ON FRIDAY, A pediatrician and parenting blogger named Free N. Hess published a post about a series of disturbing videos she found on YouTube Kids, a stand-alone app that is supposed to make it “safer and simpler” for those under 13 to browse videos online. A number of news outlets quickly picked up on the clips Hess discovered, which included one where Minecraft–inspired characters carry out a school shooting. In another, an animated girl with long brown hair attempts to commit suicide after her dad dies and her boyfriend breaks up with her.
These cartoons weren’t created for YouTube Kids—they were uploaded to the main YouTube platform and later slipped past filters designed to keep inappropriate content away from minors. Some of the videos have racked up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views. “We work to ensure the videos in YouTube Kids are family-friendly and take feedback very seriously,” YouTube said in a statement. “We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video.”
No one cares more about your child’s well-being and success than you do. In today’s digitally-fueled times, that means guiding him or her not just in the real world but in the always-on virtual one as well. Teach your children to use technology in a healthy way and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens. From 2-year-olds who seem to understand the iPad better than you to teenagers who need some (but not too much) freedom, we’ll walk you through how to make technology work for your family at each stage of the journey.
The overuse of technology has overtaken drugs, sex and bullying as the biggest parental worry, according to the annual Brigham Young and Deseret News American Family Survey.But what are we actually supposed to be doing about it?Jordan Shapiro, a Temple University professor whose background is in philosophy and psychology, has a prescription that might surprise you. In his new book, The New Childhood, his argument is that we’re not spending enough screen time with our kids.”One of the things I suggest in the book is that kids should be starting on social media much younger,” he says. And, play more video games with your kids, too.
There are endless distractions for kids these days—from games to music and social media. Some are serious and hurtful, too, like bullying. And all of this is amplified online. Ana Homayoun, an author, speaker and school consultant, works with teenagers on organization, time management and overall wellness. And as technology platforms have accelerated over the years, her job has increasingly involved keeping up with the ways young people use social media, and advising parents, teachers and even tech companies about what they need to know. Homayoun’s latest book is about what she’s learned over the years on this topic, and it’s called “Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World.”
The only consensus among parents about the right age for a child to have unfettered access to a smartphone is that there is no magic number.But if you sign up for Family Link, which is Google’s new parental controls software for managing children’s Android phones, Google decides for you. At the age of 13, a child can choose to “graduate,” as Google calls it, or lift restrictions, getting the keys to the internet kingdom and all the good and bad things that come with it.
Even as people have embraced the smartphone as one of the most powerful tech products, they are keeping a wary eye on the addictiveness of turning on the device to check for social media updates, read websites and play games. Some studies have tied extended screen time to distraction in classrooms, sleep deprivation and depression.
In some ways, 2017 feels like the year people began to realize the harm that seemingly harmless technology can do. Misinformation spread like rapid fire, abetted by platforms like Google and Facebook. Research on smartphone usage among teenagers suggested mobile phones are impacting the mental health of an entire generation. Once heralded as the goal of good design, user-friendliness came to mean something different in 2017. Sticky UX tactics, like the constant ping of notifications or “pull to refresh,” were revealed as physiologically manipulative. Ethicists and some designers are calling for a more conscientious way forward. Even tech titans are pausing to ask, “what did we bring to the world?”
It can be a struggle for schools and teachers to figure out how to balance ed tech learning opportunities and student privacy. Watch our Above the Noise video about cybersecurity, and check out these handy resources for educators.
Psychology research has tended to portray solitude as an unpleasant experience. Studies conducted in the 1970s and 1990s suggested a clear pattern: people usually felt less happy when alone as compared with having company. More recently, researchers showed that their volunteers preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than sit in silence with their own thoughts. However, in a new paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a research team led by They-vy Nguyen at the University of Rochester explains the shortcomings in this earlier research and presents a more nuanced picture, showing how 15 minutes solitude can have beneficial effects on our emotions. Their results suggest that if you want to lower the intensity of your emotions, positive and negative, time spent alone may be just the ticket.
Babies and young children are accessing and viewing media in new ways now that the majority of American families have mobile and internet-connected devices at home. Smartphones, tablets, and other devices also present new challenges and opportunities for parents introducing media to their kids for the first time.
Combined with the data from the 2011 and 2013 reports, the 2017 Zero to Eight study gives us a clearer view of how young children’s media use has evolved over time and provides a foundation for how we can use technology to support children’s learning, play, and growth. Take a look at the infographic and read our blog post for highlights.