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Students Use Design-Thinking For Solutions to Social Media Ills

An article from EdSurge  describes how high-school students in Connecticut have used design-thinking (a form of brainstorming) to help develop solutions to problems they encounter on social media. Jacquelyn Whiting, a high-school library media specialist, describes how students used the approach to consider remedies to hate speech, digital permanence and inauthenticity, among others. Here, from the article, are some things they ask you and your family to consider:

  • Do all of your social media posts show only your best, brightest, happiest moments? Considering joining the #badday and #authenticself campaigns, and celebrate authenticity by posting about frustrations or setbacks you experience.
  • Have you ever totaled the amount you spend shopping in response to ads targeted at you on social media? Would you consider paying a fraction of that amount to join a social media platform that protects your private information and is ad-free?
  • Have you stopped to think about the language you use on social media? Stay on the lookout for machine learning that will prompt people to reconsider the vocabulary in their posts if they use offensive language, and warn you if you are about to friend someone who does

Is All the Uproar Over Screen Time for Naught?

The effects of digital screen time on children's well being and development is a source of huge debate at the moment. While concerns over the effects of these new devices on childhood development are not unwarranted, scientists have not been able to reach a clear consensus on the topic. Now a new study by the University of Oxford, examining data from over 350,000 subjects in the UK and US, finds digital technology use accounts for less than half a percent of a young person's negative mental health. The research suggests everything from wearing glasses to not getting enough sleep have bigger negative effects on adolescent well being than digital screen use. Binge-drinking and marijuana use also were noted as having significantly larger negative effects, and bullying was found to have four times larger the negative effect on well being than digital screen use. On the positive end of the spectrum, things like eating a good breakfast and getting enough sleep were much more statistically relevant in affecting well being than the effects of technology use.


Do Phone Bans Work for Schools?

Most parents probably won’t be surprised by this news, but students worldwide are finding ways to use their phones in school despite bans, according to a global review by the Australian government. The findings come as a ban on the devices in some schools in New South Wales in Australia, despite this evidence, has drawn criticism from some educators and parents.


Online Forums vs. Social Media – Who Do Americans Trust?

A poll of more than 1,000 Americans, done by community platform Tapatalk , showed that 4 out of 5 people trust online forums for information more than they do social media sites such as Facebook. Only 27% would ask a question on a Facebook group, as opposed to 47% who'd consult Quora or similar sites. The results indicate that consumers are growing frustrated with the inability to find trusted information on mainstream social media, but also raise large questions about where people should be going for vetted information and the spread of misinformation.


Standing Up to Screens – What’s a Parent To Do

Richard Bromfield , a professor at the Harvard Medical School, begins his book called Standing Up to Screens: A Doable Plan for Parents United, with a telling quote from James Baldwin: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Bromfield notes parents use their own screens nine hours or more a day, more than most children or teens. Half talk on their phones while driving with their young children. A third text, and about 16 percent check their social media. "Yet despite these facts, 78 percent of parents judge themselves to be ‘good media role models’ for their children’s use of screens," he writes in a chapter titled "Fess Up." Bromfield is not prescribing a ban on devices, but his book describes a simple and novel strategy for parents to help their children learn to manage their screens.


Social Media and Depression Connection Found

Teen girls and boys who used social media more than five hours daily had higher depressive symptoms compared with peers who had one to three hours of daily social media use. The finding indicates a stronger link between social media use and depression in girls over boys (50% and 35% respectively), United Kingdom researchers reported in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

So what can parents do? Experts say one tip is to set up a charging station somewhere in the house instead of charging phones in the bedroom which can lead to distractions and sleep interruptions. Don’t fall for the line that teens need to use their phone as an alarm - get them an actual standalone alarm clock instead. This will help to limit nighttime usage. As one expert put it, "It's a balance, because there are benefits to engagement with media. There are so many ways in which social media is important and has positive features, but there's also ways in which social media can replace social support and connection from people you are living with in person. So it's finding that sweet spot."


Survey Looks at Gen Z Views on Tech Careers

A survey by Dell computers of Generation Z high-school and college students in 17 countries shows 80% want to work with cutting-edge technology as part of their careers, and 57% say their education has prepared them for a job. The data also show 98% have used technology during their education and 52% are confident in their tech skills.


Sandy Hook Parents Promote App For Reporting School Threats

National Public Radio reports about 600 school districts are expected to start using the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise's mobile app that allows for anonymous reporting of school threats and bullying. The app, currently in use in 150 districts, is available to schools for free. Students say they're more likely to report their concerns on an app, than to go in person to tell a teacher or administrator.


Could Home Videos Help Diagnose Autism?

A study discussed in the Disability Scoop suggests that an autism diagnosis could be made with almost 90% accuracy by watching one- to five-minute home movies of children. All of the videos showed the child’s face and hands when using toys or other objects and during social engagement. Viewers who were not experts in autism watched the segments and scored students on the use of eye contact and other behaviors.

Currently, many children face long waits to be evaluated for autism. Though the developmental disorder can be diagnosed at age 2, most children are not identified until after age 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those behind the study say they hope their model can one day be used to help speed the process of getting an autism diagnosis, allowing children receive services sooner when it’s considered most effective.


Educational Technology and Privacy Concerns Spark Opinion Piece

As big-name players such as Google and Facebook back more technology for schools, a discussion about student data privacy needs to take place, write Dipayan Ghosh and Jim Steyer, two digital privacy advocates, in a recent opinion piece in The New York Times . "Should the tremendous amounts of data underlying the operation of these kinds of services get into the wrong hands, our children's futures could be at stake," they warn. “We don’t want children to fear that anything they say or do online could be used against them someday.”


Social Media Now More Important as a News Source Than Newspapers

A new Pew Research study has found that after years of steady gains, social media has edged out newspapers as a news source for adults in the US in 2018. The survey reveals that 20% of adults access social media for news, topping the 16% for newspapers, although TV remains the leading source.


Amazon Expands Future Engineer Program to Younger Grades

Amazon has expanded its "Future Engineer" initiative from high school into K-8. The program has begun offering free online lessons and funding summer camps to help elementary students discover the fun of computer science. Earlier this year, the company revealed the "Amazon Future Engineer Pathway" program that supported 100,000 high school students in taking  Advanced Placement courses in computer science and awarded four-year scholarships and internships to a sizable group of students from under-served populations.

Amazon’s newly announced program serving younger students will fund Computer Science camp scholarships through partnerships with and Coding with Kids. The mission is to provide underprivileged students with the means to learn coding in an interactive, hands-on way. Currently, the company is accepting scholarship applications for 2019 classes. Schools and districts may also apply on behalf of families.


Blocking Robocalls on iPhone and Android

Does it seem like you are getting more and more robocalls these days? It is a hot topic of discussion everywhere. Unwanted calls are usually pretty harmless, but some pose a threat to your privacy and identity. All are an unwanted distraction and a waste of time and one report says that nearly half of all cell phone calls will be scams in 2019. Need some advice on how to block them? Try the step-by-step directions, tips on apps and ideas for shutting them down in the article Here's how to block robocalls on iPhone and Android.


If They Want It, Ask for a PowerPoint Presentation

The next time your kids ask you for something, try asking them to create a PowerPoint (or Google Slides or Apple’s Keynote) presentation on why they need it, whether it be a new toy, gaming system or even joining an activity. It is a great way for them to practice not only their digital literacy, but also to learn to make a pitch for something they want to achieve. Want some examples of what kids have done? See PowerPoint Is the Most Efficient Way for Kids to Manage Their Parents from The New York Times.


What Have You Resolved to do About a Browser?

Most New Year’s resolutions focus on building better habits for fitness, career success, and even love. But what about better Internet practices? One thing you might try is the Keepsafe Browser. It allows you to browse the Internet without keeping record of your activity—a privacy feature that is attractive to many. Keepsafe’s private browser uses military-grade encryption to protect your web searches. To start, set a PIN or Face ID; the app cannot be accessed without that code. Browse in private mode, or switch into incognito mode’s secret browsers, which erase all of your browsing history after use. Not sold yet? Turn on Keepsafe’s tracker blockers to stop advertisers and social networks from collecting your data or browsing activity.


Prepare for Artificial Intelligence Surveillance at Work and School

The use of artificial intelligence to monitor employees, and even students, is on its way, Larry Alton argues in InformationWeek. As companies streamline and automate surveillance services to prevent losses and increase productivity and schools increasingly worry more about security and bullying, added surveillance is sure to follow. Alton examines the consequences and discusses what you and your children should do to prepare.


The Risks of Technology Need More Consideration

Marty Ringle of Reed College in Oregon, who has worked in educational technology for more than 40 years, says there should be more consideration by the public, especially parents, of the risks of technology. In this interview with EdSurge, he suggests that an ethics course focused on technology be required in schools and colleges and the materials available for parents to use. Ringle writes, “There are people today who are well respected, well known, who are expressing anxiety and concerns about this. I personally think those are very well placed concerns. Not just in terms of the immediate obvious concerns about privacy and tracking and profiling people to within an inch of their lives and all those sorts of things, but decision-making, understanding the strengths and weaknesses, the limits of technology, not just today, but tomorrow, I think is vital.”


Virtual Field Trips Connect Girls to STEM Careers

The Signal (Santa Clarita Valley, Calif.) has reported that a local Boys and Girls Club is introducing girls to careers in marine conservation by partnering with EarthEcho International. Interactive virtual field trips connected the participating girls to 30 women in the profession. During Skype sessions, each professional gives a tour of what she does in her job and answers questions about her career and how she got there. Other interactive virtual field trips, which are now accessible to anyone online, are available at


Greeting Cards Aren’t Going the Way of Newspapers

Greeting cards are thriving in a digital world—and Millennials are their biggest fans. According to the Greeting Card Association, the majority of American families buy an average of 30 greeting cards a year, and Millennials are “the largest age group of greeting card buyers.” Nostalgia and the desire for something more lasting and tactile, unlike a Facebook greeting, are likely reasons for their popularity—but it doesn’t hurt that they look good in Instagram pics either.


Microsoft Calls for a Facial Recognition Code of Conduct

In an effort to improve facial recognition technology -- and prevent wrongful identification based on built-in biases -- Microsoft is establishing a code of conduct for this technology and is asking other companies to join in. Microsoft President Brad Smith says in TechCrunch that having cohesive rules in place is the most responsible way to implement facial recognition technology. This Code of Conduct is in response to a test of facial recognition software systems run by the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics who found that, for example, the software incorrectly matched the photos of 28 US lawmakers with mug shots of convicted criminals.