mfioretti: parenting*

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  1. There are 1.5 billion YouTube users in the world, which is more than the number of households that own televisions. What they watch is shaped by this algorithm, which skims and ranks billions of videos to identify 20 “up next” clips that are both relevant to a previous video and most likely, statistically speaking, to keep a person hooked on their screen.

    Company insiders tell me the algorithm is the single most important engine of YouTube’s growth. In one of the few public explanations of how the formula works – an academic paper that sketches the algorithm’s deep neural networks, crunching a vast pool of data about videos and the people who watch them – YouTube engineers describe it as one of the “largest scale and most sophisticated industrial recommendation systems in existence”.

    The algorithm does not appear to be optimising for what is truthful, or balanced, or healthy for democracy
    Guillaume Chaslot, an ex-Google engineer

    Lately, it has also become one of the most controversial. The algorithm has been found to be promoting conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas mass shooting and incentivising, through recommendations, a thriving subculture that targets children with disturbing content such as cartoons in which the British children’s character Peppa Pig eats her father or drinks bleach.

    Lewd and violent videos have been algorithmically served up to toddlers watching YouTube Kids, a dedicated app for children. One YouTube creator who was banned from making advertising revenues from his strange videos – which featured his children receiving flu shots, removing earwax, and crying over dead pets – told a reporter he had only been responding to the demands of Google’s algorithm. “That’s what got us out there and popular,” he said. “We learned to fuel it and do whatever it took to please the algorithm.”
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  2. Children who are cyberbullied are three times more likely to contemplate suicide, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics in 2014. With such facts and figures, who could argue that there’s something to worry about. Throw in the increased unease within big technology companies such as Facebook about the corrosive effects of rumor and fake news in its feeds, and among executives such as former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya that they’ve unleashed a potentially destructive force, and the argument would seem airtight.

    Except that it’s not. Widespread parental apprehension combined with studies lasting only a few years, with few data points, and few controls do not make an unequivocal case. Is there, for instance, a control group of teens who spent an equivalent amount of time watching TV in the 70s or playing arcade video games in the 80s or in internet chat rooms in the 90s? There is not. We may fear the effects of the smartphone, but it would seem that we fear massive uncertainty about the effects of the smartphone at least as much.

    Any new technology whose effects are unknown bears careful study, but that study should start with a blank slate and an open mind. The question should not be framed by what harm these devices and technologies cause but rather by an open-ended question about their long-term effects.

    Take the frequently cited link between isolation, cyber-bullying, depression and suicide. Yes, suicide rates in the U.S. have been on the rise, but that has been true since the early 1990s, and prevalence is highest among middle-aged men, who are most disrupted by the changing nature and demographics of employment but are not the teens spending so many hours glued to their devices. Cyber-bullying is an issue, but no one kept rigorous data about physical and psychological bullying in the 20th century, so it’s impossible to know if the rate and effects of bullying have grown or diminished in a cyber age. As for depression, there too, no one looked at the syndrome until late in the 20th century, and it remains a very fuzzy term when used in mainstream surveys. It’s impossible to say with any certainty what the effects of technology and depression are, especially without considering other factors such as income, diet, age, and family circumstances.

    Some might say that until we know more, it’s prudent, especially with children, to err on the side of caution and concern. There certainly are risks. Maybe we’re rewiring our brains for the worse; maybe we’re creating a generation of detached drones. But there also may be benefits of the technology that we can’t (yet) measure.

    Consider even an anodyne prescription such as “everything in moderation.” Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.
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  3. La strada che il Miur ha scelto di imboccare va nella direzione opposta rispetto alla Francia, dove da pochi giorni il ministro dell’Istruzione Jean-Michel Blanquer ha introdotto il divieto di usare gli smartphone a scuola. Due risposte alternative al medesimo fenomeno: in Italia l’89,3% dei giovani usa i 'telefoni intelligenti', col primo apparecchio posseduto già a 8-9 anni. L’Italia punta sull’educazione a partire dalla convinzione che «proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione » (n.2). Chi avrà ragione?
    Il decalogo

    1 Ogni novità comporta cambiamenti. Ogni cambiamento deve servire per migliorare l’apprendimento e il benessere delle studentesse e degli studenti e più in generale dell’intera comunità scolastica.

    2 I cambiamenti non vanno rifiutati, ma compresi e utilizzati per il raggiungimento dei propri scopi. Bisogna insegnare a usare bene e integrare nella didattica quotidiana i dispositivi, anche attraverso una loro regolamentazione. Proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione. A questo proposito ogni scuola adotta una Politica di Uso Accettabile (PUA) delle tecnologie digitali.

    3 La scuola promuove le condizioni strutturali per l’uso delle tecnologie digitali. Fornisce, per quanto possibile, i necessari servizi e l’indispensabile connettività, favorendo un uso responsabile dei dispositivi personali (BYOD). Le tecnologie digitali sono uno dei modi per sostenere il rinnovamento della scuola.

    4 La scuola accoglie e promuove lo sviluppo del digitale nella didattica. La presenza delle tecnologie digitali costituisce una sfida e un’opportunità per la didattica e per la cultura scolastica. Dirigenti e insegnanti attivi in questi campi sono il motore dell’innovazione. Occorre coinvolgere l’intera comunità scolastica anche attraverso la formazione e lo sviluppo professionale.

    5 I dispositivi devono essere un mezzo, non un fine. È la didattica che guida l’uso competente e responsabile dei dispositivi. Non basta sviluppare le abilità tecniche, ma occorre sostenere lo sviluppo di una capacità critica e creativa.

    6 L’uso dei dispositivi promuove l’autonomia delle studentesse e degli studenti. È in atto una graduale transizione verso situazioni di apprendimento che valorizzano lo spirito d’iniziativa e la responsabilità di studentesse e gli studenti. Bisogna sostenere un approccio consapevole al digitale nonché la capacità d’uso critico delle fonti di informazione, anche in vista di un apprendimento lungo tutto l’arco della vita.

    7 Il digitale nella didattica è una scelta: sta ai docenti introdurla e condurla in classe. L’uso dei dispositivi in aula, siano essi analogici o digitali, è promosso dai docenti, nei modi e nei tempi che ritengono più opportuni.

    8 Il digitale trasforma gli ambienti di apprendimento. Le possibilità di apprendere sono ampliate, sia per la frequentazione di ambienti digitali e condivisi, sia per l’accesso alle informazioni, e grazie alla connessione continua con la classe. Occorre regolamentare le modalità e i tempi dell’uso e del non uso, anche per imparare a riconoscere e a mantenere separate le dimensioni del privato e del pubblico.

    9 Rafforzare la comunità scolastica e l’alleanza educativa con le famiglie. È necessario che l’alleanza educativa tra scuola e famiglia si estenda alle questioni relative all’uso dei dispositivi personali. Le tecnologie digitali devono essere funzionali a questa collaborazione. Lo scopo condiviso è promuovere la crescita di cittadini autonomi e responsabili.

    10 Educare alla cittadinanza digitale è un dovere per la scuola. Formare i futuri cittadini della società della conoscenza significa educare alla partecipazione responsabile, all’uso critico delle tecnologie, alla consapevolezza e alla costruzione delle proprie competenze in un mondo sempre più connesso.
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  4. Facebook’s goal is to “push down the age” of when it’s acceptable for kids to be on social media, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Golin says 11-to-12-year-olds who already have a Facebook account, probably because they lied about their age, might find the animated emojis and GIFs of Messenger Kids “too babyish,” and are unlikely to convert to the new app.

    Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.

    Facebook says Messenger Kids will not display ads, nor collect data on kids for advertising purposes. Kids’ accounts will not automatically be rolled into Facebook accounts once they turn 13.

    Nonetheless, advocates focused on marketing to children expressed concerns. The company will collect the content of children’s messages, photos they send, what features they use on the app, and information about the device they use. Facebook says it will use this information to improve the app and will share the information “within the family of companies that are part of Facebook,” and outside companies that provide customer support, analysis, and technical infrastructure.
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  5. Children and young people should be educated in using smartphones to stop them being exploited by the rising tide of sex offenders attempting to groom and sexually abuse them via digital technology, a new UK report has suggested.

    The Digital Childhood released at the Children's Global Media Summit in Manchester, was commissioned by 5Rights, an initiative for youth digital rights launched two years ago by Baroness Beeban Kidron.

    It insists children and young people should be at the center of the digital environment and not left behind or overlooked despite extreme risks, such as grooming and child sexual abuse.

    Constant and unrestricted access to media means children constantly see sensationalist headlines, photoshopped images and unsavory content, which takes control out of their parents' hands as to the content they are exposed to from a young age, Jodie Cook, a social media expert and entrepreneur, believes.

    "App creators are working on creating devices and platforms that are as addictive as possible, which will have an impact on children's brains and attention spans. Currently social media platforms such as Facebook have a minimum age requirement for individuals signing up and films have age restrictions, perhaps we will see this with devices too," Ms. Cook told Sputnik.

    Sex Predators

    Online platforms can be used for heinous crimes such as the sexual exploitation of children by pedophiles and sex predators. This type of abuse can take almost as many forms as in the physical world, ranging from producing, storing and trading child pornography to seeking paid or unpaid sex online once onscreen contact has been established, normally via smartphones.

    Online grooming by pedophiles — the process of persuading a youngster to have sex online, sharing photographs or arranging to meet — is now at an alarmingly high level, prompting the UK government to introduce a new law in April 2017 whereby groomers who target children through mobile phones and social media will face two years in prison.

    The National Crime Agency warned December 4 sex offenders are increasingly using live online streaming platforms to exploit children. In one week alone, authorities identified 345 vulnerable children and arrested 192 people, 30 percent involving streaming, blackmail and grooming.

    Minimum Age

    Next week the House of Lords is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would force social networks to build child protection into their sites as well as make 13 the minimum age at which a child could create social media accounts online. Ofcom said 43 percent of 11-year olds already have accounts.

    YouTube announced on December 5 it will employ new and improved digital algorithms as well as thousands of human moderators across Google to shield its young viewers from disturbing content.
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  6. Nobody needs a smartwatch. But for parents, they can be tempting. Loaded with GPS and a cellular data chip, they can both track a child and offer them a way to communicate in emergencies–without handing them the full dopamine drip that is the modern smartphone. In turn, the market research firm Gartner believes that by 2021, 30% of smartwatch sales may be for children.

    But according to a new report put out by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) and the security firm Mnemonic, recently featured on BoingBoing, parents should think twice before purchasing kid-friendly smartwatches like the Gator or Xplora. Why? The watches and their connected apps tend to disregard fundamental opt-in agreements to sharing data–meaning there’s no legal pact between the user and the company holding their data. Crucially, none of the investigated watches allowed you to delete your child’s data or ensured that marketers couldn’t use that data to sell something to your child. Nor did they make it clear where all of this data was being stored. These practices aren’t just crude or careless; depending on a country’s privacy laws, they can actually be illegal.
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  7. Lo Stato e il Mercato, le due agenzie sulle quali la ragione e la morale (dopo essersi consultate a vicenda ma senza giungere a un pieno accordo) avevano puntato per gestire in modo efficace la parte dell’universo popolata dagli uomini, o almeno a metterla nelle condizioni di autogestirsi come si deve, hanno fallito e falliscono ogni giorno di più tutta una serie di prove pratiche, deludendo le aspettative che vi erano state riposte. E al momento non vediamo candidati papabili a subentrare al loro ruolo, per quanto meticolose e disperate siano le ricerche e per quanto possano sembrare creativi e promettenti i bozzetti sulla lavagna.

    Nella nostra realtà frattale si ripropone, seppure su scala diversa, un dilemma dello stesso tipo. La crisi di un’autorità improntata all’immagine del Dio Padre onnisciente e onnipotente viene avvertita con forza dalla base fino alla cima, sebbene ciascun livello abbia i propri motivi per viverla così, e nonostante i fattori scatenanti di questo senso di crisi siano diversi. Il padre in carne e ossa, non quello metaforico, appartiene al frattale più piccolo nella successione/gerarchia di frattali. Quel padre fatto di carne funge più che altro da anello di congiunzione – o, più correttamente, da interfaccia di trasferimento/ scambio – tra quelle due modalità di aggregazione umana coesistenti, intrecciate e interagenti, che Victor Turner distingueva in societas e communitas. Le prove e le tribolazioni che affliggono oggi quella particolare “figura paterna” riflettono in forma condensata i fenomeni che colpiscono ognuna delle sue estensioni e idealizzazioni, a prescindere dal gradino occupato nella struttura frattale.

    Indipendentemente dal fatto che entrambi i genitori vivano o no sotto lo stesso tetto, i legami tra genitori e figli si stanno facendo sempre più laschi e al contempo viene strappata loro di mano l’identificazione pressoché totale con la struttura dell’autorità. Credo che l’“evaporazione del padre” dalla vita familiare di cui parlano Lacan e Recalcati o, almeno, da quel “centro intorno al quale gravita la vita familiare”, sia in larga misura, sebbene certo non esclusivamente, una situazione autoinflitta, una fossa in cui ci si e scavati da soli.

    È indubbio che la volatilità del mercato del lavoro e l’intrinseca fragilità, friabilità e nonfinalità pressoché cronica delle posizioni sociali rivelino quotidianamente la spettacolare scomparsa dell’onniscienza, e a maggior ragione dell’onnipotenza, dall’elenco delle qualità del Padre: queste nuove realtà di vita indeboliscono quelle condizioni, create e preservate sul piano sociale, su cui un tempo tendeva a fondarsi la possibilità di ricorrere al Capofamiglia come il prototipo per qualunque futuro garante dell’ordine e della giustizia del mondo. Eppure, l’“evaporazione” del Padre, e così le sue conseguenze più decisive in termini di Weltanschauung, come lo svuotamento improvviso del “centro gravitazionale”, sono state favorite e promosse dalla rinuncia a una notevole fetta di responsabilità genitoriali, un atto di resa che può essere coatto o volontario, rassegnato oppure accolto con entusiasmo. Gli scrupoli morali che potrebbero insorgere in seguito a questa rinuncia tendono a essere affrontati attraverso i servizi a pagamento offerti dai mercati del consumo; e ancora di più attraverso il ricorso ai beni che questi offrono con la funzione di tranquillanti morali. Il che a sua volta spiana ancor più la strada alla commercializzazione degli aspetti più intimi dell’aggregazione e dell’interazione umana.
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  8. When asked by the filmmaker how they would respond if their yard time were reduced to just one hour a day, the inmates are horrified at the suggestion. “I think that’s going to build more anger. That would be torture.” One guard said it would be “potentially disastrous.”

    Shock and disbelief is registers clearly on the inmates’ faces when they learn that children are given less outdoor time than they. “Wow, that is really depressing. That really is,” one says.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-27)
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  9. Ultimo nato della famiglia, il Family link di Google che consente ai genitori di creare un account specifico per il proprio bambino che possono gestire da remoto e aiuta a impostare alcune regole di base: quali applicazioni si possono utilizzare e per quanto tempo, con un timer da impostare la sera quando è ora di andare a letto.

    È possibile negare l'installazione e l'acquisto di contenuti multimediali come giochi, app e musica dal Play Store Google. La richiesta compare sullo smartphone di mamma e papà che hanno 24 ore di tempo per accettare o meno il download. Una svolta che sembra la risposta definitiva a tutte le preoccupazioni genitoriali. Disponibile solo per dispositivi Android, Family Link è testata da un gruppo di volontari negli Stati Uniti che hanno figli minori di 13 anni.
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  10. We all did so well keeping our kids away from obvious traps like 4chan, but it turns out that during those endless unsupervised hours watching Minecraft videos and Twitch streams, their hosts were muttering on about anime and black IQs and what to do about The Jews. And now our kids are hitting their teens, it's coming out of them like the first belches of sewage from a blocked toilet, and, well, here we all are in 2017!

    ...again this week with the news that YouTube video gaming personality JonTron had made several racist and anti-semitic statements. JonTron — real name Jon Jafari — started his week by tweeting support for Iowa representative Steve King on Sunday, after King made the troubling claim that “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” Jafari then doubled down on this stance in an interview with fellow streamer Steven “Destiny” Bonnell, complaining of the erosion of a “unifying culture” in the United States, portraying Black Lives Matter as violent terrorists, and repeatedly making portentous warnings that white people would become the minority in American society. ...

    On YouTube, these fringe opinions are insidious, too. They’re not set to Leni Riefenstahl films or videos of the Nuremberg Rallies — they dribble out during video game streams, or in Twitch chat, or in YouTube’s never-ending “up next” queue. These are ostensibly benign spaces that have become politicized in recent years, but not so loudly that the average parent will be able to clock the association. As the Gizmodo commenter notes, the kids’ parents see video games and “it’s not a red flag.”
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-03-17)
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