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Twitter Cracking Down on Underage Accounts

If your kids use Twitter, you might have heard about how the platform has been suspending the accounts of users it believes were underage when they signed up for the popular social media service. This move has caused widespread confusion and raised questions for other companies struggling to comply with new data-privacy laws. While it is not certain what has prompted this action, media reports highlight examples of account suspensions that occurred in late May when the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, came into effect. That new provision holds that tech companies processing the personal data of children must obtain explicit consent from a parent or guardian.


Teens Most Likely to Use YouTube

YouTube is the most popular social media platform among teenagers, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Data show that 85% of teens use YouTube, compared with 72% who use Instagram and 69% who use Snapchat. Only roughly half of teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook.


New Apps Help Kids Unplug From Phones

New mobile applications from Apple and Google allow consumers and parents to limit how long their children use apps, including Netflix and social media. The Apple’s Screen Time app, for example, can restrict access to some apps and websites. From Google, an app called Family Link allows parents to see how often kids use certain apps, approve or block app downloads, set screen time limits, and even lock devices remotely.


Social Media Part of Texas School Safety Program

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced several proposals recently aimed at keeping students safe in schools. Among the ideas were stricter policies for gun ownership and social media assessment programs. Abbott noted that social media often gives clues about the intentions of those who want to do fellow students harm and wants to expand a program led by Texas Tech to use telemedicine mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence.



Survey Says Teens Constantly Online

Forty-five percent of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly,” according to a new Pew Research Center study on teens and social media use. That percentage has nearly doubled in just a few years: in a 2014-2015 Pew survey, 24 percent of teens said the same. That rise in the “almost constantly” category is probably linked to “a pretty big jump” in teens who have access to smartphones, researchers say. 95% of teens have access to a smartphone in 2018, whereas three years ago, Pew reported that number was only 73%.

The results were also very interesting when it came to teens answering the question about whether social media has had a mostly positive (31%), neither positive nor negative (45%), or mostly negative (24%) effect on people their age. Adults tend to talk about the negatives of teen social media use in terms of addiction, but instead of addiction, more teens in the survey were worried about social media’s role in bullying and hurting relationships.


Examining and Deleting Your Google Data

Perhaps you have already looked at the summary of data that Facebook has stored on you, but what about Google? The tool for downloading your data from Google is called Takeout, and has been around since 2008. Go to and select the information you want to download. You can choose everything, or hone in on certain things such as your location history from Google Maps or your viewing history on YouTube. If you want some hints on what to look out for and what to delete in your Google history, take a look at Google’s File on Me Was Huge. Here’s Why It Wasn’t as Creepy as My Facebook Data.  


Now Watch 48 Seasons of Sesame Street on Demand

Sesame Workshop has launched a new “TV-ready” streaming app. The free-to-download app is available in the Vewd App Store for connected smart TV devices, and provides the ability to stream 48 seasons of Sesame Street and explore “dedicated sections” for main characters like Big Bird and Elmo. The app is part of an overall effort to expand the reach of Children’s Television Workshop leading up to their 50th anniversary next year. Other Sesame Street apps are also available on the Sesame Street site.


The Connection Between Coding and Reading

Kids who are reluctant readers or who have special needs could be more engaged by learning to code first, asserts Kristen Brooks, a K-5 iPad lab teacher in Georgia. In an interesting blog post for parents and teachers, she suggests that coding can help students develop the skills needed to learn how to read, and shares several suggestions to help integrate coding in the classroom that also can be used by parents at home. An article on the National Public Radio site on coding for kindergarteners is also a useful read on this subject.


Financial Industry Takes Military Approach To Tackling Cybercrime

Financial institutions are increasingly adopting military tactics and employing ex-military personnel as they ramp up practices for preventing cybercrime. Mastercard has set up a cybersecurity command center run by a former Delta Force officer, at least a dozen banks have opened similar hubs for gathering intelligence, and "combat drills" that test responses to simulated cyberattacks are rapidly growing in popularity.



Twitter Using New Way to Counter Misinformation

Twitter has announced that user behavior, not simply tweet content, will now be a factor in the way conversations are modified, or even blocked from general consumption. Content from users could be demoted by the platform's algorithm if the users have been blocked frequently, if they have multiple accounts using the same IP address, or if they regularly tweet to a large number of accounts that they don't follow.


Intel Contest Includes Project on Misinformation

About 1,800 students from 81 countries competed in the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held this year in Pittsburgh. One high-school student's project was aimed at combating fake news after he says he nearly fell for a false headline on Facebook. Ryan Beam says he almost believed a headline about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump (and indeed, it was untrue), which got him to thinking of ways to look at the fake news situation for himself. His study found that people who identified themselves as Independents were the least likely to share misinformation.


Technology and School Safety

Can pricey tech prevent school violence? School leaders in some communities are investing in high-tech security systems used by the military and law enforcement to boost campus safety. These modern tools range from instant background checks for visitors and social-media monitoring software to gunshot-detection sensors and ID cards equipped with panic buttons. However, even as the school security market emerges as a multibillion-dollar industry, there is little evidence the tools will prevent another shooting.


Twitter is a Disaster During a Disaster

This may not surprise you, but during disasters, Twitter is full of false information. When confronted with falsehoods, “86 to 91 percent of the users spread the false news by retweeting or liking,” reports a new study from the University at Buffalo. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate how apt Twitter users are at debunking falsehoods during disasters,” said Jun Zhuang, associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the school, and the lead author of the study. “Unfortunately, the results paint a less-than-flattering picture”.


Citizenship in the Digital Age

Parents are often urged to talk to their kids about how to be a good digital citizen. But how does that relate to citizenship in general and how do the characteristics of a good citizen parallel — and differ from — those of a good digital citizen? This infographic can help start a discussion with your kids.


Digital Footprint? Try Digital Tattoo, Experts Say

In the past, when introducing the concept of digital citizenship, teachers and parents have talked about the idea of a digital footprint—the “tracks” kids leave behind as they interact on social media and publicize information about themselves online. Experts are now saying the more accurate term to use is  “digital tattoo,” to emphasize the idea that any information they put online is permanent and cannot be undone.


Sexual Abuse May Increase Probability of Sexting

Researchers have found that teen girls who had experienced intimate partner violence or sexual abuse were three times more likely to engage in sexting, compared with other girls, while adolescent boys who had been sexually abused or victimized were two times more likely to sext than other boys. The findings, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, also showed that girls, when compared with boys, were three times as likely to feel pressure to sext and twice as likely to struggle with moderate-to-severe depression.


eSports Leagues For a New Generation of Athletes

Some US high schools are developing eSports leagues – organizations for playing video games competitively  - and have seen increases in engagement and academic performance from students who are otherwise withdrawn at school. The positive outcomes have moved some educators in California to develop a curriculum around eSports that includes reading books like Ready Player One, and when approved, will satisfy high-school English credits.


Dumb Phone Versus Smart Phone

There is a resurgence of interest in "dumb" phones as many are believing that smartphones are causing both kids and adults to miss out on aspects of family life. From pared-down flip phones that offer a limited array of apps and services to truly basic (but stylish) new devices that allow only calling, texting and a few other basic functions, consumers have options if they want to take a break from smartphones. One such phone is the Light Phone, a stripped down cell phone that offers calling, texting, an alarm clock and driving directions. Look for other phones on the horizon. Also asking your kids what they think about a pared down phone can start a conversation about phubbing and being addicted to a smartphone.


How to Videos – A Time Saver for Parents and Teachers?

Here’s an interesting digital idea for teachers, and maybe even something parents and students can help teachers with: creating "how-to" videos. High school teacher Jason Muniz writes in a blog post that creating and showing videos of instructions as part of his lessons allows him to spend more time engaging students and boosting their learning.  In his post, he shares the process and tools he uses to create the videos and addresses some of the challenges he has faced.


An Idea For Your School? A Digital Floor Plan for First Responders

Anaheim High School in California is believed to be the first in the nation to create a digital map of its building for first responders. Julian Harvey of the Anaheim Police Department feels the technology is a "game changer" for responding to incidents, as often the floor plans they are using are outdated or don’t always have details such as what might be behind a door.