likely to use them for school-related tasks such as e-mailing questions to teachers, taking notes in class and collaborating with classmates, according the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. Speak Up CEO Julie Evans cites research showing that for many students, emailing teachers with questions helps alleviate anxiety,. “It isn’t as if they need the teacher to respond to them in that moment,” Evans says. “It’s more that they want to share the problem with someone.” Of the students surveyed, 60% of those with school-issued devices reported e-mailing questions to teachers, whereas for students not assigned devices, only 42% reported e-mailing with their teachers.


Get to Know Apple’s New Parental Controls

If you have been looking for ways to manage the time your kids spend on their phone, Apple’s recent operating system update, iOS 12, has a feature called Screen Time that might have just what you're looking for. As with any parental controls, they're best used along with guidance and ongoing conversations to help your kids learn to manage their own media use, but Screen Time lets you see exactly how much time your kids spend on their phones and tablets, the times of day they're most active, and which apps they use the most. You can also set app time limits, filter inappropriate content, and schedule "downtime" -- basically, shut down the device -- whenever you want. It’s a great way to stay in check with how much time you spend connected to your device.


France Bans Cell Phones Until Grade 9

France has banned smartphone use in school, except when assigned by the teacher, for grades one through nine. “If we want to prepare children in the 21st century, we must give them the tools of modernity: mastery of math, of general culture, the ability to flourish in social relationships, a capacity to discuss with others, to understand and respect others and then very strong digital skills,” said Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. “It’s a message we send to society: Do not always be on your phones.” Only time will tell how successful such a ban will be, but anecdotal feedback indicates the students are talking more to each other.


Facebook Launches Pilot Program To Protect Political Campaigns

Facebook has launched a new program that is designed to protect political campaigns from cyberthreats. Campaigns enrolled in the program will have access to security tools, and the social media network will provide proactive monitoring meant to identify patterns of malicious behavior and hate speech earlier so that Facebook can react more quickly.


Not Much of a Role Model

A common theme proclaimed by anti-cyberbullying experts is how important it is for adults to act as role models and to monitor their own use of social media before expecting children to follow suit. One Texas school district superintendent, Lynn Redden is under review by the Onalaska Independent School District in Piney Woods, about 75 miles north of Houston, over an insensitive post he made on the local newspaper’s Facebook page. Redden says he regrets his comment about Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and even tried to delete the comment, but not before others had taken screen shots of his words. This is yet another example of digital permanence and a good reminder for kids to think twice before posting anything.


Finding Out More About eSports

Are your kids into playing video games competitively? eSports is becoming a trend that is making its way into the classroom. Schools are scrambling to keep up with eSports popularity, starting student clubs and offering college scholarships to young talent. Have children that might want to play along? Here’s what you as a parent need to know.


Just Can’t Get Enough

Nearly three-quarters of teens say they know social media companies are manipulating them into spending more time online—but they’re using apps like Snapchat and Instagram more than ever. According to a new survey, 70 percent of survey respondents say they check those apps multiple times a day, compared with just 34 percent six years ago. Despite their awareness, they don’t find it particularly harmful to their wellbeing. Check out what else the teens divulged about their digital lives.


Free Video Game App Teaches Students About Autism

College students in Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center have developed a free 30-minute video game called Prism that helps elementary-age students understand the experiences of their peers with autism. The game uses animal characters that demonstrate some of the challenges faced by individuals with autism. Prism is now available to play for free online, as well as in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The game takes about 30 minutes to play and comes with a downloadable discussion guide for teachers and parents.


Data Privacy, Technology Tools and Homework Projects

Let’s say your child wants to use a technology tool for a homework project but the program or app is not approved by your school district. Where do you start in helping them get permission? Usually, as long as the technology is being used strictly outside the classroom and your child has their parents permission, there is no issue. But in this day and age of concern about data privacy, if your child suggests a tool that might good for the whole class to use, it is important for you to know about how schools think about these kinds of issues. The Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy on the Connect Safely site can give you the kind of insight on issues and concerns that might come up especially if you encounter a teacher who is less than excited about the use of technology in the classroom.


Digital Devices and The Brain

Scientific American online recently posted an article summarizing some of the latest research on how digital devices affect the brain. Although people who multitask online are ultimately less effective at navigating between tasks, findings also show that multitasking does not alter our brains. They also suggest that although video games and brain training influence aggression and cognitive performance, the extent of that influence is much less than many would think. What is the best way to counteract any negative influences of violent games? Go and do something that doesn’t involve digital devices. And here is something to consider for schools and parents: the risks of digital devices can be minimized by educating people on enhanced concentration techniques, self-control and critical-thinking skills.


Rethinking Posting First Day of School Pictures

Security experts are urging parents to reconsider posting photos of their children on the first day of school to their social networks. These photos can facilitate ill-intentioned people in gathering information about children, including name, age and where they attend school, says Raj Samani of McAfee.


Parents Ban Together to Figure Out Fortnite

Parents and educators alike are noticing the addiction kids are having with the popular online game Fortnite. Parents are joining Facebook support groups to trade tips about how to limit the time their preteens spend playing, according to NBC News . Teachers, on the other hand, are trying to take advantage of their students enthusiasm for the game by using it to teach math and English lessons.


Why is Working on a Computer All Day So Exhausting?

It is uncertain why working on a computer all day long is so physically exhausting, although studies point to a couple of possibilities, writes Brian Resnick for Vox. One hypothesis is that the mental energy used sitting still in front of a computer has a draining effect on our bodies. Another theory suggests that tension caused by being drawn to the things we want to do (scrolling Instagram or reading blogs, for instance), rather than the things we have to do could is the cause of fatigue, and could very well explain the struggle of trying to get homework done!


Teacher- Student Texting: Growing Trend, Growing Concern

Texting is often the communication method of choice for teens when communicating with peers and adults alike. But what about texting between teachers and students? In a recent article on the topic, Laura Zieger of the Department of Education Technology at New Jersey City University suggests schools should exercise caution about letting educators text with students, but should not prohibit the practice. Meghan DeCarlo, a high-school teacher and track coach who texts with student athletes, suggests the texts be for information purposes and always sent to a group. Is there a policy at your school for texting between teachers and students? Should there be?


More Teens Using Social Media

About 70% of teenagers say they use social media multiple times per day (about twice as many as reported in 2012), according to a Common Sense Media survey revealed in USA Today. Teens also say social media can be distracting, with 57% saying it distracts them from doing homework, and 54% saying it distracts them from paying attention to other people.

Despite the distractions, the majority of teens still feel social media has a positive effect on their social lives.  Vicky Rideout, founder of VJR Consulting in San Francisco and the author of the Common Sense report, says this is a valid discussion point, however she also adds “I do not think for a minute that the only metric we should use to measure what type of impact social media is having on teens is what they say they think it is having.” 


Facebook is the Most Popular Social Site For Everyone But Teens

The number of Americans who use Facebook will reach 169.5 million in 2018, making it the most popular social site among all ages, except for teenagers, who prefer Snapchat, eMarketer reports. Some 16.4 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 will use Snapchat this year, compared with 12.8 million who will use Instagram, and Snapchat will remain the most popular social site for teens.