The iPad is a Far Bigger Threat to Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Ten years ago, psychologist Sue Palmer predicted the toxic effects of social media. Now she sees a worrying new danger…

Source: The iPad is a Far Bigger Threat to Our Children Than Anyone Realizes.

When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: ‘No, they’re bad for your teeth.’ So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.

What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter’s hands. Peace was restored immediately.

This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier. It certainly wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve seen many tiny children barely able to toddle yet expertly swiping an iPad – not to mention countless teenagers, smartphone in hand, lost to the real world as they tap out texts.

It’s ten years since the publication of my book, Toxic Childhood, which warned of the dangers of too much screen-time on young people’s physical and mental health. My fears have been realised. Though I was one of the first to foresee how insidiously technology would penetrate youngsters’ lives, even I’ve been stunned at how quickly even the tiniest have become slaves to screens – and how utterly older ones are defined by their virtual personas.

Indeed, when my book came out, Facebook had just hit our shores and we were more concerned with violent video games and children watching too much TV. Seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they’re often on two or more screens at once – for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad.

Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it’s been difficult for parents to control it. And when it comes to spending a childhood in front of a screen, this generation are like lab rats. The long-term impact is not known.

Even before iPads hit the market in 2010, experts were warning that 80 per cent of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination, due to a sedentary lifestyle.

 

Sue Palmer, above, believes that excessive screen time can lead to obesity, sleep disorders and aggression

Along with colleagues in the field of child development, I’d seen a rise in prescriptions for Ritalin, a drug for attention deficit and hyperactivity – a four-fold increase in less than a decade. And we’d collected a mass of research showing links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement.

It’s little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages. Sadly, we’re seeing the rise of the ‘techno-tot’ for whom iPads have become the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket.

Recent research found 10 per cent of children under four are put to bed with a tablet computer to play with as they fall asleep. One study of families owning them found a third of children under three had their own tablets. Baby shops even sell ‘apptivity seats’ into which a tablet can be slotted to keep toddlers entertained.

Few know that the late Apple boss Steve Jobs didn’t let his own children have iPads. I wish he had gone public on this as other parents might have followed suit.

Because the earlier children are hooked on screens, the more difficult it is to wean them off.

This is not the only worry. It’s not just what children get up to onscreen that affects their overall development. It’s what screens displace – all the activities they’re not doing in the real world. Today’s children have far fewer opportunities for what I call ‘real play’. They are no longer learning through first-hand experiences how to be human and are much less likely to play or socialize outdoors or with others.

One of the most depressing examples of a totally screen-based childhood involved a ten-year-old in London. The overweight, pasty-faced little lad told me: ‘I sit in my room and I watch my telly and play on my computer . . . and if I get hungry I text down to my mum and she brings me up a pizza.’ The change in children’s play has happened in little more than a couple of decades. While many parents feel uneasy about all that screen-time, they haven’t tackled it as they’ve been so busy keeping up with changes in their own lives.

And anyway, it’s happening to children everywhere – so surely it can’t be bad for them?

But real play is a biological necessity. One psychologist told me it was ‘as vital for healthy development as food or sleep’.

If the neural pathways that control social and imaginative responses aren’t developed in early childhood, it’s difficult to revive them later. A whole generation could grow up without the mental ability to create their own fun, devise their own games and enjoy real friendships – all because of endless screen-time.

It’s getting out and about – running, climbing, making dens and so on – that allows little children to gain physical skills. Playing ‘let’s pretend’ is a creative process requiring lots of personal input.

Real play develops initiative, problem-solving skills and many other positive traits, such as a can-do attitude, perseverance and emotional resilience. It’s vital for social skills, too. By playing together, youngsters learn to get along with other people. They discover how others’ minds work, developing empathy. And, as real play is driven by an innate desire to understand how the world works, it provides the foundation for academic learning. Real play is evolution’s way of helping children develop minds of their own – curious, problem- solving, adaptable, human minds.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no screen-time for children under two and a maximum two hours a day there-after. This is not just due to a proven link between screen-time and attention disorders, but because it eliminates other activities essential for building healthy bodies and brains.

 

 

Babies are born with an intense desire to learn about their world, so they’re highly motivated to interact with people and objects around them – the beginning of real play. That’s why they love it when we play silly games with them, such as peekaboo, or they manage to grasp some household object. This is what helps them develop physical co-ordination and social skills.

But when little ones can get instant rewards from high-tech devices, they don’t need to bother with real play. Images on a screen can be just as fascinating as the real world, and even a very small child can learn to control the images with a clumsy swish of podgy fingers.

Each time babies or toddlers make something happen on screen, they get the same sort of pleasure hit as they would from a cuddle or a splash in the bath. When they can get instant rewards by swiping a screen, why bother with play that demands physical, social and cognitive effort?

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield says: ‘We cannot park our children in front of screens and expect them to develop a long attention span.’

She also worries about the effects of technology on literacy. ‘Learning to read helps children learn to put ideas into logical order,’ she says. ‘On the other hand, staring at a screen puts their brains into suspended animation.’

Dr Aric Sigman, who has amassed a huge database of research linking children’s screen-time to ADHD, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders, also points to the conflict between screen-based activity and reading.

‘Unlike screen images, words don’t move, make noises, sing or dance. Ultimately, screen images render the printed word simply boring at a crucial phase when the child’s mind is developing,’ he says.

Yet another problem with too much screen-gazing is that it doesn’t develop resilience.

Real play gives children opportunities to learn how to cope with challenges for themselves. Finding how to learn from their mistakes, picking themselves up when they take a tumble and sorting out squabbles with playmates all help develop the self-confidence that makes children more emotionally resilient.

This is vital for mental health, especially in our high-pressure world. So I wasn’t surprised when this month Childline warned Britain is producing deeply unhappy youngsters – sad, lonely, with low self-esteem and an increasing predilection to self-harm. The charity painted a bleak portrait of our children’s emotional state, blaming their unhappiness on social networking and cyber-bullying.

It’s understandable parents feel unable to tackle their children’s social media use. After all, it has spread like a virus. In 2012, just six years after Facebook arrived here, it was the favourite website of ten-year-old girls.

That year I interviewed three 15-year-old girls in Yorkshire who have been on Facebook since the age of ten. They said they didn’t enjoy it as much as ‘when we were young’ because ‘running our own PR campaigns’ – as they wittily described the constant need to make their lives sound glamorous and exciting – was exhausting and they often felt miserable when others seemed to be having more fun.

But they couldn’t give up the social media site as it would put them out of the social loop. ‘There’s lots of cyber-bullying,’ one said. ‘So you’ve got to try to be like everyone else.’

But we can’t go on letting our children ‘be like everyone else’ when it’s damaging them. If the next generation is to grow up bright, balanced and healthy enough to use technology wisely, parents need to take action. And that means limiting screen-time, spending time together as a family and making sure get children out to play.Some say children need to use technology because that’s the way the world is going. But there’s no need to give little children high-tech devices.

Modern technology develops at a phenomenal rate – any IT skills that children learn before the age of seven will be long past their sell-by date by the time they reach their teens.But self-confidence, emotional resilience, creative thinking, social skills and the capacity for focused thought will stand them in good stead whatever the future brings.

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6 Ways Your Brain Twists Your Social Media Feed to Reinforce Your Beliefs

Today, the average Internet user now has about eight social media accounts. Freestocks/Unsplash

 

Monitor how your mind processes the flow of information on your social media feeds by being aware of these six subconscious biases.

Source: 6 Ways Your Brain Twists Your Social Media Feed to Reinforce Your Beliefs

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Social media is a big deal. Online networking sites and apps are an undeniable world phenomenon, currently bending humanity in new directions. A third or more of the global population is on it; Facebook alone has more than two billion users. Nearly 90 percent of Internet users in the Middle East are on social media; as are more than 80 percent of South Americans and more than three-quarters of the people living in Africa. On average, we now use social media at a rate that equates to more time than what a typical person will spend eating and drinking, socializing in person or grooming. Teens devote as much as nine hours per day to their online social interactions. That’s more than they sleep, and more time than they spend with their parents and teachers. Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 check their phones on average 82 times per day. Americans in total check their screens about eight billion times per day. Thirty-nine percent of girls between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four identify themselves as Facebook addicts and the average Internet user now has about eight social media accounts, up from just three in 2012.

We are way beyond being able to dismiss Facebook, Instagram and the rest as high-tech delivery systems for cat videos. Gone are the days when we could mock them as nothing more than Kardashian promotion vehicles and sad photo galleries of what our friends are eating for lunch. Social media sites are the primary and trusted news source for hundreds of millions of people. They are the fountains of social change, conspiracy theory factories and propaganda super-cannons. And all the while, unseen people behind the screens write algorithms that harvest every possible detail of users’ lives. You are not the sum of your Google searches, Amazon purchases, tweets and Facebook likes. Your online activities shouldn’t define you as an individual. But, increasingly they do. Silent, unseen programs are busy digitizing and commodifying humanity. The secret dossiers they compile and sell to marketers can be so probing and detailed that they would make the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover blush. Most people still don’t know that the primary product in the social media universe is the user. Think of social media as a vast army of digital Trojan horses. While the glow of smartphone screens lulls or excites our minds—whatever it takes to keep us swiping, poking, and clicking—tiny hoplites in the form of algorithmic spies spill out from the belly of the beasts to conduct endless espionage missions.

Sometimes the results of all this constant tracking and surveillance are trivial. Maybe an ad for the book you almost bought haunts you for a day or two online. But it can also be devastating. For example, now, or in the near future, your activities on social media will influence whether or not you get the loan you need, rent the apartment you want or get the call to come in and interview for your dream job. Human resources managers and rental property owners may not be able to ask you about your sexuality, political loyalties, positions on gun control and abortion, but in today’s world they don’t have to. Thanks to social media, they already know.

Loss of privacy and the behind-the-scenes bartering and selling of social media user data are becoming cause for public concern. A Pew Research Center study found that 91 percent agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies. Eighty-eight percent of adults agree or strongly agree that it is very difficult to remove inaccurate information about them from the internet, and 80 percent are concerned about third parties, like advertisers or businesses, accessing the information they share on social media sites.

The quick answer to social media surveillance is to be more thoughtful about what we share. We don’t have to show and comment on everything we do. Hold some things back and be mindful that a Facebook page or Instagram account is going to serve as your resume in some real-world situations. Opting out might seem like a good option but social media is so deeply entrenched in modern culture that having no presence on it can be viewed as a red flag by potential employers, landlords and even romantic interests. Some of the things we can do to reduce our risk are easy, others are more difficult. Be aware that everything is hackable now. It doesn’t take a computer savant or at least a competent coder to figure out a way to get into your account. Cheap or free password-breaking programs are available to anyone online. The security experts I’ve spoken with are in unanimous agreement about making your accounts relatively secure so that hackers are more likely to pass you up for easier, less-prepared prey.

For minimal defense these days it is necessary to use long and complex passwords of ten to twenty-five letters, symbols and numbers. Don’t use common words or phrases. Use different passwords for multiple accounts and activate two-step authentication whenever possible. Avoid using public Wi-Fi and be cautious of USB drives because they are common carriers of malware. Don’t say yes to every app. Many “free” apps exist primarily to spy on you and sell your data; you should delete those you don’t need or use. Update your software so that you get new security features and never fill out online questionnaires—most of them are only there to get your data and sell it. Give some thought to who you connect with on your social media sites; it’s not only your social media behavior that might come back to haunt you but theirs as well. Some experts predict, for example, that a person’s network of cyber-friends will become a critical, standard factor in determining credit ratings and making hiring decisions one day soon. Keep in mind that your online life, for better or worse, will play an increasing role in your offline life in the coming years. Thinking of social media activity in this way may not be fun or pleasant, but this is the reality—ignorance or indifference will not serve you well.

The cause of the problem is that the rise of social media has been so swift we haven’t had much of a chance to adapt; we’re all playing catchup. The good news is that we don’t have to swear off social media completely, but we do need to learn about the dangers and adjust our behavior accordingly. A crucial first step toward smarter social media use is to accept who and what you are. As a human being you possess a high-powered but problematic brain. You are influenced every moment of your life by a shadow mind that is largely a confounding jumble of shortcuts and irrational processes. Many of these subconscious operations, meant to make our lives more efficient, are easily exploited on social media where lies, fearmongering and sincere but flawed reasoning run rampant.

When you encounter news stories, comments, images, videos and ideas on social media, your subconscious mind has already decided whether to trust, believe, accept or reject long before your conscious mind gets out of bed and put its shoes on. Your usual role in the process is to then attempt to make sense of, or justify, whatever the subconscious mind has fed you. This is standard operating procedure for a human brain and most people give it little, if any, thought while using social media. As a result, fake news, deceptive marketing, crazy conspiracy theories and other cognitive snares pose serious problems both for the individual and society. So how can we best defend against them?

We could sit back and trust the social media company owners to save us by cleaning up the tangled and treacherous jungles they created. Or we might place our faith in government to protect us with regulation. But why not just take responsibility for own minds? We all can police our own perceptions, thoughts and decisions online. Ultimately, I suspect, this is the way forward. Private reform and some government regulation may be necessary and helpful, but alone it won’t be enough. Social media users must wake up, grow up and start taking care of themselves. It falls upon us to question what we believe and share on social media. It’s our responsibility to do better at spotting lies and rejecting irrational claims. The following are some of the most problematic subconscious processes and biases that trip up millions of people every moment on social media. Make sure you aren’t one of them.

The mere exposure effect

Simply encountering an idea can make you more agreeable to believing it later—even if your initial conscious reaction to it was that it was wrong or untrue. Keep this in mind as you encounter all those “meaningless” comments, photos and viral memes every day on social media. We may dismiss them as silly and inconsequential in the moment, but beneath our conscious awareness we can be falling in love with them or at least leaning toward acceptance because of mere exposure. The similar illusion-of-truth effect is another big problem on social media. Repeat reading, hearing or viewing of a claim can lead us to believe that it must be true. Think of this as the cognitive version of being beaten into submission.

The Dunning-Kruger effect

Ignorance of our ignorance is a huge problem on social media where pseudo-experts, liars and blowhards abound. Unfortunately, we are terrible at recognizing the limitations of our knowledge. The Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play online when we happily consume or share bad information about a subject with unjustified confidence merely because we know so little about it. You might think ignorance would prompt us to be more cautious and humble but often it does not. It is a common human reaction to effortlessly slide into arrogant expert mode about things we know little or nothing about. Be humble and always second guess yourself about things you don’t know much about.

Groupthink

Humans love to go along to get along. Few people are willing to rock the boat, even if the boat is sinking. One reason for this is because maintaining social networks has been one of our species’ greatest survival strengths. We endured the brutal gauntlet of our long prehistoric past in large part because we lived together in tight social units, shared knowledge and worked toward common goals. But groupthink can be a problem when people fall in line and agree when we should know better. We often do this even as our moral compass points in a different direction. Keep this in mind while on social media. Ask yourself if you might be surrendering your ability to reason or compromising on an important moral position to accommodate a natural desire to keep your digital tribe members happy in the moment.

The anchoring effect

Be very careful where you drop anchor in the social media ocean. A human mind hungers for information, but this is the case even if the information is not germane to the current task or topic. If no good, accurate or useful information is available, the subconscious mind doesn’t give up on its mission to serve you. For better or worse, it will seize upon the first thing available to work with. Whatever bit of information hits your knowledge vacuum early, when considering any topic at hand, matters. That input, no matter how wrong or irrelevant, can then become the anchor around which your thinking and decision-making flows. For example, a brief encounter on Twitter with a big number about traffic accidents or the national debt can set you up to grossly overestimate the fair value of a surfboard for sale on Craig’s List. Had you encountered smaller numbers just before shopping around on Craig’s List you would have been more likely to grossly underestimate the value. This may seem crazy, but numerous experiments have revealed the anchoring effect. This is one more reason to consistently question and challenge your thoughts and decisions on social media.

Authority bias

Don’t stumble on social media while looking up. We are highly vulnerable to trusting and falling in line behind anyone or any information perceived to be authoritative. This is a not a problem for weak people; it’s a problem for all people. Just about anything can seem more credible online if it is presented to us inside a warm, magnetic glow of authority. Do not allow a uniform, lab coat, fancy title or dominant posture hoodwink you into believing nonsense or buying a junk product. Separate claims and ideas from the delivery person or packaging so that you might better analyze and assess them.

The blind spot bias

One of the most important things to remember while on social media is that your subconscious mind works hard to keep you feeling secure and comfortable. It is relentless in trying to convince you that you are rational and logical, that it’s all those other people who are emotional, gullible and silly enough to believe and do dumb things on social media. Reject these lies. It is essential for every social media user to consciously work at being humble and staying grounded because of the blind spot bias.

Everyone can enjoy and benefit from social media use, but it is essential to be aware of various problems and pitfalls that await the unexpecting and unprepared mind. Before you let any news story, comment, image, or idea set up camp inside your head, ask yourself how it might be pushing your emotional buttons at the expense of reasoning. Challenge yourself, note the source, consider the motivations behind the information, think before you believe and stay humble. Around the world right now, governments, corporations, criminals, and dictators are investing time and money into figuring out ways to more effectively pierce the minds and private lives of their constituents, customers, or victims. A few billion people need to clean up their thinking processes and online behaviors fast. Those who tune in, open their eyes, and maintain a sharp, activated mind will win far more battles than they lose.

 

Guy P. Harrison is the author of seven non-fiction books. His latest is Think Before You Like: Social Media’s Effect on the Brain and the Tools You Need to Navigate Your Newsfeed.

 

 

 

 

 

How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media

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Hours after the Las Vegas massacre, Travis McKinney’s Facebook feed was hit with a scattershot of conspiracy theories. The police were lying. There were multiple shooters in the hotel, not just one. The sheriff was covering for casino owners to preserve their business.

The political rumors sprouted soon after, like digital weeds. The killer was anti-Trump, an “antifa” activist, said some; others made the opposite claim, that he was an alt-right terrorist. The two unsupported narratives ran into the usual stream of chatter, news and selfies.

“This stuff was coming in from all over my network of 300 to 400” friends and followers, said Mr. McKinney, 52, of Suffolk, Va., and some posts were from his inner circle.

But he knew there was only one shooter; a handgun instructor and defense contractor, he had been listening to the police scanner in Las Vegas with an app. “I jumped online and tried to counter some of this nonsense,” he said.

In the coming weeks, executives from Facebook and Twitter will appear before congressional committees to answer questions about the use of their platforms by Russian hackers and others to spread misinformation and skew elections. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook sold more than $100,000 worth of ads to a Kremlin-linked company, and Google sold more than $4,500 worth to accounts thought to be connected to the Russian government.

Agents with links to the Russian government set up an endless array of fake accounts and websites and purchased a slew of advertisements on Google and Facebook, spreading dubious claims that seemed intended to sow division all along the political spectrum — “a cultural hack,” in the words of one expert.

Yet the psychology behind social media platforms — the dynamics that make them such powerful vectors of misinformation in the first place — is at least as important, experts say, especially for those who think they’re immune to being duped. For all the suspicions about social media companies’ motives and ethics, it is the interaction of the technology with our common, often subconscious psychological biases that makes so many of us vulnerable to misinformation, and this has largely escaped notice.

Skepticism of online “news” serves as a decent filter much of the time, but our innate biases allow it to be bypassed, researchers have found — especially when presented with the right kind of algorithmically selected “meme.”

At a time when political misinformation is in ready supply, and in demand, “Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College (and occasional contributor to The Times’s Upshot column).

For starters, said Colleen Seifert, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, “People have a benevolent view of Facebook, for instance, as a curator, but in fact it does have a motive of its own. What it’s actually doing is keeping your eyes on the site. It’s curating news and information that will keep you watching.”

That kind of curating acts as a fertile host for falsehoods by simultaneously engaging two predigital social-science standbys: the urban myth as “meme,” or viral idea; and individual biases, the automatic, subconscious presumptions that color belief.

The first process is largely data-driven, experts said, and built into social media algorithms. The wide circulation of bizarre, easily debunked rumors — so-called Pizzagate, for example, the canard that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from a Washington-area pizza parlor — is not entirely dependent on partisan fever (though that was its origin).

For one, the common wisdom that these rumors gain circulation because most people conduct their digital lives in echo chambers or “information cocoons” is exaggerated, Dr. Nyhan said.

In a forthcoming paper, Dr. Nyhan and colleagues review the relevant research, including analyses of partisan online news sites and Nielsen data, and find the opposite. Most people are more omnivorous than presumed; they are not confined in warm bubbles containing only agreeable outrage.

But they don’t have to be for fake news to spread fast, research also suggests. Social media algorithms function at one level like evolutionary selection: Most lies and false rumors go nowhere, but the rare ones with appealing urban-myth “mutations” find psychological traction, then go viral.

There is no precise formula for such digital catnip. The point, experts said, is that the very absurdity of the Pizzagate lie could have boosted its early prominence, no matter the politics of those who shared it.

Photo Credit: Stephen Savage

“My experience is that once this stuff gets going, people just pass these stories on without even necessarily stopping to read them,” Mr. McKinney said. “They’re just participating in the conversation without stopping to look hard” at the source.

Digital social networks are “dangerously effective at identifying memes that are well adapted to surviving, and these also tend to be the rumors and conspiracy theories that are hardest to correct,” Dr. Nyhan said.

One reason is the raw pace of digital information sharing, he said: “The networks make information run so fast that it outruns fact-checkers’ ability to check it. Misinformation spreads widely before it can be downgraded in the algorithms.”

The extent to which Facebook and other platforms function as “marketers” of misinformation, similar to the way they market shoes and makeup, is contentious. In 2015, a trio of behavior scientists working at Facebook inflamed the debate in a paper published in the prominent journal Science.

The authors analyzed the news feeds of some 10 million users in the United States who posted their political views, and concluded that “individuals’ choices played a stronger role in limiting exposure” to contrary news and commentary than Facebook’s own algorithmic ranking — which gauges how interesting stories are likely to be to individual users, based on data they have provided.

Outside critics lashed the study as self-serving, while other researchers said the analysis was solid and without apparent bias.

The other dynamic that works in favor of proliferating misinformation is not embedded in the software but in the biological hardware: the cognitive biases of the human brain.

Purely from a psychological point of view, subtle individual biases are at least as important as rankings and choice when it comes to spreading bogus news or Russian hoaxes — like a false report of Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for multiple wives.

Merely understanding what a news report or commentary is saying requires a temporary suspension of disbelief. Mentally, the reader must temporarily accept the stated “facts” as possibly true. A cognitive connection is made automatically: Clinton-sex offender, Trump-Nazi, Muslim men-welfare.

And refuting those false claims requires a person to first mentally articulate them, reinforcing a subconscious connection that lingers far longer than people presume.

Over time, for many people, it is that false initial connection that stays the strongest, not the retractions or corrections: “Was Obama a Muslim? I seem to remember that….”

In a recent analysis of the biases that help spread misinformation, Dr. Seifert and co-authors named this and several other automatic cognitive connections that can buttress false information.

Another is repetition: Merely seeing a news headline multiple times in a news feed makes it seem more credible before it is ever read carefully, even if it’s a fake item being whipped around by friends as a joke.

And, as salespeople have known forever, people tend to value the information and judgments offered by good friends over all other sources. It’s a psychological tendency with significant consequences now that nearly two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media.

“Your social alliances affect how you weight information,” said Dr. Seifert. “We overweight information from people we know.”

The casual, social, wisecracking nature of thumbing through and participating in the digital exchanges allows these biases to operate all but unchecked, Dr. Seifert said.

Stopping to drill down and determine the true source of a foul-smelling story can be tricky, even for the motivated skeptic, and mentally it’s hard work. Ideological leanings and viewing choices are conscious, downstream factors that come into play only after automatic cognitive biases have already had their way, abetted by the algorithms and social nature of digital interactions.

“If I didn’t have direct evidence that all these theories were wrong” from the scanner, Mr. McKinney said, “I might have taken them a little more seriously.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 24, 2017, on Page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media

Why Personal Tech Is Depressing

Why Personal Tech Is Depressing

It’s more than Instagram envy. And thanks to our ever-increasing digital dependence, it’s likely to get worse.

Source: Why Personal Tech Is Depressing

 

We live in an era of previously unimaginable luxury. Without leaving our sofas, we can conjure almost any book or film on our phone and enjoy it with exotic cuisine delivered right to our doorstep via an app. But there is a cost to this convenience that doesn’t appear on your credit-card statement. Our indoor, sedentary and socially isolated lives leave us vulnerable to depression. The U.S., the most technologically advanced nation on the planet, is also the most depressed: Three in 10 Americans will battle depressive illness at some point in their lives, an estimated tenfold increase since World War II.

Although antidepressant use in the U.S. has risen 400% since 1990, so has the rate of depression—and not just in America. The World Health Organization says depression is the leading cause of disability around the world.

Labor-saving inventions, from the Roomba to Netflix, spare us the arduous tasks of our grandparents’ generation. But small actions like vacuuming and returning videotapes can have a positive impact on our well-being. Even modest physical activity can mitigate stress and stimulate the brain’s release of dopamine and serotonin—powerful neurotransmitters that help spark motivation and regulate emotions. Remove physical exertion, and our brain’s pleasure centers can go dormant. As AI renders the need for human activity increasingly superfluous, rates of depressive illness will likely get worse.

In theory, labor-saving apps and automation create free time that we could use to hit the beach or join a kickball league. But that isn’t what tends to happen. We’re wired, like our ancestors to conserve energy whenever possible—to be lazy when no exertion is required—an evolutionary explanation for your tendency to sit around after work. Excessive screen time lulls us ever deeper into habitual inactivity, overstimulates the nervous system and increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. In the short term, cortisol helps us react to high-pressure situations, but when chronically activated, it triggers the brain’s toxic runaway stress response, which researchers have identified as an ultimate driver of depressive illness.

At first blush, it seems as if our smartphones should keep us better connected than ever through an endless stream of texts, instant messages, voice calls and social-media interactions. But as smartphones have become ubiquitous over the past decade, the proportion of Americans who report feelings of chronic loneliness has surged to 40%, from 15% 30 years ago. The psychological burden is particularly pronounced for those who don’t balance screen time with in-person interactions. Face-to-face conversations immerse us in a continuous multichannel sensory experience—only a fraction of which can be transferred via text or video message. Communicating solely through technology robs us of the richer neurological effects of in-person interactions and their potential to alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.

A few generations ago, people spent most of their waking hours outdoors. Direct sunlight boosts the brain’s serotonin circuitry, protects against seasonal affective disorder and triggers the eyes’ light receptors, which regulate the body’s internal clock and sleep patterns—yet we spend 93% of our time inside. Our mood suffers, and our body loses the ability to find restorative sleep. And bathing our eyes in artificial lighting—especially the blueshifted hues of flat screens—stalls the body’s nightly release of melatonin, the drowsiness-inducing hormone, until 45 minutes after we power down. The resulting sleep deprivation can both trigger and compound depression.

But perhaps the most telling evidence of technology’s effect on our well-being comes from the so-called unplugged study from 2010, in which about 1,000 students at 19 universities around the world pledged to give up all screens for 24 hours. Most students dropped out of the study in a matter of hours, and many reported symptoms of withdrawal associated with substance addiction. But those who pushed through the initial discomfort and completed the experiment discovered a surprising array of benefits: greater calm, less fragmented attention, more meaningful conversations, deeper connections with friends and a greater sense of mindfulness.

This isn’t a Luddite manifesto. Personal tech is here to stay, and a mass unplugging is about as likely as the discovery of Atlantis. Luckily for us, the same technology that’s wrecking our emotional well-being can, when smartly employed, reduce and even reverse the symptoms of depressive illness. Sometimes the problem contains the solution.

Ilardi is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas and the author of ‘The Depression Cure.’
Ilardi is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas and the author of ‘The Depression Cure.’

 

 

Reading Information Aloud to Yourself Improves Memory

You are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud, a study from the University of Waterloo has found.

This latest study shows that part of the memory benefit of speech stems from it being personal and self-referential. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

NEUROSCIENCE NEWS                     

Whether you are studying for a big exam or just need to remember a few minor details, researchers say reading aloud can help you retain information.

Source: Reading Information Aloud to Yourself Improves Memory

Source: University of Waterloo.

A recent Waterloo study found that speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory. Dubbed the “production effect,” the study determined that it is the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself that has the most beneficial impact on memory.

“This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement,” said Colin M. MacLeod, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, who co-authored the study with the lead author, post-doctoral fellow Noah Forrin. “When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.”

The study tested four methods for learning written information, including reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading, and reading aloud in real time. Results from tests with 95 participants showed that the production effect of reading information aloud to yourself resulted in the best remembering.

“When we consider the practical applications of this research, I think of seniors who are advised to do puzzles and crosswords to help strengthen their memory,” said MacLeod. “This study suggests that the idea of action or activity also improves memory.

“And we know that regular exercise and movement are also strong building blocks for a good memory.”

This research builds on previous studies by MacLeod, Forrin, and colleagues that measure the production effect of activities, such as writing and typing words, in enhancing overall memory retention.

 

ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE

Source: Matthew Grant – University of Waterloo
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself” by Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod in Memory. Published online October 2 2017 doi:10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434

 

University of Waterloo “Reading Information Aloud to Yourself Improves Memory.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 30 November 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/memory-reading-aloud-8084/&gt;.

Abstract

This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself

The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.

“This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself” by Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod in Memory. Published online October 2 2017 doi:10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434

 

Facebook’s Red Herring

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Cambridge Analytica collected data on over 50 Million Facebook users without their consent. How? Dr. Aleksander Kogan a psychology professor at Cambridge University built a survey on Facebook that many users participated in. However, only 270,000 of those participants consented to their data being used and according to the New York Times that consent was for “academic purposes” only. Cambridge Analytica told the Times that they did receive the data, however they blamed Mr. Kogan for violating Facebook’s terms. Facebook claims that when they learned of this violation they took the app off their site and demanded all the data Cambridge Analytica acquired be deleted. Facebook claims they now believe all that data was not destroyed. The problem described is an issue of data LEAVING Facebook and consumer consent, not data going into Facebook.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it will sever all ties with third party data partners to protect consumer privacy. Some privacy proponents believe that this is a great step in protecting the privacy of consumers. In my opinion, this is a red herring and has nothing to do with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, nor has Facebook done anything substantial with this decision to protect your privacy. Let’s start with some standard definitions before I go on and explain why this is nothing other than a distraction.

Third-party data is used by marketers to help them create marketing messages that are more relevant to target a segment. Segmentation is when a marketer defines a group of consumers (current customers or prospects) that have similar attributes. Marketers will then send the same message to that group (a different message to every individual would not be practical). For example, a segment could look something like “people between 25-45, with young children in the household and an interest in skiing”.

Third-party data comes from many sources (there are thousands of sources). For example, demographic information which is a description of the individual such as age, income, marital status, children in the home, etc. is all public information that can be gathered from sources such as the census. Another type of third party data is behavioral data and that can include what types of interests you have. For example, if you have a magazine subscription to a golf magazine or to a hiking magazine, likely that magazine has sold its’ subscriber list data and associates you with an interest in that category. Another way behavioral data is collected is by observing what content you click on, read or share socially. For example, if you share an article on Aspen Ski Vacations, you are likely categorized as someone with an interest in skiing. Purchase data is collected on individuals as well and can be done many ways. For instance, whenever you buy anything with a warranty that you register (like consumer electronics), your personal information is then associated with that purchase. Another source of purchase data can be credit card companies, banks and credit bureaus. Your purchases can be analyzed and then assumptions about other consumers that have similar attributes to you can be inferred (this is called look-a-like or LAL in the data industry). Your actual personal information tied to your specific transactions are NOT available on the market to buy (unless there has been a data breach at one of these organizations, then your information could be on the darknet). All these data sources in combination can be used to infer assumptions about you and others to improve advertisement targeting.

Bringing the thousands of data sources together would be near impossible for every marketer to vet for privacy compliance much less analyze and create the needed elements and models to perform audience segmentation. Therefore, data aggregators such as Acxiom, Experian, Equifax, Trans Union, Oracle, Cardlytics and many others step in. They aggregate multiple data sources so that they can be easily transformed into elements and models that enable segmentation. Some aggregators are much better than others at ethically sourcing their data. The best ones have a process where they vet data sources through their privacy departments and policies to insure consumers gave consent for the data being included as a source in the elements and models created for marketing use. Furthermore, the best aggregators are also transparent with consumers by allowing them to see what data they have and provide the ability to opt out. Finally, the more credible aggregators will not source data in sensitive categories such as sexual orientation or health indications for example.

When marketers leverage social media or digital publishers to advertise they can select elements and models supplied by aggregators to narrow the target audience. Marketers don’t want to advertise baby products to people that are most likely not parents, nor do they want to push golf products on someone who is likely never going to be a golfer. Furthermore, if marketers were not able to target audiences then advertising costs would become unrealistic for all digital media and those increased costs will need to be absorbed somewhere. Possibilities could include increased prices on goods or subscriber fees to use social platforms which would be wildly unpopular with consumers.

Facebook’s announcement yesterday was that they will no longer partner with data aggregators enabling marketers to target on the platform. Regardless of how you feel about third-party data for targeting, this has nothing to do with the Cambridge Analytica controversy. The Cambridge Analytica issue was about Facebook’s user data going out of Facebook to be analyzed and used without consent from the user. Facebook’s recent action is targeting aggregators of data going into the platform. In my opinion, this is a red herring to distract consumers that do not understand what Facebook is really doing.

In my March 2018 article, When Advertisements Become Too Personal I noted how Facebook leverages trackers that passively surveil consumers and collects that data. Facebook uses trackers to conduct surveillance on you without your conscious knowledge since you likely agreed to this surveillance in the terms of service and privacy policies on their platform and advertiser websites. Consumers don’t have the time to read through long privacy policies, terms and conditions. Furthermore, if consumers don’t agree to a digital property’s terms, often they can’t do business on or use the platform. Advertisers can still target on Facebook without aggregator data being available on the platform. For example, a Facebook Custom Audience is a targeting option created from an advertiser owned customer list, so they can target users on Facebook. Facebook Pixel is a small piece of code for websites that allows the website owner AND Facebook to log any Facebook users. Facebook also tracks the kind of content you share, who you are friends with, what your friends share, what you like, what you talk about in Instant Messenger, what you share on Instagram and other Facebook owned properties. Facebook can aggregate all that data themselves to create targeting tools.

Facebook’s own passive surveillance on us across all their platforms, messaging applications, other websites and even texts on our phones (if you haven’t locked down those permissions) is a much larger concern in my opinion. Instead Facebook is distracting consumers with this announcement into thinking they are making a huge step to protect consumer privacy when in fact the data they have and continue to collect on consumers is much more unsettling.

Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?

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By David Ginsberg, Director of Research, and Moira Burke, Research Scientist at Facebook

With people spending more time on social media, many rightly wonder whether that time is good for us. Do people connect in meaningful ways online? Or are they simply consuming trivial updates and polarizing memes at the expense of time with loved ones?

These are critical questions for Silicon Valley — and for both of us. Moira is a social psychologist who has studied the impact of the internet on people’s lives for more than a decade, and I lead the research team for the Facebook app. As parents, each of us worries about our kids’ screen time and what “connection” will mean in 15 years. We also worry about spending too much time on our phones when we should be paying attention to our families. One of the ways we combat our inner struggles is with research — reviewing what others have found, conducting our own, and asking questions when we need to learn more.

A lot of smart people are looking at different aspects of this important issue. Psychologist Sherry Turkle asserts that mobile phones redefine modern relationships, making us “alone together.” In her generational analyses of teens, psychologist Jean Twenge notes an increase in teen depression corresponding with technology use. Both offer compelling research.

But it’s not the whole story. Sociologist Claude Fischer argues that claims that technology drives us apart are largely supported by anecdotes and ignore the benefits. Sociologist Keith Hampton’s study of public spaces suggests that people spend more time in public now — and that cell phones in public are more often used by people passing time on their own, rather than ignoring friends in person.

We want Facebook to be a place for meaningful interactions with your friends and family — enhancing your relationships offline, not detracting from them. After all, that’s what Facebook has always been about. This is important as we know that a person’s health and happiness relies heavily on the strength of their relationships.

In this post, we want to give you some insights into how the research team at Facebook works with our product teams to incorporate well-being principles, and review some of the top scientific research on well-being and social media that informs our work. Of course, this isn’t just a Facebook issue — it’s an internet issue — so we collaborate with leading experts and publish in the top peer-reviewed journals. We work with scientists like Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellon; Sonja Lyubomirsky at UC Riverside; Dacher Keltner, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, and Matt Killingsworth from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and have partnered closely with mental health clinicians and organizations like Save.org and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

What Do Academics Say? Is Social Media Good or Bad for Well-Being?

According to the research, it really comes down to how you use the technology. For example, on social media, you can passively scroll through posts, much like watching TV, or actively interact with friends — messaging and commenting on each other’s posts. Just like in person, interacting with people you care about can be beneficial, while simply watching others from the sidelines may make you feel worse.

The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey. Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.

The good: On the other hand, actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being. This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.

A study we conducted with Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sent or received more messages, comments and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression and loneliness. The positive effects were even stronger when people talked with their close friends online. Simply broadcasting status updates wasn’t enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network. Other peer-reviewed longitudinal research and experiments have found similar positive benefits between well-being and active engagement on Facebook.

In an experiment at Cornell, stressed college students randomly assigned to scroll through their own Facebook profiles for five minutes experienced boosts in self-affirmationcompared to students who looked at a stranger’s Facebook profile. The researchers believe self-affirmation comes from reminiscing on past meaningful interactions — seeing photos they had been tagged in and comments their friends had left — as well as reflecting on one’s own past posts, where a person chooses how to present themselves to the world.

In a follow-up study, the Cornell researchers put other students under stress by giving them negative feedback on a test and then gave them a choice of websites to visit afterward, including Facebook, YouTube, online music and online video games. They found that stressed students were twice as likely to choose Facebook to make themselves feel better as compared with students who hadn’t been put under stress.

In sum, our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being.


So what are we doing about it?

We’re working to make Facebook more about social interaction and less about spending time. As our CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We want the time people spend on Facebook to encourage meaningful social interactions.” Facebook has always been about bringing people together — from the early days when we started reminding people about their friends’ birthdays, to showing people their memories with friends using the feature we call “On This Day.” We’re also a place for people to come together in times of need, from fundraisers for disaster relief to groups where people can find an organ donor. We’re always working to expand these communities and find new ways to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

We employ social psychologists, social scientists and sociologists, and we collaborate with top scholars to better understand well-being and work to make Facebook a place that contributes in a positive way. Here are a few things we’ve worked on recently to help support people’s well-being.

News Feed quality: We’ve made several changes to News Feed to provide more opportunities for meaningful interactions and reduce passive consumption of low-quality content — even if it decreases some of our engagement metrics in the short term. We demote things like clickbait headlines and false news, even though people often click on those links at a high rate. We optimize ranking so posts from the friends you care about most are more likely to appear at the top of your feed because that’s what people tell us in surveys that they want to see. Similarly, our ranking promotes posts that are personally informative. We also recently redesigned the comments feature to foster better conversations.

Snooze: People often tell us they want more say over what they see in News Feed. Today, we launched Snooze, which gives people the option to hide a person, Page or group for 30 days, without having to permanently unfollow or unfriend them. This will give people more control over their feed and hopefully make their experience more positive.

Take a Break: Millions of people break up on Facebook each week, changing their relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single.” Research on peoples’ experiences after breakups suggests that offline and online contact, including seeing an ex-partner’s activities, can make emotional recovery more difficult. To help make this experience easier, we built a tool called Take a Break, which gives people more centralized control over when they see their ex on Facebook, what their ex can see, and who can see their past posts.

Suicide prevention tools: Research shows that social support can help prevent suicide. Facebook is in a unique position to connect people in distress with resources that can help. We work with people and organizations around the world to develop support options for people posting about suicide on Facebook, including reaching out to a friend, contacting help lines and reading tips about things they can do in that moment. We recently released suicide prevention support on Facebook Live and introduced artificial intelligence to detect suicidal posts even before they are reported. We also connect people more broadly with mental health resources, including support groups on Facebook.


What About Related Areas Like Digital Distraction and the Impact of Technology on Kids?

We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn.

That’s why we recently pledged $1 million toward research to better understand the relationship between media technologies, youth development and well-being. We’re teaming up with experts in the field to look at the impact of mobile technology and social media on kids and teens, as well as how to better support them as they transition through different stages of life.

We’re also making investments to better understand digital distraction and the factors that can pull people away from important face-to-face interactions. Is multitasking hurting our personal relationships? How about our ability to focus? Next year we’ll host a summit with academics and other industry leaders to tackle these issues together.

We don’t have all the answers, but given the prominent role social media now plays in many people’s lives, we want to help elevate the conversation. In the years ahead we’ll be doing more to dig into these questions, share our findings and improve our products. At the end of the day, we’re committed to bringing people together and supporting well-being through meaningful interactions on Facebook.

Your Data and “Those Pictures” Are Less Secure Than You Think….

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My writing lately has revolved around media, technology, use of data and consequential psychological impacts. However, in a conversation with my friend Michael Becker of Identity Praxis he urged me to write about Personally Identifiable Information (PII) security fundamentals. According to Michael, personal data privacy is “the new luxury good” and we have all heard about the malicious hackers who find creative ways to steal it. Consequences of identity & personal information mismanagement, for the individual and company alike, can lead to reputation damage, debt, criminal records, loss of income, potentially impact your employment prospects, and yes, death. For those of us “non-techies”, when thinking about security on our devices we often default to, “I have antivirus software on my computer, so I am good”. Well congratulations, I’m sure that hacker from who knows where has never gotten past antivirus software. Those questionable pictures of you at your bachelorette party are completely safe and your privacy is protected, NOT (Wayne’s World reference). For your reading pleasure, below are actions, recommended by Michael and explained by me, you can take to protect your devices from being compromised and unleashing holy hell on you personally.

Begin with using common sense before sharing your PII. This doesn’t involve buying expensive software, it requires taking an extra two seconds to think before acting. Consider the trustworthiness of a website, mobile site or application you engage with before sharing your personal data – if something seems suspicious, don’t share. Furthermore, don’t complete a transaction online or in a phone app if you don’t feel it is secure. Either call the company or go to a different site where you can order the same product.  With email if you don’t know the sender and they ask you to click on a link it could be a phishing attack which can grab data off of your computer. Make sure not to just look at the email name or link, look at the actual email address and URL within the link as the name can be used to mask a malicious address link. Sorry, that email you received from a stranger asking for your SSN and credit card information to redeem your grand prize is likely about as real as the Easter Bunny.

 According to an article from the  Telegraph last year, more than 50 percent of people use at least one of the top 25 passwords and almost 17 percent use the password “123456” (Wasn’t this password used in “Spaceballs”?). When creating passwords, the best practice is to include capitals and special characters in our passwords as well as use different user names and passwords for each account. Reality is that with all the different accounts we have now, it is tough to keep track of it all so we all pick a favorite username and password for everything. Therefore, if a hacker can figure out credentials to one account likely it will work on several others. Password managers such as LastPass or 1Password are good programs that can make your life easier. A password manager is an application that will store all your different usernames and passwords and opens with the use of one master password. They also often contain the ability to auto fill log in credentials on websites. What’s nice about this feature is that it is obviously faster and more accurate, but also protects from hacker keylogging attacks. Password managers are also able to detect whether you are on the right URL which helps protect you from phishing sites. Some of them also have unique random password generators so you don’t have to think of new passwords for every account. DO NOT use the autofill features available from your selected browser, these are not secure! Finally, enable two-factor authentication (either SMS or application) on your accounts, e.g. banking, retailer sites, that support it. I know it is a pain in the ass, but so is having your bank account drained or social media account hacked.

With the Equifax breach last year most of us have at least heard about the risks from news coverage. However, most people think there are only three major credit bureaus (go ahead name them in your head…). BUT NO, Michael reminded me there are in fact FOUR. Make sure to visit all four major credit bureaus to freeze your credit (Trans Union, Equifax, Experian, and Innovis). Freezing your credit stops any credit inquiries on you which stops anyone from opening a credit account without your knowledge. When freezing your credit, you will receive a PIN code from each bureau to “unfreeze” it should you need to have a company run your credit perhaps to get a loan. Keep those PIN codes in a protected place (how about that password manager above?). While I know some people are concerned about the inconvenience of needing to unfreeze credit when applying for legitimate credit – it can act as a loan deterrent. True story, my husband and I were considering a larger purchase where a credit application was needed and then never did it because of the time it would take to unfreeze our credit, but I digress. Put it on your calendar to check your credit score annually. You can go directly to the credit bureaus and get the reports for free or use companies like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, or Quizzle (each offer different services). You might want to consider getting cyber/identity insurance and darknet monitoring services. The darknet is a layer built on top of the Internet that is hidden and designed specifically for anonymity of which the biggest use is peer to peer file sharing. You can only access the darknet with special tools and software so most of us can’t see what data is on there about us. Besides monitory compensation and support in the case of identity theft, this type of service will provide you alerts for the types of things you wouldn’t know such as an unauthorized USPS address change. There are a number of companies like LifeLock, Identity Guard and Experian that offer this service and I recommend you check out this PC Magazine article on the subject.

Yes, I know my introduction started with a rant about how antivirus software will not protect you from everything, but YES YOU STILL NEED IT. PC Magazine recently tested the best antivirus software and the reviews can be seen here. However, antivirus software should not be your last line of defense. For example, antivirus software doesn’t always protect against malware, and what if you lose your laptop? Encryption solutions prevent access to your files (remember those pictures?). On a Mac you can use Filevault features and for Windows, PC Magazine recently wrote a review of the best encryption software for 2018.

Running your computers on the latest operating software and paying attention to those annoying notifications for OS updates can stave off major attacks (my husband a previous systems administrator is rolling his eyes right now because I used to ignore them). According to a Popular Science article the WannaCry malware attack had an update two months prior to the event that protected users from the attack. The same article calls out the importance of selecting a good email provider and mentions Google and Microsoft as smart choices since they filter many suspicious emails (but not all) before they get to your inbox.

Make sure to password protect your home Wi-Fi router (yes I know people who don’t) and use a VPN when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi network such as at an airport, hotel or nearest Starbucks. You can also consider installing a cybersecurity hub on your home router such as Bitdefender Box, Fing or Cujo. These tools will monitor and block any suspicious traffic on your Internet coming from any of your connected devices (they often come with a virus protection software package). I also like that those mentioned come with parental controls allowing you to block offensive websites, limit social media and control Internet access by device. What I really liked about Bitdefender is that there are features to detect cyberbullying and online predators.

Identity theft is big business affecting more than 15 million consumers with fraud losses of $16 billion in 2016 according to an identity fraud study released from Javelin Strategy and Research in 2017. Digitally connected consumers, defined as those that “have extensive social network activity, frequently shop online or with mobile devices, and are quick to adopt new digital technologies” are at a 30 percent higher risk of identity fraud than the average person. Costs associated with the above suggestions can range from free to a few hundred dollars which could likely be offset by avoiding a couple of unnecessary purchases. Will it take some time? A few hours per year maybe, but the return on effort outpaces the same number of hours you already spend checking your social media or reading the latest salacious news story about identity theft or privacy invasion that stresses you out.

You Should Never, Ever Argue With Anyone on Facebook, According to Science

New research shows how we interact makes a huge difference.

Source: You Should Never, Ever Argue With Anyone on Facebook, According to Science

By Minda Zetlin

You’ve seen it happen dozens if not hundreds of times. You post an opinion, or a complaint, or a link to an article on Facebook. Somebody adds a comment, disagreeing (or agreeing) with whatever you posted. Someone else posts another comment disagreeing with the first commenter, or with you, or both. Then others jump in to add their own viewpoints. Tempers flare. Harsh words are used. Soon enough, you and several of your friends are engaged in a virtual shouting match, aiming insults in all directions, sometimes at people you’ve never even met.

There’s a simple reason this happens, it turns out: We respond very differently to what people write than to what they say–even if those things are exactly the same. That’s the result of a fascinating new experiment by UC Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers. In the study, 300 subjects either read, watched video of, or listened to arguments about such hot-button topics as war, abortion, and country or rap music. Afterward, subjects were interviewed about their reactions to the opinions with which they disagreed.

Their general response was probably very familiar to anyone who’s ever discussed politics: a broad belief that people who don’t agree with you are either too stupid or too uncaring to know better. But there was a distinct difference between those who had watched or listened to someone speak the words out loud and those who had read the identical words as text. Those who had listened or watched to someone say the words were less likely to dismiss the speaker as uninformed or heartless than they were if they were just reading the commenter’s words.

That result was no surprise to at least one of the researchers, who was inspired to try the experiment after a similar experience of his own. “One of us read a speech excerpt that was printed in a newspaper from a politician with whom he strongly disagreed,” researcher Juliana Schroeder told the Washington Post. “The next week, he heard the exact same speech clip playing on a radio station. He was shocked by how different his reaction was toward the politician when he read the excerpt compared to when he heard it.” Whereas the written comments seemed outrageous to this researcher, the same words spoken out loud seemed reasonable.

We’re using the wrong medium.

This research suggests that the best way for people who disagree with each other to work out their differences and arrive at a better understanding or compromise is by talking to each other, as people used to do at town hall meetings and over the dinner table. But now that so many of our interactions take place over social media, chat, text message, or email, spoken conversation or discussion is increasingly uncommon. It’s probably no coincidence that political disagreement and general acrimony have never been greater. Russians used this speech-vs.-text disharmony to full advantage by creating Facebook and Twitter accounts to stir up even more ill will among Americans than we already had on our own. No wonder they were so successful at it.

So what should you do about it? To begin with, if you want to make a persuasive case for your political opinion or proposed action, you’re better off doing it by making a short video (or linking to one by someone else) rather than writing out whatever you have to say. At the same time, whenever you’re reading something someone else wrote that seems outlandish to you, keep in mind that the fact that you’re seeing this as text may be part of the problem. If it’s important for you to be objective, try reading it out loud or having someone else read it to you.

Finally, if you’re already in the middle of an argument over Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram or email or text), and the person on the other side of the issue is someone you care about, please don’t just keep typing out comments and replies and replies to replies. Instead, make a coffee date so you can speak in person. Or at the very least, pick up the phone.

Giving your child a smartphone is like giving them a gram of cocaine, says top addiction expert

Ofcom figures suggest more than four in ten parents of 12-15 year-olds find it hard to control their children’s screen time

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Harley Street clinic director Mandy Saligari says many of her patients are 13-year-old girls who see sexting as ‘normal’

Rachael Pells Education Correspondent              Wednesday 7 June 201

Source: Giving your child a smartphone is like giving them a gram of cocaine, says top addiction expert

Giving your child a smartphone is like “giving them a gram of cocaine”, a top addiction therapist has warned.

Time spent messaging friends on Snapchat and Instagram can be just as dangerously addictive for teenagers as drugs and alcohol, and should be treated as such, school leaders and teachers were told at an education conference in London.

Speaking alongside experts in technology addiction and adolescent development, Harley Street rehab clinic specialist Mandy Saligari said screen time was too often overlooked as a potential vehicle for addiction in young people.

“I always say to people, when you’re giving your kid a tablet or a phone, you’re really giving them a bottle of wine or a gram of coke,” she said.

“Are you really going to leave them to knock the whole thing out on their own behind closed doors?

“Why do we pay so much less attention to those things than we do to drugs and alcohol when they work on the same brain impulses?”

Her comments follow news that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology – with a third of British children aged 12-15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities.

“When people tend to look at addiction, their eyes tend to be on the substance or thing – but really it’s a pattern of behaviour that can manifest itself in a number of different ways,” Ms Saligari said, naming food obsessions, self-harm and sexting as examples.

Concern has grown recently over the number of young people seen to be sending or receiving pornographic images, or accessing age inappropriate content online through their devices.

Ms Saligari, who heads the Harley Street Charter clinic in London, said around two thirds of her patients were 16-20 year-olds seeking treatment for addiction – a “dramatic increase” on ten years ago – but many of her patients were even younger.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 teachers, around two-thirds said they were aware of pupils sharing sexual content, with as many as one in six of those involved of primary school age.

More than 2,000 children have been reported to police for crimes linked to indecent images in the past three years.

“So many of my clients are 13 and 14 year-old-girls who are involved in sexting, and describe sexting as ‘completely normal’,” said Ms Saligari

Many young girls in particular believe that sending a picture of themselves naked to someone on their mobile phone is “normal”, and that it only becomes “wrong” when a parent or adult finds out, she added.

“If children are taught self-respect they are less likely to exploit themselves in that way,” said Ms Saligari. “It’s an issue of self-respect and it’s an issue of identity.”

Speaking alongside Ms Saligari at the Highgate Junior School conference on teenage development, Dr Richard Graham, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Nightingale Hospital Technology Addiction Lead, said the issue was a growing area of interest for researchers, as parents report struggling to find the correct balance for their children.

Ofcom figures suggest more than four in ten parents of 12-15 year-olds find it hard to control their children’s screen time.

Even three and four year olds consume an average of six and half hours of internet time per week, according to the broadcasting regulators.

Greater emphasis was needed on sleep and digital curfews at home, the experts suggested, as well as a systematic approach within schools, for example by introducing a smartphone amnesty at the beginning of the school day.

“With sixth formers and teenagers, you’re going to get resistance, because to them it’s like a third hand,” said Ms. Saligari, “but I don’t think it’s impossible to intervene. Schools asking pupils to spend some time away from their phone I think is great.

“If you catch [addiction] early enough, you can teach children how to self-regulate, so we’re not policing them and telling them exactly what to do,” she added.

“What we’re saying is, here’s the quiet carriage time, here’s the free time – now you must learn to self-regulate. It’s possible to enjoy periods of both.”