Tag Archives: YouTube

Talking to Your Kids About Violence in the News

By Tracey Dowdy

My daughters were in first and third grade when 9/11 happened. We were living on Long Island, and I was the assistant to the elementary school principal. Of course, this was pre-internet, so we spent the day listening to the radio reports as we tried to understand the scope of what was happening.

One of the biggest challenges, aside from knowing if we could put children on the bus at the end of the day in case parents were still trapped in the city and unable to get home, was determining what to tell the students about what had happened.

That’s a question we’ve had to answer again and again in this country in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the DC Sniper, Virginia Tech, and the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Sadly, according to data from nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), as of Aug. 5, 2019, the 217th day of the year, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S. (defined as more than four people shot, excluding the shooter). As I write this, the USA Today building in McLean, Virginia, 15 minutes from my house, is being evacuated because of a possible gunman in the building.

So with violence a seemingly ever-present threat, how do we talk to our children about what has, or could, happen? It’s difficult for us as adults to make sense or process what’s happening, so how can we talk to our kids? Should we? Psychotherapist and Pastor of Family Ministries at Expectation Church  Roy Dowdy says that though it’s a tough conversation to have, it’s an important one. “Your kids are going to hear about scary or tragic things one way or another – on the playground, on the bus, the soccer field, or from an older sibling. A lot of parents try to shield their kids from these things but that isn’t healthy. Telling them that nothing bad can ever happen doesn’t prepare them for the real world – bad things happen to good people every day. Instead, a healthy approach is to tell them you will do your best to protect them, they’re stronger than they know, and together you will get through any hard times that come. This provides them with the coping tools they’ll need to succeed in life.”

Dowdy recommends using these strategies when tragedy strikes and you’re forced to have that difficult conversation.

The first and most important thing to remember is to be age-appropriate in your explanations. You’ll need to have separate conversations with your kindergartener and your high school senior for reasons that are obvious. If you have preschoolers, it’s important to distinguish between what’s real and what’s make-believe. They have complex, often vivid imaginations, and sometimes have difficulty separating fact from fiction. Be honest, but be discreet.

Allow your child to ask questions so you get an understanding of what they’re thinking and about what they’ve heard. Children are no different from adults when it comes to repeating a story. Facts are embellished, important information is left out, and the story they’ve heard may be far from the actual event. Remember, your tweens and teens are likely getting a lot of their information from the internet – YouTube, Twitter, Reddit – not always the most reliable sources of information. Ask open questions like What have you heard?,” “Where did you hear that?,” and “What do you think about what you’ve heard?”

Be careful that in your conversation you aren’t vilifying a particular group of people. Often, the motivation behind the violence is unclear, so don’t jump to conclusions or paint everyone from that ethnicity, political party, religion, or other demographic with the same brush. Also, be mindful not to project your fears on to your child. If possible, process the event with someone in your support system before talking to them.

With older children who are active online, remind them of one of the first things I learned in journalism school – “If it bleeds, it leads.” Media outlets are competitive and the more sensational the headline, the more clicks (readers) it draws, and not every media outlet holds the same level of journalistic integrity. Teach them to think critically about whether the source is credible and likely to exaggerate.

Help them put things in perspective based on your own experience with tragedy on a personal or even national level as we all experienced on 9/11. Help them understand that history has many accounts of violence, but it also has stories of people who overcame adversity and the countless number of people who step up and become heroes during these events.

Dowdy also recommends helping your child find a healthy coping strategy. Younger children can draw pictures of how they’re feeling or write a thank you note to the police or first responders. Older kids may benefit from writing in a journal or creating a video diary.

Finally, if your child seems overwhelmed by the event and they’re having difficulty coping, it may be time to have them talk to someone beside you. Psychology Today has a directory that can connect you with a therapist or support group in your area, or, one of these resources may be a better fit:

  • Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
  • Crisis Text Line (U.S. only): Text HELLO to 741741
  • Youthspace Text Line (across Canada): Text 778-783-0177 from 6 p.m. to midnight daily.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Is it Time to Disable or Delete Your Instagram Account?

By Tracey Dowdy

 Instagram influencers live their lives on a very public stage – that’s the whole point of being an influencer. They share everything from their favorite granola to their favorite brand of underwear, and everything in between. As it turns out, Instagram inadvertently gave many users a taste of what it’s like to give brands, marketers, and total strangers access to their private information and preferences. According to Tech Crunch Security Editor Zack Whittaker, “A massive database containing the contact information of millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts has been found online. The database, hosted by Amazon Web Services, was left exposed and without a password allowing anyone to look inside. At the time of writing, the database had over 49 million records, but was growing by the hour.”

The database was owned by Chtrbox, an Indian marketing company that connects influencers to brands looking to promote their product or service. Instagram (owned by Facebook) has since revoked Chtrbox’ access to its platform.

Since its inception, Instagram has morphed from a simple photo-sharing platform to an imitation of Snapchat or Facebook, with advertising cluttering your feed. For some Instagram users, the breach was the last straw. If you’re one of them, you can delete your account but it isn’t easy to do from within the app itself. Patrick Holland has a step by step tutorial on CNET’s How to Do It All YouTube channel that will walk you through beginning to end.

Keep in mind, once it’s deleted, it’s gone forever – you will not be able to recover it. If that seems harsh and you just want a break, consider disabling it for a while. By logging out, you have the option to resurrect your profile once you’re ready, but whatever option you choose, be sure to download your data. This is especially critical if you’re deleting your profile – there may be photos in your stream that you’ve forgotten exist but will be important to you down the road – because again, once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can request your download through your browser or through the app, but realize this isn’t an immediate download. It will take time for Instagram to collate all that data, and prepare it for downloading.

If you’re still unsure which option is best, check out Holland’s tutorial Instagram: How to delete or disable your account to determine which is best for youTech

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

YouTube Channels for Kids Who Love STEM

By Tracey Dowdy

 As technology continues to open doors to learning in ways that were unheard of just a few years ago, many educators are changing their pedagogical approach and using the Flipped Learning model of instruction. In a traditional model, the teacher lectures and students take that information and study or practice on their own either through seat work or outside the classroom as homework. In a flipped classroom, the instruction shifts to a learner-centered model, meaning class time is used to explore topics on a deeper level and the teacher creates learning opportunities through collaborative online discussions, digital research, and text readings outside the classroom.

It’s a natural fit. Educators know students look to YouTube for entertainment and a recent survey found that more kids in the U.S. want to be YouTube stars when they grow up than want to go to space.

Flipped Learning is especially valuable in a STEM classroom. Budgetary and time restraints are a challenge, but YouTube has a virtual goldmine of channels hosted by scientists and mathematicians that bring complex and abstract STEM concepts to life. Here are some of the best.

Numberphile is a number-nerd dream come true. Brady Haran – the guy behind projects like periodicvideos and sixty symbols – has created videos about the world of numbers like The Golden Ratio (why it is so irrational), The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake, and an unexpected way to inflate a balloon. Some of the videos are a little silly, some are more serious, but they’re all crammed full of the science of numbers. The whole project is supported by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI).

STEM Education is a Non-Governmental Organization committed to making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children, especially girls who are underrepresented in STEM careers, by empowering them through STEM learning. The videos are informative, practical and demonstrate innovations in robotics, 3-D printing, coding, and other related fields.

VSAUCE is the brainchild of educator, comedian, entertainer and editor, Michael Stevens. His videos are as varied as examining the legendary Stanford Prison Experiment to showing his desk to Mythbuster Adam Savage. His videos are entertaining and fascinating – no matter your child’s interest, they’ll love VSAUCE’s content.

CrashCourse is exactly what the name implies – an accelerated learning experience on a jillion different subjects. With one Brothers Hank and John Green host videos courses on computer science, sociology, film history, mythology, physics, philosophy, games, economics, U.S. government and politics, astronomy, anatomy & physiology, world history, biology, literature, ecology, chemistry, psychology, and U.S. history. Whew. That’s a lot of information!

The SloMo Guys is a science and technology channel hosted by friends Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy. You may remember their viral video Six Foot Man in a Six Foot Water Balloon which was less science experiment and more fun, but it brought attention to their channel where they film their science experiments in HD using high-speed cinema cameras, and playback the results in slow motion.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Manage “Recommended Videos” on YouTube`

By Tracey Dowdy

 If you’ve ever gotten lost down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos – honestly, who hasn’t? – then you know how random YouTube’s “Recommended Videos” suggestions can be. The good news is, the YouTube gods have heard of cries for relief and has recently implemented tools so you can get rid of that suggestion for Inuit Throat Singing or a dog imitating an emergency siren.

In a blog post, Essam El-Dardiry, Product Manager at YouTube, outlined the steps users can take to customize and streamline video suggestions. So far, you can only customize from the YouTube app on your Android or iPhone, but desktop instructions are slated to be announced soon.

The three changes announced allow users to:

  • Explore topics and related videos on your Homepage and in Up Next videos
  • Remove suggestions from channels you don’t want to watch
  • Learn more about why a video may be suggested to you

To stop seeing unwanted video suggestions, users have two choices. First, you can tell YouTube not to recommend a specific channel. From within the YouTube app’s home page on your phone, tap the three dots next to the video, you don’t want to see. Next, select Don’t recommend channel.

A box will appear that says, “We won’t recommend videos from this channel to you again.” At this point, you can select More Info or Undo. If you choose More Info, the app redirects you to a Google Support page that explains how you can manage your recommendations and search results.

The other option is to tell YouTube you’re not interested in watching a particular video. Again, from within the YouTube app’s home page on your phone, tap the three dots beside the video you don’t want to see, then choose Not Interested. A box will appear that says Undo or Tell us why. If you choose Tell us why you’ll be prompted to select either I’ve already watched the video or I don’t like the video.

To further customize, you’ll need to continue doing this for channels you don’t like. It takes a fair amount of work, but eventually, your feed will filter out the content you don’t want to see and replace it with what you like.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Tik Tok – A Guide for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

 Social media trends move faster than your toddler sneaking the treat you forbid them to eat. Don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up – that’s the nature of social media and toddlers.

One of the newer and most popular (over 100 million users) is TikTok – Real Short Videos, an app that lets you watch, create, and share 15-second videos from your phone. Users love it because it’s free, and allows them to add a soundtrack – including current chart-topping music – to create music videos with themselves as the star. It was the most downloaded free iOS app over the first half of 2018, and in September 2018, TikTok became the most-downloaded free app on Apple’s U.S. App Store. In  October 2018, it ranked first on Google Play.

Originally marketed as musical.ly in the U.S., it became TikTok when it merged with Douyin, a Chinese app that offered many of the same features. It combines elements of other popular sites and apps like the lip-synch app Dubsmash, create short videos as they did on (no longer available) Vine, and is interactive like YouTube or Instagram, allowing users to connect with friends and build a fanbase through likes, comments or duets.

So how does it work? To create an account, users (ages 13+) sign up with a phone number, email address, or through Facebook, or Instagram. Once you’ve created the account and log in, users can search for popular creators, by category, or hashtags to find videos. Users can connect with friends already using the app through their phone contacts or social media. You can make the account private by going to your profile page and selecting the three-dot icon in the top-right corner. Tap Privacy and Safety. Then, toggle the switch for “Private Account.” You can edit who is allowed to send you comments and direct messages, or who can do a duet with you.

Because the app uses popular music across genres, not all content may be appropriate for kids. Though the app doesn’t allow you to use search terms like “sex” or “porn,” there is a sexual content with users wearing revealing clothing and dancing provocatively that may not be appropriate for younger users of the app.

TikTok has some safeguards in place through its Digital Wellbeing features. Once turned on, it limits the amount of time users can spend on the app as well as filtering some videos that may be inappropriate for tweens and early teens. To activate Digital Wellbeing, tap the three dots at the top right of your user profile. Then, tap “Digital Wellbeing” beside the umbrella icon. Kids can’t disable these settings without a four-digit passcode. Parents can also set Screen Time Management which caps use of the app at two-hours a day, or they can activate Restricted Mode, which blocks some content.

Like every social media app, there’s room for abuse and the risk of your child being exposed to content you’d prefer they not see. No matter how many safeguards these apps put in place, the best defense is a parent actively monitoring what the child is doing online. There’s no way to watch them every minute of the day, but it’s still a good idea to share that TikTok account with younger users. Ask them about their favorite creators and familiarize yourself with what they’re posting. If they are exposed to objectionable content, don’t panic. Have a conversation about what they saw, and talk about how the content doesn’t match your family values. These age-appropriate, honest conversations about respect for themselves and others is the surest way to ensure your children will develop a healthy worldview in the midst of all that’s available online.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

The Growing Influence of YouTube

By Megan Valente

When we were travelling in London, my high school-aged sister seemed to know every restaurant name, brand status and event that we encountered in the same way she would know the score to the latest soccer game. Naturally this garnered my family’s curiosity as to how a girl who barely leaves her room could know so much about a world she had never seen.

The answer? YouTube. Now we finally know what her snarky laughs are about and why her eyes barely leave her screen. She is just one of the many followers that obsess over the channels of YouTube entertainers on a daily basis.

What???
These YouTube artists have managed to break out from the confinements of their screen and touch the minds and hearts of their followers. My sister knew all of these places and things in Europe because a YouTuber taught her about them. How crazy is that?

But…how???
I can walk up to my any of my friends and yell, “Kermy!!!” and they will immediately know that I’m referencing Jenna Marbles. Through constant posting and promotion, we not only learn the faces of our favorite entertainers, but tend to pick up on their mannerisms, habits, dislikes, and lifestyles. According to comScore data, 81.2 percent of Internet users are reached via YouTube, making the possibilities of garnering a following to a quality channel laughably realistic and possible. *Runs to buy a camera*

No, but actually, how?
By excelling in a particular area of interest or being so exceptionally horrible that it’s funny, these artists find their niche and wedge themselves into your life. Email subscriptions keep you hooked, Snapchat follows keep their face on your screen and, in the same style as brand loyalty, the follower and the followee become an integral part of each other’s day.

Are you kidding?
Nope.

So, people put this much stock into YouTubers?
Yup.

Hmm, interesting…very interesting.
I know, right?

So…what does this mean?
From a business aspect, this means that YouTubers are an excellent source for brand and product promotion, because a ‘peer to peer’ recommendation is far more effective than a company shoving a product in your face. That means that I’m more likely to buy something from a YouTuber that I follow because I feel I have built a relationship with them. (Creepy, right?)

From a personal and consumer standpoint, this means that I worship makeup artist Jaclyn Hill and can’t wait until she uploads a new video. Ah!

So whether you are an obsessed fan, a YouTuber yourself, or are totally freaked out by all the information you just read, it is time to not only coexist with but take advantage of this wealth of opinion leaders. They’re all in one spot and, like my sister, you never even have to leave your couch!

Megan Valente is a lifestyle blogger and barista and is currently attending Montclair State University. Follow her on Twitter at @TheDayILived.

YouTube Red Helps Reshape Streaming Services for Mobile

By Tracey Dowdy

Although we all know YouTube as a free online video service, you may be surprised to learn that it also offers paid video streaming subscriptions. Previously offered as a little-known music streaming platform called YouTube Music Key, the service was revamped to include video and relaunched in October 2015 as YouTube Red.

Like many streaming services, the first month’s subscription is free, and then it costs $9.99 a month thereafter. While that price tag isn’t the cheapest, it’s certainly comparable with the cost of many other video streaming services. Choosing Red over watching YouTube the way we always have means you no longer have to deal with ads interrupting your videos (unless you’re watching paid TV channels or renting TV shows and movies). Currently Red is only available in the U.S. but there are plans to expand to a global market.

YouTube has created original series and movies for PewDiePie, Lilly Singh, Rooster Teeth and other YouTube stars that will be offered exclusively through YouTube Red. There is speculation it will eventually be available for free but there’s no guarantee or timeline offered as to if and when that will happen.

The pros for Red are that users will be able to download and watch videos offline and that you’ll be able to listen to videos with the screen off – in other words, you can open another app on your phone and still be able to listen to your video in the background.

Because YouTube is owned by Google, subscribing to Red means free access to Google Play Music, making it a better deal than Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and other streaming music services. Conversely, if you have a subscription to Google Play Music, you already have access to Red; they’re a package deal, you just need to be signed in to the same account on both services and ensure that both are available in your area.

The cons are that video is available for direct download only to phones and tablets. Content will be available for 30 days but some features such as liking and commenting are unavailable if you’re offline. Red may not be a good fit if you already subscribe to a service like Spotify and use an ad-blocker extension. At $10 a month, it simply may not be worth the additional cost. However, if you’re a commuter or frequent traveler, being able to download content to watch offline and hang on to it for 30 days may be enough of an incentive. At the very least, subscribers have that one month free trial to give it a test run.

One final piece to consider is the impact ad blocking and subscription services are having on the “free Internet.” Ad blockers have been around for years but, with increased awareness of how our personal preferences are monitored and logged by advertisers, more and more people are using ad-blocking extensions to circumvent the tracking. This has an impact not only on retailers but on content creators on services like YouTube, as many of the channels are dependent on ads to stay in business. It will be interesting to see how long access to sites like YouTube will continue to be available at no cost. If monetizing a formerly free service is successful, we can expect the so-called “free Internet” to disappear faster than Fantasia in “The Neverending Story.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How Social Media Is Shaping Our News

By Tracey Dowdy

We live in an era when an increasingly large part of the population gets their news via social media. According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, 30 percent of adults look to Facebook as their source for news, while another 10 percent each look to Twitter or YouTube. These numbers are constantly evolving and it’s safe to say they spike during events such as the presidential debates.

As a teen I remember being bored senseless when the news came on, and though my parents would encourage me to pay attention to make me aware of current events, I really couldn’t wait until we could change the channel and watch pretty much anything else.  Part of it was my age and lack of interest in anything that didn’t directly impact my life, and part of it was the delivery – a stern faced, stiff, older man with a clipped and formal delivery. There was a definite disconnect.

Today, as a result of the ubiquity of social media, that same information often comes to us from peers, celebrities, and other pop culture sources. Instead of a disconnect, there’s a feeling of immediacy that makes the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe or the bombing of a MSF hospital in Kunduz seem much closer to home.

Not only are younger people becoming greater consumers of news and current events through social media, they’re also becoming participants by posting their own photos or videos of those current events. Police used videos posted on Facebook to identify Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver and when you consider the impact user generated content had on events like the Darren Wilson verdict or the Arab Spring, the influence of social media is more than obvious.

It’s no surprise that individuals who most closely follow news and current events are also the most engaged in political and social causes. Increased awareness is certainly a positive thing but there’s a danger that not all the information that goes viral is accurate. When Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing there were countless false reports and news updates shared via social media, including one stating the plane had landed safely in Nanning, China. I’ve lost track of the number of reports of Betty White’s passing away and I frequently see “R.I.P. Rue McClanahan,” who in reality died back in 2010. Even big name media outlets like CNN and Fox News sometimes get it wrong and, if nothing else, the Brian Williams debacle taught us to fact check and then fact check again.

It all comes down to critical thinking skills and reminding our kids to check their sources. In fact that’s good advice for all of us. I myself have been guilty of sharing inaccurate news, because I blindly trusted the source who initially shared it. It only takes a moment to fact check and make sure the information is correct but it can take a long time to un-do the damage from a false report. Sometimes the desire to be first overrides the need to be right and we as consumers are the ones who pay for that.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.