Tag Archives: Digital Citizenship

Tweens & The Cell Phone Conversation

Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?

So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.

Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?

I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.

Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?

Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone

I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” 13893168079_a584a41d83_bonline, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:

  • What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
  • What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
  • How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
  • What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
  • What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?

This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:

“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”

Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself

Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:

  • Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time?  Family events? Bedtime?
  • Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
  • When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
  • What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
  • Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.

Keep Yourself Informed

Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:

If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!

 

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Lesson Plan for Teaching Kids to Spot Fake News

Fake News is the phrase du jour. The reality is that misinformation propagates social media (especially Facebook). With the proliferation of Social Media and the use of Social Media (by main stream news organizations, political pundits, and our sitting President), it will remain a platform for sharing information (including the news) for the foreseeable future. Both Facebook and Google have made attempts to tackle fake news. In addition to their own filtering methods, Facebook allows users to flag and report fake news stories. Google has also expanded its fact-check tools to spot and flag fake news.

The reality is, however, that we cannot expect our online platforms to keep up with the deluge of fake media. Media literacy is a necessary skill for our students to learn in order for them to wade through the glut of information available to them online. However, a recent study from Stanford found that most students cannot tell real news from fake.

There is an exercise that I like to do with my students. We talk about the realities of fake news, perhaps ask them to share stories that they thought were real, but later learned were fake. I share with them resources for spotting fake news:

How_to_Spot_Fake_News

Next, I ask them to create a Fake News Story for me. Something that they are likely to see online via Facebook. For this exercise, students often create the obvious: “You Won’t Believe what the Democrats did this Time!” or “Donald Trump is Getting Impeached!” examples. These stories are the most obvious to spot.

The best exercise, however, comes when I ask them to team up and we make a game out of each. Each team presents five news stories. Three of those news articles are fake, two are real. If they are able to “trick” the opposing teams, they receive 1 point for each news article they fool the opposition into believing. They receive 1 point for each article they correctly identify as fake. Students then work really hard to “trick” their classmates – they play off of one another’s known biases, create convincing “news networks,” and spell check like no one’s business! They learn the ins-and-outs of posting and sharing news, viral marketing, and deceptive practices. This makes them better discerners of published media and more able-minded digital citizens.

3 Ways Schools can Help Users to Protect their Accounts from Malware, Phishing, & Cyber-scams.

Recently, G-Suite users were hit by a large phishing scam. Users were sent an email that appeared to be from Google and asked to click on a document for collaboration. The

nefarious document then gave the sender access to your whole account, including your directory, enabling it to spread. While phishing is nothing new, it has become more problematic and sophisticated. As such, it’s especially important to include some cyber-security basics as soon as students start to have access to digital tools.

Identify Scams

Most scams are pretty easy to identify. You are sent a typo laden email from someone you don’t know asking you to “check this out.” However, as email spoofing becomes more prominent, it’s important to not just open an attachment even if you know the user. There are a few red flags: the email is full of typos and errors, it doesn’t fit the tone of the sender (e.g. would your teacher be sending an email that says “check this out!”), or it just doesn’t feel right.

Keep your Operating System & Security Software Up to Date

Yes, updates can be annoying – they take a long time and may require a hardware restart in the middle of the day. However, keep your operating system and security software up to date is essential to cyber-security. While you may not want to update to the latest Windows or iOS software on day 1 (a brand new OS may have a bug or two, as early iOS 10 adopters learned when it bricked several phones), you should do so shortly after the release. Critical security updates should be installed regularly as they plug security holes and fix exploitable bugs.

Enable Two Factor Authentication

Two factor authentication is a security measure that grants you access to your account or device only after you have presented two methods of authentication (e.g. your account password and a code texted to your phone or sent to an email). It has been around for a while, but many users never enable it. Two Factor Authentication may feel like a pain, but it is the best possible defense against potential hackers or nefarious users. If you have ever been locked out of your account because another user has gained access, you know how difficult it can be to regain access and the damage that can be done to your reputation or your pocket book. Enable two factor authentication on all of your sensitive accounts (bank accounts, email, social media, etc). The extra 30 seconds it takes to log in will be worth it!

These are just a few ways that students can protect their devices and accounts from malware, phishing, and cyber-scams. However, as cyber attacks become more sophisticated, network administrators and users must become more savvy. It’s important to keep up your skills and consistently train your community. I encourage administrators to attend cyber-security webinars and workshops, such as ATLIS’s Cyber-Security Workshop in Chicago this summer.

The Kids are Alright: The Internet is NOT Destroying a Generation

When I tell people what I do for a living, I get a mix of responses. Some people think that it’s great others share their thoughts or concerns. After all, everyone seems to have an opinion on education: how it runs (or they think it runs) and how they believe it should run. Also, everyone seems to have an opinion on “kids these days.” The opinions on both (education & kids) tend to lean heavily negative… or at least concerned. So much so that my friend Carl Hooker published an article “When did Millennial-Bashing Become a Sport?” Like Carl, as an educator, I find it necessary to defend this generation of young people. The reality is, these kids are alright. While new technologies and connectivity may be changing the way the world engages, it is not destroying this generation.

Kids These Days…

Whenever I hear this phrase come out of someone’s mouth, I have the same reaction that I did when I was 15 and Gen X was the whipping boy du jour. I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes and groan… All generations lament the one that comes next. As an ancient historian by training, I can tell you of the Egyptian Papyri from 1500 BCE that complained that “kids these days” don’t respect their elders or worship the gods. Let’s not forget that Sokrates was condemned and put to death for “corrupting the youth of Athens.” Even the Roman poet Horace wrote:

“Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt.” Odes III

There are numerous examples of writers, authors, politicians, and scholars complaining that the youth of the day are self-involved, narcissistic, lazy, and corrupt. When I hear my friends or peers begin a complaint with “kids these days” I want to kindly suggest that they are now officially old and there is nothing left to do but get a rocking chair, sit on their porch, and yell at kids to get off their lawn! Of course, I jest. The reality is that as we age, we become nostalgic of our own youth and critique those coming up. Perhaps a realistic look back on our own follies, challenges, and quirks can give us a boost of humility.

But Technology is Different…

While engaging in one of these conversations, a friend of mine commented “Kids these days… they don’t even watch tv anymore!” I was a little taken aback. After all, we were the generation raised by the “idiot box.” Television was supposed to be dumbing down our generation at an alarming rate. Yet, we still produced functioning adults that today complaint about teenagers. Adults often argue (without any type of evidence other than perceived anecdotal experiences) that teenagers are eschewing social interaction for life behind a screen where they are engaging in harmful and morally defunct activities.

rebel

Rebel Without a Cause, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

However, new devices are not really any different than technologies of past when it came to fears of corrupting youth. For example, the introduction of “car culture” in the 1950’s and 1960’s spurred fears of juvenile delinquency, extra-marital sex, and other forms of laziness and depravity. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists, politicians, and others were concerned that too much exposure to books might physically harm women and hinder their abilities to be effective wives and mothers. New technologies have often spurred fears of their negative impact on adults and (especially) adolescents.

But Technology is DANGEROUS (especially for girls), due to Predators & Crime!

Picture1As a woman in technology, I hear and see this a lot. Whenever I watch an “educational video” meant to warn students and parents about the dangers of the internet, the victim is often a young girl. Is it a wonder that young women steer away from technology fields in the middle school years? Stranger Danger is a fear often perpetuated when it comes to teens (especially girls) online. However, we live in a time that it has never been safer to be a child… especially in America. The reality is, crime has never been lower. However, our perception of crime has never been higher. Am I saying that children in this country or around the world are never abused? Of course not. Unfortunately, children are still the victims of crime, most often by a relative of a friend. However, our fear of the internet predator is so skewed from reality that it impacts what we think children do, or should do, online. Nothing contradicts this reality more than our relationship with ride sharing services.

Due to tools (remember that idiot box Gen Xers?) such as the 24 hour news cycle, we are inundated with stories of crime. The more horrific and random, the more common it will show up in our news feed. The mundane doesn’t sell ad space.

To-catch-A-Preditor

But the Internet is Different – Teens are Addicted to Social Media!

This is another refrain that I hear from adults. Teenagers are addicted to their devices. Addiction is a loaded term. If you have an addict in your life, then you know the power of this disease. Also, adults commonly put their own relationships and experiences onto
their children. In my experience as an educator, I have found that teenagers often have a healthier relationship with their devices than their parents. Be honest, how many of you have criticized your children/nieces/nephews or other adolescents for behavior you engage in? Do you check your phone at the dinner table or respond to texts while out with friends? What about while driving (which you should never… ever do!)?

teens on screens

Courtesy of at the Speed of Creativity in? 

I would argue that adolescents are not addicted to their devices so much as adolescents are driven to be social! When I was an adolescent, I literally spent hours on the phone… when it was connected to a cord to the wall. I would extend it to the pantry on the other side of the room so that I could close the door and talk in relative privacy. It drove my parents so nuts they got me and my brother our own lines! That led to some robust fights over phone squatters rights… We also spent hours and hours walking around the mall (without adults and well before cell phones) talking to one another or other teens that we met while out. Were we expounding on detente or our latest interpretation of Tolstoy? Perhaps going over our homework? Of course not! We were teenagers. We talked about boys we liked, the latest episode of 90210, or gossiped about other kids in school. That is what adolescents do. This is how adolescents learn valuable social skills that they build on as adults.

What is different in this technological age is that, because of our perceived concept of crime and dangerous for adolescents, they have little to no unstructured and unsupervised social time. One of my favorite books in the last few years has been danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIf you have not read danah’s work, you definitely should. She delves into the relationship that teenagers have with their devices and one another, arguing that because we as a society have removed their physical social spaces (when was the last time you saw children biking or playing at the park unsupervised), they have delved into Social Media and technology to extend their social circles and engage with friends in an unstructured way, outside of adult’s prying eyes. In fact, this level of helicopter parenting has led to a movement: free-range parenting. If you read their website, you will find that it advocates what many of us viewed simply as “being a kid.”

But I’ve Seen Stories of Kids Being Hurt or Engaging is Online Bullying!

Of course you have. As I’ve said, while we have made great strides in protecting children in this country and the world as a whole, children still get hurt by adults and by other children. While our conversation on Bullying could likely use a re-examination (check out the book Bully Nation by Susan Evaporter), we certainly do need to help children engage online safely and more effectively. The answer to helping children that are acting out online is not to condemn the tool or ban its access (prohibition never works to begin with), but engage children and adolescents with empathy. Technology is not the cause of adolescent misbehavior, but rather an amplifier. The adolescent that is arranging to meet strangers online for trysts is clearly troubled and in need of adult intervention and help. A student discussing their depression or contemplating self-harm needs medical and social support. In fact, there are numerous examples of peers intervening to help one another when they see something online.

Benefits of Teens Engaging Online

Rather than lamenting the fact that teenagers are being corrupted by devices, I think it’s important to highlight what they can do more effectively because they are engaged. For one, children and adolescents are writing now more than ever. And no, they are not handing in essays in emoji and textese, they know the difference of context. Just as none of us were Shakespeare at 15 (not even Shakespeare), their writing still needs to grow. However, between social media, online forums, and other digital spaces, they write more than the average adolescent of our generation.

They are also creating meaningful connections online. For example, students in a Chinese class can engage another class in China. Learning to text in another language is a great form of cultural immersion as well as a means to grow language skills in context! Students are building (and even selling) apps, creating online YouTube sensations, and are even more up to date on current events than their parents (they’re also less likely to fall for Fake News than their more mature counterparts, aka US).

The reality is, technology and the internet is not ruining this generation. The kids… the kids are alright.

How to be Digitally Literate in an Era of Fake News

Courtesy of PEW Research

Courtesy of PEW Research

America just completed an especially volatile and polarizing Presidential election. This was the first major election where both sides waged war not simply using traditional means (pounding the pavement, call centers, and mailers), but using online digital tools. On Facebook and Twitter, stories were shared, hashtags were created, and mud-slinging took on new levels. New research from PEW suggests that most American adults now consume news via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit being the most popular). Television news (both local and national) is still the most prominent source of news, but it is quickly giving way to the internet of things.

This in and of itself is not inherently bad. I have given up my print subscription to various news and magazines sites in favor of their digital platforms. This fits with my desire to have the most up to date news, travel-friendly options, and to keep a lower eco footprint. However, what has sprung up and been the topic of much debate is the prevalence of fake news, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook.

The Guardian and Buzzfeed News have both posted investigative articles highlighting the proliferation of fake news websites and stories targeting America’s vitriolic Presidential election. The motives are less about changing political minds and more about cashing in on the election’s most passionate members. Clickbait headlines titled: “Hilary in 2013: I would like to see people like Donald Trump run for office; They’re honest and can’t be bought!” or “Mike Pence says Michelle Obama is the most vulgar first lady we’ve ever had!” These are fairly mild titles, others claim to reveal sex tapes of candidates (or their spouses), calls for a race war, or endorsements from the Pope.

These news sites set up pages on Facebook and encourage their users to share, share, share! The more shares and clicks, the more revenue these sites see from tools such as Google’s adsense. While Facebook, Google, and other organizations are working on ways to combat fake news, the process will be slow and users should not rely on these media to serve as filters for them. Instead, educators should focus even more on teaching themselves and their students to be more digitally literate and savvy. There are a few tools that are in your arsenal to use right away.

Is the Story & Headline Over the Top?

No matter how much you dislike (or even despise) your political opponent, you should immediately be suspicious of a headline that reeks of sensationalism. Claims that an arrest is pending, signs of devil worship, calls for genocide, or other topics that just sound outrageous, go into the story with a cautious attitude.

Is the Story from a Legitimate News Source?

If you are reading a shared story, be sure to check the source. In this day of news clamoring for clicks and ratings, it’s not unusual for them to use sensational headlines to get readers. However, check for the author and publisher. Established news sources (The New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, your local paper, etc) have systems in place to confirm sources and vet information. If you have never heard of the news organization publishing the article or they do not have an author listed, be suspicious.

Read the Article

This may seem a little obvious, but a lot of people share headlines rather than stories. Read the story yourself and see if it matches the headline. I recently read a story

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

entitled “President of Mexico contacts President-Elect Trump to Discuss Details of the Wall.” However, when you read the story, it simply said that the President of Mexico had contacted President-elect Trump to congratulate him on his win (a common practice by all foreign governments). Reading an article may also make it clear that the news information is suspect. If it contains a lot of typos and grammatical errors, that is a red flag. Legitimate news sources proofread and edit all articles prior to publication. While a typo or two make sneak through, it’s a rarity.

Check the Source Information

If the article claims that Wikileaks, public statements, tax documents, or other information “reveals” information, they should be linking or providing copies of that information. I have seen New York Times articles on the Clinton email scandal directly link back to the Wikileaks information dump. If the article contains no evidence or sources to back it up, assume the information is false.

Look for other Verifying Sources

While one news source may trump another on a story, they all will get to it eventually. If you read a story, confirm it with another source. If you see a sensational topic being covered by one outlet only, the information is suspect. The issue of media-bias is often cited as the reason one news outlet covers a story. However, there are numerous left and right leaning legitimate news organizations. No single outlet is the purveyor of the truth. Follow the journalistic mandate of “at least two independent, reliable sources.”

Perhaps the best way to avoid getting tricked by false news stories on social media is to keep yourself well informed by reading, watching, and listening to a variety of news outlets. The more informed you are of the current trends and cycles in the news, the more likely you are to immediately smell out a false story.

 

 

Common Sense Media – Free Digital Citizenship Curriculum (Limited Time)

Common Sense Media has just announced that it’s Digital Citizenship textbooks are currently free via iBooks until September 30, 2016. After September 30th, the iBooks will go to $8.99 per device for the teacher edition and $1.99 per device for the student workbooks.

You can download the books via the iTunes store here.

Talking about Privacy & Digital Footprints In Grades 7-12

An incredibly thoughtful post from Marti Weston.

Source: Talking about Privacy & Digital Footprints In Grades 7-12