Technology is sometimes blamed for the perceived degradation of youth. Doubtlessly you’ve heard at least one person complain about how “kids today” can move their thumbs like wildfire to send texts, but can’t read or write an essay that contains anything resembling proper sentence structure. While illiteracy is a problem that should be taken very seriously, tech is not immediately to blame for the issue. In fact, there are several ways in which technology is improving education.
Interestingly, the positive link between learning and technology goes way beyond replacing textbooks from the Cold War with tablets that contain up-to-the-minute information. Thanks to modern apps and programs, kids can assist in educating their peers, and even video games can get them moving around the gym. Here are five ways the best technology tools and gadgets are making education better.
“Lesson unbundling” – “Just like iTunes unbundled songs so you don’t have to buy a whole album just to get to that one great song, technology allows us to unbundle lessons from giant textbooks,” says Amy Murin of the Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning Blog. Lesson unbundling, according to Murin, allows teachers to form “lesson playlists” that are customized to each child’s learning needs. If a student needs to spend more time in yesterday’s lesson, for instance, he or she can hang back a little and take time to absorb it instead of being shackled to the textbook and forced to move ahead with the rest of the class.
Social networking connects students – Facebook and Twitter are good ways for kids to get in touch with each other and talk about homework and assignments. Needless to say, parents should keep a keen eye on their child’s social media habits to make sure these conversations are being conducted safely (and don’t veer off topic!). Blogging is also a great way to help kids practice and publish their writing, online galleries let young artists get helpful criticism on their work, and building a website might wake up the talents of a future coder.
Students can take an active role in teaching by editing sources like Wikipedia – Wikipedia, the world’s first open-source encyclopedia, is a storehouse of knowledge that anyone can edit. Not only can kids acquire information from Wikipedia, but they can also add their own facts and figures. Moreover, learning how to properly research via Wikipedia (and properly edit it) are lesson plans all on their own. For better or worse, there’s no avoiding the fact that school kids gravitate towards Wikipedia to get their information, so it’s extremely important that they learn how to use it responsibly.
Students can literally look up the answer to any question in seconds – Wikipedia isn’t the only source of information out there on the Internet, though. National Geographic’s website tells kids what they need to know about the world and its cultures. Animal Planet is brimming with information about insects and animals (including humans and our weird ways!). And if a child has a question about space, NASA has the answer. Old childhood favorites like, “Why is the sky blue?” can receive a well-researched, well-sourced answer in the blink of an eye.
Dance Dance Revolution is making physical education more fun – Video games are an important part of technological advancement, and they’re more than just pastimes. In 2007, schools began using the dancing/fitness game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) to get kids to move around. Kids enjoy games in general, and moving along to DDR’s energetic graphics and music is typically more popular than getting whacked with dodgeballs for an hour.
For more information on how tech benefits education, read:
Benefits of Media for Children and Teens at RaisingChildren
Benefits of Online Social Networking at ParentFurther
Can Video Games Make Kids Smarter? at Education.com
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
According to Norton Online Safety expert Marian Merritt, more parents are concerned that their kids will give out too much personal information online than are concerned about their kids interacting with inappropriate people or being exposed to indecent information.
And certainly sharing over social networks is one way where kids are prone to overshare.
Although many experts are critical of the way they do it, Facebook has in fact taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information that users share online. In fact, Facebook even adds extra default privacy settings on accounts for kids under the age of 18.
Obviously, the first step in keeping any information private is not to share it in the first place. But if you’re dealing with a social network, there’s a certain “quid pro quo” expectation that everyone who’s linked together will participate in some sort of exchange of information.
There are steps for how to make Facebook and other social networks safer for children.
Control The Audience
You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post. This is a key feature of Google Plus, but a lesser-known option on sites like Facebook. There’s an option within every post to allow you to select, and within each network’s Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me. This is the most basic Privacy setting, and one to which most are already attuned to.
You can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages. Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends. In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends as well.
Keep Control Away From Others – Facebook and Google Plus allow you to control whether or not others can post on your wall, tag you on photos, or mention you in their post and have it appear on your profile.
Unless you’re a public figure, it’s usually fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate (after all, you did carefully manage your connections, right?). But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply use privacy settings to not allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about is on your birthday.
To prevent your child from appearing in photos posted by others, make sure to restrict the ability for others to tag them in photos or check-ins. There’s also an option to allow this, but only after you’ve approved it.
Many social network sites these days use facial recognition software, and you can control whether or not to allow the social network to suggest tagging you if they do upload a picture of you.
Limit Third Party Access to Information
According to the Facebook’s Privacy Settings page, “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to Apps.” The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.
Beyond that, you can control how all of your kids’ information is shared with these third parties, which is extremely important because they are separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook. It’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook. If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, make sure to use privacy settings to disable them. You can even disable the use of games and apps entirely on social networks, which isn’t a bad idea. The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.
Blocking Other Users
If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can block a user, and you will no longer be visible to each other. By doing this, you break all ties with them, and both users will no longer be able to see each other’s profile or appear in any search results. This is a little more difficult to do, but can be done via privacy settings or through a link at the bottom of each profile.
Perhaps the most valuable piece of currency on the Internet today is personal information. Just as in real life, it needs to be guarded and protected from falling into the wrong hands. Scammers can use nefariously-obtained personal info to open credit card accounts, purchase expensive items and more. And although it’s usually a briefly gratifying experience for the criminal, it can lead to years and years of grief and confusion for the victim. Here are 10 ways to protect yourself from identity theft and keep your online privacy safe:
Identity Theft and Online Safety Tips
– Services like Lifelock, Identity Guard or Trusted ID other protection services may be worth the investment for your family if this is something you are particularly worried about. For as little as $10 a month, these services will keep an eye out for your personal information and in some cases even monitor your credit reports for you.
– At least once a year, it’s good to check up on your credit reports for you and all members of your family. This can be done by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is the only site authorized to provide you with the free credit report you’re entitled to by law. If you find something wrong, you’ll not only want to contact the credit companies directly, but also the proper authorities. All this information can found at www.ftc.gov.
– The FBI also recently warned against a surprising danger of posting images online: the use of geolocation tags embedded in the image that can be accessed and show exactly where on earth the picture was taken. This could be dangerous because you could be unwittingly letting others know where you live and work via these photos you are posting online. We recommend disabling all “Location Services” on your family’s smartphones, which can easily be done on the Settings menu of most devices.
– Although this may seem obvious, do what you can to protect your social security number. Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s really necessary on any form that’s asking for it. And if it is, make sure you’re comfortable knowing that the place you’re turning it over to, be it a school or a doctor’s office, will adequately protect it. The last four digits of the number, when combined with the birthdate and place of birth, can be used to generate the complete nine-digit social security number.
– Practice safe computing habits and password guarding, just as you guard your ATM code when using an ATM machine. If you’re using a computer on a public network, refrain if possible from checking sites that require login information, and especially avoid doing activities such as online banking.
– If you or someone in your family starts getting junk mail or credit card applications out of nowhere, that may be a sign that someone is using their identity. This is an especially important warning flag if it’s a young kid who starts to receive this information.
– Think twice before sharing your child’s name online or in public. Whether it’s on your Facebook and Twitter page or on stickers you place on your car, it’s possible that the wrong person can see this information and use this information to steal their identity.
– It’s important to distinguish that you’re only checking to see if a report exists when you contact the credit companies to see if you have one for your children. Unless they’ve been a victim of identity theft, they shouldn’t have one, and ordering one could cause the credit bureaus to open on in their name, which is unnecessary.
– Credit service Equifax recently launched a family plan that keeps tabs on the identities of two adults and up to four children, but it comes with a potentially steep price tag: $29.95 a month. For that price parents can get e-mail or text message whenever someone tries to use any of the family’s IDs.
– The first step if you think you are a victim of identity theft is to place a fraud alert with one of the credit companies. Once you contact them, verify that they will contact the other two credit bureaus about the fraud alert as well. You can contact any of the three:
In addition to taking steps to close any fraudulent accounts you find about, you’ll also need to file an Identity Theft Report and a Police Report to begin the process of straightening the identity theft out. For starters, you can download and fill out the FTC Affidavit at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Once you’ve done that, you can then take that form to your local police department and use it to fill out a police report.
After that, you can call the credit companies and request an extended fraud alert, which will stay in effect for seven years.
For more tips like this, make sure to check out this helpful guide from the FTC which contains checklists and step-by-step instructions for what to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.pdf
The FTC also offers a comprehensive site discussing many aspects of identity theft, including tips for how to avoid identity theft http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/