Digital Safety

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Some Schools Are Using AI To Grade Student’s Work – What You Should Know

Did you know that some schools are using artificial intelligence to grade student essays? An article in Vox reports that schools across the country are using algorithms to grade essays by making predictions about how a teacher would grade them. Experts say, however, that the technology can get those predictions wrong and it's possible a particular data set could be biased about certain speech and language patterns. One of the other flaws that is noted is that the grading system rewards those who use big words, yet easily be fooled by nonsensical gibberish of sophisticated words strung together.

Survey Says Kids Ask Internet Questions Before Parents

Children are more likely to look for answers to their questions online than to ask their parents, Lenovo reports following their survey of 15,226 people from 10 countries. The survey found that many parents look online to help their children with homework assignments, most often in math, and that 83% of parents generally believe advances in technology are helping their students do better in school. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) reported that they trust technology to help young people to become "more independent learners and problem solvers," although American parents were least likely of all the groups to believe this.

YouTube Ads Targeting Children Coming to an End

YouTube is reportedly wrapping up its plans to curtail targeted ads for videos directed at children in the wake of a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether the platform violated the Children's Online Privacy Act. It is, however, unclear how YouTube will define videos "directed at children" and how it would enforce the ban. Up until now YouTube has gotten around ad restrictions by arguing that YouTube, the primary site, is not for children (the company says kids should use YouTube Kids app, which does not use targeted ads). Still, nursery rhymes and cartoon videos on the main site have billions of views. The platform’s many issues with children’s content-–horrific imagery, harassing comments-- have troubled its video creators, worried parents and empowered rivals. Getting rid of targeted ads on children’s content could hit Google’s bottom line–but this solution would be far less expensive than other potential remedies that aim to placate regulators.

New Digital Safety Materials Released

Recently, Common Sense Education, which focuses on teaching students to critically analyze what they see and how they interact online as they navigate that space, released a new curriculum that includes lessons on media literacy. The curriculum is for Kindergarten to 12th grade classrooms and is free to parents, educators and schools. 

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.

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