All posts in “parents”

Teaching kids to be tech whizzes as early as elementary school

Physical devices

By age 7 or 8, most kids feel comfortable using devices like smartphones — recent research puts the percentage of American kids between the ages of 10 and 12 who have their own service plans/smartphones at around 45%. Another survey found that 42% of U.S. children aged 8 or younger have their own tablet devices. The age you’ll want to introduce kids to devices like these understandably varies from family to family. Developing a “family media use plan” is one way parents can set appropriate limits for screen time — for every member of the crew (yup, that includes you, Mom and Dad).

Tech devices that are custom-tailored to kids, such as the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition or an Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet, are a perfect introduction to digital devices, and with features like Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that provides access to hundreds of hours of fun and educational content, families can enjoy a breadth of exploration together.

Specifically, with Fire Kids Edition tablets you can set reading goals and track progress with FreeTime Unlimited and build up your child’s vocabulary with tools like Word Wise. This can help boost confidence and foster a love of reading. To reduce screen time, you can access more than 1,000 kid-friendly books narrated through Audible on the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition allows children to explore their creativity and strategic thinking through voice control. So kids can ask Alexa to play interactive games, like Nickelodeon’s “No Way That’s True” or National Geographic quizzes. Kids can test their knowledge with the whole family. For parents, co-viewing and co-playing with kids as they explore these features is a unique way to encourage family bonding. And you never know: Mom and Dad may even learn a thing or two.

Technology and young kids: What parents should know about pre-K kids and high-tech learning

Tech to aid young kids’ learning

When it comes to pre-K and kindergarten-age children, below are a few ways parents may choose to introduce digital learning to their kids in a balanced way.

-Joint reading of interactive e-books: According to the NAEYC, studies have shown “real promise” for e-books to help young kids learn to read. Some studies have found that e-books can improve phonemic and print-concept awareness among preschoolers, and e-readers may be especially effective as educational aids for children with learning disabilities.

When it comes to kids and e-books, the role of the adult reading companion is crucial. E-books that offer interactivity features — in-line definitions of new vocabulary words, bimodal content, or memory-game puzzles, for instance — have been found to be effective tools, particularly when they facilitate conversations between kids and adults. Parents may consider using e-books as a prompt to discuss new concepts with their kids, instead of simply shutting off the book post story-time.

-Using voice-activated smart speakers to support creativity: Kids and parents can use voice-activated assistants like the Echo Dot Kids Edition to complement creative activities in the home. For example: Alexa provides a hands-free way to play music or kids-centric, educational podcasts during arts and crafts time when hands tend to be covered in glue or glitter. For parents of young kids, too, Alexa can serve as a helpful aid for developing schedules, managing calendars, and setting alerts for things like mealtime or when it’s your week to bring snacks to playgroup. Additionally, voice-activated speakers offer a great way to engage with technology without the use of a screen.

Helpful ways parents can use technology during their baby’s first year

Baby’s first screen time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should wait until a child is at least two years old before exposing them to digital media— in other words, plopping an 8-month-old in front of a passive screen like TV or tablets to occupy them is probably not optimal. Moreover, the jury is still out on whether “educational” apps are truly beneficial for babies, so experts suggest exercising common sense when it comes to setting boundaries for digital programming.

But some studies have found that not all screen time is detrimental. Specifically, screen time that encourages parent/infant bonding and interaction may actually be beneficial to early development. Some activities like interactive video calling, where babies communicate with a parent or another human virtually, have been found to help babies learn.

To establish healthy tech practices as a family, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a “balanced approach” to media in the home. Consider what your daily tech use is and be mindful of what your infant is being exposed to, as by 9 months old, babies are already imitating gestures and mimicking adult behavior. Be a role model when using technology: Put away smartphones during meal time, treat devices with care, and interact with digital assistants like Alexa using a polite and respectful tone — use phrases like “Please” and “Thank you” — to demonstrate behaviors you’d like to instill upon your children as they grow up.

Spotify ends test that required family plan subscribers to share their GPS location

Spotify has ended a test that required its family plan subscribers to verify their location, or risk losing accessing to its music streaming service. According to recent reports, the company had sent out emails to its “Premium for Family” customers which asked them to confirm their locations using GPS. The idea here is that some customers may have been sharing Family Plans, even though they’re not related, as a means of paying less for Spotify by splitting the plan’s support for multiple users. And Spotify wanted to bust them.

Spiegel Online and Quartz first reported this news on Thursday.

Of course, as these reports pointed out, asking users to confirm a GPS location is a poor means of verification. Families often have members who live or work outside the home – they may live abroad, have divorced or separated parents, have kids in college, they may travel for work, or any other number of reasons.

But technically, these sorts of situations are prohibited by Spotify’s family plan terms – the rules require all members to share a physical address. That rule hadn’t really been as strictly enforced before, so many didn’t realize they had broken it when they added members who don’t live at home.

Customers were also uncomfortable with how Spotify wanted to verify their location – instead of entering a mailing address for the main account, for instance, they were asked for their exact (GPS) location.

The emails also threatened that failure to verify the account this way could cause them to lose access to the service.

Family plans are often abused by those who use them as a loophole for paying full price. For example, a few years ago, Amazon decided to cut down on Prime members sharing their benefits, because they found these were being broadly shared outside immediate families. In its case, it limited sharing to two adults who could both authorize and use the payment cards on file, and allowed them to create other, more limited profiles for the kids.

Spotify could have done something similar. It could have asked Family Plan adult subscribers to re-enter their payment card information to confirm their account, or it could have designated select slots for child members with a different set of privileges to make sharing less appealing.

Maybe it will now reconsider how verification works, given the customer backlash.

We understand the verification emails were only a small-scale test of a new system, not something Spotify is rolling out to all users. The emails were sent out in only four of Spotify’s markets, including the U.S.

And the test only ran for a short time before Spotify shut it down.

Reached for comment, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed this, saying:

“Spotify is currently testing improvements to the user experience of Premium for Family with small user groups in select markets. We are always testing new products and experiences at Spotify, but have no further news to share regarding this particular feature test at this time.”

Pew: A majority of U.S. teens are bullied online

A majority of U.S. teens have been subject to online abuse, according to a new study from Pew Research Center, out this morning. Specifically, that means they’ve experienced at least one of a half-dozen types of online cyberbullying, including name-calling, being subject to false rumors, receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for, having explicit images of themselves shared without their consent, physical threats, or being constantly asked about their location and activities in a stalker-ish fashion by someone who is not their parents.

Of these, name-calling and being subject to false rumors were the top two categories of abuse teens were subject to, with 42% and 32% of teens reporting it had happened to them.

Pew says that texting and digital messaging has paved the way for these types of interactions, and parents and teens alike are both aware of the dangers and concerned.

Parents, in particular, are worried about teens sending and receiving explicit images, with 57% saying that’s a concern, and a quarter who worry about this “a lot.” And parents of girls worry more. (64% do.)

Meanwhile, a large majority – 90% – of teens now believe that online harassment is a problem and 63% say it’s what they consider a “major” problem.

Pew also found that girls and boys are both harassed online in fairly equal measure, with 60% of girls and 59% of boys reporting having experienced some sort of online abuse. That’s a figure that may surprise some. However, it’s important to clarify that this finding is about whether or not the teen had ever had experienced online abuse – not how often or how much.

Not surprisingly, Pew found that girls are more likely than boys to have experienced two or more types of abuse, and 15% of girls have been the target of at least 4 types of abuse, compared with 6% of boys.

Girls are also more likely to be the recipient of explicit images they didn’t ask for, as 29% of teens girls reported this happened to them, versus 20% of boys.

And as the teen girls got older, they receive even more of these types of images, with 35% of girls ages 15 to 17 saying they received them, compared with only 1 out of 5 boys.

Several factors seem to play no role in how often the teens experience abuse, including race, ethnicity, or parents’ educational attainment, Pew noted. But having money does seem to matter somehow – as 24% of teens whose household income was less than $30K per year said they received online threats, compared with only 12% of those whose household incomes was greater than $75K per year. (Pew’s report doesn’t attempt to explain this finding.)

Beyond that factor, receiving or avoiding abuse is directly tied to how much screen time teens put in.

That is, the more teens go online, the more abuse they’ll receive.

45% of teens say they’re online almost constantly, and they are more likely to be harassed, as a result. 67% of them say they’ve been cyberbullied, compared with 53% who use the internet several times a day or less. And half the constantly online teens have been called offensive names, compared with just about a third (36%) who use the internet less often.

Major tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Facebook, have begun to address the issues around device addiction and screen time with software updates and parental controls.

Apple, in iOS 12, rolled out Screen Time controls that allows Apple device users to measure, monitor and restrict how often they’re on their phones, when, what type of content is blocked, and which apps they can use. In adults, the software can nudge them in the right direction, but parents also have the option of locking down their children’s phones using Screen Time controls. (Of course, savvy kids have already found the loopholes to avoid this, according to new reports.)

Google also introduced time management controls in the new version of Android, and offers parental controls around screen time through its Family Link software.

And both Google and Facebook have begun to introduce screen time reminders and settings for addictive apps like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Teens seem to respect parents’ involvement in their digital lives, the report also found.

A majority – 59% – of U.S. teens say their parents are doing a good job with regard to addressing online harassment. However, 79% say elected officials are failing to protect them through legislation, 66% say social media sites are doing a poor job at stamping down abuse, and 58% of teachers are doing a poor job at handling abuse, as well.

Many of the top media sites were largely built by young people when they were first founded, and those people were often men. The sites were created in an almost naive fashion, with regard to online abuse. Protections – like muting, filters, blocking, and reporting, were generally introduced in a reactive fashion, not as proactive controls.

Instagram, for example – one of teens’ most-used apps – only introduced comment filters, blocklists, and comment blocking in 2016, and just four months ago added account muting. The app was launched in October 2010.

Pew’s findings indicate that parents would do well by their kids by using screen time management and control systems – not simply to stop their teenagers from being bullied and abused as often, but also to help the teens practice how to interact with the web in a less addictive fashion as they grow into adults.

After all, device addiction resulting in increased exposure to online abuse is not a plague that only affects teens.

Pew’s full study involves surveys of 743 teens and 1,058 parents living in the U.S. conducted March 7 to April 10, 2018. It counted “teens” as those ages 13 to 17, and “parents of teens” are those who are the parent or guardian of someone in that age range. The full report is here.