May 24th, 2023

A “profound risk.” That’s what the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, says social media use can pose to the mental health of children and adolescents. Yes, social media can have benefits—helping people feel isolated make meaningful connections among them—but the downsides, Murthy argues in an advisory, are significant: sleep disruption, repeated exposure to inappropriate content that can “normalize” self-harm, cyberbullying, and on and on. In addition to cautioning parents about their kids’ use of social media, the surgeon general recommends families establish “media plans” with their kids and keep devices away during meal times.

May 10th, 2023

Interesting piece in the Washington Post about schools across the country doing their best to prohibit students from staring at their phones while in class. Some schools instruct students to leave their phones in a locker; others require them to store their phones in Yonder bags, which open when students leave campus at the end of the day. Why? Because phones are so distracting, they’re getting in the way of kids’ learning. As students try to catch up from the setbacks of the Covid years, that’s a problem.“We basically said, ‘This has got to stop,’” said Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli. “We’ve got academic issues that are not going to be fixed … if our students continue to sit on their phones.”

March 14th, 2023

Tech companies and advertisers want your email address. Don’t give it to them. A recent article in the New York Times likens your email address to a “digital breadcrumb” and advises you to keep that crumb to yourself. As one advertising executive said to the Times, “I can take your email address and find data you may not have even realized you’ve given to a brand. … The amount of data that is out there on us as consumers is literally shocking.”

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March 1st, 2023

It seems even Tik Tok realizes staring at a phone for hours on end isn’t good for developing minds. The company behind the app announced on March 3 it would limit use of Tik Tok to 60 minutes a day. It’s a good start, and it hints at a growing understanding that spending hours on social media is unhealthy.

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February 22nd, 2023

Wired and others are reporting on a new bug that can slip past Apple’s security standards and access your messages, photos, and call history. Now would be a good time to update your iPhone, iPad, and any other Apple devices you’ve got. Researchers have identified a bug “that could allow criminal hackers to break out of Apple’s security protections and run their own unauthorized code.” Not good. Update.

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January 19th, 2023

Ever wonder how the pros—the privacy pros, the people who make a career out of studying digital privacy—live? Consumer Reports put out a piece at the end of last year that gives a glimpse into the lives of the experts. Do they use Alexa? Is their home completely wired? Some good tips in here, including (gasp!) using an alias to sign up for services and discounts.

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January 13th, 2023

An interesting review of the latest CES expo in Las Vegas by the Washington Post shows the companies introducing the latest tech devices don’t care about your privacy. CES is the country’s biggest annual trade show for the tech industry. It’s where the latest products and services are introduced to the world. And according to the Washington Post reporter who attended the most recent CES, personal privacy is on the back-est of the back burners. Yikes.

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January 6th, 2023

Remember those “This is your brain on drugs” ads with the egg in the frying pan? The New York Times has an interesting article out about research exploring how the heavy use of social media can affect teens’ brains. As one of the researchers put it, “teens who are habitually checking their social media are showing these pretty dramatic changes in the way their brains are responding, which could potentially have long-term consequences well into adulthood, sort of setting the stage for brain development over time.” Parents, this piece is worth a look.

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December 22nd, 2022

Heroes might be a strong word, but hats off to the young, self-proclaimed Luddites recently featured in the New York Times. They’re experimenting with living without smartphones or social media and exploring the world without an every-present digital sidekick. “Social media and phones are not real life,” says one of them. Flip phones, books, and in-the-flesh friends, these Luddites say, are. We’re not trying to convince anyone to ditch their iPhones altogether, but it’s refreshing to read about these kids and their decision to zig away from the scrolling and tracking that so many of us seem to be zagging toward.

Photo by Scott Rossi for The New York Times, seen here as a screenshot of the story as it appeared on the Times’s website, to which we’ve linked below.

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December 8th, 2022

The state of Indiana is suing TikTok, claiming the social media platform puts inappropriate content in front of kids and shares personal data with the Chinese government. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of TikTok. This latest development shows officials in at least one state agree: TikTok is no good for kids.

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