“Has the internet made us less compassionate and empathetic?” - a common doubt raised by rampant Internet use around the world. There are frequent reports of negative consequences of the Internet – loss of peace of mind, self esteem, and even life. With “like” buttons and opportunities for constructive comments in the interactive world of the web, it seems that people could potentially be more empathic to others online, but the general feeling is that the rise of technology-based communication has caused a deterioration in face-to-face empathy. Is this true?
88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people being cruel on social network sites, according to a Pew Research Report in 2011. Four years since, it is logical to expect that the numbers would not have changed much, given the greater proliferation of Internet over the years and the addition of more digital natives to the mix. The Internet has indeed proven to be a fertile ground for cruelty, trolling and bullying. The anonymity offered by the Internet allows people to exhibit personality traits that cannot be exhibited in real life. The emotional detachment of the screen makes interactions less real, allowing less censorship. But is there a direct connection between the loss of empathy and Internet use, or is it merely mass hysteria?
One study showed that online activities do not significantly deteriorate cognitive and affective real-world empathy but actually improve time spent in face-to-face communication. This could be potentially construed as true if video chatting could be called face-to-face communication. The same study however showed that video gaming reduced real-world empathy in both men and women. The negative effect of video gaming on empathy has also been scientifically proven; Dr. Gary Small at UCLA has shown using MRI brain scans that young adults were able to identify happy faces faster than angry faces, but playing a violent video game before the facial recognition experiments made them much slower in recognizing happy facial expression.
There are other studies, however, that show that online presence does adversely affect both virtual and real-world empathy. British psychologists, led by Paul Goddard, at the University of Lincoln, argue that people may actually be hard-wired to feel a closeness to people physically close to them, that they can see, rather than a virtual presence. The lack of nonverbal cues in the online world significantly contributes to lower levels of empathy in the virtual world. The ambiguity of context in Internet communication can often be perceived as a threatening situation, and the flight-or-fight attitude is triggered, resulting in an escalating sense of offense as a form of defense.
Sara H. Konrath of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor found that the self-reported empathy of college students has declined since 1980, with a steep drop in the past decade. This, understandably, coincided with the rise of students’ self-reported narcissism reported by Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University. Konrath believes that the increase in social isolation, has led to the drop in empathy. An experiment involving pre-teens in a “tech-free” five day camp examined the effect of face-to-face interaction on nonverbal emotion–cue recognition. As expected, the imposed tech break significantly improved recognition of nonverbal emotion cues for both facial expressions and videotaped scenes, indicating that damage to social interaction caused by too much tech-indulgence.
Another serious Internet-based, or indeed any form of media-based deterrent to empathy is desensitization to shocking images and events. The “going-viral” of gruesome videos online, not only feeds grim curiosity but also removes the element of horror or even honor. In Monika Lewinsky’s words, ”a rush to judgment, enabled by technology, [leads] to mobs of virtual stone-throwers”.
There are benefits of staying connected on the Internet as well. Pew Research found that social media users have more close friends, more trust in people and are more politically involved than non social media users. TrendWatching.com goes as far as calling the digital natives generation as Generation G, “G” standing for "generous", because they are catalyzing a cultural shift where “giving is the new taking” – the millennial generation (13-25 year olds), contrary to popular belief of being non-empathetic due to technology overload, are already making a difference - 61% percent of the Gen G in America feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. Considering that this generation outnumbers baby boomers, there is promise for a generous world where sharing and contributing to the common good are instinctive and such an attitude will find global reach because of the worldwide penetration of this medium. William Strauss and Neil Howe believe that the millenials are a “hero generation” who will resolve problems by applying the tools and mindset of sharing, adopted from the virtual world.
The ubiquitous Internet has the potential to enhance the well-being of individuals, society, and the planet itself through development of empathy and compassion. There have been attempts already to make technology serve a higher purpose. There are , for example, many apps and related experiences (such as Mood Gym or Smiling Mind) that help us become more compassionate, more empathetic, and perhaps more peaceful. But beyond apps and techno-philanthropy, it is essential for every user of the Internet to understand that she is a owner of this pervasive new world, and it is up to her to keep it civil and clean, and make it a mirror of a compassionate real world in which she hopes to live.
The U.S. Congress, supported by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), has designated June as National Internet Safety Month. As we near the end of the month, what are the lessons we have learned about cyber safety so far?
In 2010, Heart + Mind strategies conducted an online national survey about Internet safety and some of the statistics they found are disturbing. A salient finding of the survey was that while most Americans are aware of the fact that they had to keep themselves safe online, a majority did not actively engage in protecting themselves online largely due to a lack of knowledge and information or a belief that they are doing enough already.
Are we doing enough to protect ourselves and more importantly, our children from online dangers? Statistics are not comforting. 9% to 35% of young people are victims of some form of electronic violence. Cyberbullying is rampant in the American high school and is related to low self-esteem, anger, frustration, and a variety of serious psychological problems. What is more disturbing is that only 7% of U.S. parents are concerned about it. While cyber bullying, cyber stalking, sexting, exposure to inappropriate material and identity theft are the most common pitfalls of unsafe Internet use, there are many more dangers that are more subtle, but just as damaging. Email spams and phishing – the act of stealing passwords and credit card details, and computer virus and worms are invisible dangers that can have serious outcomes if the user is unaware or nonchalant about protecting herself or her device.
How does a youngster (or indeed any digital citizen) expose herself to online dangers? Family Online Safety Institute and Hart Research Associates found that more than half of teenagers using the internet have mentioned the city of town where they live, shared their first and last names, mentioned the school they go to, or shared their phone number with people they did not know personally. “Don’t talk to strangers” seems to be not as easily followed in the cyber world as it is in the real world.
It is important to remember that there is operative legal machinery that attends to online safety in society, especially of children and youngsters. The US FBI for example, has a department to investigate high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism, espionage, computer intrusions, and major cyber fraud. CyberTipline, a partnership between the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a range of Federal departments including the Department of Justice and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, offers a convenient and safe place to report cyber crimes, especially against children. i-SAFE, a non-profit foundation aimed at educating youth to make their Internet experience safe and responsible, works with law enforcement agencies to foster cyber-safe communities. Help is available from child safety organizations, the Attorney General’s office and other organizations to become educated on Internet safety issues.
Safety, like charity, begins at home. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), backed by the US Department of Homeland Security launched the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign to help individuals stay safer and more secure online. The campaign assists the digital citizen to stop and take time to understand the risks, think about how their actions online could impact their own or other people’s safety and connect on the net safely.
Awareness is the first step towards safety. There are some simple steps that every adult must take in order to safeguard herself and her kids from online dangers:
Communication: An open and honest communication between parent and child is the first step towards fostering trust and thus Internet safety. It is important for every adult to remember that when a child takes a risk on the Internet, she may jeopardize the safety not only of herself, but also of her family.
Education: It is the responsibility of the adult to not only be educated about net safety herself but also to teach her children the basics of staying safe online. Fortunately, help is available aplenty. For example, Netsmartz workshops conducted by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, teach children about responsible digital citizenship and offer free, age-appropriate resources including videos, games, presentations, and classroom lessons that help children learn how to protect themselves and their friends online. There are also numerous resources available online to raise responsible digital citizens.
Gameplan: It is beneficial for families to sit together and device ground rules about using the Internet. A gameplan may be drawn out so that all members of the family use the Internet safely and efficiently.
Use of Technology: There are various protection tools available, starting from simple virus scans to child-protection software that a parent may adopt to protect her family against some more common internet dangers. Age appropriate search engines such as kidsclick and askkids can help a child navigate the Internet without risk of exposure to objectionable material
Keeping it clean: All Internet connected devices must be free of infection and malware by keeping all critical software—security software, Web browsers, Apps and operating systems—up to date.
Keeping it personal: The importance of keeping accounts safe by updating (and not sharing) passwords and not sharing personal information online cannot be overstated. It is essential to know how to set security and privacy settings to meet one’s requirement and use.
Web Wisdom: It seems logical in real life to be wary of spurious advances by people. It is more difficult in the faceless world of the Internet. It is imperative to recognize and avoid communications that ask for personal information, offers something that sounds too good to be true (it most likely is), or emotionally blackmails you (“if you don’t send this to a dozen people, bad things will happen to you”).
Responsibility: Every Internet user is an owner of the Internet and its safety is each owner’s responsibility. The problem with digital technologies is that there are few established rules to legislate use of devices. The anonymity possible in Internet is an attraction to abuse it in ways not possible in real life. Good digital citizenry involves respecting others and learning to use technology courteously and effectively.
Internet Safety cannot be confined to a month. It must be on the forefront of cyber consciousness, every single moment of a lifetime. But it is good to reiterate the importance and update oneself at least a month every year.
This June, what have you done to enhance your safety online?
Kids today effectively don’t experience days and nights. Instead, it’s time spent on the Internet and time spent on screens; that’s the new age anti-meridiem and post-meridiem for you! Summer time just opens the floodgates to babysitting by gadgets. Kids have more idle time and parents get lenient - its summer after all and let the kids enjoy! That is all fine and parents can lower their guards, but cyber threats never announce their arrivals nor do they take vacations. The ubiquity and multi-device access to internet just opens up a plethora of avenues for cyber security issues.
Here’s a to-do-list of best practices for parents and caretakers to ensure that their children are safe online:
- Spell out expectations. Talk to the kids and treat them like adults. Share your expectations on the use of internet and provide an environment of trust. The children must be aware of the dangers online; and must also realise the faith that you place on them. Children are less likely to stray online when parents have an open dialogue regarding internet use. Parents and kids can check out this youth pledge to understand mutual expectations on internet usage.
- Be conscious of cyber-safety. Cyber-safety is a raging topic today, and everyone must open their eyes to it. Understand the need for cyber-safety practices on all the internet-enabled devices at home. Here are some resources on cyber-safety for mobile phones and parental control tools. Educate yourself on parental control software that will help you stay on top of potential cyber threats.
- Be friends with your children online. The best way to be in touch with your children's online world is to follow them on social media. Children usually keep parents out of online social cicles because it makes them uncomfortable. Parental trust and confidence will help shed this barrier; and once "friends" online caretakers will be in the know about all activities. Parents need to know what their children post online and what others (including adults) expose their children to.
- Live life offline too. Parents must provide a space that engourages quality time spent with the family. Life online is slowly taking over life offline, but human-to-human relationships will never be out of vogue. And underneath all that reticence, children yearn for parental love and attention; something that can't be replaced by social likes and shares and retweets. A recent survey showed that teens who had positive relationships with their parents were 20% less likely to seek unhealthy content online. Children must be shown there's more to life than the internet and gadgets.
- Embrace digital parental control. It's time parents kept up with the times! They must implement technologies to protect their children online. Learn what tools are available and what features each service offers. Internet and Mobile technologies are not going to wait for anyone!
- Follow up on your kids' internet usage. Review, research and monitor your children's online visits. Browsing history reports, app monitoring, mobile management, and many other services are offered my monitoring software. Such services allow you to set time limits, block websites, get alerts etc. Children must know that they are being monitored; they will be free but within certain bounds of propriety.
- Report cyber bullying. Parents must talk to children about online predators and inform them of what could go wrong with digital relationships. Kids must be motivated to report cyber bullying. Children must beware of online bullying and must bring it to the attention of parents and guardians; even if it's happening to someone else!
- Have conversations over difficult topics. Unless children understand why parental controls are necessary, they will resist any such attempt. No one enjoys the prospect of being chaperoned online. Netsmartz guides parents in bringing up such "difficult" topics. The kids need to be onboard; parental controls shoud best not be done on the sly!
- All screens and no play makes kids fat and dull. Ryuta Kawashima's research has proved that computer games and digital activities don't actually boost brain activity as propounded by game enthusiasts. Make sure kids get some fresh air with sports and extra-curricular activities that will see them move away from computers and gadgets. Children nowadays face many health risks like sleep deprivation and obesity due to lack of physical exercice.
- Leverage the online media. Digital parenting seeks to equip parents to put the internet to good use. The long hours spent on the internet could be diverted to websites and activities that will help children think and study and learn! The online world has a plethora of activities to keep your excited kids interested; it's up to parents to rise to the challenge of digital parenting.
Summer breaks are meant to be enjoyed. Let's teach the kids to do it the right way! Let it be fun, let it be enjoyable, let it be productive and most of all let it be safe!
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Social Media has assumed a significant role in the tech-savvy nations of the world in that it not only allows extensive networking but also brings nations closer together by easy dissemination of news and opinions. As with all forms of media, messages perpetrated through social media can have good and bad influences on society and youngsters in particular. Given that more women than men use the social media, it is but logical to suppose that this form of media has a sizeable impact, both good and bad, on gender matters.
Has the ubiquity of women using social media mirrored the representation of women in it? A list of 100 influential Twitter users in Britain, “influence” being measured using three factors - user’s audience size, engagement of the user with their audience, and 'authority', had only 17 women in it, with only one (Sarah Brown) in the top 10. Considering that technology itself has its own gender divide in favor of men, it seems logical, if not right, for women to be under-represented in social media. Apart from this general reason, the attitude of women versus men towards voicing opinion, particularly in relation to the response they get, plays a significant role towards relative female silence in social media. Sharon O'Dea, digital communications and Intranet specialist explains that while women have fewer qualms about sharing content there is a reticence towards taking a public standpoint on an issue, and this is seen in the greater presence of women in media sharing applications such as Facebook rather than a verbal sharing media such as Twitter.
This reticence of women in Social Media is largely a result of the unfavorable, and even often abusive, responses they get purely on the basis of their gender. Much as it may sound as an imaginary grouse, misogyny in social media is, unfortunately, anything but. Journalist and Designer Martin Belam performed an experiment wherein he ran a spoof Twitter account and found that it got more abusing and negative responses when the poster was portrayed as being female. Pornography, e-mail harassment, “flaming” (abusive or obscene language), and cyber-stalking are some of the issues faced by women in social media. The most common form of harassment found in social networking sites is "flaming", the use of highly aggressive language pattern – slut shaming is a frequently used and dangerous form of flaming in social networks. Women are often ignored, trivialized, or criticized by men who, according to Susan Herring, “have a tendency to forget that there is an actual human being at the receiving end of one's emotional outbursts"; although this particular statement was made in the nineteen nineties, it may still hold true to a some extent now.
Commercials that appear in social networking sites, as with adertisemets in all other forms of media, can be a source of gender stereotyping. Women are more often presented in commercials involving cosmetic and domestic products while ads for men focus on cars, business products or investments. Another important distinction is that ads show entire figures of women and close-up shots for men, the former objectifying the female body, while the latter evoking positive associations. Thus culturally constructed gender roles and relationships continue to remain a cross-cutting element in limiting the portrayal of women in social media.
Another area where social networking sites have a significant gender difference is in the way users, especially youngsters, present themselves. Adolescent girls and boys differ in the types of content they post to their profiles; girls reportedly post “cute” pictures, either of themselves or random, while boys were more likely to share pictures and comments that they described as self-promoting and often containing sexual content or references to alcohol. Such behavior reiterates the cultural gender stereotypes and media portrayals of the “commodified” woman and the strong, stable man. Adolescent girls are also more likely to share personal information than boys, thus exposing themselves to possible sexual predation or cyber bullying. But on the positive side, women are more aware of the impact of their pictures and content, especially those related to alcohol, on their employable future than men, and tend to use social media more carefully. Fortunately for young adults and children, a variety of protection tools are available to allow monitoring by adults so that they (especially girls) do not fall victims to the social evils of social networking.
Social Networking holds potential to boost the economic, political and social empowerment of women, and the promotion of gender equality. But such boost is possible only with awareness of risks and benefits of the medium. Social networking cannot be demonized without a judicial consideration of benefits possible for women. The HeforShe campaign by The United Nations, for example, attempts to use social media to close the equality gap between men and women. A new study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology reports that even discussing sexism in social media could also improve women’s wellbeing beause of the possibility of a sense of catharsis and “collective action” that offers support. While blogging or tweeting is different from holding a protest march, its strength lies in the possibility to reach millions of people seprated by geographic boundaries and extend support. Media researcher Johanna Blakeley believes that social media applications, as they outgrow traditional media, may actually free us from some of the gender assumptions in society.
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Infographic credit: FinancesOnline.com
To allow or not to allow, that is the constant question that troubles parents. How to find appropriate content for your children to keep them digitally entertained? Kids today are far too tech-savvy for their own good and could land up somewhere they ought not to be. Google has got just the right solution so that parents can heave a sigh of relief.
It’s simple, Google advises parents to follow the Star. Nope, Google is not asking parents to go the Magis’ way. The Star or the Family Star is the latest addition to Google Play that allows parents to easily identify age specific and child appropriate content.
Parents can tap on the new Family Star button to find apps, books, games, movies and other content that is family friendly. A single tap will save parents the time and effort needed to check whether or not something is appropriate for their kids. The Family Star also organizes content by age, so that parents can now easily find a toddler-friendly game and a teenage appropriate movie. Smart choices are just a click away to ensure age-specificity and relevance, all the while ensuring appropriate content.
Popular characters will now have dedicated pages on Google Play which will showcase all related content in one place. Now surprise you kid with all the games and movies featuring his favourite toon character!
Finding family friendly content is easy; but what about keeping inappropriate content out of the children’s reach? Going off-limits; kids seem to be pretty good at that! Updates to Android's built-in parental controls will now allow parents to restrict downloads, purchases and streaming of mature content. Ads are also under strict surveillance in the latest updates, ensuring that no age-inappropriate ads pop up while using apps. Parents are informed up front about ads so they can make their choice, and ads are also matched with content ratings to establish conformity. Apart from this double check, all ads targeting the family-friendly content are give stricter look-throughs to maintain propriety.
Parents can hope to get their hands on the latest Google Play experience within the next couple of weeks!
Mobicip's parental controls complements the primary levels of safety that Google Play provides. Mobicip allows parents to set time limits, monitor app usage and websites, customize internet rules, generate browsing reports and much more.
With growing awareness and need for blended learning and technology-aided education, a major concern among educators, school administrators, and parents has been to find ways to fund educational technology in the classroom. The costs associated with introduction of technology fall under many categories; investments in physical infrastructure - new computers, wiring, internet access equipment, furniture, and other hardware – are but the tip of the iceberg. Development of knowledge base, competencies for training and technological support is a continuous cost of operating technology in the classroom. These costs vary widely by school depending on the hardware and facility configuration that already exist or are available to the school. Overall spending for education technology in the U.S. was $632 billion in 2010–11, and this number can only grow as technology grows to encompass more of education.
While the simplest route to managing technology costs is to charge students for the facilities, such a route is not always possible, especially in schools catering to the economically underprivileged. So, will the economic divide lead to an Apartheid in education? Fortunately, in America, there are various ways in which educational institutions can obtain funding from many of the 26 Federal Grant Agencies and non-government organizations/commercial tech companies to introduce technology into the classroom. Obama’s renewed Enhancing Education Through Technology program has allotted $200 million as competitive grants awarded by states to use technology to improve instruction, hire competent support staff for tech enabled education and develop "evidence-based" practices in technology. The ConnectED initiative by the Government, seeks to enrich K-12 education by providing teachers with the best technology and the training, and empowering students through individualized digital content.
Federal technology funding for K-12 school districts is routinely integrated into various other funding streams, and does not always involve money. The Computers for Learning program by the US government, for example, assists the incorporation of computer infrastructure into the classroom, through easy transfer of excess equipment and gadgets in various Government organizations to schools. The program has enabled many schools and organizations to enter the blended education mode, as evidenced by testimonials from beneficiaries. The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians and involves partnerships between academic institutions and industry to support curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers and other activities, with particular focus on technological education. The e-Rate program, governed by the Federal Communications Commission, provides discounts to assist American schools and libraries to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. Today, virtually all schools and libraries in America have internet access, thanks to the initiative, a significant improvement from the time it was established in 1996, when only 14 percent of the nation's K-12 classrooms had access to the Internet.
Beyond government support, a plethora of NGOs and for-profit companies have assumed responsibility in assisting the education sector in their foray into blended education. The venture funding for education technology reached $1.87 billion dollars in 2014 and is expected to reach a whopping $2 billion this year. While it is a Herculean task to list all the companies that contribute to this purpose, the following representative examples show the amount of support that is available for educational institutions to bring technology into their classrooms.
CFY is a national education nonprofit organization that helps students in low-income communities, together with their teachers and families, to harness the power of digital learning to improve educational outcomes. The AT&T Foundation, through its learning network and invitational grants, supports education programs that focus on the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. The Intel Corporation-sponsored K-12 Blueprint offers resources for education to implement technology initiatives, which includes Custom-developed apps—with free lessons plans and project ideas for education. Funding Factory is a free fundraising program for schools that accepts donations of empty printer cartridges, cell phones, and various other electronic devices in return for points that can be exchanged for new technology in the school.
A variety of organizations and websites points to sources of funding for schools as well. Technology Grant News for example updates schools about technology grants, free technology resources, and possible technology partnerships. The Beaumont Foundation of America offers equipment to schools with underserved populations and awards schools that support efforts of digital equity and inclusion and focus on encouraging use of technology as a learning tool during and beyond the school day.
The scenario is thus encouraging for schools seeking to integrate more technology into their curriculum. The challenge appears therefore, not in obtaining funds for implementation but in designing the curriculum itself and supporting it through professional development. Blended learning has already become the norm in most schools in the United States, thanks to concerted efforts by the Government, policy makers and educators.
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The influence of social media on adolescents and teenagers is of particular importance, not only because this particular group of children is developmentally vulnerable but also because they are among the heaviest users of social networking. According to a report by Common Sense Media, 75% of teenagers in America currently have profiles on social networking sites, of which 68% use Facebook as their main social networking tool.
While social networking undoubtedly plays a vital role in broadening social connections and learning technical skills, its risks cannot be overlooked. The lack or difficulty in self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure makes adolescents vulnerable to such evils as Facebook depression, sexting, and cyberbullying, which are realistic threats. Other problems such as social network-induced obesity, Internet addiction and sleep deprivation are issues that continue to be under intense scrutiny for the contradictory results that have been obtained in various studies.
The American Psychological Association defines bullying as aggressive behavior by an individual that causes discomfort to another. Cyberbullying ranges from direct threatening and unpleasant emails to anonymous activities such as trolling. 32% of online teens admit to having experienced a range of menacing online advances from others. While direct unpleasant emails or messages are the most straightforward form of cyberbullying, they are probably the least prevalent in that only 13% of surveyed youngsters admitted to receiving threatening or aggressive messages. Even forwarding a private note to a group without permission from the sender is often perceived as cyberbullying; Pew research found that 15% of teens were disturbed and uncomfortable about having had their private message forwarded or posted in a public forum. Pew also found that nearly 39% of teens on social network have been cyberbullied in some way, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks. Trolling, the act of deliberately inflicting hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between people, often anonymously, is also pervasive in social network. If you thought Trolls lived under bridge, 28% of America lives there, it seems.
A very important cause for cyberbullying is the anonymity possible on the internet. According to Stopbullying.gov, two kinds of people are likely to be cyberbullies – the popular ones and those on the fringes of society; the former resort to such activities to stay popular or to feel powerful, while the latter troll to fit into a society or to get back at a society that excludes them. The National Council on Crime Preventionfound from a survey that about three out of four victims of cyberbullying eventually trace the identity of the cyberbully, and so the anonymity may not be as safe a net as the bully believes. The cyberbully is often a friend (if they can be called that without insulting the word or sentiment), or someone they know from school or outside. Only 23% of the victims reported to have been bullied by someone they don’t know.
Cyberbullying appears easy to the bully because they do not see their victims’ reactions in person, and thus the impact of the consequences is small. In reality, however, the consequences can be life altering to the extent that the victims could go as far as taking their lives or become psychologically distressed enough to require medical intervention. The ironically individualistic nature of social networking activities makes it difficult to recognize a victim of cyberbullying, but tell-tale signs include avoiding or being anxious around the computer or cell phone and sudden change in behavior patterns.
Sexting, the action of sending sexually revealing pictures of themselves or sexually explicit messages to another individual or group, is another common activity among the teen community in social media. A nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found a shocking 20 percent of teens participating in sexting. While teenage boys resort to sending sexually explicit or suggestive messages, teenage girls are more likely to send inappropriate photos of themselves, mostly to their boyfriends. However, the permanence and pervasiveness of the internet makes it a fertile ground for spreading such information to the extent of getting viral - 17% of sexters admittedly share the messages they receive with others, and 55% of those share them with more than one person. Beyond the personal trauma and humiliation sexting may cause, there are judicial ramifications as well; some states consider such activities as misdemeanors while many group sexting under felony.
“Facebook depression,” defined as emotional disturbance that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, is now a very real malady. Recent studies have shown that comparisons are the main cause of Facebook depression; the study showed that down-comparison (comparing with inferiors) was just as likely to cause depression as up-comparison (comparing with people better than oneself). However, there are contradictory reports as well. Another study showed that Facebook makes us happier and increased social trust and engagement among users. Given that our brains are wired to connect, it seems logical to expect that social networks, by enabling sharing, could cause a self-reinforcing sense of psychological satisfaction. These studies show that the effect of social network on well being hinges on how social networks are used – whether to connect or to compare.
Other risks of extensive social networking among youth are loss of privacy, sharing too much information, and disconnect from reality. The digital footprint is a permanent trail that users of social media, indeed of the Internet itself, leave the moment they sign into any service. The digital footprint, by its permanence, can have serious repercussions in future, in both professional and personal areas of life. It is important to know that every activity online – posts on social media accounts, comments left on various sites, tweets, retweets and +1s through years can contribute to the digital footprint. Another serious risk is the amount of information shared on social network sites. LexisNexis and Lawers.com surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that half of them divulged too much personal data online. What is more worrying is the fact that 44 percent of them believed that the information they posted on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace were being used against them.
Adolescence is the time to spread wings and take the tentative first flight out into the world, and parents and caregivers must be part of the process. In the domain of social networking, this entails parents becoming educated about the advantages and disadvantages of social networking and themselves joining social network sites, not to hover, but to be aware of the activities of their teenage wards. It is essential that parents are aware of and monitor privacy settings and online profiles of their wards. Open discussions about social network protocols and etiquettes would go a long way in establishing global digital citizenship and healthy behavior.
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If you are an active user of Mobicip's Premium service, you might have noticed something new when you sign in to manage your account. Yes, a new 'Dashboard' was rolled out a couple of weeks ago. The intent is to capture the most important information in your account and present it in a convenient, easy, at-a-glance format. Simply login at mobicip.com and you will land on the Dashboard. You will notice that it has 3 sections.
The dashboard presents your kids' recent browsing activity with a high-level summary of the usage. Slide through the different profiles in your account to see the summary for each one.
One of the most popular new features from Mobicip, Access Requests allow end users to request an override from any blocked page. The dashboard summarizes the access requests in your account, and even allows you to take action on each request.
Mobicip's App Monitor tells you what apps are installed on your kids' devices. The dashboard captures important information about the apps on each device to give you a quick overview.
Can't wait to check it out? If you're a Premium user, just login at mobicip.com. If you haven't upgraded to Premium already, give it a whirl today! Either way, let us know how you like the new 'Dashboard' and what we can do to make it even better. It takes us one step further in our mission to make life easy for parents overwhelmed with the technology that is in the hands of their kids.
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In 2014, the National Sleep Foundation found that most 15-to-17-year-olds routinely get seven hours or fewer hours of sleep, which is a good two hours less sleep than they need for a healthy life. The foundation also found that sleep quality was better among children who turned their digital devices off before bedtime than those who took their devices to bed. It would thus seem that there is a connection between screen time and sleep. Is this connection somatic (purely physical), psychosomatic (caused by the mind), or just mass hysteria brought about by digital ubiquity?
At a very basic level, time on a gadget during bedtime is time not spent in sleep. 6–10 year old children with three technology types in their bedroom achieved 45 min less sleep than those without. It is only logical to believe that older children, with their more active social life, would spend more time on gadgets than the surveyed pre-tweens. Delayed bedtime or truncated total sleep time caused by “time displacement” by technology and media items in an adolescent's bedroom has been reported to result in sleep deprivation, sleep-onset latency (SOL), sleep difficulties, night-time awakenings, and parasomnias.
Time displacement is augmented by biochemical effects of screen time as well. Adolescence is already associated with circadian (sleep) phase alterations, which along with social demands (early school timings etc.), can cause sleep deprivation. It is well-known that light also affects the circadian rhythm. Light suppresses melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone, and recent studies have found that backlight from gadgets (particularly tablets set to full brightness) can cause statistically significant melatonin suppression after just two hours of exposure. The dose, exposure duration, timing and wavelength of light play important roles in sleep patterns. Suppression of melatonin secretion and alterations of sleep rhythms are more sensitive to short-wavelength light (blue) than mid- (green) or long-wavelength (red) light especially at lower brightness of 30-50 lux at which gadgets typically work. The backlight of most gadgets is of blue or near-blue base, which, at the intensity levels of as low as 30 lux, can disrupt melatonin within a week.
Longer screen times can also lead to eating disorders and higher calorie intake. Longer media hours have been found to be associated with consumption of more soft drinks and junk food. There is also strong evidence for a direct connection between screen-based sedentary behavior and weight, particularly when screen time exceeds 2 hours. How is this related to sleep? A 20-year review of obesity-associated diseases among children aged 6 to 17 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that obesity in children is a reason for increased incidence of sleep apnea that leads to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation in turn leads to more obesity in a vicious cycle that can effectively be traced back to extensive media use.
The psychological and physiological unrest caused by media and social interaction may also interfere with the ability to fall and stay asleep. Technostress and ICT or information and communication technology stress, the state of mental and physiological arousal observed in persons who are heavily dependent on computers, gadgets and e-games, are now pervasive maladies. Studies have shown that the stress due to excessive technology use is related to sleep disturbances. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg studied the habits of more than 4,100 Swedish men and women, aged between 20 and 24, and found that those who constantly use a computer or their mobile phone can develop stress, sleeping disorders and depression. Sleeping disorders and depression are connected by a common chemical – melatonin and we already know that blue light of the screen can disrupt melatonin in the body, leading not only to sleep deprivation, but also depression. Like obesity and sleep deficit, depression and sleep problems form a vicious cycle, one feeding the other in a downward spiral.
No correlation study can be complete without awareness of possible pitfalls of association. For example, the observed connection between sleep deprivation and technology use may not point to a causal impact of screen time on sleep outcomes. There is a high possibility that the reverse is true because youth who need less sleep or have sleeping disorders may spend more time with technology, either as a coping mechanism or just to pass time. Another possible source of error in such correlation studies is that they are largely based on self-reported or parental reported data of screen exposure and the outcome variables. Such reports could be highly opinionated and are often not validated against an objective standard. Teenagers, for example, can overestimate or underestimate their total sleep time/problems vis-a-vis screen time due to ignorance, peer pressure and even denial. Measurement errors and inconsistencies could also lead to faulty associations.
Like breathing, eating and drinking, sleeping is a life-sustaining activity, and anything that adversely affects it must be dealt with before damage becomes irreversible. However, it is regressive to believe that technology itself must be ousted because of sleep problems, much like advocating that breathing is dangerous because of air pollution. Logical moderation is the key to living. There is clearly a dose-response relationship between screen time and sleep and a threshold for screen-based recreation. For example, the risk of sleep problems was found to increase two-fold in adolescent girls engaging in screen-based activities for 4 or more hours per day. So, is four hours the magic number? Can the limit be generalized for an entire population? Obviously not. The threshold must eventually be set by every individual based on their own nature and needs.
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The advent of the digital native has in turn given rise to the digital parent. The digital parent is one who uses one or more of digital media applications/devices in his/her daily activities, particularly parenting. Digital parents play a key role in shaping how their children use the digital media; the parent being perhaps the first and most important mediator of digital use of children.
A digital parent typically follows one of three mediation styles with regard to their children’s digital usage - restrictive mediation that involves rules and prohibitions to content, instructive mediation, in which the parent advises and instructs on what to and what not to watch and coviewing, in which the digital media is experienced together, often perceived by older children as helicopter parenting. According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2006, 59% of parents used some form of mediation strategy, of which, 7% allowed unlimited media use and engaged in no mediation. 11% of parents used instructive mediation, especially with younger children and 23% used restrictive mediation.
The mediatory role of the digital parent is decided by various factors – practicalities of inclusion of digital technology, such as affordability, and knowledge of benefits and pitfalls of technology. But perhaps equally important is the nature of the parent-child relationship. Family interactions and family environment are important in that as the amount of time young people spend alone with digital media increases with a decrease in the availability of parents for interaction. With life in developed societies becoming busier than ever, “quality time” between parents and children has become premium, thereby introducing the role of parent as participant in co-learning with children; co-learning is particularly relevant with respect to the digital media in that it is more natural to the digital native child than the immigrant parent.
Thus, digital applications such as emails, instant messaging, sms, wikis, social network sites, and other online immersive experiences have emerged as a platform for better interactions between parents and children. However, it should not be forgotten that technology can lead to “co-presence” in which people are paying more attention to the people on the other end of the cell phone conversation (or instant messaging, or social networking) than to those in the same room. Co-presence, ironically, is a problem seen not only among children, but among parents too.
Parental responses to a child’s questions and activities significantly influence the patterns of attachment that will guide the child’s perceptions, emotions, thoughts and expectations in the use of the digital media. Indeed, studies have shown the importance of family interactions during early adolescence as predictors of future online socializing behavior of youth.
The style of mediation differs with the gender, educational level and age of the parent and the child. For example, research has shown that boys and young adolescents are controlled more than girls and older adolescents in terms of gaming. However, another study showed that in terms of general internet use, parental mediation was more often directed towards younger children and girls than towards older children and boys. Mothers have been found to mediate their children more often in their media use
Education level has a significant influence on mediation styles as well in that lower educated parents set more content restrictions on the child’s Internet use. Furthermore, parents with more computer or Internet skills are more aware of safety issues of the digital media and often install apps for security and protection on the computer and other gadgets to ensure the safety of their wards. The perceived need for parental mediation also decreases with increasing age of the children; parents of older children are likely to report less engagement in parental mediation strategies than parents of younger children.
The familiarity of the parent with digital tools is also propelling greater interest in their use for better communications between parents and the academic environment. According to a survey by Schoolwires and Project Tomorrow conducted in 2012-13, 89 % of parents wanted their child in a class that used mobile devices, 37 % wanted teachers to be evaluated on their proficiency in using technology within instruction and 47 % wanted their child’s teacher or school to send text messages to their mobile device.
The rise of the digital parent has in turn changed the way the academic system interacts with them. Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, instant messaging and text messages are now being commonly used by schools to update the digital parent about the activities of the school and their children. Web portals that disseminate children's grades on school assignments to their locker combinations and lunch menu effectively use technology to bridge the information gap between schools and parents, to the point that the line between home and school has blurred considerably.
The use of digital media to connect school and parents is, however, not all smooth sailing. The level of access to and familiarity with digital technology can vary even among digital parents and thus it is essential for the community to provide literacy training to parents in order to level the variances. Organizations such as Technology Goes Home and CFY provide parent and teacher training to help establish a working equilibrium between the school and the digital parent.
Parenting aids such as pediatrics, counseling and nursing, already extensively exploit the opportunities afforded by digital media for sharing, providing social support, consulting professionals and training parental competencies among the digitally savvy parents. Such guided and self-guided interventions have been shown to positively contribute to the parenting experience. The advantage afforded by technology is that in contrast to traditional parenting intervention programs that largely targeted specific types of parents, the modern digital media offers support to large groups of parents who are connected digitally.
Digital parents are active partners in their child’s digital life and must set an example for smart Internet use. Apart from teaching computer skills to children, the digital parent is best suited to guide the child on issues of online safety, and digital citizenship. To fulfil President’ Obama’s wish that parents take responsibility to be actively involved in their children’s education, it is essential for all parents to become digital parents and it takes concerted effort by governments, society and families to enable such a transition.
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