Have A Chat If Your Child Uses SnapChat

Visit Snapchat.

If your children are using or begging to use the Snapchat app on their digital devices, the time has come for a conversation.

Kids love Snapchat because it makes them feel like they can have secrets, sharing them with others by choice, and occasionally venturing into out-of-bounds territory. They like it because it’s private. And they like it because everything self-destructs in a few seconds.

Well, not really disappear, because the digital footprints we make are never lost and are always lying around — often for a long time.

According to a New York Times article, Off the Record in a Chat App? Don’t Be Sure, the Federal Communications.Commission (FCC) has declared that Snapchat’s claims of disappearing messages and privacy are false. This is a good time to sit down with kids and review the situation — emphasizing that none of us has much privacy anymore, no matter what app makers claim. The privacy which many pre-adolescents and teens thought that they had, does not exist, according to Times reporter Jenna Wortham, who also goes into detail about the settlement with the FCC and the terms that Snapchat has agreed to.

Also take a look at the FCC’s memo, aptly titled Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False. It states:                        Continue reading

Digital Footprints — That’s What It’s All About

many footprintsIf you ask a current fifth grader, he or she might say that the only topic I know much about is digital footprints, because I talk to students about these tiny digital trails as often as possible. But here’s the conundrum. I don’t talk about the topic nearly enough.

Despite being a devoted device and technology geek, I remain concerned about the digital footprints that kids (and we adults) leave all over the web. And I worry especially about the apps that kids use — even when they set strong privacy settings. I want students to understand digital footprint issues so well that they become curators of the profiles that they create all over the virtual world — thinking carefully each time they decide to share and forward information.

Last year one of my early posts on this “class-on-a-blog” described how to begin a family digital footprint conversation by exploring Google Dashboard and noting how Google collects information about the tools that we use. To continue the discussion, you can also check out this digital footprint video from Harvard’s Berkman Center.

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Wordfoto: Great Fun With Photos and Word Lists

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I combined a field of sunflowers with a word list.

I have a new favorite app — Wordfoto. Interestingly, it’s designed for an iPhone and does not yet have a separate iPad version. A GDS student told me about it.

With Wordfoto I create a word list, and then I have some fun turning the words into art by selecting a picture as a background to highlight my words. I can use an image that comes with the app, choose one of the many pictures in my iPhone photo galleries, or take a new picture. It’s even possible to use screen shots. If an image is too cluttered with details, it may not make a good Wordfoto.

When I combine the picture and the word list — voilà! – a cool Wordfoto. Like Instagram, the app comes with a variety of editing options, allowing users to play with the image, crop it, create styles, and fine tune the texture of the pictures. Wordfoto also comes with preset styles that introduce texture, color, and depth variations, making it easy for new users to get started.

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SnapChat! Instantly Deletable Images? Well Not Exactly…

Snapchat: the free mobile app that promotes itself as a disappearing act.

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Visit the Snapchat site.

Teens and, yes, some tweens are now playing with Snapchat because it’s designed to make pictures disappear at their destination — in ten seconds or less.

I’ve tried to use the app, and pictures really do disappear. Voilà! The content is gone. So does this mean a child (or an adult) can go ahead and send all sorts of pictures?

Well, not exactly. Read A Warning about SnapChat, Teenagers, and Online Photo Sharing, appearing on February 11, 2013 over at the Forbes website.

After downloading and installing the Snapchat app on a mobile phone, a user chooses a picture, text, or drawing and decides how long to allow the a picture to reside on the recipient’s screen — anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds. For Snapchat to work the sender must trust that the recipient will allow the picture to delete and that the recipient will be trustworthy and respect the wishes of the sender. Any user is supposed to be 13 or older.

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Getting to Know Instagram: Getting Adults Up to Speed

In a matter of weeks last spring quite a few older elementary and younger middle school children whom I know jumped on the Instragram bandwagon, and they continue to have fun with it. The social networking photography app, now owned by Facebook, lives on their wireless devices, making it easy to use without getting encumbered with computers. Just a few days ago a colleague of mine commented, “Instagram is the new Facebook!”

instagramThe minimum age for the Instagram app is 13 (COPPA regulations), but that hasn’t stopped the site from attracting many children younger than that, often with their parents’ permission. While I tend to be someone who takes age requirements seriously, many parents, after checking out various apps, are more comfortable than I am with letting their kids use sites when they are younger than 13 years of age.

The biggest challenge for adults is keeping an eye on the content and quality of the photos that their children are uploading to Instagram and sharing all over the place. Problems can occur when children err in judgement as they make decisions about what to share (and what not to share). Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, author of Talking Back to Facebook, speaking at GDS this week, described it as “…responding first rather than reflecting.”

What do children like about Instagram? Well, it’s instant.

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