Cyberbullying

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YouTube Series Focuses on Suicide and Social Media

Over the past two decades, the rate of suicide has risen by 60% among those aged 10 to 24, according to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic inspired a new YouTube video series called My Life is Worth Living , which seeks to connect with teenagers and address the feelings of loneliness that can lead young people to take their own lives. The 20 episode series is grounded in research and illustrates the healing power of feeling connected. Wonder Media CEO Terry Thoren, whose team wrote and animated the series, says an essential first step in that conversation is connecting with teenagers. “Animation is a universal language,” said Thoren. “There are no preconceived ideas of race, religion, gender, or stereotypes. And we know that teenagers are spending 85 minutes per day on YouTube, according to a 2020 study by Qustodio, so this series will reach them where they’re most likely to look when they need help.”

Mental Health and Social Media

As the pandemic lingers, some experts are saying the effects of spending so much time online for young people is coming home to roost. Teenagers who have spent a significant amount of time on social media during the pandemic, comparing themselves with others' idealized lives and experiencing cyberbullying and other harmful behaviors, are suffering from mental health issues. Licensed clinical social worker Katherine Glaser says that people on social media will make hurtful comments because "they get to hide behind a screen," yet these experiences can feel inescapable for those on the other end. While none of this is new news, it is noteworthy that efforts to stop cyberbullying and other harmful practices have mostly been stifled during the past year plus. In fact, new issues, such as mask wearing, are proving to be the newest fodder for bullying.

The Pros and Cons of Schools Scrutinizing Student’s Social Media

Internet surveillance technology using artificial intelligence is in use across at least 200 Texas school districts, often without students knowing and without their consent. Authorities and tech companies say the services spot students considering harm to themselves or others, but privacy advocates point out that the algorithms can flag nonthreatening posts, that activity from Black people and women is disproportionately subject to misinterpretation, and that schools may use surveillance against protesters.

Google Implementing Policies to Protect Minors

Google is now blocking gender-, age- or interest-based targeting to children under 18, accepting minors' requests to have images removed from search results, and disabling location history within account settings. The company is also rolling out protections on its YouTube platform, such as defaulting video uploads by kids between 13 and 17 to a private setting and taking "overly commercial content" off of YouTube Kids.

 

Google says these new changes are based on new regulations being introduced in some countries, and that it wants to offer “consistent product experiences and user controls” globally. Requesting an image’s removal from Google’s image search won’t remove it from the web entirely, Google cautions, but it says this should give users more control over the spread of their images. Alongside its changes to ad targeting, Google also says it’s expanding safeguards to stop “age-sensitive ad categories” from being shown to teens.

 

The new features are being introduced on different timelines. The option to request that images be removed from Google’s image search, as well as changes to default YouTube video privacy settings, will roll out in the coming weeks. The new restrictions on ad targeting, SafeSearch changes, and tools to block content on Google Assistant-enabled smart devices are launching in the coming months.

Deepfakes – You Can’t Believe Your Eyes

The FBI recently warned in an alert that malicious actors “almost certainly” will be using deepfakes to advance their influence or cyber-operations in the coming weeks and months. The alert notes that foreign actors are already using deepfakes or synthetic media — manipulated digital content including video, audio, images and text — in their influence campaigns. So far, deepfakes have been limited to amateur hobbyists putting celebrities' faces on porn stars' bodies and making politicians say funny things. However, it would be just as easy to create a deepfake of an emergency alert warning of an imminent attack, destroy someone's marriage with a fake sex video, or disrupt a close election by dropping a fake video or audio recording of one of a candidate days before an election.

 

The FBI warning comes amid concern that if manipulated media is allowed to proliferate unabated, conspiracy theories and maligned influence will become more and more mainstream. Lawmakers have recently enacted a series of laws that address deepfake technology, which frequently is used to harass women, through the creation of fake pornographic videos with the targets of harassment seemingly appearing in the footage. There are no limits to the places people can take things: recently a mother created a deepfake pornographic video of her daughter’s rivals on her cheerleading squad to discredit them.

Biden Administration Takes Stance on Student Online Speech

The Biden administration is filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the US Supreme Court to side with a Pennsylvania school district over its ability to discipline students for online speech that takes place away from the school campus. The case, which focuses on a student's language and foul language in an upset over not making the varsity cheerleading team posted on Snapchat, could be heard in April, and a decision could be announced in the summer. Just one more reminder that whatever and wherever you post can be seen, recorded, and circulated to anyone. The results of this case will help define what rights students have regarding any off-campus posts.

Twitter Contemplating Short Term “Take Back”/Edit Feature

Unlike most social media platforms, Twitter has never had a delete or edit feature for pubished tweets, but for years users have called on the platform to add an 'Edit' option so that they can correct those annoying grammatical errors. Twitter has repeatedly said that it's not going to happen, but now it looks like Twitter may offer a short window of time after pressing 'Tweet' to recall your missive. Besides correcting grammar or spelling, this may also let users heed misinformation labels that Twitter places on questionable Tweets or decide that those nasty or bullying comments really aren’t the best thing to send.

The Supreme Court Considers Students’ Social Media Rights

There are four key US Supreme Court cases that govern students' speech in a school environment, according to Scott Johnson, law professor at Concord Law School. In a recent commentary, Johnson reflects on the current law, students’ privacy rights, and on the court's potential to expand the scope of the law when it hears the case of a high-schooler who was penalized for profanity-laced Snapchat posts about the school. As the law currently stands, speech that may be protected for adults outside of the school environment – like offensive or vulgar language – can be restricted for students inside of the school environment. This commentary is a must read for all parents ,because on some occasion your children may speak their mind online, and what is protected and what is not runs a very fine line.

Study Shows Concerns About Teen Suicide and Social Media Use by Girls

Researchers tracked 500 teens over 10 years and found that an increase in the amount of time spent on social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram was linked to an increase in long-term suicide risk among teenage girls, but not boys. The findings were published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Most of the risk pertained to girls who as young adolescents were already spending a lot of time using social media, TV and/or video games. As their screen time increased over the years, so did their risk for suicide by the time they hit their early- to mid-20s, the findings showed.

 

"Parents and teens should be open about their amount and type of media they're using, so that they can look out for warning signs, talk about worsening mood or suicidality, and reach out for help," researchers suggest. In the article researchers also stressed common-sense limits around electronic media use. For example, limiting use to less than two hours per day, and not using electronic media after a certain time at night since it can worsen sleep. They also urged parents to have open discussions about online bullying and online safety.

Looking at Schools’ Remote Camera Policies

Many school districts across the country don't have formal on-or-off camera policies for remote students due to issues such as bullying concerns, mental health issues and background distractions (like one Mom who flashed her child’s class by accident). Some teachers ask students to display a photo of themselves, and others say they only ask students to show their work, so the focus remains on academics. It can be hard on teachers, though, looking at a sea of black boxes.

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