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“Fake News” – Advice on How to Combat It From a Media Literacy Expert

The term "fake news" has highlighted media literacy "in a way that nothing has before," asserts Michelle Ciulla Lipkin of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. A new survey also shows that nearly everyone is guilty of sharing fake news at one time or another. In a Q&A on the PBS Newshour site, Lipkin fields questions on the topic and offers advice for teachers and parents to help keep themselves from falling victim to fake news stories. Ciulla Lipkin’s first bit of advice? Stop lumping all dubious content into one category called fake news and instead help kids understand the role of bias in the media. 


Suicide Rates Rise Among Middle Schoolers

Researchers suggest that increased academic pressure, economic distress and social media may be contributing to the doubling of the suicide rate among middle-schoolers that statistics from 2007 to 2014 have shown. Some experts are concerned that there is so much pressure on young people that they can become overwhelmed because they have not yet developed the coping skills that adults rely on. This is a good reminder that an incident an adult can easily dismiss can be hard for a middle schooler to shrug off. Schools are being urged to target the issue by teaching students to handle conflict, creating a welcoming climate and training teachers about suicide prevention.


Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Get To Know Girl Nation

The nonprofit Girl Nation is helping young women between the ages of 8 and 15 understand and cope with the potential downside of social media and technology. Among other things, the organization seeks to help girls with confronting body image issues, "mean girls", and developing healthy social media habits. While the organization holds programs and workshops in the Las Vegas area, there are lots of materials on their website for young women and parents nationwide.


Online Harassment on the Rise

Harassment and abuse are becoming the new “normal” online: 41% of American adults have been personally subjected to online harassment — an increase from two years ago — and 66% have witnessed it, a new study released recently by the Pew Research Center found. Women were twice as likely as men to say they were harassed because of their gender. The study found that 21% of women ages 18 to 29 said they were sexually harassed online — more than twice the number of men in that same age group. About half of female respondents ages 18-29 also told Pew that someone has sent them explicit images they did not ask for, an issue parents certainly need to address with their children when discussing how to handle if these kinds of situations arise.

Overall, while there is widespread concern over online harassment (62% of respondents said they viewed it as a major problem), there is disagreement in how platforms should balance being able to speak freely and preventing abuse. While 53% said it was more important for people to feel safe, 45% said free speech should take precedence. Regardless, most respondents (79%), said tech companies have a duty to step in and prevent abuse on their platforms.


Age and Wealth Factor into Technology Addiction

Teenagers and those from higher-income households may be more likely to become addicted to technology, according to an online survey given in 17 countries. About 44% of the 15 to 19 year olds who participated and 39% of people living in high income households said they struggle to take breaks from technology, but other age groups and income levels were not far behind. While only a professional can diagnosis an internet addiction, this online screening tool can help you find out if you have an unhealthy relationship with the internet.


Would the President’s Tweets Get Him In Trouble at School?

Many of President Trump’s tweets have recently been scrutinized by bullying experts, notes a recent article on The article states that while his tweets about television personalities like MSNBC’s Mika Brezinski and Joe Scarborough would probably not be enough to get him suspended or expelled were he still in middle or high school, they would be enough for school officials to intercede and make him accountable for his behavior. The experts remind parents and teachers that the most important message to give young people who are fascinated by his questionable tweets is to remind them that other people stood up to him, including members of his own party, and pointed out that just because someone has a position of authority does not mean they are entitled to belittle and shame others online.


10 Social Media Issues That Landed Students in Hot Water

As a parent, when you sit down to have a discussion with your child about the ways social media can get them into trouble at school (or with the police), it can be really helpful to have some examples. Education Week has taken the time to examine ten such incidents that made recent headlines. From references to school shootings to racist rants to complaints about water quality, students’ social media posts this past school year have resulted in suspensions, expulsions, arrests, and lawsuits. It is an eye opening read including how much trouble students can get into for filming videos on school grounds (even if it was to expose the bad quality of the water supply in school water fountains, or as a backdrop for a rap video), or even for posting images of texts sent by others in an effort to expose racism. After you finish reading this article you may feel like telling your kids to refrain from posting anything at all! That, of course, is very unrealistic, but these examples do provide context to the advice “think before your post.”


Cyberbullying and the Future …and FLOTUS

Technology can be a wonderful tool that connects us with information and with each other, but we all know there is a dark side to technology use, including things like hacking, cybercrime and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has been a hot topic in schools and in the news over the past decade, but these days we are finding debate about what exactly cyberbullying entails and what is the best way to tackle it.

Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers, leadership experts in the education field, note in a new opinion piece from Education Week that while FLOTUS Melania Trump has said she wants to make cyberbullying her priority cause, they feel that she needs to learn more about the topic. They hope she will come to understand that the only way to solve cyberbullying is to act as a role model, work on defining cyberbullying for the country, and lead us into a more respectful time. Berkowitz and Meyers also remind readers that the mindset  “if you are being hurt, hurt someone else worse” is something that parents and children are going to have to learn to turn away from if the problem of cyberbullying is ever going to see some kind of resolution.


Tech Helping Schools Overcome Language Barriers

School districts across the country are using machine translation, human translation, or some combination of both to help bridge the barriers for English-language learners. Some districts are using Google's Website Translator plug-in for translations on anything from homework worksheets to school lunch menus, while others have adopted mobile apps such as TalkingPoints to translate text messages, allowing non-English speaking parents to communicate with teachers in more than 20 languages.


Student Data Privacy – Learning Your Rights

Are you wondering what happens to data collected on your child at school? Do you know what data is collected, why, or how it is protected? One resource available online that can be useful in learning the rights of parents and guardians as part of the information gathering process is the Data Quality Campaign site



With tablets becoming more and more akin to sketchpads these days with the use of a stylus, it is no wonder that educators are talking more about a new method of taking illustrated notes called sketchnoting to help kids improve retention and learning. Take a look at this presentation called Sketchnoting for Beginners to see what it entails – sort of a combination of visual notetaking, diagrams, symbols, objects, arrows, dividers, bubbles, boxes, colors, and typography and much more. Ask you kids to try the method by sketchnoting a newstory on television or part of a documentary. Sketchnoting can help kids focus during lectures and adds that digital component – if done on a tablet- that may just help them focus.


Digital Dating Abuse – Gender Matters

Although both young men and women in high school are affected by digital dating abuse, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California Santa Barbara have found that girls suffer more issues such as being pressured to sext, receiving threatening messages, and having someone monitor their whereabouts and activities. Both girls and boys, however, also reported they respond to direct aggression by blocking communication.


Digital Note Taking – Summer is a Good Time to Practice

Does you child have trouble taking notes in class? If he or she has a 504 plan or IEP, they may be allowed to record lectures, but many students don’t have the patience  (or the time) to review hours of talk when they get home. Smartpens, such as Livescribe or Equil, may help. They can capture not only everything your child hears, but anything they write down in class. If any note is unclear, all your child needs to do is touch it with the smartpen and replay what was said at that exact point in the lecture. Some schools may even cover the cost of a smartpen if it’s part of a 504 plan or an IEP.

Although this sounds great, don’t send them back to school without some practice. If you get one of these pens, try it out at home. YouTube has lots of short videos on how each pen works (just type in the brand name or “smart pens” in Search). Have them take notes on a newscast or documentary of interest and see how it works in practice. Even if your child does not have specific accommodations, this kind of digital tool can help, especially for children who are just learning to take notes in class.


Girl Scouts to Offer Cybersecurity Badges

Would you like a few strings of code with those cookies? Beginning in 2018, the Girl Scouts of the USA will offer 18 cybersecurity badges – including coding, principles of firewalls and even white hat hacking - available to girls in their programs who are in kindergarten through 12th grade. Girl Scout officials say the initiative seeks to encourage girls to pursue careers in the technology industry. The Girls Scouts currently have 1.8 million girls enrolled.


Your Cell Number – Are You Sharing It Too Freely?

Here’s a bad piece of news. Our cell phone numbers becoming a lot like Social Security numbers: they are the gateway to our identities, providing an entrance to personal data – your email address, physical address, even physical whereabouts—and all the personal information that is kept about you by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and social media networks. Yet when we are asked for our cell numbers for whatever reason, we often give them out without even a second thought.  What can you do? Take a look at these tips and use common sense. If you are asked for your phone number, it never hurts to ask why.


Banning Smartphones for Those Under 13?

A group in Colorado called Parents Against Underage Smartphones is looking into putting a ballot initiative up that would require retailers to submit reports to the state government verifying that they had inquired about the intended user for each smartphone sold, and fine those that repeatedly sell phones to be used by young children and preteens. Many critics understand the reasoning behind the proposed law, but think it oversteps the government's role into private family life. What’s your opinion?


Apps and Diversity

Keeping in line with many popular media including books and television programs, apps for kids are also beginning to reflect diversity. Toca Boca is one of the leading children’s app developers and its goal is that "no kid should ever feel excluded by Toca Boca." In Toca Life: School, kids interact with 32 characters, representing different races, ages, backgrounds and physical abilities. The app allows kids to move the characters in and out of the five scenes to act out stories set in a school location. In each scene, players will find a wheelchair, so that any character can be placed there to tell a story. Biracial families show up in apps such as Goldilocks and Little Bear from Nosy Crow. Stereotypes as quashed in apps like Fox & Sheep's Little Farmers - Tractors, Harvesters & Farm Animals for Kids where both males and females appear driving the big machinery.


Kids Also Need Data Literacy

If you see a number or statistic included in a news story, do you find you are more likely to believe that the information is true? Librarians have found many people consider numerical data or graphics to be more compelling when reading news. Now, many libraries are advocating the teaching of data literacy – the ability to understand, generate, and use data. This skill covers everything from being able to sort through the results of a survey to being able to understand the meaning of a complicated graph or chart. It also includes the ability to critically evaluate data and visualizations.

If you want to discuss data literacy with your children, check out tools such as MentimeterSocrative, and Poll Everywhere, which allow you to collect responses on the spot and generate visualizations that represent the information graphically.

Easy-to-use infographic tools such as Infogram and Piktochart can be used for projects that involve advocating opinions or conclusions based on data and other storytelling. These tools make creating a compelling infographic straightforward through a combination of intuitive features and online tutorials. The more you know about how data is collected, illustrated and interpreted, the better prepared you and your kids will be to question data and interpretations attached to news stories and scientific presentations.


Making Kids “Internet Awesome”

Parents have a new tool from Google to help children learn about online safety and digital citizenry. Google's recently announced their "Be Internet Awesome" program that revolves around five core Internet principles. The tool includes educational resources and an online game called Interland, which features four lands through which young gamers come up against phishers, hackers, bullies, and over-sharers — those who reveal too much information about themselves online.

Google and partners also created a bunch of resources for teachers and a video series for parents, called the Be Internet Awesome Challenge, which is designed to make “talking about online safety fun and accessible”. Be Internet Awesome is the latest in a series of initiatives by Google to promote the Internet as a safe and positive place for everyone. In April, Google-owned YouTube launched Internet Citizens, a series of workshops aimed at educating teens in the United Kingdom on how to combat issues like fake news, echo chambers, and offensive speech.


Social Media Wellness

As the retraction of acceptance offers to potential Harvard students because of their online activity reminds us, there are real-life consequences for virtual actions. What can parents do? Ana Homayoun, the author of a forthcoming book called  “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World” in a piece in The New York Times reminds parents that they need to shift the conversation around teens’ social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety. This could become all the more important if a bill that was just overwhelmingly passed in the House becomes law. The bill could make it a felony — punishable by 15 years in jail — if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves.