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  1. Tech Will Save Us (TWSU), the company behind cool kids' STEM kits, has launched a new flagship product designed to get kids into game design. The Arcade Coder is a 12-inch by 12-inch board with 144 fully programmable and controllable multi-colored LED buttons, that teaches children aged six and over easy-to-learn block coding and how to design their own games. It helps kids get to grips with game mechanics such as speed, levels and point systems, through pre-coded projects or by inventing brand new ones. Accessed via the free Games Studio iOS app there are step-by-step video and animation-based tutorials to complete, and new projects and challenges can be unlocked along the way. Complete them all, and you'll be crowned a Master Game Designer. The Arcade Coder also comes with a Painter Mode, which lets kids "paint" pictures with the LED lights and then animate them with their newfound coding skills. According to TWSU, it's not designed solely for kids, though – the company wants to change the way families spend time together. As TWSU CEO and co-founder Bethany Koby says, "It is not just an individual gaming experience on a screen, but a multiplayer gameplay experience for friends and family. " The kit launches on Kickstarter today, with super early bird pledges starting at $96, representing a 40 percent discount on the regular price of $160. Source
  2. They’re especially concerned with a recent security flaw in Messenger Kids. Senators are questioning Facebook again. This time their concerns are related to a design flaw that let thousands of kids join group chats with unauthorized users, The Verge reports. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg today, asking whether Facebook has done enough to protect children's online safety. Last month, a report by The Verge revealed the design flaw in Messenger Kids. The app is supposed to require parental permission before kids chat with other users. But a loophole allowed approved users to invite kids to group chats, even if unauthorized users were there too. In response, Facebook reportedly alerted parents to the flaw and shut down group chats created through the loophole. Markey and Blumenthal want to know how long Facebook knew about the flaw, how long it existed, if all parents have been notified and what measures Facebook will take to prevent similar issues in the future. Because the app is intended for users between the ages of six and 12, it must comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection App (COPPA). It's unclear if this recent glitch violates COPPA, but privacy experts and advocacy groups previously filed an unrelated complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They claim that Messenger Kids collects children's personal information without clear disclosures or parental consent. Facebook is not the only tech company struggling to protect children's privacy. Both Google and TikTok have been slapped with multimillion dollar fines for violating COPPA. This spring privacy advocates filed a complaint alleging that Amazon stores kids' conversations and data even after parents attempt to delete it. Whether or not Facebook is fined for this Messenger Kids flaw or other potential COPPA violations, it will need to do a better job protecting children's privacy if it wants to fulfill its "future is private" promise. Engadget has reached out to Facebook for comment. Source
  3. In a world of digital payments, parents need to be deliberate in teaching their kids about money An updated version of the classic board game Monopoly has done away with cash entirely and now uses a voice-activated AI banker instead. Hasbro announced Wednesday it will release a version of the classic board game Monopoly designed for the digital age. But financial experts argue the game’s new design could deprive children of important financial lessons. In Hasbro’s latest edition of Monopoly, gone are the paper money and Community Chest cards. Instead, the board game now comes with a voice-controlled, artificial intelligence device shaped like a top hat. Designed to prevent cheating, players will now press a button on the top hat and dictate commands, such as paying rent or trading properties. The game is set to be released July 1 and is available for pre-order from Walmart and Amazon. This is not the first time Monopoly has reflected today’s cashless world. A 2006 edition of the game in the United Kingdom featured Visa-branded credit cards instead of paper play money. Similar versions of the game are also available in the U.S. Last year, Hasbro even released a version called Monopoly for Millennials in which players compete to buy experiences rather than real estate. The new technology may appeal to kids used to interacting with voice-activated digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa , Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana . Financial experts, however, remained on the fence about the game’s educational value. “It is a mixed bag,” said Laura Levine, president and CEO of the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a nonprofit that promotes financial education in schools. “Not having access to cash, both real and play money, does make it harder to teach younger kids about money and money management.” Board games like Monopoly can be important educational tools — if used the right way Educators and financial advisers have often suggested that board games such as Monopoly or The Game of Life are important in promoting behaviors tied to saving and budgeting. By removing the physical element of the game, some argue that Monopoly’s usefulness as a tool to teach children about money is reduced. “Removing physical Monopoly money reduces the educational benefit of the game by glossing over the important task of learning to manage and count your money,” said Nicole Strbich, director of financial planning at Buckingham Advisors in Dayton, Ohio. Research has shown that children’s approach to money changes after they are allowed to touch cash — handling money made kids work harder, but also made them stingier about giving money away. That corresponds with adults’ experiences using cash rather than credit card. Studies have shown consumers spend more when they use credit cards, mobile wallets andpotentially even cryptocurrency. The same is true of shopping online or with a smart speaker rather than in person. As a result, playing with literal Monopoly money can impart important financial lessons. “Bankruptcy is a lot more painful when you have to reach across the table to hand someone your last dollar,” Strbich said. At the same time, there’s also value in having board games reflect the real world, Levine said. “The reality is this is the world they’re going to grow up into,” she said. Even as a digital game, Monopoly is still exposing kids to a play version of the real world, she argued. Parents need to take an active role in promoting financial literacy Cashless or not, board games like Monopoly shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for having real conversations around money, spending and saving. “Parents can’t expect that games alone will do all the teaching,” she said. “The teaching and learning comes from discussion and guidance. We can use these other tools to make it real and bring it to life.” And evaluating the lessons that board games impart is just as important as playing them in the first place. Monopoly does encourage strong behaviors such as counting money. But it can also encourage risky financial behaviors — after all, the person who buys the most property tends to win, and that requires a lot of leverage. “If you feel maximum leverage is a sound financial lesson and strategy, it’s a good teaching tool,” quipped David Harraway, principal at Substantial Financial, a financial planning firm in Colorado Springs, Colo. Financial experts also emphasized other tried and true methods of teaching kids about money — from paying them to do chores to allowing them to run lemonade stands. Even with these strategies, the onus is on the parents. When it comes to allowances, Levine advised that parents shouldn’t focus on whether their child is prepared, but whether they are themselves. Forgetting to pay a child or allowing them to buy something with borrowed money after the allowance piggy bank has become empty teaches the wrong lesson. “If the parent isn’t disciplined, you’re sending the message that it’s loosey-goosey,” Levine said. Source
  4. A team of researchers has developed a high accuracy deep learning-based classifier designed to detect YouTube videos with disturbing content for kids. This was done after finding that the current recommendation algorithm used by the platform to suggest related content is quite lacking. The research was prompted by the increasing number of young children who have their attention drawn to more modern video consumption platforms such as Google's YouTube, which provides almost limitless amounts of toddler-tailored content. Although most of it is accurately categorized by YouTube's internal algorithms, the counter-measures put in place to protect young viewers from disturbing content are ineffective when it comes to detecting this type of videos in a timely fashion according to the study. As described by the researchers, videos classified by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as PG or PG-13 are considered disturbing, while those with R or NC-17 are considered to be restricted. Using a dataset of 133,806 videos, the researchers tested their binary classifier as part of a large-scale toddler-oriented study of YouTube content and they found: Following their extensive tests, the deep learning video content classifier was able to reach an accuracy of 82.8% and it also helped them reach the conclusion that toddlers watching videos on the YouTube platform have a 45% chance of being suggested an inappropriate one within 10 hops if starting "from a video that appears among the top ten results of a toddler-appropriate keyword search (e.g., Peppa Pig)." Although protecting young children from inappropriate content is also the job of their parents, YouTube should also have in place accurate counter-measures designed to remove such videos from the recommendation queue especially when kids use benign videos as a starting point. The researchers also evaluated YouTube's toddler inappropriate content blocking algorithms and found that: "Considering the advent of algorithmic content creation (e.g., “deep fakes”) and the monetization opportunities on sites like YouTube, there is no reason to believe there will be an organic end to this problem," the research team concluded. "Our classifier, and the insights gained from our analysis can be used as a starting point to gain a deeper understanding and begin mitigating this issue." The "Disturbed YouTube for Kids: Characterizing and Detecting Disturbing Content on YouTube" paper has been authored by researchers from Cyprus University of Technology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Telefonica Research, and Boston University, and it is publicly available on the arXiv research electronic archive. The research project co-authored by Kostantinos Papadamou, Antonis Papasavva, Savvas Zannettou, Jeremy Blackburn, Nicolas Kourtellis, Ilias Leontiadis, Gianluca Stringhini, and Michael Sirivianos was funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie ENCASE project (Grant Agreement No. 691025). Source
  5. Social media giants like Facebook should be forced to release their “insidious grip” on young people, the head of the NHS has said. Backing The Telegraph’s campaign for a “duty of care” to web users, Simon Stevens said such firms should face up to their responsiblities, fuelling pressures on today’s children. Last month the chief executive of NHS England promised a “major ramp-up” of mental health services, in order to deal with the fallout for an explosion of social media. Today he urged social media companies to get their house in order, by doing more to protect children from addictive habits and dangerous content. The father of two told The Telegraph: “Social media companies must face up to their responsibilities. There is emerging evidence of a link between semi-addictive and manipulative online activities and mental health pressures on our teenagers and young people. “Parents are only too aware of the insidious grip that some of these activities can have on young people’s lives." While the NHS was expanding mental health services in a bid to offer help to those in need earlier, he said society needed to go further, to protect the young. “We need to think about prevention as well as cure so that families and the NHS are not just left to pick up the pieces,” he said. “Companies have a responsibility not just to put in place appropriate protections for children but to do their bit to increase our understanding of these issues.” Earlier this year the Health Secretary asked Prof Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, to undertake a review examining the impact of technology on children’s health and consider the evidence on what constitutes a healthy amount of screen time. Mr Stevens said it was vital that measures are introduced to protect children from some of the harms associated with web exposure. “The chief medical officer’s review is welcome and her findings should act as a spur to action,” he said. It comes after The Telegraph launched a Duty of Care campaign calling for more stringent regulation of sites like Facebook and Instagram, in order to protect children from harm. The NHS chief, who has two young children, is particularly concerned that children are increasingly becoming hooked on online habits, in a way that damages their growth. Warning of a an “epidemic of young people’s mental health and distress” he last month drew attention to the recent classification of gaming addiction as a disorder, by the World Health Organisation. Social media companies have been repeatedly been asked by ministers to “become part of the solution” to mental distress among the young. The firms have been asked to do more to tackle cyber bullying, prevent young children accessing sites that are supposed to have age restrictions and warning alarms or pop-up messages which discourage heavy use, or higlight concerning patterns of use. But ministers have been dissatisfied by the responses coming from firms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Google. In December Mr Hunt angrily urged Facebook to “stay away from my kids” after its US site set up a version aimed at young children. Mr Hunt is concerned that overexposure to social media is fuelling anxiety, depression and self-harm as children grow up. Statistics published later this year are set to show that the level of undiagnosed mental health problems and distress among young people is much higher than has officially previously been recorded. The last comprehensive survey data on young people’s mental health dates from 2004 when it was found that around one in ten young people aged between 5 and 16 had a clinically diagnosed mental disorder. Separate research suggests young women have become the most high risk group in society, with one in four among those aged between 18 and 24 having self-harmed. < Here >
  6. After Spying Webcams, Welcome the Spy Toys “My Friend Cayla and I-Que” Privacy advocates claim both toys pose security and privacy threat for children and parents. Internet-connected toys are currently a rage among parents and kids alike but what we are not aware of are the associated security dangers of using Smart toys. It is a fact that has been acknowledged by the Center for Digital Democracy that smart toys pose grave privacy, security and similar other risks to children. There are certain privacy and security flaws in a pair of smart toys that have been designed to engage with kids. Last year, we reported how “Hello Barbie” toy spies on kids by talking to them, recording their conversations and send them to company’s servers which are then analyzed and stored in another cloud server. Now, the dolls My Friend Cayla and I-Que Intelligent Robot that are being marketed for both male and female kids are the objects of security concern. In fact the Federal Trade Commission’s child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups have filed a complaint [PDF] against these dolls. It is being suspected that these dolls are violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as well as the FTC rules because these collect and use personal data via communicating with kids. This feature of the dolls is being termed as a deceptive practice by the makers. The FTC has been asked in the complaint to investigate the matter and take action against the manufacturer of the dolls Genesis Toys as well as the provider of third-party voice recognition software for My Friend Cayla and I-Que, Nuance Communications. The complaints have been filed by these groups: the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Consumers Union, Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). According to complainers, these dolls are already creepy looking and the fact that these gather information makes them even creepier. Both these toys use voice recognition technology coupled with internet connectivity and Bluetooth to engage with the kids through answering questions and making up conversations. However, according to the CDD, this is done in a very insecure and invasive manner. The Genesis Toys claims on its website that while “most of Cayla’s conversational features can be accessed offline,” but searching for information would require internet connectivity. The promotional video for Cayla doll also focuses upon the toy’s ability to communicate with the kid as it stated: “ask Cayla almost anything.” To work, these dolls require mobile apps but some questions might be asked directly. The toys keep a Bluetooth connection enabled constantly so that the dolls could reach to the actions in the app and identify the objects when the kid taps on the screen. Some of the asked questions are recorded and sent to Nuance’s servers for parsing but it is yet unclear how much of the information is kept private. The toys’ manufacturer maintains that complete anonymity is observed. The toys were released in late 2015 but still these are selling like hot cakes. As per researchers’ statement in the FTC complaint, “by connecting one phone to the doll through the insecure Bluetooth connection and calling that phone with a second phone, they were able to both converse with and covertly listen to conversations collected through the My Friend Cayla and i-Que toys.” This means anyone can use their smartphone to communicate with the child using the doll as the gateway. Watch this add to see how Cayla works Watch this video to understand how anyone can spy on your child with Cayla and i-Que If you own a smart toy, keep an eye on the conversation between you and your kid. Courtesy: CDD Source
  7. Being a parent is hard, but being a parent to a kid who is on the phone 24/7, talks in #hashtags and was born into the world of selfies and social media, is something else. That's when you know you have to be super creative to make them do their chores - just telling them to tidy their room won't do. This is collected funny yet genius parenting hacks that will make you wonder how you lived without them. My Sister Lost Her Phone At A Bar. This Is What My Mom Sent Her When She Asked For A Replacement So Yesterday I Yelled "Fuck You" At My Parents And Today They Gave Me This The Ungrounded Game Father Leaves His Messy Teens The Perfect Threatening Note Today´s Wifi Password This Mom More here
  8. TL;DR? Why not just go watch another five second video of a kitten with its head in a toilet roll, or a 140 character description of a meal your friend just stuffed in their mouth. "nom nom". This blog post is not for you. The phone rang through to my workroom. It was one of the school receptionists explaining that there was a visitor downstairs that needed to get on the school's WiFi network. iPad in hand I trotted on down to the reception to see a young twenty-something sitting on a chair with a MacBook on her knee. I smiled and introduced myself as I sat down beside her. She handed me her MacBook silently and the look on her face said it all. Fix my computer, geek, and hurry up about it. I've been mistaken for a technician enough times to recognise the expression. 'I'll need to be quick. I've got a lesson to teach in 5 minutes,' I said. 'You teach?' 'That's my job, I just happen to manage the network team as well.' She reevaluated her categorisation of me. Rather than being some faceless, keyboard tapping, socially inept, sexually inexperienced network monkey, she now saw me as a colleague. To people like her, technicians are a necessary annoyance. She'd be quite happy to ignore them all, joke about them behind their backs and snigger at them to their faces, but she knows that when she can't display her PowerPoint on the IWB she'll need a technician, and so she maintains a facade of politeness around them, while inwardly dismissing them as too geeky to interact with. I looked at the MacBook. I had no experience with OSX at the time. Jobs wasn't an idiot though, and displayed proudly in the top right hand corner of the screen was a universally recognisable WiFi symbol. It took me seconds to get the device on the network. I handed back the MacBook and the woman opened up Safari. 'The Internet's not working,' she stated with disdain. I've heard this sentence so many times now from students and staff, that I have a stock reaction. Normally I pull out my mobile phone and pretend to tap in a few numbers. Holding the handset to my ear I say: 'Yes, give me the office of the President of the United States.... NO, I WILL NOT HOLD. This is an emergency.... Hello, Mister President, I'm afraid I have some bad news. I've just been informed that The Internet is not working.' I decided that the young woman would probably not appreciate the sarcasm, and took the MacBook off her so I could add in the county's proxy server settings. I had no idea how to do this on OS X. The county proxy is there to ensure that the staff and students can't access porn on the school network. It also filters for violence, extremism, swearing, social networks, alcohol, smoking, hacking, gaming and streaming video. Ironically, if you were to perform a Google search for "proxy settings OS X", the top results would all be blocked because you used the word 'proxy' and that is a filtered word. 'Do you know where the proxy settings are?' I asked, hopefully. I don't get a response. I might as well have asked her 'Can you tell me how to reticulate splines using a hexagonal decode system so that I can build a GUI in Visual Basic and track an IP Address.' It took me about ten seconds to find and fill in the proxy settings. I handed back her MacBook and she actually closed Safari and reopened it, rather than just refreshing. 'Thanks.' Her gratitude was overwhelming. I was about to leave, when she stopped me. 'PowerPoint's not working'. This probably didn't warrant a phone call to the President of the United States. I'm sure he takes an interest in technological issues, but the breakdown of the World's leading presentation tool would probably be somewhat of a relief to him. At least the NSA wouldn't be losing any more poorly designed slide-shows. I sat back down and once again took possession of her MacBook. The slide she was displaying contained an embedded YouTube video, and as I have said, streaming video is blocked. I tried to explain this to the woman, and she then patronisingly explained that it shouldn't matter as the video was in her PowerPoint and that was running from her USB stick. I didn't argue, it was really not worth my time. Instead I do what I normally do for people and Just make it work. Using my iPad's 3G connection, I set up a hot-spot and download the YouTube video using a popular ripping site and then embed the now local video in her presentation. 'So what do you teach?' she asked as I worked on her presentation. 'Computing' I replied. 'Oh... I guess these days you must find that the kids know more about computers than the teachers....' If you teach IT or Computing, this is a phrase that you'll have heard a million times, a billion times, epsilon zero times, aleph one times. Okay I exaggerate, but you'll have heard it a lot. There are variants of the phrase, all espousing today's children's technical ability. My favourite is from parents: 'Oh, Johnny will be a natural for A-Level Computing. He's always on his computer at home.' The parents seem to have some vague concept that spending hours each evening on Facebook and YouTube will impart, by some sort of cybernetic osmosis, a knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and Haskell. Normally when someone spouts this rubbish I just nod and smile. This time I simply couldn't let it pass. 'Not really, most kids can't use computers.' (and neither can you - I didn't add.) She looked surprised by my rejection of what is generally considered a truism. After all, aren't all teenagers digital natives? They have laptops and tablets and games consoles and smart phones, surely they must be the most technologically knowledgeable demographic on the planet. The bell went, and I really did have a lesson to teach, so I didn't have time to explain to her my theories on why it is that kids can't use computers. Maybe she'll read my blog. The truth is, kids can't use general purpose computers, and neither can most of the adults I know. There's a narrow range of individuals whom, at school, I consider technically savvy. These are roughly the thirty to fifty year-olds that have owned a computer for much of their adult lives. There are, of course, exceptions amongst the staff and students. There are always one or two kids in every cohort that have already picked up programming or web development or can strip a computer down to the bare bones, replace a motherboard, and reinstall an operating system. There are usually a couple of tech-savvy teachers outside the age range I've stated, often from the Maths and Science departments who are only ever defeated by their school laptops because they don't have administrator privileges, but these individuals are rare. I suppose before I go on I should really define what I believe 'can't use a computer' means. Being a network manager as well as a teacher means I am often the first port of call when a teacher or student is having issues with computers and associated devices. As my lead technician likes to state, 'the problem is usually the interface between the chair and the keyboard.' Here are a few examples of issues I encounter on a fairly regular basis. A sixth-former brings me his laptop, explaining that it is running very slowly and keeps shutting down. The laptop is literally screaming, the processor fans running at full whack and the case is uncomfortably hot to touch. I run Task Manager to see that the CPU is running at 100% despite the only application open being uTorrent (which incidentally had about 200 torrent files actively seeding). I look at what processes are running and there are a lot of them, hogging the CPU and RAM. What's more I can't terminate a single one. 'What anti-virus are you using?' I ask, only to be told that he didn't like using anti-virus because he'd heard it slowed his computer down. I hand back the laptop and tell him that it's infected. He asks what he needs to do, and I suggest he reinstalls Windows. He looks at me blankly. He can't use a computer. A kid puts her hand up in my lesson. 'My computer won't switch on,' she says, with the air of desperation that implies she's tried every conceivable way of making the thing work. I reach forward and switch on the monitor, and the screen flickers to life, displaying the Windows login screen. She can't use a computer. A teacher brings me her school laptop. 'Bloody thing won't connect to the internet.' she says angrily, as if it were my fault. 'I had tonnes of work to do last night, but I couldn't get on-line at all. My husband even tried and he couldn't figure it out and he's excellent with computers.' I take the offending laptop from out of her hands, toggle the wireless switch that resides on the side, and hand it back to her. Neither her nor her husband can use computers. A kid knocks on my office door, complaining that he can't login. 'Have you forgotten your password?' I ask, but he insists he hasn't. 'What was the error message?' I ask, and he shrugs his shoulders. I follow him to the IT suite. I watch him type in his user-name and password. A message box opens up, but the kid clicks OK so quickly that I don't have time to read the message. He repeats this process three times, as if the computer will suddenly change its mind and allow him access to the network. On his third attempt I manage to get a glimpse of the message. I reach behind his computer and plug in the Ethernet cable. He can't use a computer. A teacher brings me her brand new iPhone, the previous one having been destroyed. She's lost all her contacts and is very upset. I ask if she'd plugged her old iPhone into her computer at any time, but she can't remember. I ask her to bring in her laptop and iPhone. When she brings them in the next day I restore her phone from the backup that resides on her laptop. She has her contacts back, and her photos as well. She's happy. She can't use a computer. A teacher phones my office, complaining that his laptop has "no internet". I take a walk down to his classroom. He tells me that the internet was there yesterday, but today it's gone. His desktop is a solid wall of randomly placed Microsoft office icons. I quickly try and explain that the desktop is not a good place to store files as they're not backed up on the server, but he doesn't care; he just wants the internet back. I open the start menu and click on Internet Explorer, and it flashes to life with his homepage displayed. He explains that the Internet used to be on his desktop, but isn't any more. I close I.E. and scour the desktop, eventually finding the little blue 'e' buried amongst some PowerPoint and Excel icons. I point to it. He points to a different location on the screen, informing me of where it used to be. I drag the icon back to it's original location. He's happy. He can't use a computer. A kid puts his hand up. He tells me he's got a virus on his computer. I look at his screen. Displayed in his web-browser is what appears to be an XP dialogue box warning that his computer is infected and offering free malware scanning and removal tools. He's on a Windows 7 machine. I close the offending tab. He can't use a computer. Not really knowing how to use a computer is deemed acceptable if you're twenty-five or over. It's something that some people are even perversely proud of, but the prevailing wisdom is that all under eighteens are technical wizards, and this is simply not true. They can use some software, particularly web-apps. They know how to use Facebook and Twitter. They can use YouTube and Pinterest. They even know how to use Word and PowerPoint and Excel. Ask them to reinstall an operating system and they're lost. Ask them to upgrade their hard-drive or their RAM and they break out in a cold sweat. Ask them what https means and why it is important and they'll look at you as if you're speaking Klingon. They click 'OK' in dialogue boxes without reading the message. They choose passwords like qwerty1234. They shut-down by holding in the power button until the monitor goes black. They'll leave themselves logged in on a computer and walk out of the room. If a program is unresponsive, they'll click the same button repeatedly until it crashes altogether. How the hell did we get to this situation? How can a generation with access to so much technology, not know how to use it? Parents I've messed up, as I'm sure many of you have. When we purchased an XBox it was Techno-Dad to the rescue. I happily played about with the mess of cables and then created profiles for everyone. When my son's MacBook was infected with the FlashBack virus Techno-Dad to the rescue. I looked up some on-line guides and then hammered away in the terminal until I had eradicated that bad-boy. When we purchased a 'Family Raspberry Pi' Techno-Dad to the rescue. I hooked it all up, flashed an OS to the SD-card and then sat back proudly, wondering why nobody other than me wanted to use the blasted thing. All through their lives, I've done it for them. Set-up new hardware, installed new software and acted as in-house technician whenever things went wrong. As a result, I have a family of digital illiterates. Schools When it became apparent that computers were going to be important, the UK Government recognised that ICT should probably become part of the core curriculum in schools. Being a bunch of IT illiterates themselves, the politicians and advisers turned to industry to ask what should be included in the new curriculum. At the time, there was only one industry and it was the Microsoft monopoly. <sarcasm>Microsoft thought long and hard about what should be included in the curriculum and after careful deliberation they advised that students should really learn how to use office software</sarcasm>. And so the curriculum was born. <sarcasm>Schools naturally searched long and hard for appropriate office software to teach with, and after much care they chose Microsoft Office</sarcasm>. So since 2000 schools have been teaching students Microsoft skills (Adobe skills were introduced a little later). But the curriculum isn't the only area in which we've messed up. Our network infrastructures in UK schools is equally to blame. We've mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They're sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing. They have access to a few applications and that's all. The computers access the internet through proxy servers that aggressively filter anything less bland than Wikipedia, and most schools have additional filtering software on-top so that they can maintain a white-list of 'suitable sites'. Windows and OS X My first PC was an ESCOM P100 with Windows 3.1. My second was a Packard Bell with Windows 95. My third was a custom build with Windows XP. My fourth was an Acer laptop with Windows 7. I now use a MacBook Pro with OS X (or occasionally Ubuntu, depending on my mood and levels of paranoia). Windows 7 was a game changer for me. It was the first time I'd installed an OS and had literally nothing to configure. Even a PE teacher could have managed it. Windows 7 (I hate 8, but that's another story) and Mac OS X are great operating systems. They're easy to use, require almost no configuration, include or provide easy access to all needed drivers, and generally 'just work'. It's fantastic that everyone from the smallest child to the eldest grandparent can now use a computer with absolute minimal technical literacy, but it's also a disaster. It didn't used to be like this. Using an OS used to be hard work. When things went wrong you had to dive in and get dirty to fix things. You learned about file systems and registry settings and drivers for your hardware. Not any more. I should think the same thing will one day be said about the ability to drive. There will still be the auto-mobile geeks out there that'll build kit cars and spend days down the track honing their driving skills, while the rest of us sit back and relax as Google ferries us to and from work in closeted little bubbles. Mobile. Mobile has killed technical competence. We now all carry around computers that pretend to be mobile phones or tablets. Most people don't even think of their phone as a computer. It's a device to get quick and easy access to Google. It's a device that allows us to take photos and post them to Facebook. It's a device that allows us to play games and post our scores to Twitter. It's a device that locks away the file system (or hides it from us). It's a device that only allows installation of sanitised apps through a regulated app store. It's a device whose hardware can't be upgraded or replaced and will be obsolete in a year or two. It's a device that's as much a general purpose computer as the Fisher Price toy I had when I was three. So this is the state of the world. Let's make up some statistics to illustrate my point. If 20 years ago 5% of us had a computer in our homes, then you could pretty much guarantee that 95% of those computer owners were technically literate. Today, let's assume that 95% of us have a computer in our homes, then I would guess that around 5% of owners are technically literate. This is scary and I'm sure the real statistics would be scarier still. It's something we should all be worried about. Why? Technology affects our lives more than ever before. Our computers give us access to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. Our computers enable us to work, socialise and entertain ourselves. Our computers give us access to our utilities, our banks and our politics. Our computers allow criminals to interact with us, stealing our data, our money, our identities. Our computers are now used by our governments, monitoring our communications, our behaviours, our secrets. Cory Doctorow put it much better than I can when he said: The Summer of Surveillance has me worried. After Snowden's revelations first came out, I went into school on Monday to find that most of my colleagues and students had either not heard about the scandal, or if they had just didn't care. While I was busy deleting my on-line accounts and locking down my machines, my friends called me paranoid and made jokes about tinfoil hats. My family shrugged their shoulders in that 'Meh' way, and mumbled the often quoted 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.' Then, out of the blue, Cameron announces that ISPs are going to start filtering The Internet. It's described as a 'porn filter', but the Open Rights Group's investigations implies that far more than porn will be filtered by default. Then to top it all, Cameron's chief advisor on this issue has her website hacked and displays just how technically illiterate she really is. Tomorrow's politicians, civil servants, police officers, teachers, journalists and CEOs are being created today. These people don't know how to use computers, yet they are going to be creating laws regarding computers, enforcing laws regarding computers, educating the youth about computers, reporting in the media about computers and lobbying politicians about computers. Do you thinks this is an acceptable state of affairs? I have David Cameron telling me that internet filtering is a good thing. I have William Hague telling me that I have nothing to fear from GCHQ. I have one question for these policy makers: If you can't, then you have no right to be making decisions that affect my use of these technologies. Try it out. Do your friends know the difference? Do you? Fixing it all Parents Stop fixing things for your kids. You spend hours of your time potty-training them when they're in their infancy, because being able to use the toilet is pretty much an essential skill in modern society. You need to do the same with technology. Buy them a computer by all means, but if it goes wrong, get them to fix it. Buy them a smartphone, give them £10 of app store credit a year and let them learn why in-app-purchases are a bad idea. When we teach kids to ride a bike, at some point we have to take the training wheels off. Here's an idea. When they hit eleven, give them a plaintext file with ten-thousand WPA2 keys and tell them that the real one is in there somewhere. See how quickly they discover Python or Bash then. Schools In the UK we're moving some way towards fixing this issue. Gove and I have a love-hate relationship, but I genuinely like what he is doing to the Computer Science curriculum. We just need to make sure that Academy Heads stick to Computer Science, and don't use curriculum reform as a means to save some money by scrapping the subject all together. We could do more though. We should be teaching kids not to install malware, rather than locking down machines so that it's physically impossible. We should be teaching kids to stay safe on-line rather than filtering their internet. Google and Facebook give kids money if they manage to find and exploit security vulnerabilities in their systems. In schools we exclude kids for attempting to hack our systems. Is that right? Windows and OSX USE LINUX. Okay, so it's not always practical, but most Linux distros really get you to learn how to use a computer. Everyone should at least have a play around at some point in their lives. If you're not going to use Linux then if you're on OS X have a play around in the terminal. It really is fun and you get to feel like a hacker, as does the Command Line or PowerShell in Windows. Mobile This one's tricky. iOS is a lost cause, unless you jail-break, and Android isn't much better. I use Ubuntu-Touch, and it has possibilities. At least you feel like the mobile phone is yours. Okay, so I can't use 3G, it crashes when I try to make phone calls and the device runs so hot that when in my jacket pocket it seconds as an excellent nipple-warmer, but I can see the potential. Conclusion This has happened before. It is not a new phenomenon. A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. I've owned a car for most of my adult life and they're a mystery to me. As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what's wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well. I doubt my five year-old son will even need to learn to drive. It'll be done for him by his car. When he needs to get it fixed he'll be directed to the mechanic that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he wants to stop for a bite to eat he'll be directed to the fast-food outlet that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he needs to recharge his dilithium crystals he'll be directed to the filing station that pays the most for on-line advertising. I want the people who will help shape our society in the future to understand the technology that will help shape our society in the future. If this is going to happen, then we need to reverse the trend that is seeing digital illiteracy exponentially increase. We need to act together, as parents, as teachers, as policy makers. Let's build a generation of hackers. Who's with me? Source
  9. So you have a little rug-rat or two of your own that is constantly grabbing at your phone. You let them play with it, but want to make sure they’re downloading apps that are appropriate for them. Well it looks like Samsung has got your back with the Samsung kids app store. In addition the phone’s “kid’s mode”, the S5 will also give users access to a kids only app store. The apps are all developed for, you guessed it, children. So no, junior won’t be able to access Grand Theft Auto anything, but they will have some kid-friendly cute games at their disposal. Anyone here impressed with Samsung’s sensitivity and consideration towards parents? Source
  10. By Robert T. Gonzalez Today 11am Just a friendly reminder that the NSA's children's website, "CryptoKids," is an actual thing that exists. In today's New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt reports on the "furry, smiley face" the Agency puts on its mission: The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really "kewl," is pushing something far weightier: the benefits of the National Security Agency. "In the world of diplomacy, knowing what your enemy is planning helps you to prepare," the turtle says. "But it is also important that your enemies do not know what you have planned. It is the mission of the National Security Agency and the Central Security Service to learn what it can about its potential enemies to protect America's government communications." Such an enthusiastic endorsement of the N.S.A.'s mission might seem particularly timely given the criticism directed at the agency since one of its former contractors, Edward J. Snowden, began leaking documents he had stolen from it. But T. Top and a troupe of eight other smiley-faced cartoon characters have been busy promoting the N.S.A.'s mission for the past nine years as part of a governmentwide attempt to make agencies more understandable to the public. With cartoon characters, interactive games and puzzles, the N.S.A.'s CryptoKids website for "future codemakers and codebreakers" tries to educate children about spying duties and recruit them to work for the agency. You can check out the rest of Schmidt's piece here, where you'll read all about the NSA's efforts to remind children with cartoon characters that, while the Internet is a "great" place, "there are people out there who don't have your best interests in mind." (Just remember kids: Every month should be cybersecurity awareness month. No matter what the NSA tells you.) http://io9.com/the-nsas-website-for-kids-isnt-creepy-nope-not-cree-1508865211
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