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Apple’s New Emphasis on Privacy

You may have seen a new Apple ad touting their emphasis on privacy. Skeptics warn not to be lulled into a false sense of security, and say this is just part of Apple’s advertising plan. The company understands that, right now, people desperately want more control over their personal information. And so they are using privacy — this time, the idea of it, not the lack of it — to sell you more devices and streaming services. However, while Apple may collect less about you than some of the other tech giants, they still collect plenty of info, so be sure you understand the privacy settings on your Apple (and other brand) devices. You are the last line of defense on your privacy and that of your children.


Speaker Culture

Voice activated technologies are rapidly emerging and young consumers are increasingly speaking to their devices. The smart speaker is gaining the most traction as a voice-activated device and platform. Already, almost two in five 13-36-year-olds report owning a smart speaker. Voice activated technologies are becoming more mainstream with Gen Z and Millennials—and Millennial parents, the earliest adopters of the tech. Of course there are many privacy concerns that go along with this trend so be sure you are aware of the privacy controls on these devices.


Netflix Has Plans to Monopolize Your Kids’ Screen Time

A recent article in Fast Company states that sixty percent of Netflix’s members are watching kids’ programming, a clear reason why Netflix is investing so heavily in the animation space by developing their own animation studio. The company has also recently developed enhancements for children to learn more about characters and content on the platform. For example, kids can scroll through character images of Curious George, Phineas and Ferb, or Spider-Man and use those visuals to click into a series or movie. The company is also experimenting with a concept that would allow users to explore not just shows but characters through a trailer-like video about the character. All of these features and enhancements prove that Netflix is striving to be a top player in the children’s entertainment market.


Your iPhone Keeps a List of Your Every Location

There is a feature on your iPhone that keeps track of not only everywhere you have traveled and how you got there, but how many times you have been there. The phone even interprets that data to know, for example, that your dog goes to doggy day care every Wednesday morning.  If you no longer want this feature (although you may want to keep on your kid’s phones for other reasons), you can read the full story on how to get rid of it – with step-by-step instructions - on the Business Insider site.


LEGO Continues to Make it Easier for Kids to Learn Engineering

LEGO steering kids toward STEM learning is nothing new, a recent article in Wired reminds us. But now the company is offering Spike Prime, a new set of tools and bricks, which caters specifically to middle-schoolers, and aims to teach the basics of coding and robotics. The Spike Prime set aims for accessibility, opting for bright colors, friendly shapes, and drag-and-drop coding tools that gently nudge students towards coding. Spike Prime will, at least at first, be available only to schools so it may be something you want to bring up at your next parent teacher conference.


The Enemy From Within

Careless employees are a bigger risk to a company's data security than hackers, states the 2019 Global Encryption Trends Study, which was released recently by nCipher Security and the Ponemon Institute and reviewed by TechRepublic. More than half of respondents said that employee mistakes are more of a risk factor than malicious attacks.


Six Steps to Promote Digital Citizenship

Strategies to help students be better digital citizens offered by Chief Technology Officer Dr. Audrey Hovannesian of the Victor Valley Union High School District in California include focusing on digital etiquette, respect and safety, and preparing students to leave digital footprints they can be proud of. She also reminds districts that you can’t put a price on the value of educating a student to be a good digital citizen. Safety needs to be the number one priority for all stakeholders – from parents and kids to teachers and administrators - in every district.


Facebook Adds New "Why am I seeing this post?" Feature

Facebook recently unveiled a "Why am I seeing this post?" feature that will help customers better understand the content that appears on their news feed. The feature is an attempt by Facebook to be more transparent concerning algorithms that target users. To use the new tool, all you have to do is click or tap the drop-down menu on the right hand corner of a post. From there, you'll be able to view info at a glance on why you're seeing certain posts on your News Feed -- e.g. because you're a member of X Group or like X Page on Facebook -- as well as manage the content you'd like to see more or less of. You'll get shortcuts to controls to help you further personalize your News Feed too, including See First, Unfollow, News Feed Preferences and Privacy Shortcuts.


Facebook CEO Calls for More Internet Regulation

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls for more Internet content regulation in a recently published op-ed in The Washington Post. He urges new governance pertaining to "harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability." He also says that “By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what's best about it -- the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things -- while also protecting society from broader harms." Check out these rules for keeping safe on Facebook on the WikiHow site.


Digital Devices Grow in Popularity For Broadcast and Cable Content

According to an article in MediaPost Communications referencing a new Nielsen report, smartphones and tablets are the choice of 18- to 34-year-old viewers when consuming broadcast and cable content. In a deeper look, 55% of them watch cable content on mobile devices, with the four top broadcast networks still getting the attention of 66% of them during live TV viewing.


Are Biometrics a Solution for School Safety?

Some schools are adopting biometric technology, including facial and fingerprint scans, to improve safety and boost efficiency. Biometrics are said to be more secure than passwords and other traditional identifiers, but concerns about the safety of students' personal information has caused some districts to proceed with caution.


Watch Out for Wearable Devices

According to a new report released by IDC, wearable devices will increase 15.3 percent worldwide in the next year. Watches made up 44.2 percent of shipments in 2018 and are expected to account for an even larger percentage of the market by 2023, at an expected 47.1 percent. But headsets/ear-worn devices will have a major impact on that growth as well with the rise of smart assistants, reaching 31 percent of the market by 2023. One of the major drivers is healthcare, with wearables playing an important role in digital health, constantly collecting important patient data while also giving patients the ability to self-monitor.


District Uses Scanners to Track Students on Buses

WBAY-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin  reports that one Wisconsin school district is installing scanners on school buses to track students as they ride to and from school. The technology will use identification cards to track students and allow parents to use an app to see where their buses are, and even receive notifications about when their children enter or leave the bus, district officials say.


What Schools are Doing About Protecting Student Data and Privacy

Curious about what schools are doing to protect student data and maintain student privacy? Check out this article in Education Week about a survey that was conducted for the Consortium for School Networking of school district tech leaders who, overall, say that student-data privacy and security is a somewhat or much more of an important priority this year compared with last year. One interesting fact that emerged is that schools in urban areas are more concerned about cybersecurity and privacy than their rural peers, but that may be that because rural schools are simply just more concerned about getting access to broadband service.


US Schools Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Says Homeland Security

According to an article in The Hill, despite investing billions of dollars in cybersecurity, the US is woefully unprepared for attacks from foreign adversaries, especially in the private sector. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen states that companies, schools and other public entities are at a growing risk, "and until now our government has done far too little to back them up."


Dyslexia and Technology – Some Resources for Middle and High School

Middle and high school students with dyslexia who crave independence in their learning, especially reading, can find support with new tech tools. A list of resources in the recent article “How to support middle, high-school students with dyslexia “ includes tools to help kids with dyslexia and other struggling readers, including text to speech support and an app that allows users to take a picture of text to have it read back to them.


Google Docs Being Used to Skirt Social Media Bans and Cyberbully

Lifehacker reports that some students are using Google Docs to bypass social media bans at school and, increasingly, to engage in bullying. Google Docs, a seemingly innocuous (and approved by most schools) tool for writing and sharing work and photos is being hijacked for popularity polls, memes and much worse, and most parents have no idea that this school approved app could be used this way.  The parental-control mobile app, Bark, reports more than 60,000 cases of bullying via Google Docs.


Colleges Unite for Technology in the Public Interest

From the The New York Times , twenty-one universities have formed the Public Interest Technology University Network to better teach students to develop, manage and utilize technology for the public good. Public interest technology meshes the academic fields of computer science, sociology and law. As technology becomes increasingly pervasive and intrusive in American life, this network seeks to devise ways to teach students how to grapple with the consequences on society.


A Free Speech Library for Social Media Troubles

According to National Public Radio/Michigan, Michigan State University has launched the McLellan Online Free Speech Library at to help support students who may be facing disciplinary action from schools for their online speech, including in social media posts and videos. Among other things, the online library will offer students resources, case studies and other documents that may help them better understand their rights. This is a good resource to know about if you find yourself in a situation, whether your child is the one accused or a victim of online abuse.


Bullying Prevention at School – Six Rules

Is your children’s school struggling with what to about bullying and cyberbullying? No single practice stops cruelty, but a combination of proven strategies used by committed staff trained in anti-bullying can help. Read Dr. Michele Borba’s six rules that can help defeat the culture of bullying and replace it with the power of character and then pass it along to your school.