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Don’t Take that Quiz – What’s Up with That?

If you've ever downloaded a personality quiz through Facebook, you may be one of the thousands of people who unwittingly supplied information about yourself and your friends for use in highly targeted psychological profiles exploited in the 2016 presidential campaign. Frankly, most of us don't spend much time thinking about online privacy until a breach occurs. Sure, we tell our kids not to tell online strangers where they live, but beyond basic safety precautions, we're pretty hands off. Targeted ads? Who cares. Endless email alerts? Whatever. But now we know one of the key methods of getting personal information: personality quizzes. It may seem like such a menial thing to stay away from, but it is just the tip of the iceberg and serves as a reminder to be mindful of new online marketing methods and updates to your privacy settings. 

All social media offers privacy settings -- some more than others. The companies usually keep them off by default, so you have to go in and enable the ones you want. This is a good time to sit down with your kids and go over their privacy settings. Facebook, for example, offers many levels of privacy for each piece of information it stores. The safest setting to use is "Only Me," which means you're the only one who can view it and Facebook is not allowed to share it. Take a look at this guide for help in reviewing your Facebook settings.



It’s Spring -- Time to Start Thinking About Tech Free Camps

Turns out that 90% of the camps accredited by the American Camp Association have a cellphone ban. How do camps, kids and parents fare with that kind of challenge? Actually everyone does rather well according to an article on the site. Ironically parents seem to be the worst offenders and often smuggle phones in with kids despite signing a pledge not to subvert the rules. Kids also adjust, learning how to practice direct human interactions and enjoying the great outdoors rather than staring at a screen all day.


Smart Speakers and Your Kids

Smart speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, are showing up in homes more and more with 75 percent of homes likely to have one by 2020. Child-development experts are considering how smart speakers affect learning and development. Some suggest that without intentional planning, the devices could reduce the kind of "serve-and-return conversations" with adults that are so necessary for the development of childrens’ language, literacy and social skills and one-on-one reading time.


How Safe is Mobile Banking?

Mobile banking apps are generally secure, experts say, but consumers should be aware of their smartphone's overall security as consumers and the way they use their cellphones is often the weakest links. Consumer advocates agree that banks need to do a better job on educating consumers on safety practices, which include having a strong password and keeping smartphone software up-to-date.


Can Schools Search Students’ Phones?

Are students' personal cellphones and devices subject to searches at school? That's the question some states are beginning to address with legislation, writes Ariel Fox Johnson, senior counsel for policy and privacy at Common Sense Media, who urges school leaders to provide clarity on policies regarding students' devices. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police need a warrant to search a cell phone, there has been a little more leeway when it comes to schools. If a student, parent or teacher were to challenge a search, the court must consider why the search was undertaken and if the search’s scope was reasonably related to the circumstances that led to the search in the first place. For example, if a student has video of a disagreement between a student and a teacher in a classroom, it would not be reasonable for a search to be done of all the e-mails on the child’s phone, whereas a search of other videos might be warranted. Do you know what your state’s or district’s policies are on searching students’ digital devices?


Survey Shows a Dip in Bullying Behavior

The number of 12- to 18-year-olds who report being bullied has declined, according to the federal School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Data shows that 20.8% reported being bulled in 2015, down from 31.7% in 2007. The survey covers bullying that takes place in schools, on school property, on a school bus, or going to or from school, and it defines bullying by students who report:

  • being made fun of, called names or insulted
  • being the subject of rumors
  • being threatened with harm
  • being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on
  • being pressured into doing things they did not want to do
  • being excluded from activities on purpose
  • having had property destroyed on purpose


Students were also asked whether they're bullied based on their race, religion, ethnic background or national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation, which researchers documented as hate-related speech. The reported drops come as schools have increased their focus on bullying prevention and focused more intentionally on what's known as social and emotional learning in an effort to improve school climate. It should be noted that this survey was done before the 2016 election and the bump in bullying that many educators have reported anecdotally.


Apple’s New Page of Tips for Parents

Shareholders and parents have been asking Apple for months to address how addictive smartphones are and to offer tools to deal with the problem. Recently, Apple posted a new resource page outlining what parents can do now to monitor their kids' iPad and iPhone use. There are no new features on this resource page, though Apple in January said that it is working on “new enhancements” to address concerns about problematic tech use — a response to investors asking for more “choices and tools to help [parents] ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.”


The Push for Digital Magazines

Apple's recent purchase of Texture, a subscription service for over 200 titles, proves that they see a future in digital magazines. Called the “Netflix of Magazine Publishing,” the service combines articles from across publications into a single format, like in Apple’s Newsstand app. Apple’s interest in Texture shows they think it could be a way for young consumers and magazines to reconnect.


Twitter Working to Offer Verification to All

Verification – those blue check marks that appear on certain profiles mainly belonging to celebrities - may soon be an option for any Twitter user, CEO Jack Dorsey announced recently. The company's goal is to widen verification "in a way that's scalable, where ... people can verify more facts about themselves and we don't have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part," Dorsey says.


Girls’ Confidence Can Drop From Social Media Exposure

Technology and social media are contributing to self-doubt, isolation and vulnerability among female students, according to The Girls' Index, a survey of 10,000 5th- to 12th-grade girls conducted by the nonprofit Ruling Our Experiences. The report found 46% of girls entering high school say they don't believe they are smart enough for their dream careers, while students' confidence rate drops between fifth and ninth grades. Other takeaways from the survey include:

  • 30% of the respondents reported having been bullied or made fun of on social media. 19% said they have made fun of someone else on those forums.
  • Many of the girls who were the heaviest social media users struggle in making connections with peers, and they tend to have fewer outside interests
  • Girls who spent the most time using technology are 5 times more likely to say they are sad or depressed nearly every day. Girls who engaged with technology the most were also the least likely to be involved in activities such as clubs, sports, band, music, and theater.
  • Girls who spent the most time on technology are the least likely to say they have supportive friends and supportive adults to talk to about serious issues.
  • 75% of the 12th grade girls who took the survey said  “most students their age send sexually explicit photos.” And more than half of 8th grade girls surveyed had been asked to send a sexually explicit photo.

Parkland Survivors Navigate Twitter

Survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting are using their voices on Twitter to advocate for gun-control measures -- a move that has garnered some negative attention and criticism, including threats. In a recent interview in The Washington Post, the students share how they are coping with the spotlight and fighting back against "trolls." The interview is an interesting view into what your kids can come up against when online.


Hackers Set Their Sights On Smartphones

Cybersecurity researchers are finding that as people are using their phones for more and more things, hackers are increasingly targeting smartphones with malware and other cyberattacks. Because attacks on mobile devices are getting easier and payoffs are bigger, the trend is expected to grow. The best way to stay safe is to make sure your smartphone always has the latest updates from the manufacturer.


Windows 10 and Macintosh Operating System Tools for Keeping Track of Children Online

Did you know there are tools already part of your computer’s operating system for keeping track of how much time your children play games and do other things online? Detailed instructions on how to find those free tools and use them for both the Windows 10 and the Macintosh operating system are part of a recent Personal Tech blog post in The New York Times. You can keep track of what games, apps, and websites your children visit and how much time they spend on each, and even check out what keywords they are searching for in your browser. You can also set limits on your children’s screen time.


Subtweeting and Vaguebooking – New Terms for Subtle Cyberbullying

You probably think you know the different forms of cyberbullying that take place – including kids making comments on photos or tweets that shame and humiliate the poster, and even getting “friends” to gang up and do the same. But kids have gotten wise to the fact that these direct attacks are easy for parents, teachers and administrators to find and use as proof for disciplinary action. Now cyberbullies are getting more subtle.


Subtweeting (as it is called on Twitter) and vaguebooking (on Facebook) are the Internet equivalent of talking about people behind their backs in the digital world. In this new form of cyberbullying, teens reference a person or an issue without mentioning any names. Instead of being confrontational or direct with someone, subtweets and vaguebooking allow people to put nasty comments out there in a sneakier way. Their tweets and posts online are like the whispers in the school hallways that make up the rumor mill.


What makes this so dangerous is that everyone involved knows exactly whom the tweets and posts are referencing, yet no one outside of the school or a circle of friends would have any idea who they are about. Moreover, if confronted, the bullies can deny that the person being hurt was ever truly the recipient of the harsh words. This, of course, adds to the sticky situation that parents, teachers and administrators often find themselves in when dealing with cyberbullies in the first place.


Should Schools Tell Parents About Bullying?

There’s a debate happening around the country about whether schools should be required to tell parents about bullying. At least eight states already have laws requiring notification, however some LBGT advocates argue that schools could be put in the position of outing a student to their parents. In New York State, Jacobe’s Law is a bill that is being pushed by parents of a 12-year-old who committed suicide after repeated bullying, and is possibly close to passage.


Survey Offers Insights From Kids on Bullying

About 77% of students between ages 9 and 11 said they have witnessed bullying, and 1 in 5 admits to being a bully, according to a survey commissioned by the Cartoon Network, and reported on by National Public Radio. Students overwhelmingly reported that the adults in their families model good behavior, while only 14 percent strongly agreed that our nation's leaders model how to treat people with kindness. While this survey’s findings are much in line with others on similar topics, it does stand out for drawing attention to the small positive acts that can make a powerful difference in a child's life. More than 8 out of 10 kids surveyed said it would help kids to be kinder if they all had a person in their lives who really cared and listened.


Bridging the Home School Tech Divide

There is something known as a “device gap” in schools, where students from lower-income backgrounds don’t have the same digital access as their middle class peers. This gap affects everyone, because assignments are limited to the digital resources that are available to everyone – impacting not only homework assignments but all the way up to district curriculum.  How can parents and educators can help families make better use of technology resources outside of the classroom? Take a look at what this paper from the Center for Early Learning at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation recommends, including connecting parents to the local library for digital services and hosting parent-teacher learning exchanges on the use of tech with young children.


New Rating System for Education Apps Stresses Privacy

Common Sense Media has released a three-tiered privacy-rating system for education apps covered on its website. The company consulted with students, parents, teachers, developers and other stakeholders when developing the system, which includes "not recommended," "use with caution" and "use responsibly."


Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.


Acquiring Job Skills to Survive Automation

Three-quarters of K-12 and higher-education instructors say careers that emphasize creative thinking and problem-solving will be less affected in the future by automation, according to an Adobe survey. However in the same survey, 69% of the educators say such skills are not emphasized in primary and secondary curricula because students lack time to use technology to create projects, have limited access to software and other technology at school and at home to stimulate creative thinking and most educators do not have the right kind of training to assist them.