Media: New ‘screen time’ rules for kids
“How much time should kids be allowed to stare into their screens like zombies?” asked George Dvorsky in Gizmodo.com. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised parents to limit their children’s time in front of televisions, tablets, and smartphones to no more than two hours per day, with an absolute ban for children under the age of 2. But no longer. In new guidelines released last month, the AAP officially abandoned its strict “one-size-fits-all approach” to screen time, in favor of more flexible recommendations for the smartphone age. Doctors still recommend that children under the age of 18 months avoid screens altogether, but apps like Skype and FaceTime are fine for chatting with Grandpa and Grandma. Experts are finally beginning to recognize what parents have long understood intuitively: Not all screen time is created equal.
This is “a pivotal moment for anyone who is raising or working with kids,” said Lisa Guernsey in Slate.com. The AAP’s previous guidelines were hopelessly outdated, relying largely on studies of television’s impact on children. Children between 18 and 24 months can now be introduced to digital media for brief periods, as long as it is high-quality, educational programming and apps that they watch or play alongside an adult. Similarly, children 2 to 5 years old should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming, preferably with an adult as well. “For older kids, the guidelines are more vague,” said Deborah Netburn in the Los Angeles Times. Ideally, parents should work with their children to set personalized rules for media use. One good idea is to limit screen time before bed, since that has been shown to have a detrimental effect on sleep for people of all ages.
“A funny thing happened when I banned tablets in my house on weekdays and curtailed their use on weekends,” said Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal. My kids, ages 4 and 6, actually became less cantankerous and more imaginative in their play. “Outside the home, they became less demanding and better at self-regulating.” Now, I feel like my experiment has been validated. The last thing we perpetually guilt-ridden parents need is more guidelines, said Jakob Schiller in OutsideOnline.com. “Let’s be honest: For most of us parents, television is a way to distract our child.” Mom and Dad need a moment to get dinner on the table, drink a glass of wine in peace, or just finish the dishes “without a toddler hanging off our legs.” And, if we’re being really honest, sometimes kids need a break from us, too. The new guidelines, just like the old ones, suggest that there’s a “perfect way” to do something. As every parent knows very well, that simply isn’t the case.
Innovation of the week
The prototype for a smart contact lens points to a future where “just about any object” can connect to the internet, “even disposable ones,” said Tom Simonite in TechnologyReview.com. Shyam Gollakota, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, demonstrated a Wi-Fi-connected contact lens last month at MIT to showcase a new technology dubbed “backscatter.” Gollakota’s method allows devices without batteries to communicate and power themselves by harvesting and recycling signals from Wi-Fi devices or radio and TV stations. Gollakota and his grad students have also created a skin patch that can sense temperature and respiration, and a concert poster that broadcasts snippets of a band’s music over FM radio. Gollakota said his startup, Jeeva Wireless, is in talks with a large drug company about adding wireless connectivity to disposable medical products.
Bytes: What’s new in tech
FCC bolsters privacy protections
The Federal Communication Commission “just passed sweeping new rules to protect your online privacy,” said Brian Fung and Craig Timberg in The Washington Post. Under new regulations adopted last week, internet providers will be forbidden from sharing with third parties sensitive personal information about customers, including users’ browsing histories and mobile location data, without consumers’ explicit consent. The ruling dealt a “major blow” to broadband companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, which have been trying to monetize the data by selling targeted advertising across multiple devices. The new rules, which are likely to face a legal challenge, could spur some companies to offer discounts or other incentives to customers who voluntarily consent to online tracking.
Facebook’s racial ad targeting
“Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers,” said Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr. in ProPublica.org. Facebook, essentially, is doing just that, through its targeted advertising platform. The social network allows advertisers to specify groups of users based on “ethnic affinities” in the Demographics category of its ad-targeting tool. However, “ads that exclude people based on race, gender, and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.” In a test we conducted, Facebook approved an ad that targeted house-hunting Facebook users and that excluded anyone with an African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic “affinity.” The company says “ethnic affinity” isn’t the same as race, but is assigned based on the pages and posts a user likes on Facebook.
Vine withers at Twitter
Twitter is shutting down Vine, its six-second looping video app, said Casey Newton in TheVerge.com. The social network said last week that it plans to discontinue the Vine mobile app “in coming months.” Twitter purchased Vine in October 2012, “seeing it as a near-perfect video analog to its flagship app’s short-form text posts.” But though Vine gained a dedicated following—some of its most prominent video creators earned six figures making Vines for brands—it was eventually outpaced by the video features at competitors like Snapchat and Instagram. The end of Vine comes at a difficult time for Twitter, which has been struggling to grow its core product.