Why we need more thoughtful examination of our media environment

Two things in the news that parents need to be aware of: unsafe apps your child may be using, and ways media may be using your child.

Companies are collecting information about your child for profit

IMG_20140416_084234_118As schools hand out laptops and tablets and require students to use them for meore and more of their work, are those schools vigilant, or even aware of, the ways apps may be collecting information on individual students? It’s a good question to ask of your school.

According to Politico, even as we question government cyber-surveillance, data mining by the private sector is growing fast, especially in education:

Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the practice. And the Obama administration has encouraged it, even relaxing federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.

The data analytics firm Knewton “has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke and every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.”

The argument seems to be that companies gather the data to “improve instruction and make education more efficient.” To me, that sounds like code for, “This is good for our profits.”

More apps arrive to facilitate anonymous nastiness

From the Boston Globe:

Atlanta-based Yik Yak first caught on at Southern college campuses but has recently spread to the Northeast. It is one of a flurry of hot apps, like Secret and Whisper, that allow users to speak their minds without revealing their identities, and, sometimes, to insult, shame, and threaten.

The company, to its credit, has blocked its own app at 130,000 middle and high schools across the U.S. But students can still use it off campus.

Apps like these are concerning. You can see how even if an individual teen decides he or she doesn’t want to be involved in anonymous gossip and chooses not to participate, the teen could still be subject to vicious posts. Realistically, there’s no opt-out.


Both of these issues require more debate, conversation, and examination by all of us, leading to decisions made by The People of this democracy, rather than decisions made by private corporations or a government divorced from accountability to the people. How do we get there? Media Literacy education, of course!

(Check out MediaLiteracyNow.org  for ways to get involved in working toward policies that ensures all students are getting the media literacy life skills they urgently need.)


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