Digital Smarts Blog

You are here


Google Earth Tools for Geography and History Projects

Does your child have a geography or history project involving maps? With Google Earth’s new tools, users can affix place markers, lines and shapes over a map template, and then attach custom text, images and videos to those locations. For school projects, the tools can also organize multiple maps or Google Earth camera shots into a narrative that can be shared and presented in class. Social studies teacher Josh Williams, who writes about using the tools with students on a migration project, says the tools help engage students in active learning rather than being passive in the classroom.


Twitter Offers More Ways to Get Control of Responses to Your Tweets

Annoyed by a response to one of your tweets? Twitter is rolling out a feature that enables users to hide replies. Twitter's Suzanne Xie says that during testing, users usually hid replies because they found them "irrelevant, off-topic or annoying" and also explained that the platform is exploring further ways to give users more control over conversations.


YouTube Trends

Trends on YouTube reflect shifting cultural outlooks and consumer behaviors, according to recent data analysis. Google's Gina Shalavi writes that the globalization of content continues with 60% of videos made by US creators now viewed by people in other countries. Entertainment and shopping have become increasingly linked with the popularity of videos showing virtual hauls or shopping sprees, and there has been a marked rise in the viewing of content focused on sustainability and environmental protection, such as videos featuring "clean beauty" in their title.


Study: Screen Time Jumps After First Birthday

Research indicates that once children celebrate their first birthday the time they spend in front of a digital screen increases exponentially. Average screen time increased from 52 minutes at age 12 months to over 150 minutes at age 3 years, with the greatest screen times at elementary-school age found among those in home-based child care and those born to first-time mothers, researchers reported in JAMA Pediatrics. Another study in the same journal showed that more than 79% and about 95% of Canadian youths ages 2 and 3, respectively, exceeded the one hour daily exposure to high-quality programming recommended by the World Health Organization.


Watch Out For “Juice Jacking”

Travelers who need to charge their smartphones while on the go might want to avoid public USB charging stations, due to the security risk known as "juice jacking." California law enforcement is warning that USB charging outlets in airports and coffee shops could be loaded with malware. The malware could lock your smartphone or forward personal information such as passwords to hackers.


Online Tools Used To Counter White Nationalism in Schools

Oregon high-school social studies teacher Patrick Griffin uses Western States Center's ‘Confronting White Nationalism in Schools’, an online tool kit to help counter white nationalism, offensive stereotypes and racist messages from hate groups. In an interview transcript from NPR, Lindsay Schubiner, one of the kit's co-authors, says the need for this type of material is growing, as neo-Nazi websites are targeting children as young as 11. The toolkit helps teachers discuss different scenarios and provide greater context, while helping students feel safe to engage in these conversations.


Parents: Don’t Count Out Snapchat

Social media apps come and go with teens, but it looks like Snapchat is making a comeback. Snapchat is projected to rebound in 2020 with a 14.2% increase in global consumer usage and is expected to generate $1.53 billion in net ad revenues, eMarketer predicts. The research firm also predicts users in the 12 to 17 and 35 to 64 age range will increase by double digits percentages, and attributes overall growth to a redesigned Android interface and filters and other new features.


Educational Technology Being Used in Physical Education

A middle-school physical education teacher in Illinois has adopted Otus, a data management and communication platform, to transform his physical education teaching and learning. Jon Szychlinski says students record their peers performing activities, just like professional athletes, and those recordings are uploaded to the platform. Students can then study their footage to improve their performance. The data tracking also has another practical side. It has eliminated dead time in Szychlinski’s small gym, where there’s not enough space for every student to participate at the same time. Now, even when kids are waiting to play, they can reflect on how to improve their form, their performance and ultimately, their overall health.


Fake Microsoft Update email Contains Ransomware

PC users who are updating to the Windows 10 operating system are being warned about fake update emails coming from an address that looks like it is Microsoft. The emails have an attachment that contains ransomware and will encrypt the user's files or lock up a computer, demanding $500 in bitcoin to unlock data. "Windows users should understand that Microsoft will never send patches via email, but rather use their internal update utility embedded in every current Windows operating system," writes Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave SpiderLabs.


Excess Screen Time May Adversely Affect Small Children’s Brain Development

New research has found that preschoolers who spend more time in front of a screen have lower structural integrity of white matter in areas of the brain that relates to language, literacy, imagination, and executive function such as self-regulation. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, also found a strong connection between higher screen time and poorer emerging literacy, expressive language and rapid object-naming skills.



A Teen’s Guide to Privacy

A recently published guide for teens is aimed at teaching “how to become a private public person”. Writers Lam Thuy Vo and Caroline Haskins consulted teens, schools administrators, security officers and other experts to write a guide to help teens safeguard their privacy online and stay safe on social media. The guide includes tips such as knowing your audience on social media and separating content accordingly, assuming your words will always be taken out of context, and knowing what to post and what to keep private.


The Pressure of “Likes” Lessened?

Instagram "likes" have become private for a portion of the platform's US users as part of a test it has been running in seven countries, according to Adam Mosseri, CEO. He notes, "It's about young people -- the idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition." While marketers will still have access to "like" metrics, a recent HypeAuditor study found a drop in like counts in those countries where the policy is in effect.


Toy Cars, Girls and STEM

Can a toy car teach girls about STEM? Maybe, and that’s the idea behind the “No Limits” program created by Mercedes-Benz, in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). The program’s goal is to teach girls that they can do anything and be anything, especially in fields that are predominately male-dominated. In a press release, the companies state “Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.” As a takeaway gift, 50,000 girls will receive a toy replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE that Ewy Rosqvist, a famous Swedish race car driver, used to win the Grand Prix. The toy itself was designed to remind girls of Rosqvist’s feat, and to encourage the girls that they can also forge new paths for women.


App Tackles Smartphone Distractions in the Classroom

A new app called Goya-Move can dramatically reduce the amount of smartphone distractions in the classroom, but parents have to play an active role, its founders say. Goya, an acronym that stands for "Get Off Your Apps," lets parents disable apps on their child's device during specific hours of the day. Most parents support tucking phones away in class, but the vast majority want to keep an open line of communication in case of emergencies, making them somewhat resistant to an outright smartphone ban at school. Goya-Move may be a good compromise as it helps parents sync their devices with their child’s and set the hours of the day that kids are at school. A VPN, or virtual private network, then blocks the apps during that time, locking out chief distractors like Snapchat, Instagram and even web browsers. Kids can resume using apps as they wish after the set hour has passed.


Digital Natives May Not Be Digitally Literate After All

On a scale from 100 to 700, the average score on a computer and information literacy exam given to students in 12 countries was 496, according to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. US students' average score was 519, but data shows that although students grow up as digital natives they may lack sophisticated digital literacy. U.S. 8th graders can use computers to gather basic information and make simple edits. They also have some awareness of security risks in the digital world, but they are less likely to understand the purpose of sponsored content on a website, use generic mapping software or know how to control color and text when creating a presentation. 


Twitter Releases a Handbook for Parents and Teachers on Media Literacy

Twitter recently released a handbook to help educators and parents teach media literacy, help adults and teens analyze information they see online, deal with cyberbullying, control one’s digital footprint, and more. The Teaching and Learning With Twitter handbook also includes tips to help teachers use the social media platform in lessons and assignments.


New Study Says Angst Over Teen Social Media Overblown

Anxiety about the effects of social media on young people has risen to such an extreme that giving children smartphones is sometimes equated to handing them hard drugs. The reality is much less alarming, according to research discussed in Scientific American, showing that moderate use is fine. Some recent analyses are even showing that these early studies full of dire warnings were flawed, and researchers are finding new methods for leading research into social media and its effect on teens.


Young People Now Spend Twice as Much Time Watching Videos

According to an article in USA Today, young people in the US between ages 8 and 18 spend about one hour a day watching online videos, about twice as long as four years ago, according to a new survey by Common Sense Media. The average amount of screen time consumed each day -- for activities not related to schoolwork -- is about five hours for children ages 8 to 12 and about seven hours for teenagers.


Twitter to Ban Political Ads Worldwide

Twitter will stop accepting political advertising globally, a policy that applies to messages related to a specific campaign and those that address a political issue, CEO Jack Dorsey says. The company will unveil details Nov. 15, and the ban will take effect Nov. 22. This is in contrast to Facebook’s decision to not fact-check claims made by politicians in ads placed on the platform.

Twitter has had some policies in place to keep politicians from making false statements on its platform, but has yet to use them. Earlier this summer, Twitter said that it would gray out tweets from public figures, including Trump, that violated its rules and even restrict users’ abilities to share them, but hasn’t implemented it on any tweets so far.


Facebook Says It is Not Fact Checking Political Ads: Some Ideas For What to Do

It has recently come out that Facebook is exempting political ads from its fact checking processes and rules, with a statement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg noting, "We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."

His stance on stepping away from holding that power overlooks the fact that Facebook already has that kind of power for other ads, raising the question of why in regular ads, Facebook can be okay with using outside fact-checkers, and banning false claims outright, yet in political ads it can't do the same. It is an interesting topic to discuss with your children relating to misinformation online. Also keep in mind you can edit your Facebook Ad Preferences, and remove anything that you don't agree with or doesn't look right. You can also check out Facebook’s Ad Library, which now includes a new tracker of Facebook ad spending by major political candidates. It is a bit of an eye opener. Interesting enough, on the flip side, Twitter has banned all political ads.