Digital Citizenship

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TikTok Challenge Promotes School Vandalism

Schools nationwide are reporting that students are vandalizing and stealing items from schools as part of a new TikTok challenge. Videos have been popping up all over the platform showing kids stealing doors, signs, and even sinks from school property. In return, districts and principals are threatening to lock bathrooms and suspend or expel students caught "hitting devious licks" – as the trend is called. The problem has become so prevalent that TikTok released a statement saying it will ban these videos and stop users from accessing the tags associated with them. “We expect our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior," a TikTok spokesperson said.

Should Kids Be Learning About Technology Ethics?

As emerging technologies develop and continue to collect data at breakneck speeds, we should be mindful that our children are the technologists and ethicists of tomorrow, say Karen Ingram and Megan Stariha in article entitled The Moral Imperative of Teaching Every Student Tech Ethics. They advocate for today’s schools and parents to start laying the ethical groundwork now. Facilitating conversations around ethics in technology with young people will help ensure that future technologies are developed equitably and that young people are conscious of their implications.

Helping Parents with Technology Skills: Recognizing the Need

Parents have a love/hate relationship with educational technology, and their views about the pros and cons of using more tech in the classroom and at home have probably been even further cemented after this last year of online teaching. It may be that many parents just wish the technology would go away completely.

How can you communicate with your children’s teachers and open up the lines of communication about technology and learning? If your kids are going to be expected to do work that requires using tech tools or devices at home, then teachers will have some obligation to provide parents and caregivers with some level of support. For example, if your kids are being asked to complete a Flipgrid, a popular discussion and presentation tool for students, teachers need to be sure that both students and their parents have access to a short instructional video on how to use Flipgrid. It is hard for teachers to always remember that parents need that kind of support, but a gentle request can help remind them children are still going to be coming to parents to ask for help with their online work.


Big Tech CEOs to Testify on Disinformation and Misinformation

The House Energy & Commerce Committee has lined up the CEO's from Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify at a hearing on March 25 on "Misinformation and Disinformation Plaguing Online Platforms," signaling that self-regulation has failed. Public opinion is mixed on what Congress needs to do, but this hearing is a signal that Congress may now be willing to step in. The de-posting or flagging of some content on conservative Web sites, and the banning of then-President Trump from Facebook and Twitter, have raised conservative bias claims to another level. Others are concerned about falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine or debunked claims of election fraud, and the allowing misinformation to spread with real-life consequences for public health and safety.

Tips for Balancing Screen Time During Virtual Learning (and Beyond)

You probably have thought about this before, and even more so since the pandemic, but what are some things you can do to get a conversation about screen time with your kids started, and more importantly, keep it going? Many of us are familiar with the negative effects of excessive screen time, from sleep problems to behavioral issues. But it’s not all bad; some experts say that with moderation, active screen time use comes with benefits such as increasing children’s creativity and imagination and improving motor, coordination, and communication skills. So how do you find that balance?


First, kids and parents need to remember that not all screen time content is created equally. You need to ask yourself, why are they in front of the screen? Is it for education or entertainment? Does it encourage your child or student to create or consume? Will it require them to socialize with others? There is no one type of content that is good for your children. Sometimes pure entertainment is a good thing, but that is not the only kind of content you want you kids to consume. You also need to know what you kids are playing, what apps they are using, and what kind of content creators they are manipulating. Use the tools and apps they are using, and start the conversation by talking about them.


Of course, you probably will need a plan for screen time limits and there are plenty of tools out there to do just that. But remember to monitor your plan depending on how they react to the guidelines. For example, how might they react when you ask them to turn off their device or unplug after 30 minutes of screen time? What about after two hours of screen time? Do the answers change depending on what type of content they are engaging with? Consider the answers to these questions as you assess your family plan.


Finally, model the behavior you want to see from your kids when it comes to technology. Think about the bad tech habits you have fallen into. Are you glued to your computer, tablet or phone screen more than nine hours a day? Do you act like it is ok for you to talk on the phone when at meals or in the car? Whatever it is, remember that your child will copy your behavior. Be mindful of your habits and set a good example next time you pick up your device.


Lastly, remember that the conversations with your child about digital device usage is also crucial to striking a balance. Prioritize time before and after your child is on their device to discuss what they plan on doing on it and what they just finished doing. Other points to talk about include how screen time might differ from at-home or personal screen time, as well as how excessive use can impact how they or their friends behave or interact with each other.

Schools Discover the Impact of Esports

Still think esports teams in schools are just a fad? That‘s what many parents and administrators thought in one district in Texas, until Chief Technology Officer Kyle Berger explained that 250 colleges are giving full-ride scholarships to players. Berger points out that playing esports is about strategy, teamwork, and other high-level skills that every school should want to foster in their students.

Checkology 101

Interested in learning how you and your kids can navigate today’s challenging information highway? Use the interactive lessons on Checkology, which includes free materials available for anyone to use on the News Literacy Project site (a more extensive set of lessons is available for a fee to classrooms as well). You will learn how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and apply critical thinking skills to separate fact-based content from falsehoods. Checkology will give you the habits of mind and tools to evaluate and interpret information. And just for fun while on that site, take the news literacy quiz about fighting falsehoods on social media. What do you know about the various social media platforms’ misinformation policies?

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.

Helping Parents, Teachers and Kids Understand and Use Digital Safety Platforms

Does your school or district use a digital safety platform to monitor student communications? Jim Gray, executive director of teaching and learning at Vancouver Public Schools in Washington State, writes that he thinks there are ways for schools to use student safety platforms to help develop students into better digital citizens. In a blog post, Gray offers five strategies, including sharing with students (and their parents) that students’ online communication and actions are monitored. He also advocates that schools and parents turn questionable decisions in online communications into learning opportunities rather than "gotcha" moments.

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.