Social Media Highlight: Snapchat

snapchat header

snapchat headerSnapchat Overview

Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app most popular with millenials and younger. While the site stared with individual users only, it has evolved to include companies and personalities. Users create an account, and follow other users. The unique feature of the app is that snaps are ephemeral in the app, of lengths up to 10s. Chat history is also deleted by default, and has to be saved if users want later access. Even the creator won’t be able to see the snaps in the future if they don’t save them to Memories. From memories, users can export snaps to their camera role, or move them to a My Eyes Only folder, where they are protected by a passcode. Snaps are photos or videos up to 10s in length. Each snap can have up to three geofilters added. In selfie mode, users can activate facial lenses that add features to the image, or modify the voice in a video. It is also possible to add captions and emoji to snaps. Once a snap is completed, the user can send it to a person, a group of people, or to Snapchat Stories. Snapchat Stories are like a newsfeed, where each of the snaps is viewable for 24 hours after it is added. Permissions for who can see the story is set in Settings. You can access snaps sent to you in Chat. In Stories, you can see all the stories of friends and people that you follow. You can also access Snapchat Discover to see other highlighted public stories, including those by external publishers. Some of these stories include articles as well.

Snapchat works on Android and iOS. The terms of use require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. The app is rated 12+ in the iTunes app store, and Parental Guidance in the Google Play store.

Why Kids Like Snapchat

Snapchat’s is attractive to users because snaps self-destruct. This feels safer than uploading multimedia to spaces where they become part of the kid’s digital footprint. Geofilters and facial lenses make it fun to send snaps, and children feel like they can be more natural in that environment. Also, Snapchat is seen as an environment for the younger crowd, a place where there are few parents, with 85% of the users between 13 and 35.

Dangers of Snapchat

There is little danger of your child coming across unsafe digital content from people that they do not follow while using Snapchat. There are some publishers on Snapchat, and the content may be inappropriate for young children, but is unlikely to be porn. The danger of Snapchat is in how children use it, particularly in what they send and receive.

  • Children may share private information, or inappropriate snaps in Stories.
  • Kids feel safe using Snapchat because the multimedia disappears. They should know that it is possible for other people to capture the image or video before it disappears.
  • Although messages self-destruct, there are apps that let users replay or make copies of snaps, and screenshots are also possible.
  • Users can make calls, or video calls from the app.
  • Chat history is easy to delete.
  • The featured section shows stories from anyone, chosen by the app’s algorithm, and may have content that’s inappropriate for children.
  • Snap streaks may encourage users to be obsessed with the app.
  • Snapchat gets a bad rap for sexting.
  • Snapchat collects and uses your location for geofilters and other features.
  • Ads may feature content that is inappropriate for children.

Make Snapchat Safer

There are a number of possible settings in Snapchat to make it safer. Work with your child to explore those settings and enable them.

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Social Media Highlight: Skype

Skype Overview

Skype is a free messaging, and video and voice calling app that lets you send images, video, text, audio, or documents. Communication from Skype to Skype users is free; SMS and calls to phones are premium features that require one time payment or a subscription plan. Users can make groups, which allow messaging, and audio calls for up to 25 people. The maximum number of users for video calls depends on the platform.

Skype works on Windows, Mac desktops and Linux desktops, Windows Phone, Android and iOS, and is owned by Microsoft. Users must sign in to Skype with a Skype account, which is a Microsoft account. To create an account, users under the age of majority need parental consent. It’s not clear to me whether or not children under 13 are allowed to sign up for the service according to the terms of use. I find the statement about age on the same page to be oblique: “Skype’s websites and software are not intended for or designed to attract users under the age of 13.”

Why Kids Like Skype

Skype is similar to WhatsApp but works on many more platforms. It works just as well, if not better, on a laptop as on a tablet or smart phone. It’s easy to use Skype, and convenient to have it on in the background while working on the laptop. Some kids use if for discussing homework and getting help from peers. Kids also like to use Skype to hang out with each other,

Dangers of Skype

There are few dangers of children accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content in the app, although they may get message and contact requests from strangers, particularly if their profile is publicly searchable. Possible dangers in using WhatsApp include:

  • Conversations that start in games or in social media my move to Skype.
  • Predators who groom children in social media apps, usually move to messaging tools like Skype when they have built trust.
  • It’s easy for strangers to find and contact you if you keep discoverability on.
  • Interested users can use Skype to explore sexting.
  • It’s easy for users to share locations with other users.
  • Teens may use the messaging app to bully each other or to be mean, such as excluding a peer from a Skype group.
  • There are built-in, targeted advertisements in the free version of Skype.

Make Skype Safer

Skype has some limited built in features to make it safer for kids to use. There are also settings that parents and children can work to verify, to maximize security and privacy.

  • Create and manage the Skype account for your young child. Also, learn about Skype features and how to use Skype.
  • Change privacy settings so only contacts can see the picture, turn off automatically add friends, and turn off streaming media.
  • Turn off discoverability so that people don’t find you in search, nor in suggestions.
  • Modify profile on a desktop computer to determine who can see your profile.
  • Block or delete users, as needed, or report inappropriate messaging.
  • Only allow calls and messages from contacts.
  • Disallow Microsoft targeted ads.
  • Talk about sexting with children, and help them understand the dangers.
  • Monitor use and talk to your child openly about their use of Skype.
  • Speak to your child about how grooming, and other online dangers, and keep the lines of communication open. Ask them to let you know about interactions with friends who they haven’t met offline.
  • Turn off location access.
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Parent ZoneCommon Sense Media, and NSPCC NetAware.

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Social Media Highlight: YouTube

YouTube guideYouTube Overview

YouTube is the premier video sharing website in the world, and it is owned by Google. The sites’ users are both individuals and companies. YouTubers (people who use YouTube) can watch videos, upload videos, share videos, share gifs of videos, create channels and playlists, subscribe to channels, and comment on videos. There are built-in tools for doing quick edits to videos, and for adding music. Users can also live stream video, and share the saved video on YouTube. YouTube Red is a paid version of YouTube, only available in a few countries.

YouTube works on the web, and has dedicated apps for Google Play, iOS, smart TVs, game consoles, and media streaming devices. Users must be at least 13 years old to join YouTube. The Google Play app is rated Parental Guidance and the iOS app is rated 17+.

Why Kids Like YouTube

There are lots of videos on YouTube, a mix of content relevant to and interesting to audiences of all ages. It’s easy to search and find interesting content to satisfy our curiosity. The video platform is appealing to children and other users.

Dangers of YouTube

Some content on YouTube is age-rated and can only be accessed with age verification, but since the environment is controlled by users, including moderation, it is not inherently safe for use by children. Dangers to consider include:

  • Public videos can be seen by anyone.
  • Comments can be mean and foul.
  • Private messages can be sent and received through named channels.
  • A friend could upload a video of your child.
  • There is a lot of inappropriate, and adult content on YouTube. Through innocuous search queries, students can encounter this content. Related videos, and what to watch next also provide opportunities for children to access inappropriate content.
  • YouTube Contacts can be set up and used for private video sharing and chatting in the YouTube app. Group chatting is also available on Android.

Make YouTube Safer

To make YouTube safer, there are a number of settings possible. A better option is to install YouTube Kids. Even that option is not 100% safe, with many reports from parents that YouTube’s automatic filters are not catching some inappropriate content.

  • Install YouTube Kids instead of YouTube.
  • Disable comments on public videos, and channels.
  • Enable restricted mode to screen out inappropriate content.
  • Use filters and moderation to manage comments.
  • Turn off channel recommendation.
  • Turn on privacy settings for subscriptions, likes and saved playlists.
  • Request removal of videos of your child. Work with your child, so that they may contact their friend with the request.
  • Have your child show you any videos that they make before uploading them to YouTube.
  • Use unlisted for uploaded videos.
  • If your child wants a channel for uploads, and they have their own account, become a manager.
  • Subscribe to your child’s channel if they have their own account.
  • Report harassment and cyberbullying.
  • Use YouTube with your child, and enjoy watching some of their favorite videos together (especially for younger children).
  • Actively monitor how your child uses YouTube, and discuss it with them (for older children).
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews and instructions from Parent InfoProtect Your EyesCommon Sense Media, and NSPCC NetAware, and YouTube’s Help.

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Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs

Overview

rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment

Dashboard

There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary

Platforms

Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area

All

Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.

Reviews