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Zuckerberg and Facebook Take Up Kid’s Privacy Issues

The privacy of students' data was discussed during Mark Zuckerberg's recent testimony before a congressional committee. Facebook's founder and CEO was asked about the privacy of a Messenger application for minors and about youth technology addiction. Zuckerberg remained composed during two days of hours long questioning by members of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, conceding and taking responsibility for mistakes concerning data privacy, possible election tampering, hate speech and fake news, and pledging changes to address the issues. He reiterated that the platform's goal is to bring communities together and repeatedly mentioned that the company is willing to work with lawmakers on the "right" kind of regulation.


One thing your children may have noticed during the questioning of Zuckerberg is the lack of experience with Facebook and knowledge about the platform that many of the Senators seemed to have. It brings to light a generation gap and is a good reminder to parents that it is important to make an effort to stay somewhat current with technology – and to never be afraid to ask your children questions about what they are doing with technology. Being open to learning new things, especially from your children, is important.


YouTube to Offer Handpicked Selection of Kid’s Videos

YouTube will soon launch a new choice for parents seeking programming for their children with a version of its Kids app that offers only videos handpicked by YouTube staff  - aka the “whitelisted” version. The algorithmically suggested version will still be available, but this new version should, in theory, cut down on the number of videos that sneak through the automated selection process that could include language and jokes inappropriate for kids.


Truth Measure Implemented in Facebook Advertising

Facebook has announced that it's implementing a new authorization process for advertisers that want to place ads on its platform related to political issues and for those that manage accounts with large follower numbers, requiring them to disclose their locations and identities. Election advertising on the platform will include a "Political Ad" label, as well as disclosures about who paid for the advertising. Be sure to point this out to your kids in your discussion of digital misinformation and the importance of vetting sources.


So What Does Facebook Have on File on You?

Digging through your Facebook files is an exercise you may want to undertake if you care about how your personal information is stored and used. To get started, Facebook has a tool for downloading your data that allows you to see and take out SOME OF the information you’ve put up on Facebook. So what kinds of things can’t be deleted?

Most basic information, like your birthday, can’t be deleted. More important, the pieces of data, like the record of people you have unfriended, can’t be removed from Facebook, either. And what happens to what you can delete? Beth Gautier, a Facebook spokeswoman, recently put it this way: “When you delete something, we remove it so it’s not visible or accessible on Facebook.” She added: “You can also delete your account whenever you want. It may take up to 90 days to delete all backups of data on our servers.”

Want to know more about how to delete information on your Facebook account without deleting your account? See these tips on the Tech Crunch page.


Common Sense Reports on Virtual Reality and Children

If you have already tried using a virtual reality (VR) headset you will probably agree that the effect is pretty mind blowing, whether you are riding a virtual roller coaster or strolling down a Parisian street. While VR is becoming more popular, not much is known about the effects it may have on kids. Recently Common Sense Media released a report on the subject entitled Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The key finding from the report is this: Everything in VR is more intense, and while VR has great potential to show kids new worlds and may help in education, the jury is still out on both the  health risks and concerns remain that what kids experience may be too “real.”


So what can you as a parent do when your kids want to explore VR technology? Here are some suggestions:

  • Pay attention to age ratings and choose games wisely with your own children in mind. Don't let your kids play VR games that mimic experiences you wouldn't want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of VR that exposes kids to things they wouldn't normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country. 
  • Keep it safe. Don't let kids use VR alone, help them get oriented when they first turn it on, stay seated if possible, and if kids feel nauseous, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious -- give it a rest for a while.
  • Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements -- including eye movements -- could store that data for purposes that haven't yet been explored.
  • Keep talking. As with all experiences with technology, make sure you test out what your kids are seeing and doing with VR and talk to them about their impressions of the games.

Facebook Rewrites Terms of Service

Facebook is spelling out in plain English how it collects and uses your data in rewritten versions of their Terms of Service and Data Use Policy. The policies are being rewritten in an effort to be more transparent with users, not to ask for new rights for collecting and using data. The movement for this change came about after Facebook revealed that they think 87 million users (or more) accounts were scrapped for data in what was known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. You can expect to see other updates and changes in these agreements as the company moves forward.


Things to Think About When Answering Password Recovery Questions

With so much personal information available online, it's important to pick answers to security questions that hackers can't easily guess. To combat the more simplistic nature of security questions, you might consider protecting yourself by providing random answers that cannot be researched or guessed. For example, instead of providing your mother's ­actual maiden name, you might provide the made-up name Aphrodite1234!, which resembles a password more so than a name. While this approach may defeat the purpose of simpler security questions, it allows for greater privacy and more security.


Fewer Cell Phone Bans in US Schools

Cell phones are still absent from most U.S. schools, but recent data is now showing they are steadily gaining acceptance. This can be seen as administrators bow to parents’ wishes to keep tabs on their kids, and teachers finding ways to work them into lessons. The percentage of K-12 public schools that prohibited cell phone use was about 66 percent in 2015-16, down from more than 90 percent in 2009-10, according to data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Among high schools, the shift over the same period was especially striking — dropping from 80 percent with bans to 35 percent.


Facebook Offers Feature To Remove 3rd-Party Apps

Facebook has released an option that lets users remove third-party apps in bulk. Now all you have to do is go to the Apps portion of your Facebook settings where you can click on any number of third-party apps with direct access to your data and remove them in bulk. The changes are part of Facebook’s larger efforts to make app access easier to manage and understand, alongside Facebook’s decision to more broadly limit app developers’ access to user data. The company also says it will remove apps from users' accounts automatically if they have not been accessed in more than three months.


Middle School Relationships Have Changed – The Effects of Technology

You are likely aware that dating today is nothing like it was years ago. Smartphones, apps and social media have even affected the relationships of middle-school students. In an article in Wired called The Middle School Relationship Is Dead (As We Knew It), current and recent middle-schoolers share what's in -- Instagram and Snapchat -- and what's out -- human connection.


Smartphones and This Generation

An article by Jean M. Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” summarizes many parents’ worries about allowing their children to have and use smart devices, and whether or not it is true that smartphones are making kids depressed. The truth is that we really don’t know, and there is not much research on the possible causes for why this generation seems to be more depressed – and more likely to self report their depression – than past generations.


In the end, it is all about mentoring. Parents – and other important people in kids’ lives– need to model thoughtful relationships with digital devices and recognize their actions set the path kids may follow. That means no distracted conversations with your child while you are texting or checking Instagram. That means no reading of derogatory tweets out loud to significant others even if you think the author is right on target. And no smartphones at the dinner table or long chats while you are supposed to be watching a kid’s sporting event or rehearsal. It is also very important to set clear boundaries for using devices and most importantly, stick to them even if it isn’t convenient for you as a parent. It also means teaching kids to use technology to make a positive difference in the world, rather than for navel-gazing, self-promotion or obsessing about other people.


Six Steps To Protecting Your Children from Cyberbullying

Although Cyberbullying is a topic is written about extensively, it never hurts to review steps to protect your children. In a blog post on the Today Show’s parenting site, some basics are covered such as talking to your kids about cyberbullying, setting rules for and keeping track of your children’s online activities, finding reliable security software, reminding kids to save evidence of online harassment and reviewing the rules of netiquette.


To Facebook or Delete? Not an Easy Question for Some Students

Concerns about how Facebook has used its users' data have some users pledging to delete their accounts. However it may not be that easy, as schools, teachers, and even parent teacher organizations use Facebook pages to deliver news about what is going on at school or to highlight activities. Some high school teachers also use Facebook as a way to communicate with class members, answer student questions after hours and even enhance instruction. While many schools and teachers have moved on to other apps and learning management systems, it still raises the question of whether or not it is necessary to have a Facebook account.


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.



Hamilton 68

Are you curious about the Russian social media disinformation campaigns that have been a hot topic in the news recently? The Hamilton 68 dashboard tracks Russian social media in real time as it appears on Twitter. Named after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper 68 (on the importance of "protecting America’s electoral process from foreign meddling"), the dashboard initially tracked election-related tweets but has since expanded to additional topics, such as the Parkland school shooting. It is an interesting tool to look at with your kids when talking about misinformation online.


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.