Can you really revise for exams at the same time as conducting multiple simultaneous conversations on social media?
Have teenagers really developed such skills of multi-tasking that they can respond to Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, answer texts, and watch funny videos of pets on YouTube, at the same time as studying?
It's peak season for revision for exams in schools and universities, and parents will be trying to give their own advice, confident in the knowledge that whatever they say is likely to start an argument.
And high on the list of easy ways to get a door slammed in your face is to suggest, ever so carefully, that they should just switch off the mobile phone for five minutes and focus on the text books.
'Myth' of multi-tasking
But are young people really able to respond to so many different stimulations at the same time? Wouldn't Pavlov's dog be dead with exhaustion if it had to keep responding like this?
Young people are showing "addictive behaviour" when it comes to using smartphones
Tom Bennett, a teacher, parent and the UK government's adviser on behaviour in school, says it's a complete "myth" that teenagers can multi-task between social media and online entertainment and still keep studying.
Mr Bennett is the director and founder of the ResearchEd group, which spreads education research among the teaching profession, and he says all the evidence points to online distractions harming learning.
Revision needs focus and concentration, he says, but this is going to be scuppered by the relentless, attention-seeking demands of social media.
"It's a very serious concern for educators and parents," he says.
Teenagers can have an "addictive response" to smartphones, says Mr Bennett, constantly checking for updates and responses.
Schoolwork is one casualty, alongside disrupted sleep and anxiety from an online culture that never switches off, says Mr Bennett.
"The children affected most are already likely to be the furthest behind," he says.
It's peak revision season - but can students avoid the distractions as they work on their laptops
There is international research to back his concerns.
A study of pupils in the Boston area, carried out by a research team including academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found "a link between greater media multi-tasking and worse academic outcomes in adolescents".
US academics also found similar results when they looked at achievement in schools in England that had banned mobile phones and so created at least part of the day away from messaging and social media.
Louis Philippe Beland, from Louisiana State University, and Richard Murphy, from the University of Texas at Austin, concluded that "not only does pupil achievement improve as a result of a ban, but also that low achieving and low income pupils gain the most".
An earlier study at Stanford University indicated that bombarding people with multiple online distractions didn't make them quicker to react, it made them less productive and lowered performance in memory tests.
'Don't just tell them to turn off'
But is that going to make any impression on a tech-addicted teenager who would need to be surgically detached from their mobile?
Part of the problem is that when a student is revising online, work and play are a click away from each other.
Tensions will be rising as the summer exams are approaching
Social media is waiting on the same screen as the revision. The playground and library are in the same place.
YouTube might be a soundtrack for putting off working, but it must also be one of the biggest unofficial revision services on the planet.
Google can be a starting point for websites stuffed full of free educational materials and online tutorials.
Dr Sandra Leaton Gray, senior lecturer in education at the UCL Institute of Education, says it's a mistake for parents to barge in and just say "turn it off".
"The clever way round it is to say, 'How are things going online?' Ask them if they're being distracted," she says, suggesting that teenagers need to be cajoled rather than confronted with the dangers of online time-wasting.
'Evil and wonderful'
They might be mixing up chat about exam revision with socialising, she says, so it's not always a clear separation between studying and responding to the next social media message.
But she also sees the constant diet of social media as adding to stress, rather than offering a relaxation during the exams.
She likens it to a "fast-food mentality", with an instant reward and then a longer-term sense of "dissatisfaction" and pressure from having to fit in with the "tribalism" of other teenagers.
This online culture is both "evil and wonderful at the same time" for teenagers, says Dr Leaton Gray.
The social network is also facing a class-action lawsuit in the US for deploying the facial recognition technology there without users' explicit consent.
"Biometric identification and tracking across the billions of photos on the platform exacerbates serious privacy risks to users," commented Silkie Carlo, director of UK civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.
"Facebook now has a duty to prove it has learned how to respect the law, not to prove it can take its surveillance capabilities to new depths."
Users outside the EU and Canada will be prompted to review a similar set of privacy controls in the coming months, but they will continue to be subject to facial recognition unless they opt out of the system.
Facebook's face-matching tech
The facial recognition facility works by assigning each user a unique number called a template. This is calculated by analysing the way they look in their profile photograph and other images they have already been identified in.
Untagged faces are then represented in a similar manner and compared to the database of templates.
When a match is found, Facebook prompts both the person posting an image and the people appearing in it to apply the relevant name tags. In addition, it uses the tech to detect when a scammer is attempting to use a stolen photo as their profile picture.
It also helps Facebook to offer new "friends" suggestions.
When new connections are made, users have more reason to spend longer on Facebook's app and website.
This lets the firm show them more adverts while also helping it learn more about their interests, which in turn lets it better target future ads.
The new settings are being deployed ahead of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May.
The law tightens existing privacy rules, forbids the use of pre-ticked boxes for consent, and increases the amount organisations can be fined for non-compliance.
Users can either agree to face recognition with a single button press or click through other pages to be given the choice of refusing
Under the new system, users click a single button saying "accept and continue" to turn on face recognition, but have to delve deeper into the "manage data setting" options to confirm they want it turned off.
As has previously been the case, Facebook will not include under-18s in its face-matching database. And it has said that if users opt in but subsequently change their minds, it will delete their face templates, making further matches impossible.
Even so, the data watchdog involved has yet to sign off on the proposal.
"There are a number of outstanding issues on which we await further responses from Facebook," Ireland's data protection commissioner told the BBC.
"In particular, the Irish DPC is querying the technology around facial recognition and whether Facebook needs to scan all faces - ie those without consent as well - to use the facial recognition technology.
"The issue of compliance of this feature with GDPR is therefore not settled at this point."
Facebook will initially present the new settings pages to EU citizens before rolling versions out worldwide
Facebook will also be asking for the following consent to meet its new obligations:
if a member has added information about their religious views, political beliefs or sexuality, they will be asked whether they agree to continue allowing that information to be displayed to others and whether they permit Facebook to use the data to target ads and provide other personalised recommendations
users will be asked if they authorise data gathered from elsewhere - including third-party websites and apps - to be used to pick which ads are shown to them on Facebook and Instagram
Under GDPR, children are also afforded added protections, which the EU's members can decide to limit to those under 13 or extend to those under 16.
Facebook already bans under-13s from being members.
But in affected countries, it will now ask under-16s for the permission of a parent or guardian to:
show adverts based on their interests
include their religious and political views in their profiles
allow them to express their sexuality by registering whether they are "interested in" men, women or both
To do this, the firm will either require them to send a permission request via Facebook itself or provide an email address that the older party can be reached at.
In the case of the latter, the company has confirmed that it will rely on the youngsters to provide an accurate address and does not plan its own identity checks.
Current understanding of the effects of blue light from digital device screens on your sight or your child's sight
What is Blue Light?
Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. When combined, it becomes the white light we see. Each of these has a different energy and wavelength. Rays on the red end have longer wavelengths and less energy. On the other end, blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Light that looks white can have a large blue component, which can expose the eye to a higher amount of wavelength from the blue end of the spectrum.
Where Are You Exposed to Blue Light?
The largest source of blue light is sunlight. In addition, there are many other sources:
CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs
Flat screen LED televisions
Computer monitors, smart phones, and tablet screens
Blue light exposure you receive from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun. And yet, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them. According to a recent NEI-funded study, children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.
It boosts alertness, helps memory and cognitive function and elevates mood.
It regulates circadian rhythm – the body's natural wake and sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthful circadian rhythm. Too much exposure to blue light late at night (through smart phones, tablets, and computers) can disturb the wake and sleep cycle, leading to problems sleeping and daytime tiredness.
Not enough exposure to sunlight in children could affect the growth and development of the eyes and vision. Early studies show a deficiency in blue light exposure could contribute to the recent increase in myopia/nearsightedness.
Almost all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. This light may affect vision and could prematurely age the eyes. Early research shows that too much exposure to blue light could lead to:
parts of the eye
Digital eyestrain: Blue light from computer screens and digital devices can decrease contrast leading to digital eyestrain. Fatigue, dry eyes, bad lighting, or how you sit in front of the computer can cause eyestrain. Symptoms of eyestrain include sore or irritated eyes and difficulty focusing.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light?
If constant exposure to blue light from smart phones, tablets, and computer screens is an issue, there are a few ways to decrease exposure to blue light:
Screen time: Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of these screens and/or take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest.
Filters: Screen filters are available for smart phones, tablets, and computer screens. They decrease the amount of blue light given off from these devices that could reach the retina in our eyes.
Computer glasses: Computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses that block blue light can help ease computer digital eye strain by increasing contrast.
Anti-reflective lenses: Anti-reflective lenses reduce glare and increase contrast and also block blue light from the sun and digital devices.
Intraocular lens (IOL): After cataract surgery, the cloudy lens will be replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). The lens naturally protects the eye from almost all ultraviolet light and some blue light. There are types of IOL that can protect the eye and retina from blue light.
Talk to an eye care professional about options about ways to protect your family and your eyes from blue light.
Blue Light Information to Download and Print
You can right-click this link to download, print, copy and share our free information on the effects of blue light.
A group of Twitter shareholders is urging the company to prepare a report on the steps its taking to combat fake news and other abuses of its service.
The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the financial and other regulatory risks it faces from such abuses.
The request comes in the form of a shareholder proposal; the company’s board of directors opposes the measure, saying the company is already doing and disclosing enough, concerning such fake news and other abuses.
Arguing that Twitter isn't taking the problems of fake news and hate speech seriously enough, a group of the company's shareholders are urging it to report back to investors on what steps it's taking to combat misinformation and other abuses of its service.
The New York State Retirement Fund and Arjuna Capital have filed a shareholder proposal that would encourage Twitter to put together a detailed report about how well it's doing enforcing its social network's terms of service, the company disclosed in a regulatory document on Wednesday. The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the possible financial and other risks it faces from fake news and similar controversies.
"Shareholders are concerned that Twitter’s failure to address these issues proactively has created regulatory, legal, and reputational risk," the investors said in their proposal. "We believe Twitter has an obligation to demonstrate how it manages content to prevent violations of its terms of service. Yet, disclosures have been inadequate."
For its part, Twitter's board of directors urged the company's investors as a whole to reject the proposal. The company has not only made numerous updates to its service and policies over the last year or so to address and reduce abuses, it says, it's been transparent about disclosing them. Providing more information to the public about such efforts could give "a roadmap for those bad actors who are seeking to evade abiding by our terms," the board said.
"Our board of directors believes that this proposal is not in the best interests of Twitter or our stockholders, and unanimously recommends that you vote 'against' this proposal," the board said in its written response to the shareholder proposal in the regulatory document.
Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, has been in the sights of regulators over the last year, following reports that Russian-backed groups hijacked those companies' services to spread propaganda and other misinformation in an alleged attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twitter has also come under criticism for the abundant amount of hate speech posted on its service, and the numerous cases of harassment of particular users.
In their proposal, the retirement fund and Arjuna Capital listed some of the more notable incidents, and quoted both regulators and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey himself saying the company wasn't doing enough to battle offensive and illegal posts. The company hasn't seemed to be able to get ahead of the problem, they said.
Twitter's "content policies appear reactive, not proactive," the said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., is among those policymakers who has scrutinized Twitter and other social networks over the Russian-linked propaganda campaign.Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
As a result, they noted, regulators are stepping in — or threatening to do so. Germany has already put in place a new law that threatens to fine social networks if they don't quickly remove illegal posts, and US lawmakers are considering new regulations themselves, the proposal noted.
For its part, Twitter's board said that compared with last year, the company is "taking action" on 10 times as many accounts that violate its policies is suspending thousands more accounts each day than before. It's also provided regular updates to the public and policymakers about its investigation into the abuse of its service during the 2016 election, the board said.
"We [...] believe in being transparent with respect to our rules and how we enforce them, and have made significant progress in reporting out to all of our users on our progress," the board said.
In addition to the shareholder proposal, Twitter's regulatory document revealed that it paid Dorsey $0 last year. He didn't receive a salary, bonus, stock-based compensation, or any other compensation.
Instead, he "declined all compensation," according to the report.
However, the company paid Ned Segal, its new chief financial officer, $14.3 million in total compensation. Segal, who took the job in August, received a pro-rated salary of $165,385; a signing bonus of $300,000; a restricted stock award worth $13.8 million; and $1,500 in contributions to his retirement account.
Meanwhile, the document revealed that the median Twitter worker makes $161,860 in total compensation, including salary, bonus, stock grants, and retirement account contributions.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has used Twitter to tell its 44,000 followers that it is quitting social media.
The firm's head office and 900 pubs will quit the micro-blogging site, and also Instagram and Facebook, with immediate effect, it said.
The pub chain linked the move to bad publicity surrounding social media including the "trolling" of MPs.
Chairman Tim Martin told the BBC that society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use.
The firm said its decision had also been influenced by concerns regarding the "misuse of personal data" and "the addictive nature of social media".
"We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business," said Mr Martin.
He told the BBC he had always thought the idea that social media was essential for advertising was untrue.
"We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers," he said. "I don't believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever."
The chairman said that it had consulted its pub mangers before making the move, and "90-to-95% felt using social media was not helping the business".
Mr Martin told BBC Radio 5 Live that he thinks coming off social media would be good for society in general.
He said that if people "limited their social media to half an hour a day, they'd be mentally and physically better off".
He added: "I find most people I know waste their time on it. A lot of them say they know they waste their time on it, but they struggle to get off it."
Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent:
It has become received wisdom that a social media presence, used for everything from customer support to promoting the brand, is now a vital tool in the marketing strategy of any business big or small. So why does JD Wetherspoon feel it can do without one?
The pub chain has certainly put plenty of effort into it until now, with hundreds of different Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. But the truth is that none had won much of a mass following - and those who ran the accounts were not doing a very good job. A tweet pushing fish and chips on Good Friday got just three re-tweets.
Managing an effective social media strategy and making sure staff running so many accounts stick to company policy is a very time consuming and expensive business. Perhaps for Wetherspoons all of this effort has become more trouble than it is worth.
The chairman reassured its followers that it would "still be as vocal as ever", but would instead use its magazine and website as well as the press for news updates.
He said customers could also get in touch with them by speaking with their local pub manager.
"It's becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion," Mr Martin added.
The pub chain currently has more than 100,000 Facebook followers and more than 6,000 on Instagram.
Asked whether Wetherspoon's move could start a business trend, Mr Martin said he hoped not.
"Currently we've got a massive commercial advantage because everyone else is wasting hours of their time," he said.
Yesterday we reported that Instagram lacked data portability, knocking the app for the absence of an equivalent to Facebook’s Download Your Information too. Now an Instagram spokesperson tells me “We are building a new data portability tool. You’ll soon be able to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Instagram, including your photos, videos and messages.”
This tool could make it much easier for users to leave Instagram and go to a competing image social network. And as long as it launches before May 25th, it will help Instagram to comply with upcoming European GDPR privacy law that requires data portability.
Instagram has historically made it very difficult to export your data. You can’t drag, or tap and hold on images to save them. And you can’t download images you’ve already posted. That’s despite Instagram now being almost 8 years old and having over 800 million users. For comparison, Facebook launched its Download Your Information toolin 2010, just six years after launch.
We’re awaiting more info on whether you’ll only be able to download your photos, videos, and messages; or if you’ll also be able to export your following and follower lists, Likes, comments, Stories, and the captions you share with posts. It’s also unclear whether photos and videos will export in the full fidelity that they’re uploaded or displayed in, or whether they’ll be compressed. Instagram told me “we’ll share more details very soon when we actually launch the tool. But at a high level it allows you to download and export what you have shared on Instagram” so we’ll have to wait for more clarity.
If Instagram does offer uncompressed downloads of the same image quality as it shows on its app, the Download Your Information tool could make unofficial third-party export apps like InstaPort obsolete. That would be a win for users since these apps are sometimes run by unscrupulous developers who could misuse your content or the Instagram login credentials you need to use them.
Portability could facilitate the rise of legitimate competitors to Instagram, or at least let users back up their content on an image storage app or their own computer. But still, it’s Instagram’s social graph and the data it’s gathered about your interests that help it tune its algorithm to show you the most relevant posts. This personalization moat can leave rivals with similar features unable to provide a similar level of service.
If Instagram wanted to truly level the playing field, it would let you export your social graph in a privacy-safe format that would let users find and follow those same people on a different app. But the announcement of this data portability tool is a much-needed first step to unlocking Instagram’s content vault.
Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony for Wednesday’s congressional hearing has been posted online. The seven-page statement starts with an apology from Zuckerberg, who says Facebook failed to take a broad enough view of its responsibilities. “That was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Zuckerberg will be testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday after he faces another hearing in the Senate on Tuesday. This testimony covers a lot of familiar ground, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency’s misinformation campaign. As Josh Constine at TechCrunch points out, it does offer some new information about the Russia-linked APT28 hacking group. Facebook says it detected and shut down accounts related to APT28 over the summer of 2016.
The real meat of Wednesday’s hearing will come from Zuckerberg answering lawmakers’ questions about privacy, election interference, and Facebook’s future. But this testimony will set the stage for that showdown.