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Universal Depression Screening Recommended for Adolescents

There is a lot of blame put on technology for the increase in teen bullying and isolation. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidelines recommending all youths ages 12 and older undergo depression screening at least once a year. It is recommended that teens privately use a self-reported questionnaire that teens fill out themselves, either on an electronic device or on paper. Kaiser Permanente has also started a campaign hoping to reduce the stigma of reporting or suffering from mental health issues called Find Your Words.


Is Technology Use Changing Young Children’s Fine Motor Control?

Is your young child struggling to hold a pencil or a pen? A new study from England indicates the use of technology by young children may be affecting students’ hand strength.  This leads to difficulty holding pens and pencils, according to Sally Payne of the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust. So what can you do to counteract that? Activities such as cutting, playing with building blocks and pulling ropes can help young children develop proper writing grip and strong control of the fine muscles in their fingers.


When Are Kids Instagram Ready?

Want to be the one to introduce the ins and outs of social media to your kids? Follow the adventures of one parent in doing so in a Well Family post on the New York Times site. And think about the advice the author offers about how to how to have a “social media talk” (akin to the “birds and the bees talk”) with your kids, as well as, ideas for when to create a usage “contract,” monitor use, and remain open to learning from kids about global connectivity.


Do Phones Make Kids More Safe or Less Safe During a School Emergency?

Usually the debate about smartphones at school is about whether they are a distraction or a tool for learning, but the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida  has sparked some debate about whether students are made more -- or less -- safe by carrying cellphones at school. Some say students with the devices can alert others that they are safe when getting to and from school or during an emergency, but others argue that phones can make students less safe during a crisis by distracting them from following directions by teachers or first responders, giving away their location to an assailant, or jamming up communications interfering with those coming to help them.


Who Sponsored That Ad?

The Federal Election Commission has drawn up a proposed framework that would require political digital and social media ads to adopt the same sponsorship disclaimer rules as those appearing on TV, read on radio and in print. Political audio and video ads on both social and digital platforms would require candidates paying for the ads to say their names and include the statement, "And I approve of this message," and graphic and text ads would have to display the sponsor's name "in letters of sufficient size to be clearly readable," the proposal says. In addition, Facebook has announced that it will mail postcards to political ad buyers to verify that they live in the US. A code from the postcard will be needed to buy a political ad on the platform, and November's midterm elections will be the first time the process is used.


Is FOMO the Real Cause of Teens’ Smartphone Addictions?

In a recent interview on CNBC, Ana Homayoun, the author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World explains that social media companies “create this system where you always want to be online. And it can create this fear of missing out (FOMO) if we're not online.” But Homayoun argues there are some ways parents can curb addictive behavior including introducing access to mobile communication incrementally by starting kids off with a flip phone instead of just giving them a hand me down smartphone and establishing times and days when the phone is off-limits (especially at night). She also recommends not letting kids use the phone as an alarm clock because that only leads to it being in their room at night unsupervised and using apps like Circle or OurPact to monitor their usage.


YouTube to Clamp Down on Creators of Violent and Cruel Videos

YouTube has formally announced new punishments that go beyond just their existing community, and copyright policies for those who post violent videos or videos that promote cruelty or bullying. In an announcement titled "Preventing Harm to the Broader YouTube Community," YouTube details the new disciplinary actions which span from stopping payment to those who have channels who promote these kinds of content and being barred from the site's trending video feature.

Although no specific creators were singled out, the policies target creators who "[conduct] a heinous prank where people are traumatized, [promote] violence or hate toward a group, [demonstrate] cruelty, or [sensationalize] the pain of others in an attempt to gain views or subscribers." YouTube currently has a three strike policy under which creators' channels can be terminated following copyright or community guidelines violations, however, this announcement explained the need for "a broader set of tools...that can be used more quickly and more effectively" to bar content. It will be interesting to see how they enforce this new policy.


Wonder Where All that Cellular Data Goes?

Curious about how all that data consumed by sharing and streaming photos, audio and video on your cell phone adds up? You might be interested in getting a quick estimate from a data calculator like the ones on the AT&T or Verizon Wireless sites. Your cellular provider may have it’s own sample measures. 

Interested in some simple ideas for reducing your data consumption? Take a look at Measuring and Managing your Cellular Data Use on The New York Times site.


Don’t Have a Ban, Have a Plan – Cell Phones at School

What is the policy on students’ use of cellphones at your children’s school? A blog article on the Education Week site entitled As Cell Phones Proliferate in K-12, Schools Search for Smart Policies could be an excellent primer on the subject.  It can help parents, teachers and administrators using the evolution of the cell phone policy of the Katy School District in Texas as a sample case study. What is the district’s advice on the topic? Setting clear expectations for cellphone use in classrooms, and establishing models for appropriate use, is the better alternative to simply forbidding their use.


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.