Presenting “Family Sharing” Photo: Dean Takahashi
Apple unveiled a whole slew of features coming in the next iterations of its operating systems for the iPhone (iOS 8) and Macs (OS X Yosemite), coming to a device near you in the fall. Among them was an iOS 8 feature called “Family Sharing,” a little bundle of convenience and control.
The feature will “let up to six users share any apps or media content they buy using the same credit card. Users will also be able to share family photo albums, calendars and more,” reports the Los Angeles Times. This way (here’s the parental control part), “if a child tries to buy something with their Apple device, the purchase will not go through until the parent approves a notification they receive on their gadget.” According to VentureBeat.com, Apple says “Family Sharing also permits kids to ask parents automatically if they can purchase a new app.” It may even save families money.
- My ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid also touched on what’s coming with OS X Yosemite
- PC Magazine put together a wish list for iOS 8 before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Here‘s “What We Wanted vs. What We Got.”
- The L.A. Times’s article highlighted 10 features Apple announced.
One year ago this month, its 3rd-through-6th grader designers launched the fifth and final iteration of Escape to Morrow, an open source digital game they designed in Minecraft for Minecraft players. The five iterations – including writing and rewriting backstories, creating maps, finding mods (Minecraft modifications out on the Web) and producing the trailer – took a year of work in summer camp, an afterschool program, spare time and 5th graders’ class time. Two of their teachers (at the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, N.J.) wrote the game’s kernel.
The teachers were contacted by educators in other countries wanting to collaborate with their students on a project in Minecraft. Since other countries’ daytime can be US nighttime, participation would have to be asynchronous, not the more compelling mode of simultaneous and face-to-face (on screen). That was the first constraint. But – as with any art – constraints bring out creativity. What could be just as compelling as face-to-face interaction for students? Maybe a game?
“We wanted something as engaging as The Hunger Games, socially organized by our students and as compelling as the colonial unit we [had in a previous year] designed for 3rd grade,” the teachers write, referring to a 3rd-grade American history unit for which they had students build a colony from the ground up in a “new world” (in Minecraft). So for this new challenge, “we played with the idea of what might happen if we built a world where resources were allocated only to specific areas…. Inspired by observing John Hunter play the “World Peace Game” [in a master class he gave that one of these teachers, Marianne Malmstrom, attended], our seed began to take root in the idea of creating three nations, each holding one resource needed to construct a spaceship to escape certain doom. We agreed to set some simple parameters that would require each nation to work together. Having created the basic framework, we turned the design process over to students to work out details,” including the rules of the game.
When kids write the rules
But the students are doing so much more even than collaboratively writing the rules of a game, a great exercise all by itself. They’re crafting community norms. They’re being citizens, practicing citizenship. They’re managing their learning process – they have something they need to accomplish so they figure out as they go how to complete the task together; in the process, they’re creating and maintaining community. All three elements of what – according to professor Scott Nicholson at Syracuse University – turns “gamification” into meaningful play (and learning) are involved: agency, competency and relevance (see this), elements also key to student engagement.
This is news, and not just for the Internet safety field. It’s important for policymakers, parents, educators, researchers, healthcare providers and journalists to know about: In the Journal of Child Psychology, sociologist David Finkelhor, one of the US’s most prominent experts on child victimization, challenges the “alarmism reﬂected by so much of the scholarly and journalistic literature” about youth and technology. He suggests in a commentary in the Journal’s latest issue that the “techno-panic mindset” has shaped not only the public policy agenda but also the research agenda – even though social science “can be at its most useful when it tries to allay social policy driven by alarm and emotion.”
Dr. Finkelhor, director of University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC), also says social science may have the responsibility “to provide perspectives from those whose voice may be poorly represented in the public discourse,” in this case “young people themselves.” He asks what the research agenda would look like if it were set by them. He’s not alone in wondering this. Last year, the authors of an EU Kids Online report wrote, “Adult society (parents, teachers, policy makers and the media) has shaped the policy agenda for understanding online risk…. Most research … has asked children about risks that worry adults rather than discovering what concerns children themselves” (see this).
The 3 assumptions
Finkelhor points to “three alarmist assumptions” found in the news coverage and research: that the digital environment is “perilous for youth” and, unlike other environments where they spend time, “amplifies deviance”; that problems which show up in the digital environment are unique to it and fostered by its “specific dynamics” (e.g., cyberbullying or sexting); and that the solution to all this is “specialized Internet education.”
Viable counter assumptions
Those assumptions are not evidence-based, Finkelhor writes, urging that they be given “more explicit critical attention.” On the other hand, he writes, “there are many possible hypotheses about how the technologies could be protective, but these have attracted scant attention in comparison to the endangerment speculation.” So in the commentary, he looks at three counter hypotheses: Read more
A lot has been published and broadcast about Internet users’ “right to be forgotten,” long before and since last week’s ruling by a high court in Europe (see the BBC), including the important points that…
- Scratching the surface. Suing a search engine to take down links to offending content doesn’t mean the content itself gets taken down
- Who decides? A court has made search engines, of all things, “judge and jury in deciding what gets removed and what is in the public interest and therefore remains [in search results]” (these two points, thanks to Stephen Balkam of the Family Online Safety Institute in the Huffington Post)
- Erasing history? What one person wants expunged from public record is sometimes something other people or institutions feel should be in the public record. Internet policy scholar Adam Thierer at George Mason University told Tech News World that the European court’s ruling “opens the door to a new censorship regime” disguised as privacy protection.
- A blunt instrument. “How an individual’s reputation is protected online is too important and subtle a policy matter to be legislated by a high court” (the above and this point also made by Harvard University law and computer science professor Jonathan Zittrain in the New York Times)
- “Right” is wrong. It’s not really a right to be forgotten, according to Netherlander Joris van Hoboken, among 8 other fascinating reasons for why the “right” is wrong in his 2011 PhD dissertation. That phrase really overstates the basic data protection principle this is about – “purpose limitation” (keeping data uploaded for one purpose from spreading to another, e.g., not having a private email turned into a status update to all your friends) – and turns it into an emotionally charged issue of reputation and second chances focused on what turns up in search engine results (this reminds me of, in the last decade, state attorneys general prescribing technology as the solution to a different perceived social problem – and prescribing before there was a diagnosis).
What policymakers have to understand
But there’s one final, very crucial point in all this that isn’t prominent enough in the public discussion: the nature of the “content” we’re all talking about.
Author and journalist Lisa Guernsey has a great idea – one that clearly grows out of her research for the recent book, Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child, and her work in early childhood education for public policy think tank the New America Foundation. [I loved her cover story for The Atlantic based on the book and wrote about it here.]
In a just-released TEDx talk, she asked, “What if we were to commit to ensure that every family with young children had access to a media mentor?” This doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. It doesn’t have to be a special new position to create anywhere, she’s quick to add, knowing schools’ and libraries’ budgets, but all the more reason than ever to stop eliminating school librarians’ and media specialists’ jobs and consciously, collectively include old and new media literacy lessons in schools and public libraries. Because media mentors come in all forms, including elementary school teachers, school and public librarians, middle school language arts teachers, American lit teachers and parents! What matters is people in children’s lives who 1) really care about them and their futures, 2) embrace digital media as well as the traditional kind, seeing how important that is for their future and 3) engage with them in the media they love. Read more