social media citizenship

What is Musical.ly?

Musical.ly is a free social media platform for creating, sharing and discovering short musical videos.
— Musical.ly website
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Lipsynching to your favourite song has always been popular, but in the past year has become a part of our mainstream media thanks to celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and his epic lip sync battles with other celebrities. If your child loves music like mine does, then no doubt they have asked you if they can have the app Musical.ly.  Rolling Stone magazine just published an interesting article  about how many big pop stars including Katy Perry are using the app to release new singles.

What is it? 

The Musical.ly app is a video platform that lets users create, save and share videos up to 15 seconds in length.  You can select music or other or quotes from movies/tv shows etc from the online library and then film a video of you with this as the "soundtrack".  There are lots of special effects you can add including fast and slow motion, filters, time lapse and duet capabilities.  The app essentially lets users be creative and express themselves.

Here is an excellent overview that Common Sense Media created: 

When you watch a Musical.ly video you can:

  • Like it (by clicking on a heart) 

  • Leave a comment (musical.ly prompt you by "say something nice")

  • Share the video on Facebook (and Facebook messenger), Instagram,

  • Report abuse

The terms of service state that users must be 13 years old to use this platform.

If you decide to let your child use Musical.ly, here are some things I think you should know:

  • You need to know their account name and password.
     
  • You should create an account for yourself too so that you can follow your child and see the videos they share.  
     
  • Set the account settings to Private (the default setting is Public).  When private setting is turned on it will hide the location from other users and only permit friends private messages.  To access the privacy setting you click the "wheel" in the upper right hand when you are on the user profile page.  Next, click "settings", scroll down to "privacy" and move the switches for "private account, hide location info, and only friends can direct.ly me" to ON.
     
  • Routinely check who is following your child and ensure both of you know all of the followers. Also check what accounts your child is following to ensure the content is appropriate.  Remind your child that you can check their account any time you want to make sure they are safe and using the app appropriately.
     
  • Know that not all of the songs are appropriate for kids and may have explicit lyrics.
     
  •  Discuss with your kids what you deem is ok and not ok for filming.  For example "no filming in your bedroom"

Be aware of the dangers of using apps like this too.  Google it, there are no shortage of stories of pedophiles using this app...

Why I let my kid use Musical.ly

My kid has an account.  I monitor it all of the time, and I review who he follows and who is following him.  We have not had any negative experiences to deal with so far.  What I love about the app is that he is super creative and he is having fun.  I am amazed at some of his videos and have even joined in on a duet with him a couple of times.

Ultimately, the choice is YOURS whether you decide to allow it or not.  Let me know what you think!

What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Have a YouTube Channel

This week I received this message on the Social Citizens Facebook page...

My son wants to make videos of himself gaming or doing whatever and become a famous YouTube gamer. My non-tech brain is freaking out because I don’t get this.

First of all, you are not alone.  This is a dilemma facing many parents due to the sheer volume of YouTube channels created by or targeted at our kids.  I remember when my son told me he wanted to make videos of him playing his video games and put them on YouTube.  My initial question was, "Why?".

When I looked into some of his favourite gaming YouTubers I had a better understanding.  "Stampy" has more YouTube subscribers than the population of the Province in Canada I live in. (He has over 8 million subscribers.)  He posts at least one video a day of himself playing games like Minecraft. 

My next phase in my education was when I worked with two YouTube Vloggers Ben Brown and Steve Booker during the summer of 2015 for a project at work.  I had no idea what a vlogger was.  In case you don't either, it is someone who records a video blog and shares on YouTube.  In Ben's case most of his videos are viewed over 100K times and he shares his adventures of his travels and life with his fans around the world.  They are both charming, talented and are making a successful living off their YouTube content.

I can totally understand the concerns you may have concerns about the risks of broadcasting on the Web -- and they are legitimate -- but your child may see it as a way of expressing herself, learning digital video creation skills, sharing with friends,  and sharing their creativity and passions.

The decision of whether you let you child do this or not is up to you.   It's important to balance your concerns with the potential benefits of this experience too.

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Mom, I want to have my own YouTube channel. 

If you do decide that it is ok to experiment, I suggest you establish clear rules and boundaries. For example:

1. Have your child create an outline that describes what videos they want to create, who they think will watch the videos, how often they will post their videos.  This exercise will demonstrate to them that a successful YouTube channel takes planning and work too, not just making fun videos.

2. Discuss what content is ok and what is not.  

3. No videos can be uploaded without your approval.  This way you can see all of the content and have a discussion before anything goes "live"

4. Ensure you discuss whether or not they can use their names in their videos.  You may want to consider using a character name like Stampy does.  Also be clear about sharing of personal information, like where you live, or information about your family and friends.

If you start here, the next step is deciding whether or not you will let them proceed with a channel and posting videos.  According to the rules of YouTube, you must be 13 years and older to create a channel.  If you do decide to proceed you can consider using the shared family account that I recommended in a previous article

Good luck with your decision!  

National Day of Unplugging

Did you know on March 3rd it is National Day of Unplugging?

Will you take the challenge of powering down and untethering from your "digital leash" for 24 hours?

Will you embrace the benefits of a day spent unplugged?

Focus on doing something with your kids, without technology. Play a board or card game, go for a walk or to a park together. Try to focus on the moment and all of the time you have free from looking at your smartphone.

For more inspiration, here are some ideas from www.nationaldayofunplugging.com

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Have a member of the family hide the other persons’ tech devices until the end of the 24-hour period (or time period decided in advance). Play the hot and cold game to find the hidden digital devices at the end of the unplugging time.

Have an unplugged scavenger hunt. Hide alternative activities, such as board games, materials for a science project or a series of books and create clues to find the alternative activities. Spend the afternoon playing together.

Create a family tree. Take time with your family to discuss your childhood, family history, stories and memories. Have each member share one memory and fill in their section of the tree. Create a beautiful piece of art that your family could hang for generations.

Cook favorite family recipes. From Bubbie’s Borsht to Nana’s Noodles with Cottage Cheese, cook the recipes that warm your heart and soul. Need inspiration? Visit BeyondBubbie.com.

Have a Family Book Club. Pick a book that appeals to everyone in your family. Read it together and discuss over a meal. Have kids create art based on themes from the book.

3 Ways to Determine How Much Screentime is Right for Your Child

I read this article today after this title jumped out at me 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12

WHOAH! Am I bad parent? My son is 11 and I let him use a smartphone.

It seems like everyday I find a different article or story on the news warning about too much "screentime".

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How do you determine what is best for you and your children?

1. Be informed.  Don't let one article determine what to do.  Seek out many sources to help provide you with as much information as you can. Be as informed as you can and decide for yourself.

2. Talk to your doctor  It is a good idea to have a conversation with your medical professional too. Here are the guidelines for screen time use according to The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics:

  • infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology,
  • 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day
  • 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day

3. Don't compare yourself to others.  Remember, what is right for one parent doesn't mean it has to be right for your parenting style. 

The article says that Children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences.

For me, the KEY is balance - use the guidelines as a boundary so that you can help ensure your kids are getting a healthy balance of activities in their lives.  Is homework getting done?  Are his grades where we want them to be? Is he socializing and playing with friends outside of school? Is he participating in his sports willingly and with passion and excitement?

Whew, I think I am doing pretty good so far... 

Review: Screenagers - A Documentary

This week I attended a screening of the documentary Screenagers.  I was eager to see it ever since I saw the trailer online. I was engaged and interested throughout the 1 hour and 7 minute film.

Dr. Delaney Ruston, the director of the movie is also a physician and a mom to two teenage children.  She shares her personal experience of allowing her daughter to get a smartphone. She also interviews researchers and experts on the affects of digital addiction and the young brain.  

The documentary covers many issues for families of tweens/teens including how to manage how much screen time to let your child have, video games, social media, the distraction of smart phones can cause and internet addiction.

The documentary hit home for me, as it touched on exactly what I am trying to do with the Social Media Citizenship movement.  It gathers interesting information and presents it in a balanced and engaging way.  It stimulated a healthy discussion and conversation in our family about screen time and social media.

I also appreciated that it did not delve into alarmist/extreme topics of cyber stalking etc. The key message of balance and understanding how technology can affect people of all ages will be a strong takeaway for all who see it.

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