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Digital Citizenship Resources for Parents and Teachers

Digital Citizenship Week just passed and eSchool News shared several resources available to help teach such citizenship lessons to kids. The focus of these materials is helping children, educators, and parents understand what digital citizenship means and how to apply it when confronted with issues or situations online.


FOMO – Victims and Rescuers

The proliferation of Social Media in society today has led many of us, including our children, to feel some form of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when scrolling through the daily posts of our online friends. Experts looking into the psychology behind FOMO say that the fear of missing out comes in several forms, including “Victim FOMO” and “Rescuer FOMO”. Those who identify as FOMO Victims believe that they are only worthy when they are included. When they aren’t included or don’t know what’s going on, they assume it’s because nobody likes them or somebody is mad at them. Rescuers, on the other hand, need to feel smart and competent to boost their ego. They look for victims to save by giving advice and swooping in with solutions (although often walking the line of coming across as condescending). Take a look at the article What Does Your FOMO look like? to learn more.


Americans Distrust Social Media Bots

Social media bots that operate without human involvement to post content and interact with human users are a growing concern related to the spread of political misinformation online. A Pew Research Center survey shows that 8 in 10 Americans are aware of the bots and believe they are used for malicious purposes. While the public’s overall impression of social media bots is negative, many people have more nuanced views about specific uses of bots such as the government using them to post emergency updates. Make sure you discuss the use of bots with your kids – perhaps another form of “stranger danger?”


Quiz Platforms – Pros and Cons

More teachers are using Kahoot, an online formative assessment platform, to determine in real time what students have learned. However, some teachers have reported that students are hacking the platform not only to get the answer key, but to play pranks on the teacher and other users. While many would argue it is a relatively harmless way for students to show off their coding skills, a Kahoot vice president says the issue is being addressed by the company.


Vetting Sources – A Bit of a Case Study

According to the online magazine site Quartz, only 17% of the current biographical entries on Wikipedia are about women, and the site is particularly thin on women in science. This stat was shared in light of some controversy about an entry on physicist Donna Strickland that was rejected by the online encyclopedia for not containing enough information about her. Days after the article was removed, Strickland won a Nobel Prize in physics, making her the only woman alive to receive the award, and a new biographical entry was posted on Wikipedia. Something to remember if your kids use Wikipedia as a preliminary source for projects – they may not be getting the full story and some additional research is always a good idea.


One District Declares No Tech Days

One New Jersey school district is mandating that teachers and students abstain from using any technology, including school-issued Chromebooks, for four days during the school year. Teachers say on tech-free days they'll use card and board games as well as outdoor activities to keep students engaged. Is this an idea for your district? What about a home version of a “No Tech” day?


Instagram Hate Pages – More Tools for Cyberbullying

For most teens, Instagram is the “go to” app for communicating (72 percent  of teens use it according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center), so it is no surprise that many are finding a whole lot of drama, bullying and gossip on the platform. Unfortunately, due to its widespread nature and size of the app’s distribution mechanism, rude comments or harassing images can go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram also makes it easy to set up new anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, interactions on the app are often hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of who don’t understand the platform’s intricacies.  

The company has recently announced a set of new features aimed at combatting bullying, including comment filters on live videos, machine-learning technology to detect bullying in photos, and a “kindness camera effect to spread positivity”, but their effectiveness is yet to be seen. Instagram is many teens’ entire social infrastructure and some may argue that it is inevitable for bullying to happen in any social environment.


What Your Kids Are Watching – Quantity of Likes Over Quality

Did you know that what you little ones are watching on YouTube is likely to be determined by the number of likes for a particular video or channel rather than the quality of the content?  These days the biggest kids’ content creators are YouTube upstarts, not traditional media companies like Sesame Street or even Disney. Channels like ChuChu TV (created in India) and Billion Surprise Toys are garnering views in the billions for content that catches kids’ eyes with “bright lights, extraneous elements, and faster pacing,” as one expert comments in an article from The Atlantic. Viral videos like “Johny Johny Yes Papa” could train kids’ brains’ to expect the same elements of all content, undermining less flashy educational endeavors. In other words, if kids watch a lot of fast-paced videos, they may come to expect that to be the way videos work, which could make other educational videos less compelling and effective. 


Parents Sign A Pledge to Restrict Social Media Access of Kids Under 13

A Monmouth county New Jersey school district has asked parents to sign a pledge barring students' access to social media until they are 13 years old because they are not "emotionally mature enough to handle it," says Superintendent John Marciante. The district's request comes after an incident occurred between students in a chat room using the app House Party that led to a threat of a school shooting. Some feel that such a ban could never be enforceable, but it still brings up the question about the age appropriateness of social media platforms.


Cyberbullying and the Law- Where Do Things Stand?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but do you know the current status of laws concerning cyberbullying stand on both the state and federal level? After initial attempts to get more laws on the books and policies in place, little more has appeared in the news lately.  Tina Hegner, manager of research and development at PublicSchoolWORKS, offers insights on bullying and cyberbulling laws in an article on the eSchool News site, describing how schools and districts can address bullying and enforce anti-bullying laws.


Violent Video Games May Boost Physical Aggression

Researchers found that children and teens who played violent video games had increased odds of having self-, parent-, or teacher-reported aggressive behaviors over time, compared with those who didn't play such video games. The findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and were based on a review of 24 studies from the US, Canada, Germany and Japan involving more than 17,000 young people. The controversial findings are the latest entry into a long-standing debate over the real-world impact of video game violence. Over the years, some studies have found a connection between the games and kids' aggression, while others have not.


The Pros and Cons of Using Technology at School – A Parent Perspective

According to an article in the Utah’s The Daily Herald, some parents in the state are pushing back against efforts to integrate more technology into classrooms, citing concerns over technology addiction and worries about students' data privacy. One parent’s conflict with the local district began when they received an email that their child in middle school was allowed to bring a digital device to school because a teacher wanted students to use it for a quiz game. The school had devices available for those who needed, but the parent commented that her son felt singled out because he was the only one without a cellphone. Other parents complain that money being put into technology is money that isn’t going to find and train good teachers. What is the balance? What is your experience at your school?


Less Screen Time Equals Better Cognition

A child’s cognitive abilities can be improved by getting 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night, having at least an hour of daily physical activity and limiting screen time to less than two hours per day, a major study has found. The study assessed the behavior of 4,500 children, ages 8 to 11, and looked at their sleep schedules, how much time they spend on digital devices, and the amount they exercised. Researchers analyzed how those factors affected the children’s mental abilities, and found that only 5% of children living in the United States met all three recommendations. 63% of children spent more than two hours a day on digital devices, failing to meet the screen-time limit.


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.