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The Greying of Facebook

It appears that those rumors about teens departing Facebook are finally true. Facebook continues to add older users, but younger ones are in decline, according to eMarketer. Many teens are turning to Facebook-owned Instagram, but a growing number are using Snapchat instead. But Snapchat is going through a design process that is making it easier to use, which might make it more attractive to older users, thereby detracting from its “coolness” appeal.


Is Their Mind Wandering?

As schools move more to personalize learning through the use of digital devices and software, researchers are working to pinpoint when students' minds wander as they use software programs. A study of students' eye movements found that they may "zone out" 20% to 25% of the time when using such programs. But what should that mean for this kind of instruction? One idea is let the computer stop and repeat what is being shown, or change the subject to get the student’s attention back. Another is to use this research to evaluate instructional software pointing out when it is boring students and figuring out what is better done with a human teacher or in a group setting.

Either way it is important that we don’t do away with daydreaming. Some mathematicians purposely turn their attention to something irrelevant when they’re stuck on a problem and then the solution magically pops into their heads.

Daydreaming is also associated with some of the biggest breakthroughs in science and technology and the link to creativity is well established. Certainly something to think about as schools move to more tech driven personalized learning for your kids.


Stop Phubbing and Be a Better Friend with Tech

Sometimes a video can say more about a subject,  that you have subtly been trying to bring up with your kids, than an actual discussion of the topic. Take “Phubbing” for instance. “Phubbing” is the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones. We’ve all been there, as either victim or perpetrator. We may no longer even notice when we’ve been phubbed (or are phubbing). However, research is revealing the profound impact this sort of snubbing can have on our relationships and well being.

So here is a short and light hearted video on the subject, which takes a look at phubbing and offers seven tips for how to be a better friend, using technology. It also discusses the issue of “FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out) that drives us to look at our devices instead of our friends.  Other discussions include the subtle art of knowing when it is better to communicate in person or on the phone when there is a crisis that needs intervention or something special in someone’s life that needs celebrating by more than just sending an emoji.


Screen time and Parenting – Take the Quiz

Anya Kamenetz, the author of a new book called The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media And Real Life, offers a quiz on the National Public Radio Education page (nprED) to help you find out what kind of screen time parent you stack up to be. Her biggest take away advice? “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly together.”


Is Tech Addiction a Real Thing?

Are we truly addicted to technology? No matter what side of the debate you (and your kids) come out on, you have to admit that something is going on because no matter where you are, and what you are doing, you see people staring at their phones or other digital devices. Many people are seriously studying the tech addiction issue and say that we aren’t quite ready to admit that the addiction is real. They believe, instead, we need to be focusing on finding solutions rather than defining the addiction.

One of their ideas is to think of our attraction to technology as a habit rather than an addiction. Habits certainly are easier to change then addictions.  An example is labeling a teen, who is in the process of forming their own identity, as an addict can create a long term outlook, issues and excuses that are hard to overcome. Perhaps the question instead should be about “how can people, especially young people, forge healthier relationships with technology while continuing to use it every day?” Obviously you don’t need a formal diagnosis to work on putting your device down more often, or to encourage your kids to do so as well.


Media Literacy and Great Video Essays

Kids are often given the option of creating a video in lieu of some kind of written assignment like an essay. However, even with a rubric to guide them on what should (or shouldn’t) be in the video, it can be hard to know what a really good video essay should include as well as look and sound like.  Fortunately, there are some great examples on YouTube. Here is a list of channels and videos. Check out how these video essays use narration, juxtaposing video footage, images, audio, and text to make the same kind of arguments that a writer would do in a traditional essay.


It’s Epic!

For less than the price of a Netflix monthly subscription, you can get access to Epic!, a digital library for children 12 and younger. They offer 25,000 premium books (some including audio), educational videos and quizzes. Epic! is a great place to let kids look for books based on their needs and interests. Better yet, Epic! is free to elementary school teachers and librarians and you can try for a month for free.


Identity Theft for Minors a Growing Problem

Does your toddler already have a credit issue? With so many credit bureaus using nothing but social security numbers as the way to verify a person’s identity, they could. Now many young people are finding out the hard way that they have a credit problem, because often someone in their own family used their identity to open credit card and other accounts. This form of identity theft is often not malicious. Sometimes, it’s being done in a pinch by desperate parents who are trying to make an emergency repair or get the lights turned back on. Estranged family members and hackers have also been known to use this means to gain access to credit in another person’s name.


If Your Kids Have Digital Devices – A Quick COPPA Review

As your young family acquires more digital devices, it is always important to review how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) can help you keep the information of your kids 13 years old and under safe, especially what you can do if a site or service seems to be breaking the rules. In a nutshell, remember that websites and apps that target kids must have a privacy policy that should be easy to find and understand. If you can’t find it or it’s not clear to you what the app or website will do with your kid’s info, don’t let your child use it. The operator of the site or app may be violating COPPA. Also, if a website or app that targets children wants to collect your kid’s personal information, they need to get your express approval. If you think that a website or app has collected information from your child without authorization, report it to the FTC.


Should Tech Industry Speak Out About Overuse of Tech By Kids?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recently released the results of a survey it conducted of nearly 200 attendees who work in the tech sector at the 2018 International Computer Electronics Show earlier this month. The ASHA survey results show 88% of those that think it is important, that more prominent industry figures speak out about tech overuse. The survey also showed that respondents appear to be strict about their own and their children’s tech use. Almost 67% said children should not be allowed to have their own personal tech devices until age 10 or older—this amid a societal environment where new tablets, smartwatches, and other devices are being heavily promoted for even the youngest children. Almost a third (30%) said children shouldn’t even use devices until age 10 or older.


ASHA has previously been a watchdog on the tech industry and has published numerous works on how parents need to be mindful of hearing loss in children who are listening to devices at too-loud volumes, particularly with earbuds or headphones. The organization has also been very vocal about concerns that technology may be interfering with speech and language development in young children, especially when parents use the devices as a substitute for verbal interactions, such as reading and talking, with adults.


Social Media and Shortened Sleep

So the experts have been saying for years that it would be better if we all put our phones away long before bedtime, but now researchers have found some data that may prove that true. The findings in Acta Paediatrica involved a study of 5,242 Canadian youths ages 11 to 20 and showed that those who used social media apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook for just one hour a day had their sleep affected. 63.6% of those in the study who said they used social media for an hour or less every day received less than the 10 to 11 hours of recommended amount of sleep for their age, while 73.4% of whom said they used social media for an hour or more daily showed even worse sleeping habits.


Twitter – Some Positive Uses By Schools

Twitter sometimes gets a bad rap. Early on, education critics bemoaned the idea of kids communicating in 140 characters and warned they would never learn to write properly. But Twitter, like all sorts of social media apps, has now made peace with many educators who have learned to harness its appeal to help them teach, as well as discuss with students the power and the possibilities of social media in an effort to drive digital literacy. A recent article entitled Teach Students To Use Social Media (The Right Way) And The Possibilities Are Endless on the National Public Radio education site (nprED) outlines many of the positive ways educators are using Twitter. This is a good read for parents who may be skeptical or just want to know more about how teachers are incorporating social media into the classroom.


Critics Target Facebook’s Messenger Kids App

In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, a coalition of children's health and education organizations individuals have called on Facebook to shut down Messenger Kids on behalf of the well being of children. Messenger Kids is the parent-monitored chat, photo, and video messaging service Facebook launched in December 2017 for children as young as six years old. The minimum age for regular Facebook users is 13.


This letter was published by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and signed by a host of other organizations. It argues that introducing children to social media at an earlier age will increase their dependence on digital devices, negatively affect their mental health, and impact their ability to form relationships. "Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts," the group wrote. "A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development."


Tips, Tricks and Texts Enhance Learning

Researchers at Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis Labs are sending to parents and caregivers text messages containing educational games and tips on how to engage young children. These "nudge" techniques are designed to prepare children for school and to support their literacy, numeracy and social and emotional skills. The texts seem to be appreciated by parents who find, that since they arrive on their phones, they can scroll back to them and try the ideas on another day if they are too busy when the text first arrives or the resources to do the activity are not at hand. Texts are short and to the point usually suggesting things that can easily be done by parents, but truly enhance a preschooler’s literacy and numeracy.



Should Facebook Be More Like Instagram?

Facebook is trying very hard to fix itself by dealing with the proliferation of fake news on site and doing what it can to keep the trolls at bay. But what if Facebook just needs to be more like Instagram? That’s the premise of a recent article in The New York Times entitled What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram?.

It is an interesting idea. Instagram, while having some issues, has not been overrun by misinformation, hasn’t been as exploited to the same degree and, (this is a good reminder to the older generation) is vastly preferred to Facebook by younger users. It is a simpler cleaner interface with no external links and no ways to “reshare” others posts. Is this the wave of the future? Less is more?


The Battle Against Digital Distractions

Students may believe they can manage digital distractions via multitasking, but some research shows that multitasking leads to lower grades. Educators now are testing ways to help manage digital distractions, such as taking technology breaks. But what really drives the distraction? Most researchers feel that the prime suspect is FOMO – the “Fear of Missing Out” and that very human foible is very hard to fight.


Making a Speech in Class? Some Tools That Can Help

Are your children making a speech in class or a presentation at a science fair or entering a speech competition? Here are a couple of tools that can help:

  • Say What?: Kids (and parents) sometimes struggle with how to pronounce words that are part of a presentation on an unfamiliar topic. The Howjsay English Pronunciation Dictionary is available on the computer or as an app and gives you the standard pronunciation or alternative pronunciations (if applicable) of a wide variety of terms. It also supplies alternative definitions and synonyms.
  • How Long is That Again?: The Speech in Minutes tool is helpful when kids are preparing for presentations or competitions in which they have a certain length of time to speak. Instead of timing their speech, they can use this tool to find out how long their talk should take and at what pace they are going to have to speak to get it all in. To do this, you first add your rate of speech (below average, average, above average) and then the number of words in the speech. The program tells you how many minutes you’re going to be talking.


Doing a Finsta

Here is another vocabulary word for your ongoing discussions with your teen about the world of social media, “Finsta.” In the same kind of move that teens have employed for years on Facebook, creating one Facebook page for public consumption and another for their more private revelations, teens who want to post more freely on Instagram start fake, secret accounts known as "Finstas”. This is a combo of the words “fake” and “Instagram.” Teen’s Finsta accounts are typically more unfiltered than their regular Instagram accounts, and are designed to get around those parental and teacher warnings about being careful what you post because school and college administrators, parents, potential employers and others could view it. The term has been around a while but because Instagram seems to be the hotbed of cyberbullying these days, it has surfaced once again.


On the positive side, such acts of digital self-surveillance make sense against the backdrop of widespread media coverage of social media gaffes that teens have probably heard about or witnessed. This includes employees losing their jobs after publishing a distasteful image or a tactless tweet, or a teen losing a spot on a sports team, or a school leadership role because of sexually charged or derogatory items they posted online. But at its worst, Finsta accounts warp into a space where anonymous users hide scandalous or sexual behavior or partake in cyberbullying.


One other thing that you and your teens should know is that even if what a user posts is part of a private Finsta account with an anonymous username, account creators can be traced back by analyzing followers and Instagram activity. And those seemingly private posts can easily surface online if anyone takes a screenshot or records a video of the content. Once again, it can be very difficult to hide even in the seemingly anonymous online world.


Facebook Tops the Charts

Over 2 billion people around the world used a minimum of one of the top five social apps- Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Twitter  - every month in 2017, with Facebook taking top spot in the US and France and its WhatsApp messenger app dominating in the UK, Spain, Russia, Germany, India and Indonesia, per App Annie. Instagram's monthly average user numbers in the US have risen 30% in the past two years across both Android and  Apple’s iOS.


Facebook Users Vet New Sources

Facebook's latest news feed update will include a prioritization of news sources rated as trustworthy by "a diverse and representative sample" of its users, the company's News Feed chief Adam Mosseri wrote in a recent blog post. Publications with lower scores could see a decrease in distribution while there will also be an emphasis on promoting local news. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, recently writing on the same subject said that prioritizing news from trusted publishers is part of Facebook’s broader effort to revamp the News Feed and “encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption.”