Digital kids faced a host of new challenges in 2019 - and so did their mums and dads. Here's a round-up of some of the trends in tech that kept us up at night.
The Momo Challenge created panic around the globe.
News of a deadly online “game” scaring the daylights out of kids - and parents - caused worldwide panic before being revealed as a hoax. At the centre of it all was the character Momo - a creepy bird-woman with bulging eyes, stringy black hair, and a boomerang-shaped mouth, allegedly driving players to self-harm or suicide with the threat of making their private information public.
Cyber experts pointed to two lessons from the Momo phenomenon: first the need for parents (not to mention the media) to fact-check information first, and share second; and two, the need for parents to remain vigilant in our children’s digital lives. (Read more.)
TikTok became the world’s most popular app.
The lip-synching app TikTok - formerly Musical.ly - surpassed Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat as the most downloaded app in the world, and, while on the surface it may seem safe, cyber experts issued warnings of its significant dangers - including porn, child predators, images of self-harm and attention-seeking ‘dares’ by kids putting themselves at risk to get likes and acceptance. (Read more.)
YouTube faced a string of controversies - and scrambled to take steps to address safety concerns.
The headlines said it all: “YouTube ads pulled over 'paedophile ring' operating in comments section of videos of kids,” “YouTube trolls target children by uploading animated shows with spliced-in clips promoting self-harm,” “Suicide tips for children hidden in videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids,” “YouTube failed to take down live videos of child exploitation after they were flagged to moderators.”
The platform has since put into place stricter moderation measures - losing some advertising dollars along the way. (Read more.)
The amount of child exploitation material online doubled.
Currently, the internet is host to 45 million photos and videos of child sexual abuse, according to reports by technology companies. And legislative measures undertaken in the US and elsewhere in recent years have done nothing to stop the explosion of this material. (Read more.)
Parents were in deep denial about kids’ true screen-time.
The average parent underestimated their child’s smartphone screen-time by more than 250%, according to a new survey. The average child with a smartphone spends three and a half hours a day on it. Yet parents believed they were spending only an hour and 18 minutes. The study also found that most parents never check their kids’ devices. (Read more.)
“Deepfake” technology began to go mainstream.
The term deepfake - coined in 2017 as a mash-up of “deep learning” and “fake” - has been defined as a technique for “human image synthesis” using artificial intelligence. To date, deepfake technology has been used extensively to create phony celebrity pornographic videos or revenge porn. But in 2019, deepfakes were also being used to create fake news and malicious hoaxes for dissemination on social media. (Read more.)
The highest paid YouTuber was an 8-year-old, as the unboxing craze gained speed.
8-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan ToysReview earned $22 million last year from ads and endorsements. 38.6 billion viewers tuned in the two biggest unboxing channels last year. (Read more.)
Evidence linking teen social media use with depression continued to mount.
One new study found that for every 10% increase in negativity on social media, the risk of depression rose 20%. However, researchers have been quick to acknowledge that the correlation did not show that bad experiences on social media “caused” depression.
The question whether the negative social media interactions actually caused the depressive symptoms or whether depressed individuals are more likely to seek out negative online interactions remains an open one. (Read more.)
Our understanding of “screen-time” grew more nuanced.
More and more, experts advise that engaging with a screen can be a positive, negative or neutral experience, depending on the content and the context. Or, to put the same idea more simply, “screen-time ain’t screen-time.” Experts increasingly point to dimensions like interactivity, arousal and educational quality to help parents differentiate healthy from unhealthy online activity. (Read more.)
Anxiety disorders among Australian children reached epidemic proportions.
Schools reported primary school kids as young as five are self-harming, acting out and suffering from mood disorders at unheard-of rates - and social media and smartphones are being identified as a major contributing factor. (Read more.)
The summer holidays posed big dangers for kids online.
Australia-wide, almost half of children under 18 tried to access porn during last year’s Christmas holidays, according to data collected from thousands of users of Australia’s leading cyber safety provider. The data shows that these children would have been exposed to pornography either deliberately or inadvertently, before being blocked by Family Zone. (Read more.)
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