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A Partisan Divide on Whether Offensive Content Online is Taken Seriously

Americans are divided on both whether offensive content online is taken seriously enough, and on which is more important online: free speech or feeling safe. Republicans and Democrats have grown further apart when it comes to these issues since 2017. Overall, 55% of Americans say many people take offensive content they see online too seriously, while a smaller share (42%) say offensive content online is too often excused as not a big deal, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted in early September 2020. In addition, about half of Americans (53%) say it’s more important for people to be able to feel welcome and safe online, compared with 45% who believe it’s more important for people to be able to speak their minds freely online, according to an earlier Center survey fielded in July 2020.

Facebook's Everson: Boycott is "Making Us Better"

The advertising boycott of Facebook that took place in the summer of 2020, joined by at least 1,000 brands, forced the social media platform to reflect on its operations and take steps to thwart hate speech and misinformation, said global advertising chief Carolyn Everson during the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference. She called the summer the most challenging time of her career, and noted, "It forced us to take all the work we were doing for the past several years, get it in an organized fashion and add some accountability."

WebCam Requirements – Could Relaxing Them Help Some Students Learn?

Many schools are requiring that students have their webcams on for remote learning, but some kids would benefit from a relaxed policy, some educators and parents say. Students can view themselves as well as their classmates and may become self-conscious, for example, and may be better able to focus with the camera off, asserts Erika Bocknek, a Wayne State University associate professor of educational psychology. This web cam approach to learning may be keeping kids safe from getting COVID-19, but it doesn’t come without its own set of new concerns, including privacy, equity and bullying.

Facebook Changing Content Policies

Facebook plans to start globally blocking or removing any content that poses increased regulatory or legal risk beginning October 1, 2020 as part of its amended terms of service. The rule stems from a proposed law in Australia forcing the social platform to pay media firms for articles but is being enforced globally, marking a departure from CEO Mark Zuckerberg's stance on the importance of free speech. It will be interesting to see if this new stance will have any effect on cyberbullying complaints as well.

Study: Daily Social Media Use Not Tied to Depression in Teens

A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health evaluated survey data involving close to 75,000 eighth and tenth grade students and found that everyday social media use was not linked to depressive symptoms after accounting for the fact that those with frequent social media use already had worse mental health to begin with. "Daily social media use does not capture the diverse ways in which adolescents use social media, which may be both positive and negative depending on the social context," said senior author Katherine Keyes.

Another Excuse for Cyberbullying: Masks

It’s back to school – in some form or another – but bullying and cyberbullying can still happen with virtual schooling, and for those attending in-person, there is another factor as well – masks. Mask bullying is a little different and is, as experts put it, “a response to political differences, versus dominance and power dynamics associated with popularity for children." Of course, any form of bullying, about masks or anything else, has the potential to negatively affect the school year and learning, "since social humiliation or bullying will reduce opportunities for learning for children who are targeted," says Dr. Joel Haber, a cyberbullying expert who founded the site Respect U. Parents should also be aware that mask bullying will not take place just in person, but will potentailly spill over to cyberbullying as well.

If your child is going back to in-school classes, you should know that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has even gone as far as adding to their web site some advice on the subject. "Stigma, discrimination, or bullying may arise due to wearing or not wearing a cloth face covering. Schools should have a plan to prevent and address harmful or inappropriate behavior. Not all families will agree with school policies about cloth face coverings. Schools should have a plan to address challenges that may arise and refer parents, caregivers, and guardians to CDC’s guidance on cloth face coverings.”

Twitter’s Transparency Center Reveals Where Enforcement Stands

Many parents are pressing social media companies to clamp down on cyberbullying and misinformation and most social media sites give lots of lips service to the fact that they are doing more about it or stepping up enforcement. But what does that actually look like? Take a look at Twitter’s new Transparency Report with sections dedicated to various elements of enforcement. Over the most recent six months, Twitter has been working to enforce various elements of concern, including discussion around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, misinformation around COVID-19, and controversial, divisive political content - including commentary from the US President

Almost Half of Teens’ Romantic Relationships End in Online Harassment

Sadly, 48% of US teens who have been in a romantic relationship say they have been stalked or experienced harassment after the relationship ended. The rise of social media seems to play a huge role in this alarming stat because it presents so many more communication channels for harassment and/or virtual stalking. Lessons for parents? Pay attention to what’s going on, and be there to guide tweens and teens if there are signs that a relationship is becoming unhealthy.

Ready for a Pandemic Gaming Party?

Party Place is a new feature on Roblox being beta tested that allows kids to create private, mini-social networks exclusively with friends to chat, hang out, and plan which games to play. The venue itself doesn’t offer any activities or games, but rather serves as a private place for Roblox users to gather — for example, for a virtual birthday party, a remote learning activity with classmates, for virtual playdates, or anything else. From Party Place, the group can chat and hang out as they decide which Roblox game they plan to play next.

For today’s younger players, platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are becoming their own version of a social network. The kids don’t just go online to play. They socialize, chat and hang out with a mix of real-life friends and virtual ones, blurring the lines between online and offline in ways that traditional social networks, like Facebook, do not. Of course this also opens up another avenue for cyberbullying, so as with all forms of social media be sure to monitor for the symptoms that your child may be a target.

Oh, no, Omegle Again.

As quarantine boredom sinks to new lows, kids are turning to random-video-chat platforms like Omegle to see what other bored kids are doing. But it's not recommended. Omegle is a website that pairs random visitors through video and text chat and has spiked in popularity over the last four months. The site is similar to the once wildly popular Chatroulette, which is also experiencing a renaissance of sorts, in that it is free, requires no registration, and promises a surprising social experience. Visitors can submit keywords to filter for people with shared interests. Those in college can enter a .edu email address, which the site uses for verification to find other students. There is also, predictably, an “adult” section. But as the site disclaims, predators and bullies has been known to use the platform and recommends that no one under 13 use the service. Keep this in mind if you hear your kids mention this app so you can monitor their use and remind them about not giving away any personal information - especially during a video chat. They could unintentionally be giving away personal information simply by being in a room with pictures in the background or other clues to their whereabouts, their family, their school or other personal information.