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Helping Kids Use Social Media in a Positive Way

Depending on how it’s used, social media can have a positive or negative effect on kids' well-being, says Michael Gaskell, principal at Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, N.J. In a recent blog post, Gaskell shares three common issues with social media and what parents and educators can do to counter them. He outlines some of the dangers to kids’ well-being, such as comparing their body type to what they see online, and discusses the danger of posting words and images students may later come to regret years after posting them. He also cites a study that found how using social media without a conscious awareness of its impact lowers brainpower.

Study Finds Social Media Rife with Misinformation on Cancer

A third of the most popular articles about cancer treatment on social media contain inaccurate information, most of which could lead to patient harm, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. "I encounter a lot of patients through my oncology practice who believe misinformation they read online and through social media, and it has led to delays in their diagnosis and treatment ... refusal of proven cancer treatments and, ultimately, their early deaths," said study leader Dr. Skyler Johnson, a radiation oncologist.


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.

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.

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.

Fixing Misinformation

The Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of online information researchers, recently published a comprehensive analysis of the false narrative of the presidential contest and recommended ways to avoid a repeat. The report concludes that while social media companies are not solely to blame for misinformation, the platforms did serve as hubs in which false narratives were incubated, reinforced and cemented. Two of the report’s suggestions for how companies such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can change to help create a healthier climate of information include holding people with outsized influence (think Trump and Kim Kardashian) to a higher bar, and asking social media companies to be transparent and consistent about their guidelines on misinformation and disinformation.

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.

Journalists Provide Media Literacy Lessons for Students

Despite a spike in online misinformation, studies show that more K-12 students are unable to discern reliable information pushing some schools to include media literacy lessons in their curricula. Peter Adams, senior vice president of education at the News Literacy Project, says such lessons should be integrated throughout the year, and suggests two programs to help students “call BS on misinformation.”


 Checkology, a free e-learning platform, is designed for students in grades 6-12 and provides interactive lessons from journalists and media experts on how to apply critical thinking skills and interpret and consume information. The NewsLitCamp, which is designed for educators, also relies on journalists. In this program, a school partners with a local newsroom to bring teachers, school librarians and media specialists together with journalists for one day to learn about issues such as journalism standards and practices, news judgment and bias and the role of social media. Perhaps a good program to suggest to your school?

TikTok Flagging Misinformation

TikTok is introducing a new feature to fight the spread of misinformation on its platform by flagging videos that contain unverified information. The update is meant to address a kind of gray area in the fact-checking process: claims that fact checkers are unable to verify. With the update, users who try to share a video that’s been flagged as unsubstantiated by the app’s fact checkers will see a pop-up saying “this video has been flagged for unverified content.” They’ll still be able to go ahead and share it if they wish, but the video won’t appear in other users’ For You page. TikTok will also notify the person who originally shared the video that their post has been flagged. 

How to Deal with a Crisis of Misinformation

How do we adapt to avoid being manipulated and spreading false information to the people we care about? Past methods of spotting untruthful news, like checking articles for typos and phony web addresses that resemble those of trusted publications, are now less relevant. We have to employ more sophisticated methods of consuming information, like doing our own fact-checking and choosing reliable news sources. It sounds simple enough, but it is hard to slow down and stay vigilant and skeptical at all times. Need a refresher on some ideas for staying optimistic but proactive? An article entitled How to Deal with a Crisis of Misinformation may just be what you are looking for.