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Living Life Without Filters

“If Beyoncé thinks her body needs to be edited, what on Earth does mine need?” writes teenager Sarah Kendrick in a commentary on the KQED site (a National Public Radio/ Public Broadcasting System affiliate). As Kendrick points out, it takes courage to buck the pressures of social media and post real, unaltered, “unPhotoshopped” images of oneself online. She goes on to challenge other teens to ditch image-editing tools and embrace the beauty of their imperfect, natural selves.


“Picting” May be the New Literacy

"Picting" – the usage of image-based materials - is the new literacy for today's students, assert professors Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway in a recent blog post. In the post they examine how social media's reliance on images and the amount of time youths spend on social media is changing literacy and that it is something that parents, teachers and even employers need to pay attention to. Students spend much more of their time outside of school using and communicating with pictures than text. Popular social media applications for youth, such as SnapChat and Instagram, are primarily photo-based, so this begs the question: will pictures really come to be worth a thousand words?


Gender Stereotypes about Coding Ability Start Very Early

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that experience with programming robots can make young girls more interested in technology and more confident in their abilities in related subjects, however programming experience did not diminish girls' gendered stereotypes about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ability. The first graders in the study, girls and boys alike, thought that boys were better at programming and robots.

This is the first study to find that children as young as age six have stereotypes about programming and robotics ability, wrote the researchers. It was surprising to see that gendered stereotypes about programming took hold so early, noted Allison Master, a research scientist at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and the lead researcher of the study. She also mentioned that these attitudes are part of a well-established and much larger trend of thinking in society.


Incorporating Digital Citizenship into School Technology Programs – Some Ideas

As children are now allowed more and more to bring their own digital devices into their classrooms, David Anrade, a K-12 strategy specialist, writes that it is increasingly important that students receive lessons on digital citizenship. Anrade says that when giving your child a device, it is your duty as a parent to teach them how to use it responsibly and discuss the risks associated with how he or she uses it to communicate with the world. Children can be bullied, victimized, scammed or led to disclose personal information through the web. In fact, the Cyberbullying Research Center reports that one of every four teens has experienced bullying while online.


New Guide for Parents on Data Privacy

A new guide from Parent Coalition for Student Privacy aims to help parents take a more active role in evaluating the use of students' data by schools. The downloadable toolkit describes questions parents should ask about data security measures and how to identify "red flags" in service agreements with education technology providers. It enumerates parents’ rights and offers tips for parents looking to protect their children’s privacy.


Edmodo Hack Revealed

A recent hack of the educational platform Edmodo compromised tens of millions' user records and led to the revelation that the company was not only using ad trackers to monitor student and teacher behavior, but then forwarding the data to data brokers. The company issued a statement saying it is investigating the security breach and it has removed the "problematic" ad-tracking code from its platform. Edmodo is a platform that 78 million teachers, students and parents use to communicate about homework and lesson plans, and more.


Is Bullying on the Decline?

Bullying in schools is on the decline, but still, 1 in 5 middle- and high-school students reports being bullied, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Justice Department. Data show a higher rate of bullying among some student groups including thirty-four percent of students who identified as LGBT complaining of bullying, compared to 19 percent who identified as heterosexual. David Osher, vice president at the American Institutes for Research

noted that campaigns to raise awareness can only help so much in helping to fight all kinds of bullying. He called for programs that build empathy and self-awareness, provide support for students who have mental health problems, and foster a positive climate in schools.


Khan Academy, College Board Offer Free SAT Prep

Students now have access to free SAT coaching through a partnership between the Khan Academy and the College Board. The College Board recently reported that students who used the program gained on average 55 points over students who did not use the program. There are no rigorous, recent studies of test gains made by students who took a for-a-fee test prep courses outside the College Board program, but this free option may be a good alternative for those who do not want to pay for prep courses.


Bullying Tied to Adverse Health Issues

A study in the journal Pediatrics found that youths who were bullied in fifth grade had a higher risk of developing depression symptoms by seventh grade, and of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana abuse by 10th grade, compared with peers who weren't bullied. The findings were based on 2004 to 2011 data involving nearly 4,300 children in Birmingham, Alabama, Los Angeles and Houston.


Students Suspended for Liking Instagram Posts

Four students in California are suing their school district after they were suspended for "liking" racist posts on Instagram. At issue is whether the action infringed on students' free-speech rights since the responses to the posts were input off campus. Schools have broad authority under federal law to limit speech at school that they consider disruptive, according to First Amendment scholars, but courts have disagreed about whether schools can punish students for off-campus speech that causes disruptions at school. As critics also point out about this generation, “Likes” are ambiguous and could signify agreement, but also just as likely, disagreement, with a nod to the right to speak freely, making this yet another topic to discuss with your children.


Are You Ready for Video Chat Drop-ins?

Are you ready for Grandma to drop in unexpectedly by video? The ability to do just that is a feature of Amazon’s newest “Alexa” system device called Echo Show. Echo Show boasts a 7-inch touchscreen where your “whitelisted” guests can drop by at any given time. Fortunately there are privacy protections, such as setting a list of contacts you are willing to accept video visits from, and the fact that there is a 10 second delay before an video starts, giving you a chance to prepare before the unexpected guest drops in. Perhaps we are finally getting a bit closer to The Jetsons after all?


The Unobvious Consequences of Plagiarism

Teaching children not to plagiarize is sometimes not as easy as just having a discussion. It is a crime as old as the first pictograph and to kids, it often seems a victimless crime or one they don’t completely understand because there are so many different kinds of plagiarism . What other persuasions can you add to your argument beyond “just don’t do it?” Take a look at the 15+ Unobvious Consequences of Plagiarism in Academia on the site to see what teachers from all levels of education have to say on the subject.  Some remind kids that the loss of reputation is everything. Others talk about how it is a killer of creativity, and that students should learn to value their own thinking and learning. The final remarks of one commentator reminds kids that broken trust between students and teachers is very hard to repair.


Screen Time May be Tied To Infant and Toddler Speech Delays

Mobile devices are so common these days it is not unusual to own more than one, and it can be extremely tempting to hand one of them off to a squirmy infant or toddler to help amuse them. According to a new Canadian study though, children ages 6 months to 2 years whose parents reported increased use of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and electronic games were more likely to have expressive speech delays. In fact, each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time was tied to 49% higher odds of developing speech delays. On the positive side, the findings showed that handheld-device use wasn't associated with other communication delays such as social interaction, gestures or body language.


Yik Yak App to Close

Yik Yak, the anonymous, location-based messaging app once popular with high school and college students, is shutting down at the end of this school year. The mobile app, which for a time allowed for anonymous messaging on school campuses, raised concerns about cyberbullying and was blamed for conveying numerous bomb and other threats that temporarily closed down many schools. Eventually, the unfiltered vulgarity and threats so prevalent on the site prompted the company to implement mandatory user names, much like Twitter. The lack of anonymity led many of the site's most ardent users to delete their accounts, seeing little use for a group messaging app when more established apps like Twitter or Snapchat offered the same functionality.


Teens and Breaks from Social Media – Forced VS. Unforced

It all used to be so simple: Break the rules, get grounded and be forbidden from hanging out with your friends. These days, of course, social media makes anywhere a teen hangout, and parents looking to ground their kids might choose to cut off access to social media instead. But that punishment might not have its desired effect — and could even have some harmful consequences for teenagers, according to a new study published recently.

Teens forced to take a break from social media lose more than just a few days gossiping with friends, according to the research funded conducted by the University of Chicago's independent research organization, NORC. “The side effect of  [a forced break] is taking away from potential emotional support and from access to information,” said Amanda Lenhart, the study's lead researcher and an expert on social media behavior. “That's not just what's happening in friends' lives, which is one component, but also hard news, current events and that type of information.”

There is no denying that grounding a child from social media makes an immediate impact, Lenhart says. But the survey suggests that it may have a more negative effect than parents realize. The 38 percent of teens who were forced to take a break were more likely to report being anxious about being away from social media and more likely to increase their social media postings after being allowed back on their networks. On the other hand, teens who opted to take voluntary breaks from social media — 65 percent of those surveyed — tend to handle the lack of constant contact with friends and the online world much better than teens who had it snatched away from them. Across the board, these teens were more likely to say they felt relieved about taking a break and thought the break helped them connect with important people in their lives.


Tips for Helping Kids with ADHD Manage Screen Time, a web site for parents of kids with learning attention issues, is offering a new ”At a Glance” chart on how to help kids with ADHD make good decisions about technology and manage their screen time. The chart identifies common trouble spots – time management, social skills, lack of sleep, impulse control, distractibility and inattention – and offers a list of ways to help in the short and long term.


Snapchat Primer for Parents

Numerous surveys show that Snapchat is one of the most used messaging apps by teens, but many parents have never used the app. In case you are not aware, Snapchat is an application for mobile devices, where photo and video messages disappear after they are viewed by the recipient. To help parents get up to speed on the app, USA Today has created a primer, or a Snapchat 101 for parents. The primer covers what the app is, what it does and why it is so popular. It also covers why many parents are concerned about this app (the disappearing content has been known to foster sexting and cyberbullying) and suggests ways to protect teens who use the app. If you find the article useful, you might also want to check out USA Today’s intro for parents to, an ultra addictive lip syncing app.


Facebook Can Tell When Teens are Feeling Down and Out

Leaked documents from Facebook's team in Australia allegedly show the social giant's ability to identify teens who feel "worthless," "useless," "stressed," "silly," "stupid," and "defeated" and then, at least in one case, help advertisers to target ads to them. The leaked documents, the subject of an article in an Australian newspaper, also detailed how advertisers could use Facebook's algorithms to find teens who were interested in "working out and losing weight" and promote health products. Facebook's team in Australia was reportedly looking to capitalize on the 6.4 million teens that use the social network in their geographic region. Facebook denied the allegations and called the article's premise "misleading". 

"Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state," the social network said in its official response on Sunday. "The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook.” According to the response, the research results were never used to target ads and were based on data that was anonymous and aggregated. Critics, however, worry that the emotional state of those who use the social network may now become a new commodity to be bought and sold.


“Satisfying Videos” Are Trending

“Satisfying videos” are trending, and everyone is taking notice. Clips that feature “repetitive tasks, perfect patterns in motion or machinery processes being completed in slow motion, with relaxing music” are providing young people an escape from stress. These videos—which include things like paint mixing, slime squeezing, and cake icing—are only getting more popular online: over 265,000 posts on Instagram currently live under the hashtag #satisfyingvideos. Prism TV is one brand capitalizing on the trend, with a promotional video series that shows painters mixing colors together in slow motion.


Boy's Note About Video Game Class Goes Viral

A mother shared a picture of a note on Reddit online written by her 7-year-old son that has gone viral. The note suggested that his teachers wanted him to “stay up late playing video games.” The note, signed "the school," indicated the boy is performing poorly in "video game class." Both the boy’s mother and teacher appreciated the creativity of the fraudulent note!