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Is Your Phone Slowing Down Your Brain?

Just by having your smartphone next to you without even using it could slow down your brain, a recent study suggests. Researchers at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin conducted a study on nearly 800 people, looking at how they performed tasks when their devices were within hands reach. The scientists found that the mere presence of your smartphone, even if it is off, can reduce brainpower. The study could give some insight on why we cannot concentrate at work or school while our smartphones are laying in front of us at our desks, and may urge parents to make sure their children and teens put their phones out of sight when they are working on homework or other projects.


Fitbit – An Exercise Turn Off for Teens?

An eight-week study in the United Kingdom found that teens who wore a Fitbit Charge wristband became bored with it after about four weeks, and overall said they felt less confident about exercising and were discouraged from doing it, researchers reported in the American Journal of Health Education. Researchers also said that interacting and making progress comparisons with peers, rather than just working on their own with the technology, were better motivators for most of the teens in the study.


Virtual Schooling: Pros and Cons

Is your child thinking about virtual schooling on the high school or college level? Flexibility, personal attention from teachers, and developing time-management skills are among the benefits of virtual schooling, assert two graduates of virtual high schools and colleges. In a Q&A on the EdSurge site, the graduates address common questions around distance learning, including socialization, but also acknowledge that while they were successful, virtual schools might not suit all learners.


Digital Versus Print Reading – Which is Better Unclear

Parents and teachers watch young people consume thousands of words on their digital devices each day and may wonder if there is a difference between reading on a device or on traditional print formats such as a newspaper or book. According to an analysis recently published in the Review of Educational Research, the benefits of digital versus print reading formats are unclear. Researchers found format has little effect when reading to get the "gist," of a text, but format can have an effect when reading for detail or comprehension


Snapchat Versus Instagram – The Battle for the Under 25 Crowd

Instagram reports that users younger than 25 spend more than 32 minutes daily on the platform, and those 25 and older are active for more than 24 minutes daily. Both totals outpace figures from Snapchat, which stated in February that users under 25 spend more than 30 minutes daily on the platform, while users 25 and older spend about 20 minutes daily. If your children use both, they could be spending an hour a day on these apps.


Learning To Code Isn’t All They Learned

An article in The New York Times about programs that teach coding and programming to children as young as 2 years old also teaches a variety of other invaluable life skills. When children are given the freedom to use their curiosity to explore and make things, they learn how to solve problems through making mistakes. These skills help children in coping with frustration and empathizing and collaborating with others, something that has proven to be important for success in adulthood. “If you raise and educate kids to be flexible, problem solvers and good communicators, they can adapt to a world that is new,” says Harvard Professor Stephanie M. Jones.


Texting May Offer Intellectual Value

Parents and teachers often lament the proclivity of students to text rather than email or call, even attributing it as the downfall of writing, but according to new research from Missy Watson and Madhuri Karak of the City College of New York, texting offers intellectual value and actually helps students improve their communication skills. In a recent commentary that outlines their study, they discuss findings that students tend to think more deeply about how they communicate while texting. This includes using texting as a form of journaling, negotiating via text, and receiving the benefit of slower communication to actually think about what they want to say and how they want to say it versus the back and forth conversation of a phone call.


Nasty Anonymous App Called Sarahah Making the Rounds

There’s a new anonymous app in town, and teens are making it the most popular free download in Apple’s App Store. Sarahah—roughly translated as “honestly” in Arabic—has had viral growth, especially this summer after the debut of its English app on June 13th. Since then, teens have embraced the anonymous platform, which one teen describes as “a way for teens to continue the drama and say things about people without revealing their identity.” Clearly, as with anonymous apps Yik Yak,, and Whisper before it, Sarahah is plagued with negativity and trolls—prompting some to wonder how long it will be before it gets shut down.



Useful Digital Tricks For Everyday Life

Did you know the volume button on your phone can be used to take pictures? How about using the “Guest Mode” feature on your Android phone so that when someone asks to borrow they cannot access the personal information stored on your phone? Did you know that you could do a reverse image search to help yourself when using an online dating service to find out if you are being scammed by someone using a fake picture? All these tricks and more are contained in an article by Kim Komodo on the USA Today site entitled “How did I not know this?”


Got a Young Gamer? Take a Minute to Learn 7 Safety Tips

If your kids love online gaming, it is important to keep up with the latest tips on how to keep them playing safely and smartly. Got just a minute to do that? Check out this video entitled 7 Easy Hacks for Parents of Young Gamers.


Online Predators – Get the Facts

Media stories about online predators make for sensationalized press, playing on parental fears, but how worried should you be? Overall statistics show that unwanted sexual solicitation is down but the most important thing is to arm yourself with facts about the issue and solutions if you suspect your child is, or could become, a victim. Common Sense Media recently took up the topic in an article entitled The Facts about Online Predators Every Parent Should Know. The article outlines the facts and strategies for handling your concerns about online predators.


Girls More Likely to be Cyberbullied

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 5 girls are cyberbullied in the US, compared with 1 in 10 boys. In a commentary on this topic, Carmen Caldwell of the Citizens' Crime Watch of Miami-Dade discusses about the dangers of cyberbullying and why it more often affects girls. She also cites another survey that shows only 33 percent of teens report when they are being harassed online. One of the biggest takeaways for parents is the importance of daily communication, so that if something does happen, the child will be more likely to approach parent about the issue.


Google Partners with Tech Group to Create Digital Citizenship Game

Two of the biggest champions of educational technology — Google and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — have teamed up to create a new way to teach digital citizenship. Be Internet Awesome, a program developed in concert with the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe the Coalition and ConnectSafely, educates kids about digital citizenship in interactive ways, including an online game. Designed for schools, many of the materials on the site are also helpful to kids and their parents.


Survey Cites Instagram as Top Site for Cyberbullying in the U.K.

Instagram is the top platform for cyberbullying, according to Ditch the Label’s recent United Kingdom (UK) survey. Ditch the Label is one of the UK's most innovative anti-bullying charities and has started working in the US as well. According to the research, 50% of 12-20-year-olds have been cyberbullied, and 42% of those had the experience on Instagram. Facebook was a close second at 37%, followed by 31% on Snapchat, and only 10% on YouTube. Half the teens were bullied about their appearance, while 27% had photos and videos shared without their approval. One in ten were bullied within just a week of the survey, showing an immediate need for the fight for positivity on social media. Check out the Ditch the Label website for resources such as how to get help for individuals being cyberbullied, and to learn about volunteer opportunities.


Want to Roomba? Look Out, Your Privacy May Be Showing

Dust isn’t the only thing your Roomba is taking in…it is also recording maps of your house. Although the company is adamant that they take customer privacy very seriously and will always ask customers to opt-in to allow the storage of this information, there are of course critics who are raising concerns, especially in light of discussions about the data being sold to tech giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon. While this kind of data collection may be concerning, it is important for customers to understand why the data is collected and how it is being used in order to make an informed decision, as this kind of data is often necessary for establishing Smart Home networks.


One Third of the World

About one-third of world's population, or 2.46 billion people, will view a social media site at least once a month this year, according to an eMarketer forecast. Social media use has increased 8.2% since last year, boosted by smartphone usage. Individuals in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa are largely new Internet users who are signing up for social media for the first time. In 2017, 81.8% of social network users worldwide will log in via a mobile phone. By 2021, that share will grow to 86.7%.


How to Get Someone to Stop Sexting You

In a recent Pew Research study on online harassment, about half of female respondents ages 18-29 reported that someone had sent them explicit images they did not ask for. Parents of teens should consider having a discussion about what to do if this kind of situation arises, because chances are it is happening with younger teens as well. One place to start with getting the information you need is the Wikihow entry on How to Get Someone to Stop Sexting YouIt is broken up into four sections with step-by-step directions for each section. The four sections are: Getting Help if You’re a Minor, Blocking Their Message, Confronting the Person and Contacting an Authority Figure. These sections are followed by a very helpful Community Q&A touching on many of the issues faced by both parents and teens.


Get Up to Speed on Snapchat Ghost Mode

As you may have observed with your own teens, Facebook and Twitter are fading and Snapchat is the app of choice these days. Even if you are familiar with Snapchat, you may need to get up to speed on a new feature called Snap Map. The feature lets users see where Snaps (messages or pictures) are being composed from. If users want to keep that information private (versus letting the whole world know where they are), users must choose Ghost Mode. Need more information on how to set up Ghost Mode and Snap Map? See Talk to your teen about Snapchat Ghost Mode on the USA Today site.


“Fake News” – Advice on How to Combat It From a Media Literacy Expert

The term "fake news" has highlighted media literacy "in a way that nothing has before," asserts Michelle Ciulla Lipkin of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. A new survey also shows that nearly everyone is guilty of sharing fake news at one time or another. In a Q&A on the PBS Newshour site, Lipkin fields questions on the topic and offers advice for teachers and parents to help keep themselves from falling victim to fake news stories. Ciulla Lipkin’s first bit of advice? Stop lumping all dubious content into one category called fake news and instead help kids understand the role of bias in the media. 


Suicide Rates Rise Among Middle Schoolers

Researchers suggest that increased academic pressure, economic distress and social media may be contributing to the doubling of the suicide rate among middle-schoolers that statistics from 2007 to 2014 have shown. Some experts are concerned that there is so much pressure on young people that they can become overwhelmed because they have not yet developed the coping skills that adults rely on. This is a good reminder that an incident an adult can easily dismiss can be hard for a middle schooler to shrug off. Schools are being urged to target the issue by teaching students to handle conflict, creating a welcoming climate and training teachers about suicide prevention.