Digital Safety

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Flaw in “Messenger Kids” Fixed By Facebook

Facebook has notified parents and corrected a technical error that permitted thousands of children using the Messenger Kids app to join group chats not approved by their parents. The app lets children between 6 and 12 years old message and video chat with family and friends who their parents approve. It's unclear how long the flaw existed. The app has been controversial since its launch in December 2017, and child advocacy groups have repeatedly urged Facebook to shut down the app, arguing it violates a federal law aimed at protecting a child's online privacy.

Hacker Attacks on Schools Are On The Rise

The Associated Press reports that schools using education technologies are becoming targets of cyberattacks that disrupt digital lesson plans and could potentially compromise data. Schools "may be considered easy targets because they're a little bit more open than your traditional corporate culture," said Sean Wiese, chief information security officer for North Dakota, where a malware attack last year affected a large number of public schools.

Pros and Cons of Online Preschool

Some communities have adopted an online kindergarten-readiness program called Waterford Upstart, operated by nonprofit organization Waterford.org. Advocates say that the program is a high-quality, cost-effective preschool program that rivals some brick-and-mortar options, but critics say that these programs raise questions about education quality and what exactly preschool is meant to teach. As the economic chasm in the United States grows, experts remark that having access to human interaction is becoming a stark dividing line through every stage of life.

Americans Value Digital Literacy – But Are Bad At It

According to an article in Forbes, MindEdge Learning's State of Critical Thinking study found that while most Americans believe critical thinking is essential in assessing the truthfulness of online information, very few – including college educated Americans - can identify suspicious material when they encounter it on the web. Identifying misinformation includes paying attention to such details as spelling or grammatical errors, the presence or absence of photo credits, indications that the content is being promoted or contains suspicious web addresses, and other obvious indicators.

The study, now in its third year, recorded a decrease of 17 percentage points since 2017 in the proportion of respondents who achieved an "A" grade on the organization's digital literacy test. Three quarters of millennial respondents received an "F" grade, failing to get more than five questions right. Interestingly, older respondents (60 and older) scored better than Millennials, who are generally considered more web-savvy.

YouTube Moving All Kids Content to YouTube Kids

Here is a move you may want to keep an eye on. Bloomberg reports YouTube is contemplating moving all children's content to its stand-alone YouTube Kids app to shield young viewers from distasteful videos. This report comes in the wake of a Federal Trade Commission investigation regarding objectionable content and data collection practices. Executives created YouTube Kids to address these ongoing issues in 2015, but employees and outside watchdogs say the platform has come up short and research says that most children use the YouTube app rather than the YouTube Kids app on digital devices.

Social Media Alerts Stress Young People

Keeping up with a constant stream of social media notifications on their phones is one of the main drivers of stress among students, reports The Associated Press. Some schools are taking steps to help reduce students' stress and anxiety, such as  engaging students in mindfulness activities, hiring outside firms to scan social media for signs that students might need additional support, and encouraging “unplugging” from devices. One teacher says he has seen a profound shift toward constant self-evaluation in the past 30 years that he’s been teaching, and he associates that with social media. He sees students constantly checking their Instagram, SnapChat, and even school grade portals – all outside forces students have never before had to manage.

Advertisers Spending A Billion on Digital Kid-Centric Advertising

According to Adweek, advertisers will be putting more than $1 billion in the global market for child-centric ads. Privacy concerns have been voiced because of the data collected on the youngest users, even with laws on the books against such collection. Video-on-demand platforms like YouTube Kids and social media are big draws for media buyers targeting digitally-savvy children.

YouTube Using a Questionable “Work Around” For Their Algorithm Problem

What is YouTube doing about the recently revealed research that found that YouTube’s algorithms could potentially be jeopardizing the safety of children? To avoid limiting the volume of content uploaded to YouTube (which would happen if every video was manually reviewed), they’re opting instead to tighten parental controls on YouTube Kids—the only place under-13-year-olds are ever supposed to be. Their solution is to hand parents the reins, letting them go so far as disabling search and only displaying videos they’ve personally approved, which essentially means is all they have done is put the onus back on parents to protect the postings of their children.

Researchers Find Concern with YouTube’s Algorithms

Imagine your 10 year-old posts a video on YouTube of her and a girlfriend playing innocently in the backyard pool, but weeks later you find the video has gotten thousands of unsolicited views. Should you be concerned? Yes, say experts who have recently revealed new research that found that YouTube’s algorithms (the mathematics that drives their search feature) has been connecting people who have been watching sexually explicit material to innocuous videos of prepubescent children at play.

This recent research should serve as a reminder to parents that there is the option to privately share videos on YouTube, to watch carefully what you let your children post online (if you let them post at all), and to restrict what you post to things that you would not mind the whole world viewing. This new development is also sure to add to the pressure on Silicon Valley by lawmakers in Washington to pay more attention to privacy concerns.

What’s Your Cyberhygiene Quotient?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks insight into how many state and local governments are faring with cybersecurity, says DHS official Rick Driggers in a recent interview covered in the online publication StateScoop. “We need to make sure state and local employees, federal employees and, quite frankly, the nation at large understands basic, simple cyber hygiene," Driggers says. Cyber Hygiene is the actions you take to monitor your cybersecurity or digital safety on a regular or routine basis. Norton Antivirus provides 9 great steps you can take to ensure your cyber hygiene is the best it can be.

 

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