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Tech Has Teachers and Students Struggling to Disconnect

While this article is intended for teachers it makes a good read for parents who need to understand the kind of tech induced stress that teachers and students are under. The abundance of technology can make both teachers and students feel as though they are "always on" and cannot disconnect from school, according to a study by Caroline Murphy, a researcher at the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick. Murphy says the constant presence of devices, especially cell phones, compels teachers to spend more time outside of school hours planning lessons and responding to nighttime emails and text messages – making them feel as though they are on all call hours of the day. Murphy encourages school leaders to establish and adopt policies to support healthy technology use, including encouraging time to disconnect.

Artificial Intelligence Coming to Classrooms

Curious about what artificial intelligence applications are possibly coming to your children’s classrooms in the future?  An article in The Wall Street Journal profiles several and discusses the transforming role of teachers in the future. Despite the many technological advances, AI and education researchers still believe that a future where students might receive a personal robot or on-screen AI buddy along with their textbooks is rife with ethical and design challenges, citing ease of use, inclusivity and data use and privacy.

Google Implementing Policies to Protect Minors

Google is now blocking gender-, age- or interest-based targeting to children under 18, accepting minors' requests to have images removed from search results, and disabling location history within account settings. The company is also rolling out protections on its YouTube platform, such as defaulting video uploads by kids between 13 and 17 to a private setting and taking "overly commercial content" off of YouTube Kids.


Google says these new changes are based on new regulations being introduced in some countries, and that it wants to offer “consistent product experiences and user controls” globally. Requesting an image’s removal from Google’s image search won’t remove it from the web entirely, Google cautions, but it says this should give users more control over the spread of their images. Alongside its changes to ad targeting, Google also says it’s expanding safeguards to stop “age-sensitive ad categories” from being shown to teens.


The new features are being introduced on different timelines. The option to request that images be removed from Google’s image search, as well as changes to default YouTube video privacy settings, will roll out in the coming weeks. The new restrictions on ad targeting, SafeSearch changes, and tools to block content on Google Assistant-enabled smart devices are launching in the coming months.

Biden Administration Takes Stance on Student Online Speech

The Biden administration is filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the US Supreme Court to side with a Pennsylvania school district over its ability to discipline students for online speech that takes place away from the school campus. The case, which focuses on a student's language and foul language in an upset over not making the varsity cheerleading team posted on Snapchat, could be heard in April, and a decision could be announced in the summer. Just one more reminder that whatever and wherever you post can be seen, recorded, and circulated to anyone. The results of this case will help define what rights students have regarding any off-campus posts.

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue

Zoom fatigue is real, according to Géraldine Fauville, an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who is part of a team of researchers studying the causes of video conferencing fatigue to better understand how to combat it. She says that “During video conferences, you have this impression that everyone on the screen is staring directly at you, so you have this feeling of being constantly the center of attention and that is just stressful in general, especially for long periods of time.” 

What can you do to counteract it?

  • Try turning off your camera. Students should let teachers know if they feel they need to take a break. Teachers should also consider requiring cameras on only when it really adds something. If it’s not essential to see one another during the whole class, then maybe teachers should consider letting students disable the camera.
  • Take a break from the video feed. Fauville recommends shrinking the size of your video conferencing window so it’s not taking up your full screen. It can also be a good idea to focus on something other than your screen periodically by turning your body away from your camera and monitor.
  • Create a setup that encourages movement. Fauville says standing desks can help with mobility on video calls. You can walk in place and even pace back and forth a bit. Setting up your camera further away from you so that it captures more of the room can also allow you to move more without fear of going off frame. An external keyboard can help you sit further away as well, which can encourage movement and put more distance between you and your screen, decreasing the intensity of the eye contact your brain perceives from other participants.

YouTube Tries Another Finance Model for Children’s Programming

YouTube has added eight new children's shows, with 25 others in development, as part of $100 million fund for family and educational shows. This fund is a contrast to the current strategy of relying on targeted advertising to fund children's programming.  The shows are designed in consultation with child development and literacy education experts with diverse representation, and will be available in several languages. Last year, in alignment with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), YouTube announced that targeted ads would no longer be allowed on kids’ videos, while content aimed at younger users would also lose access to comments and other community features. 

Social Tokens Now Part of Online Gaming

With the video game industry reportedly now bigger than sports and movies combined, everyone from investors to A-list actors are jumping on the gaming bandwagon. Its social impact has immeasurable consequences, and even eclipses music as the most important aspect of youth culture. Gaming is all about connection: people who cannot come together in person are connecting through games. 


One hot new area that’s garnering the attention of investors, gamers, parents and fans alike is social tokens, a cryptocurrency specific to a person or brand. In the last six months, several gamers, streamers and Esports organizations have successfully launched their own social tokens in order to take the control of fan relationships away from big tech platforms. They’re experimenting with new forms of fan interactions and monetization opportunities with crypto. For example, Twitch streamer Alliestrasza is hosting Hearthstone tournaments with the winners receiving her ALLIE Coin, while StarCraft II Pro Player and variety streamer Vibe is running daily tournaments where gamers can “double their winnings” in tokens. Streaming house DownToQuest offers a token for fans to purchase physical merchandise, often charging less in coin value than its equivalent in US Dollars. While it's still early days, several gamers/streamers are already earning more than $10,000 per month via their social tokens. Global Esports organizations like Gen G. are also getting into the mix; launching their own social token to strengthen their relationship with fans, allowing them to directly engage their favorite teams and players, and become owners in their new virtual economies. If you have a young gaming fan at your house, social tokens is definitely a term to know and keep in mind.

Facebook Settles Face Scanning Privacy Suit for 650 Million

A Northern District judge in California has approved Facebook's $650 million class-action settlement for the lawsuit regarding its photo-scanning feature. The lawsuit claimed that Facebook’s Tag Suggestions tool, which scanned faces in users’ photos and offered suggestions about who the person might be, stored biometric data without users’ consent in violation of a Illinois law. The payment, which will be distributed among roughly 1.6 million plaintiffs, is one of the largest of its kind and a good reminder that what you post becomes fair game for Facebook to use at their discretion.

YouTube Reveals “Culture and Trends” of Online Life for 2020

YouTube's first ever "Culture & Trends Report" reveals that 58% of users are willing to watch content created by people of any age, and Baby Boomers are increasingly searching YouTube for information, with their consumption of beauty tutorials increasing by 50%. The report also points to the rise of "cowatching" for live, virtual events and states, "Whether the motivation was community connection, finding resources to stay resilient or exploring new ways to be seen and heard, audiences and creators showed us that adversity drives innovation."

Are the Kids Alright?

The California Partners Project partnered with the Child Mind Institute to take a deep look at how life during Covid is being experienced by teens who are coping with loss, social isolation, and screen saturation. A report called “Are the Kids Alright?” includes in-depth interviews with 46 teenagers, between 13 and 17 years old, in California. The surveyed teens were asked to keep detailed, week-long journals of their habits and lifestyles.


While a relatively small sampling and based solely in California, the study did find that many teens are struggling, relying heavily on screens to handle the isolation of the past several months. Other key findings included that teens are experiencing “a tremendous loss due to school closure and social isolation" and are using "social media and gaming (as) the main way to meet their social needs." Also, the extent of their technology use and its impact "aren't obvious, even to those closest to teens," according to the report.


Included in the report are several ways parents can connect with and support their kids. Parents should support sleep by encouraging healthy behaviors like regular bedtimes, not eating large meals late in the evening, and not consuming caffeine more than four hours before going to bed. Parents should also try to encourage exercise, since moderate exercise each day can promote restorative sleep and aid health. It can also help to create a schedule that teens can stick to.


Parents are also urged to model behavior they want to see their kids follow. Parents looking to promote healthy screen time boundaries should be aware of how frequently they use technology, and should brainstorm and support alternative activities that can be used to fill time. It can also help to encourage "tech mindfulness:" Basically, when you pick up your phone, think about why you're using the device and what you hope to get out of it.