Digital Safety

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FBI Warns of Sites that Sell But Don’t Deliver

With even more purchasing being done online, the FBI is warning online shoppers to be on the alert for fraudulent e-commerce websites that offer what appear to be great deals but never deliver the merchandise. The sites are typically accessed through social media or search engine shopping pages, and have privately registered domains with URLs ending in .top or .club. Take a look at the FBI posting to for tips on how not to get scammed and ideas on what to do if you have an issue with one of these sites.

Kids YouTube Ads Concern Parents

More than two-thirds of US parents surveyed by Pew Research Center have concerns about what is advertised to children on YouTube. Hispanic parents -- at 74% -- rated highest in concern in the "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens" study of 4,000 parents in March. The study found many parents are also acutely concerned that their children will encounter "inappropriate content" while surfing on YouTube or in th etypes of videos that are recommended to them based on YouTube's algorithms.

Ready for a Pandemic Gaming Party?

Party Place is a new feature on Roblox being beta tested that allows kids to create private, mini-social networks exclusively with friends to chat, hang out, and plan which games to play. The venue itself doesn’t offer any activities or games, but rather serves as a private place for Roblox users to gather — for example, for a virtual birthday party, a remote learning activity with classmates, for virtual playdates, or anything else. From Party Place, the group can chat and hang out as they decide which Roblox game they plan to play next.

For today’s younger players, platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are becoming their own version of a social network. The kids don’t just go online to play. They socialize, chat and hang out with a mix of real-life friends and virtual ones, blurring the lines between online and offline in ways that traditional social networks, like Facebook, do not. Of course this also opens up another avenue for cyberbullying, so as with all forms of social media be sure to monitor for the symptoms that your child may be a target.

“Our Kids are Walking Around with Slot Machines in their Pockets”

Former Democratic presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang wants to see technology and media companies accept more responsibility for their impact on children, even if we don’t yet have research showing exactly what that impact is. Yang, in particular, calls for the government to drastically fund more research and step in, if needed, to incentivize tech companies to educate children, rather than entertain them and  collect ad dollars. (The children’s digital advertising market is expected to be worth $1.7 billion by 2021, according to a report from PwC.)

“Right now, the interests of parents are directly at odds with the interests of the technology companies,” writes Yang in “Our Kids are Walking Around with Slot Machines in their Pockets.” “They’re monetizing our attention and profiting off of our time. As they say, the addictive nature of smartphones is a feature, not a bug. We parents are outgunned and at a total loss.”

Tweens, Teens, Tech and Mental Health - Tips

The researchers at Common Sense Media have been examining existing studies on kids and mental health and found that, with a few exceptions, we need to look beyond screens and social media for the causes of mental health problems. Check out this video of their findings. They also advise that we should reframe our perspective on digital tools—especially during a pandemic—if we're going to support our kids through this strange phase in our lives. To that end they give six tips for protecting kids' mental health right now. They suggest that it may ne time to recognize that kids may need to enter social media at a younger age just to stay in touch with friends. They also recommend reserving judgement about screen time, keeping in mind that what kids are doing online is more important than the time they spend with digital devices. Beyond these recommendations, it seems most experts are in agreement that more research is necessary.

eSports: The Things You Don’t Think About

 eSports played at the high school level has received lots of positive attention, but as Elliot Levine points out in this article entitled Addressing the 800-pound gorillas in scholastic esports, challenges still exist. While fun, spirited “trash talk” has become part of online gaming culture, harassing and bullying other players crosses the line. In fact, a 2019 survey from the Anti-Defamation League found that 65 percent of players reported experiencing “severe harassment” including physical threats, sustained harassing and stalking. Prolonged play can also lead to physical injuries, including eye fatigue and neck, back, wrist and hand pain. These are all things to be aware of and keep in mind if your children decide to take up eSports.

New Microsoft Family Safety App Available

Screen limits, content filters, and even a driving report are all baked into a forthcoming parental control app available for Microsoft 365 Family subscribers. If you interested in a free preview of the app, check in with Microsoft at this link or take a look at this video. When the app is rolled out later this year you will need a Microsoft 365 Family subscription, which costs $99.99 and comes with numerous other features and benefits as well.

Google Really Wants You to Use Different Passwords

Apparently "Guest123!" isn't the most secure password on the Internet. Who knew? If you are guilty of using common passwords, or the same password for various websites, you should consider enhancing your online security. Google's Security Checkup function now alerts users to when websites for which it stores a password have been compromised. The alert not only urges users to change the password for that particular site, but also might nudge people to not use the same password across multiple websites.

Generation Z’s Digital Interaction Increases During Pandemic

For parents, this is probably common knowledge by now, but the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown has had a significant effect on Gen Z's digital behaviors. According to a report issued by Boston Consulting Group and Snapchat, there has been a boost in Generation Z’s use of social media, video streaming and gaming, as well as an increase in online spending. Their report also highlights Gen Z's increased reliance on mobile-focused video and social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat.

Coronavirus Pushes Districts to Give Computers to Even Younger Students

Momentum for one-to-one device programs has been more common in middle and high schools, but the rapid transition to remote instruction has more school districts providing devices for young students. GG Weisenfeld of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University says that previously, experts would have argued against investments in devices for young students, but "right now, it's not a perfect world." How has your district handled this question?