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Assistive Technology – It’s Not Just for Kids with Disabilities

Jenny Grabiec, the Director of Technology at The Fletcher School, has a free book out called iCan with iOS: Apps, Tools & Strategies for Students with Learning and Attention Issues, but as she points out in an article on the Edutopia site, assistive technology can benefit all students. Grabiec states that for all students, with or without learning differences, using text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools are shown to read longer, write longer, and show a great improvement in spelling. Clock apps, with timers and alarms, can help students stay on task and be used for important reminders during the day. Interested in these kinds of apps? Take a look at the Edutopia Assistive Technology: Resource Roundup as well.


Conviction in the Case of the Texting Urged Suicide Could Create Issues

The conviction of Michelle Carter for urging her boyfriend by text message to commit suicide, seems like an ultimate case of cyberbullying. Critics say, though, there may be an issue with the law being stretched. While the verdict should encourage parents to talk about and pay closer attention to what their children are texting to their friends, in theory a friend who simply expresses sympathy for a despondent friend’s desire to take their own life could soon be held liable for that death. This is something that will be interesting to see how it plays out in the courts.


Privacy and Internet Safety Q. and A.

Where should you look when a question comes up at home about setting parental controls or whether you should post those pictures of your kids online? Try the Privacy and Internet Safety section of the Common Sense Media site. While there are research articles all over the web with information on this subject, this section covers a wide range of topics and is something you might want to add to your browser’s bookmarks for quick reference.


What is a “Phigital” Kid?

“Phigital” is the recently coined name for the current generation of kids  - Gen Z -who do not draw a distinction between the physical and digital worlds and are comfortable (or apparently comfortable)in both.

What exactly does that mean? For these kids, digital is EVERYTHING. They do not remember a time before the Internet or before the existence of WiFi, so they expect that access is a part of everything. At school, this means they expect the incorporation of mobile devices in their classroom, as well as mobile strategies for helping them learn and catch up on or supplement their classwork. Parents and teachers need to remember that for the “phigital” mindset, the real world is never more than a click away so everything they do needs to be relevant in real life. Hold on world, it looks like a major generation clash is about to get underway.


Apple’s New iPhone Operating System (iOS 11) To Feature ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ Mode

When iOS 11 comes to iPhones (and iPads) this fall, the new operating system will include a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode users can turn on. When the feature is activated, your iPhone can tell when you may be driving and will automatically mute your notifications so the screen remains dark. You can also set up your device to send your favorite contacts an automatic reply to tell them you are driving and will get back to them when you arrive. An excellent idea for all drivers, especially teens, so be sure to check it out this fall.


Is the Internet Like a Drug?

A study by researchers at Swansea University and Milan University find that symptoms of Internet withdrawal -- increased anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate -- are close to what drug addicts experience. Participants in the study, ages 18 to 33, were self-confessed Internet addicts who reported spending an average of five hours a day online.


Tips for Combating Hackers on Connected Devices

Teaching kids about the security vulnerabilities with Internet of Things (IoT) devices can help them avoid falling prey to hackers, writes Jacob Batchelor in an article entitled You've Been Hacked! Explaining Cybersecurity to Students in an Interconnected Era. Batchelor explains ways to introduce the problem of hacking to kids, help them recognize the problem of IoT hacks, and show them what they can do to protect their privacy. Experts predict that in just a few years, interconnected devices such as refrigerators, baby monitors, toys, Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, will number in the billions.


Harmful Apps to Know About

Keeping up with social media and the constant stream of new apps emerging can be overwhelming for parents. A recent article entitled Tips Toward a Safe and Positive Social Media Experience offers tips for digital safety. The article also includes a list of harmful apps, such as Calculator%, a secret app that looks like a calculator but is actually a vault for hiding photos and videos, and Blue Whale, a suicide challenge app that attempts to prod children into killing themselves. The app is a haven for child predators and it is common for children to be blackmailed and bullied into completing the game where a final task is suicide.


Would You Pay a Ransom for Your Data?

A recent survey administered by Carbon Black looks at consumers’ responses to ransomware, and you may find the results surprising. The study found that if hacked, 52% of consumers would shell out a ransom for their data, and 12% would pay $500 or more. It was also found that consumers are less trusting of retailers with their data than they are of banks and health care providers. Furthermore, the majority of consumers believe the responsibility is on the individual businesses to keep their data safe, ahead of cybersecurity companies/cybersecurity software vendors, software providers (Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.), and government organizations (FBI, NSA, CIA, etc.).


Your Kid’s Privacy and Why You Need To Care About It

Let’s not fool ourselves, the Internet is a downright scary place, and because of its universal nature, the whole world – the good and bad parts – are at your door every single day. What can you do to protect the privacy of your children? A recent article on the Common Sense Media site entitled 7 Reasons Parents Should Care About Kids and Online Privacy outlines privacy invasion situations every parent needs to be prepared for and offers common sense tips on how to handle them.


To Trust Ads or Not – Teens Unsure

Teens are bombarded with a lot of advertising on apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Recent surveys reveal that 47% of Internet users between the ages of 13 and 17 in the US think ads can be trusted to some extent, compared to 46% who think advertising can't be trusted, per a YouGov survey. 52% of male respondents thought ads were somewhat trustworthy, compared to just 42% of female participants. Separate data from Kantar Millward Brown found that teen Internet users worldwide were more likely than older respondents to be impatient with invasive digital ad formats like online display ads, video ads and autoplay ads on social channels. Teens were also significantly more likely to skip ads than older people.


Harvard Rescinds Admission To Students After Explicit Posts on Facebook

This generation going off to college next fall may be “digital natives,” but some of them certainly have a lot to learn yet about digital etiquette, safety, and privacy.  Harvard College canceled admission offers to at least ten prospective students of the Class of 2021 because of racist and sexually explicit memes they posted in a private Facebook chat, according to the a recent report. The individuals were informed in April that their admissions offers to the prestigious Ivy League institution were under review, then later rescinded, because they had posted memes mocking the Holocaust, sexual assault and child abuse, among other topics, in a private Facebook messaging group that was formed late last year, according to The Harvard Crimson. This incident certainly should be part of all parents’ discussion about how nothing you post is really private online and anything you post, no matter how exclusive the group, can come back to haunt you.


Pet’s Names Passwords – It Better Be a Good One!

Is your pet’s name your “usual” password online? If so, you are not alone - but in using your pet’s name or some variation of it, you may make it easier for hackers to access to your online accounts. To bring awareness to this issue, behavioral biometrics company, BehavioSec, teamed up with animal charity Bideawee to highlight five adoptable pets with hacker-proof names that are easy to remember, because as the cartoon of a man introducing his son to the new family puppy on the BehavioSec site points out “You can name her whatever you like, but be sure it is something you can remember. You’ll be using it as a security question answer for the rest of your life.” 


Time to Put Those Alerts in Silent Mode?

What was that ding? Was it your laptop, smartphone, tablet or other digital device letting you know that yet another text, email, news alert, or Facebook message has arrived? That’s great for you – if you don’t mind a huge negative impact on your performance and concentration throughout the day – but for everyone around you it can get very annoying very quickly. Try reading up about notification options on your iPhones and iPads or on your Android device. And while we are at it, here is some advice on how to ask other people to turn off those alerts.


7 Tips for Mastering Facebook

If you are reading this you may be thinking that you and your family already use Facebook so what does it mean to “master” it? Well for one thing, would you like to opt out of advertisements or remind yourself how someone got on your friends list? Perhaps it would also be good to set up a legacy contact just in case something happens to you, in case of emergency? To find out how to do all of these things and more, check out Kim Komando’s page on the USA Today site entitled These 7 tips will help you master Facebook.


Your Eyes and Multiple Screens

A growing number of Americans, including nearly 70% of teens, are paying attention to multiple screens at once, according to a new survey by the Vision Council. That puts even more people in danger of digital eye strain, with symptoms such as dry or irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches and neck or back pain—after staring at a screen for hours. What are some solutions? Printing out pages to read off screen is one analog solution, but you can also consider the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes with your screen, give your eyes a 20 second break and look 20 feet away, which will relax the focusing muscles. 


Do Your Apps Have an Appetite for Data?

As kids and their cell phones are about to head into summer vacation mode, you may want to look at ways to help the whole family stop the burn when it comes to cell phone data. One of the best ways to do that is to figure out how much data your favorite apps use and adjust usage accordingly. It is the best way to help you avoid costly overages or painfully slow speeds, depending on your carrier. Not sure where to start? Take a look at this article from USA Today that breaks down the data usage of several popular app data hogs including Netflix, YouTube and Google Play, and gives tips on how to keep your data in check.


YouTube: A Watching and Hosting Guide for Parents

As summer vacation approaches, you might suspect that your kids are going to be spending more time on YouTube, so what should you know about making that time more constructive? USA Today has recently published a quick parent’s guide to watching YouTube with your kids, with tips such as using the YouTube Kids app which has features such as a timer and entering an age level so it only shows appropriate videos.


What Do You Really Need to Do to Protect Your Smartphone?

Brian Chen of the Tech Fix blog on The New York Times recently prompted a reality check for smartphone users on what is really need to protect your device. Check out his advice on why you should buy a case, and maybe a screen protector, but pass on the extended warranty. If you missed it, also check out his take on tips and myths of how to extend your smartphone’s battery life.


Tips for Guarding Against Ransomware

A report from Kaspersky Lab has revealed that mobile ransomware attacks increased globally during the first quarter of 2017 by 253%, evidenced by the recent WannaCry attack, and with the US being hit the hardest. Four ways users can better protect themselves are outlined in an article on the TechRepublic site, and includes advice such as doing regular scans on devices to check for infection and never entering personal information into a website that seems at all suspicious. Additional tips for protecting yourself were also recently discussed in an article in the Tech Section of The New York Times entitled How to Protect Yourself From Ransomware Attacks.