Durable Human (2 book series)

Protect Yourself Online: Know the Terminology

A surveillance camera appears in front of an American flagmerican flag

Cross-referencing you through your phone and online data has become so easy, it’s never a waste of time to do more to protect yourself online. 

Case in point is the riot that happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. It may be even easier now for authorities to track down suspects than the day it happened. If it’s not a geotagged photo, it’s through a Facebook post, facial recognition image, or trip on Waze.

Most people know they leave a digital breadcrumb trail. Yet, many are shocked by how easily the New York Times found riot participants through their smartphone data.  

It’s not enough to maintain the durability of our bodies and minds in the physical world. We need to actively manage our digital lives so our best interests there are also served.

A good place to start is knowing how your data is generated online and the ways it may be tracked.

The Netflix movie, The Social Dilemma, gives a good taste of how we’re all at risk. If you read no further, here are 13 ways out of the dilemma

Another real eye-opener is a new report compiled by data researchers at BroadbandSearch, Internet Censorship in 2021: Where the World Stands Today.

Highlights from the report:

Terminology Matters

In order to discuss data privacy and protection, it’s important to know the meaning of common terms. There are big differences, for instance, between the terms “Content Moderation,” “Censorship,” and the less familiar “Reverse Censorship.” Continue reading

Helping Children Cope in Turbulent Times

Little girl covers her eyes as if in fear

Like their parents, kids who witness real-life chaos like the riot at the U.S. Capitol can feel traumatized. Even those who don’t watch can be lightning rods for their parents’ anguish. These strategies help children handle difficult emotions and can lift worry from their shoulders.

Check in.

“Don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Duke University School of Medicine psychiatry professor Dr. Robin Gurwitch in a SciLine media briefing. “That way, you can get a sense of their understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.” When you set aside your phone and give them your full attention, kids feel more safe and secure.

Relieve their guilt.

If your kids see you are scared, angry, sad, or frustrated, they may think it’s their fault. Explain to them that “these emotions are normal and have nothing to do with anything they did,” advises the parent advice website, Common Sense Media.

Freely dispense hugs.

A hug is “a combination love potion, muscle relaxant, and tranquilizer,” says The Durable Human Manifesto. Dispense copious doses. Touch can be more powerful than words and is certainly an effective supplement.

Let them play.

“When we adults feel angst, we deal with it by playing it over in our minds or talking to someone we trust,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige of Defending the Early Years in a Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood webinar. “Children don’t have those tools. The ways kids process their experience is through play.” Open-ended playthings like dress-up clothes, play doh, and/or cuddly pets give kids maximum expressive leeway. Continue reading

13 Ways Out of The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma logo

A new movie on Netflix exposes the outsized influence social media and invasive technology have on our psyches, culture, and political systems.

The Social Dilemma showcases a slew of disgruntled former tech executives who tell of impenetrable algorithms, persuasive design, and extractive economic models that many of them helped create.

We see in actual news footage how false or misleading Facebook ads have swayed voters and elections. A dramatization of a typical American family depicts how the teenage son, despite his mother’s efforts, is insidiously lured into jeopardy by the contents of his phone.   

The movie is directed by Jeff Orlowski, a Stanford classmate of Tristan Harris, whom I first reported on here in 2015. That’s when Harris began to pull back the curtain on Big Tech’s predatory practices, including by his then-employer, Google. Ever since, Harris has doggedly spread his message through TED talks, tech design meetups, and U.S. Congressional hearings.

Here at The Durable Human, we believe that products designed for people should always serve—and never impede or supersede—ourselves as human beings. Harris and his Center for Humane Technology hold the same tenet. 

The Social Dilemma is a call to action, especially for the Last Generation, B.C., whom I call in How to Be a Durable Human, “the vanishing cohort of humans who grew up Before Cellphones.” Or, as Harris says in the movie, “the last generation of people that are gonna know what [life] was like before this illusion took place.”

After you watch The Social Dilemma, consider using your wisdom and movie discussion guide to talk it over with friends and family.

Facebook is miffed by the movie’s portrayal, claiming in this 7-point rebuttal that it “gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work” and doesn’t convey the current reality.

While the movie was in production, for instance, the company says it gave users more control of their time spent and data collected on the platform. With new Facebook safeguards, the rebuttal reads, “we removed over 22 million pieces of hate speech in the second quarter of 2020, over 94% of which we found before someone reported it.”   

While some improvements are being made, here are 13 ways to take charge of your digital presence:     

1. Read posts and articles before sharing. 

By pausing to review the content, you’re less likely to inadvertently spread false or misleading information.   

Continue reading

How and Why Home Can Supplement School

Four children take a break from school by playing together outdoors

First, 8-year-old Emma changed her name to “Kitty” in the midst of a Zoom session. Another time, she tried to make her classmates laugh by showing them her bare foot. Fiddling with a glue bottle while her teacher was talking was apparently the last straw.

“We just want it to be a successful year for everyone,” the teacher said in a phone call home. The words she spoke were soothing, but her tone said otherwise. “You could hear she was upset,” recalls Emma’s mom, who herself was assigned homework. The teacher told her to clear off Emma’s desk so there’d be no further distractions.

All that in the first week of school for a kid who used her small summer allowance to pay for a math game subscription.

~~~

Last spring’s rush to online learning was understandably rife with problems. “For most, remote teaching did not work well,” contends David McKinnon, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University in a presentation by Children and Screens. “Kids gained little or nothing, or regressed.” This time, schools have had more time to prepare. Still, he says, “creating a good remote learning program is a very challenging task.”

Teachers will try their hardest to give students opportunities for higher-level reasoning and independent thought along with the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. What may be lost for kids are the intangibles, like being able to express their feelings, move around, and build life skills. Supplementing those at home will go a long way toward keeping kids’ spirits up and their love of learning alive.

Continue reading

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