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Should You Digitally Track Your Teen?

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that while most parents don’t track the locations of their 13- to 17-year-olds, a full 16 percent do. Where do you stand on the issue? Before you make up your mind, you might want to read an article from The New York Times Family section entitled Should You Track Your Teen’s Location? that poses an interesting question: how do you learn to take care of yourself if you know someone else is always watching?


Turning Off Social Media – Generation Z

It seems that some members of Generation Z are abandoning some social media platforms or are considering doing so. Several teenagers interviewed for an article in The Guardian said they stopped using social media because they were tired of presenting a false persona on platforms such as Instagram or watching others being bullied online. Is this a trend or an aberration?


How Many of Those Facebook Friends are Real Friends?

Despite having hundreds of "friends" on social media, people can effectively maintain only about 150 acquaintances, says Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford in an article in the Scientific American magazine. Beyond that larger group, research shows people can maintain about five intimate relationships and 15 close friends.


Digital “Time Well Spent” Movement Spawns New App Features

YouTube is the latest of many digital platforms giving momentum to the industry-wide time well-spent movement, an initiative that aims to help people reduce the amount of time they spend looking at their phones and scrolling through their social media feeds. YouTube is rolling out more features designed to help users “take charge” of their digital well-being. The ‘Watch History’ screen within a YouTube profile’s account will show how much time the user has spent on the app that day, the previous day and over the past seven days. This latest feature comes after YouTube released the option for users to set a timer that would remind them to take a break from the app, a feature that was first introduced in the YouTube Kids app.

Similarly, Apple and Google both recently announced a range of functions designed to help users monitor the amount of time they spend on their iOS and Android devices, and Instagram just released a “You’re all caught up” message to notify users when they have seen every post in their feed from the last 48 hours. In August, Facebook announced it would be rolling out activity dashboards for both Facebook and Instagram where users could track the amount of time they spend on the apps.


Should Schools Track What Students Type?

As reported by Quartz, some schools are tracking, word for word, anything an individual student types on a school computer using safety management platforms (SMPs), such as Gaggle, Securly, and GoGuardian. These platforms use natural language to scan each document looking for words or phrases that might indicate bullying, violent or self-harm behavior, sending flagged documents to a team of humans to review. The practice, however, is raising questions about how to balance school safety and students' privacy. Critics say that this kind of surveillance, even if students understand this kind of scrutiny is in place, normalizes a “Big Brother” state depriving students of the chance to control their own data. How is your school handling this issue?


Another Approach – Issuing Tickets To Kids for Cellphone Use At

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a Wisconsin school district is seeking a village ordinance to issue citations to students who violate its cellphone policy a third time. Across the country, school districts have a mix of policies that include outright bans on campus to allowing phones in the classroom for schoolwork on a classroom by classroom basis. What policy does you school district follow? Do you and your kids think a policy like being given a ticket and facing a fine would be successful in curbing cellphones at school?


Apps for Back to School

Looking for guides to the best apps for back to school? An article of interest that has a broad range of apps, is Best back to school mobile apps for Android, iOS on the Znet site. Scroll left and right to see a list of apps that help with studying, staying organized, avoiding procrastination and more.


Giving Your Old Computer New Life

As the new school year starts you may be thinking about what you can do to give your old computer new life, or how to enhance a computer you are handing down to your kids. A recent Tech Tip column in The New York Times covers just that topic and discusses how adding RAM (Random Access Memory) or a new hard drive can revamp an old machine. A simple but useful one-stop shop for Macintosh users looking to upgrade can be found on Other World Computing’s My Upgrades page. There, you can enter the computer’s model number and it will generate a list that shows you all the components of the computer that can be upgraded. You can even buy the parts right there.


Home-School Communication – The Digital Route

According to a 2016 report, there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students. The study in fact found a growing acceptance of digital methods. Enter simple communication apps like ClassDojo, Spotlight, Remind, and Seesaw that allow teachers to send mobile texts, video summaries, and other alerts to parents about important school activities or their child’s recent academic or behavioral progress.

Taken together, these new ways to communicate are giving parents a deeper look into their childrens' performance and experience in the classroom, while forging tighter relationships between schools and families. Educational apps have even played a vital role in updating parents about snow days and disasters, while advanced features translate report cards into languages from Arabic to Vietnamese. Is your school using one of these apps? What has been your experience?


Creating Your Own Emojis

Did you know that there is a world of emojis beyond what comes on your phone or tablet? Both the Google Play store and the iOS App Store have a selection of emoji-making apps that guide you through creating your own characters. Some, like inTextMoji for iOS, can insert custom characters into messages through their own built-in emoji keyboards, while other apps create small images you can send, like pictures. As with any app, make sure to read its reviews and permissions requests first, as security companies warn that some third party apps allow access to a lot of personal information.


Turning Off Those Targeted Ads

You look at a pair of shoes online and the next thing you know, ads for that pair of shoes show up in a side bar on nearly every website you visit next. Some call them stalker ads and most people agree they can be annoying and maybe even a little bit creepy. How can you get rid of them? Brian Chen covers all sorts of ways to counteract having your online shopping missions stalked in the Tech Fix blog on the New York Times site. He suggests everything from periodically clearing your cookies, to purging your Goggle ad history, to resetting your advertising ID, which is the unique identifier that Android and Apple phones use to help marketers track you. You can reset it whenever you want. On Android devices, you can find the reset button in the ads menu inside the Google settings app, and on iPhones, you can find the reset button inside the settings app in the privacy menu, under advertising.


How to Turn Off Google Tracking

You may have heard recently that an Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on both Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.

To their credit, Google is typically up front about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. But what if you want to turn it all off? To prohibit tracking activity on your apps and other Goggle services, including location history, check out these step-by-step directions.


Have You Talked to Your Kids About Digital Multitasking?

As school gets back in session, something that has come up over and over again in research studies is that students who multitask with devices during class (eg: taking lecture notes while scrolling social media) seem to be able to process information in the moment but struggle to retain that information long term. Yet another study, published in the journal Educational Psychology, also reports lower exam performance and the risk of distracting other students.


11-Year-Old Changes Florida's Presidential Vote Results At A Hacker Convention

At the 26th annual DEFCON convention, the kids hacking division received a great deal of attention when an 11 year-old girl was able to successfully hack into a replica of the Florida Secretary of State’s website. BuzzFeed News reports that it took her only 10 minutes to hack the site and change the results of the 2016 presidential vote. The Secretary of State said changing the website does not represent switching actual votes, but experts say the hack reveals security flaws in the system. This could make an interesting topic of discussion if you have a young “hacker in training” at your house.


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.