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As a rule, parents tend to experience concern about their children’s wellbeing. With all of the decisions that parents have to make, I imagine it’s near impossible not to worry that you are making the wrong ones, with consequences that may not reveal themselves for years to come. I’m that way with my dogs, and I feel confident the anxiety is more pressing with tiny human people. This is why recommendations from professional organizations are so important.  They offer the comfort of a guiding word, based presumably in expertise, to help parents make the best decisions possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is one such organization, and they have some things to say about children and screen time. However, what they have to say about children and screen time will be revised in the next year, and no doubt, many parents will listen intently. NPR interviewed David Hill, chairman of the AAP Council on Communications and Media and a member of the AAP Children, Adolescents and Media Leadership Working Group. Although Hill did not reveal what the new recommendations would advise, the way he talked about the relationship between screens and kids did reveal a lot about the logic that drives recommendations.  The logic that Hill’s interview revealed made clear, once again, the need for theory to inform practice. More specifically, those who make practical recommendations about technology should consult with technology theorists. more...

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Before leaving his post as Australia’s Education Minister, Christopher Pyne approved a major restructuring of the public school curriculum. The new plan makes code and programming skills central. In a statement released by Australia’s Department of Education and Training at the end of September, Pyne laid out plans to disperse $12million for:

  • The development of innovative mathematics curriculum resources.
  • Supporting the introduction of computer coding across different year levels.
  • Establishing a P-TECH-style school pilot site.
  • Funding summer schools for STEM students from underrepresented groups.

From grade 5, students will learn how to code. From grade 7, they will learn programming. What they will no longer be required to learn, however, is history and geography. The new plan replaces these heretofore core subjects with the technical skills of digital innovation. more...

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Latest in the arsenal of moralpanic studies of digital technologies is a recent article published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, written by psychologists and education scholars from UCLA.  The piece, entitled: “Five Days at Education Camp without Screens Improves Preteen Skills with Nonverbal Emotion Cues,” announces the study’s ultimate thesis: engagement with digital technologies diminishes face-to-face social skills. Unsurprisingly, the article and its’ findings have been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets over the past week. Here is the abstract: more...

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The Today Show recently did a special on sexting, and NBC reporter Abigail Pesta wrote a piece about it, with a video link, here. Much of the piece is based around the expert opinion of Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist who wrote a book on the topic based on interviews and observations with teenage students in the U.S.

In what follows, I leverage a rather harsh critique of the piece and the research that it cites. I do so because I think they show promise, but go wrong in very important ways. This critique is meant not as a fight, but as a push to researchers, policy makers, and general citizens to check their assumptions about the relationship between bodies, behaviors, and technologies. And moreover, it is an imploration to address root level issues, rather than seeking out blamable objects with naive hopes of eradicating social problems through destruction of material stuff. more...

Note to readers: This article and its corresponding links discuss rape, victim blaming, “slut” shaming, and rape culture generally.

 

Image from Youth Vector
Image from Youth Vector

The disturbing events in Steubenville, Ohio have spurred some insightful reporting and analysis (collected by Lisa Wade at Sociological Images) that, one would hope, raise awareness about rape culture.  As a social scientist that studies social media, I am particularly interested in how privacy and connectivity have been framed within the context of the case. I cannot help but notice the sloppiness with which many reporters write about the “dangerous mix of alcohol, sex and social media that many teens navigate nowadays.”  Studying the role of social media in everyday life may appear as trivial or superficial: something fun or novel to study. But Steubenville shows us exactly why writers and scholars need to understand social media better. more...


Emoticon, stitched with DMC rayon embroidery floss on 14-count light green Aida by Deviant Art user ~crafty-manx

As part of my research I spend a lot of time preparing and conducting science lessons with 8th graders. Today they got to learn how to make moss graffiti. After a quick botany lesson they were allowed to paint whatever they wanted onto a large canvas drop cloth. What surprised me the most was the students’ overwhelming desire to simply write their names. If they didn’t write their names, they usually wrote a short phrase. Out of about 80 students, there were only a handful of drawings. Almost every student decided to write text. Some of that text, strangely enough, took the form of emoticons. Why would anyone choose to draw an emoticon? more...

As part of my research into the popularization of tattooing, I have accumulated quite a few interesting links on tattoo toys for children. I don’t mean those temporary tattoos we all used to get from the vending machines at popular chain restaurants. This toys I am talking about have drawn flack from parents as being “inappropriate” for kids, creating an example of a burgeoning “moral panic”. Some examples include: tattoo inspired toddler wear, tattoo machines for kids, and of course, tattooed Barbie dolls.


The new Tokidoki Barbie is causing quite a stir

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George Washington University students have taken action against sexual assault on their campus, and, interestingly, are using the social media site Formspring. Several student organizations have banded together to create the “3000 campaign” (which makes reference to the estimated number of GW students who will experience sexual asaault). The campaign adeptly uses Formspring to allow students to anonymously report sexual assaults. The Formspring page is here. See DC sex and gender columnist Amanda Hess’ excellent coverage of this story here and here.

Cyborgology editors PJ Rey and I have made the point before that social media is often painted as dangerous without looking to the new ways in which it provides support. Yes, bullying occurs on Facebook, but we can also think about how social media has been leveraged to provide social support, for instance, with Dan Savage’s YouTube-based It Gets Better Campaign. I also recently discussed Egypt’s Harassmap, which helps women organize over social media to fight harassment. The site that has been arguably most notorious in the recent fervor over cyber-bullying is Formspring.me (for those who do not know, users on this site answer questions often asked anonymously). The site is connected with a suicide and researcher danah boyd has stated that, more...