In this week’s news, we report on social media use being linked to low wellbeing, remote learning, scams and more.
SOCIAL MEDIA USE LINKED WITH LOW ADOLESCENT WELLBEING
A report on the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents finds that personal wellbeing and self-esteem tends to drop as children make the move from primary to secondary school and continues to drop throughout secondary school. The report by the Education Policy Institute notes that girls are particularly affected in terms of their happiness with their personal appearance. Rates of unhappiness rise from around one in seven girls at the end of primary school, to almost one in three by age 14.
The report looked at wellbeing, self-esteem and levels of psychological distress. It found low levels of physical activity were associated with low self-esteem and wellbeing scores in girls and boys through adolescence, while heavy social media use contributes to low self-esteem and wellbeing in girls aged 14 and 17, and low wellbeing in boys at age 14. For girls, body image tended to be the focus of the negative effects of social media.
Also this week, the Children’s Commissioner published a report on the state of Children’s Mental Health Services in 2020/21. It references a large-scale NHS study in July 2020 which found that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier. 1 in 6 children now have a probable mental health condition compared with 1 in 9 in 2017 and this increase was seen in both boys and girls.
IN-DEPTH OFSTED REPORT ON REMOTE LEARNING
Ofsted’s in-depth report on remote learning describes some adaptations that teachers have found helped in delivering remote learning and some clever ways that teachers have found to deliver feedback in a remote setting, including the use of digital exercise books.
Encouragingly the report notes that although access to digital devices for disadvantaged children had been a challenge at the beginning of lockdown, few of those interviewed now saw it as an ongoing obstacle. There were, however, other barriers to accessibility including appropriateness of devices, internet connection quality, sharing with siblings, parental support and the availability of a suitable learning environment at home.
From the point of view of parents, the report found that the greatest challenge was children’s focus on studying (40% of respondents) compared with 11% concerned about the availability of digital devices. Other major concerns included lack of contact with classmates (38%) and teachers (35%), and lack of motivation to engage (36%).
Teacher wellbeing was acknowledged to be an issue, with workload being a continuing and potentially increasing challenge as the pandemic continues, combined with social and emotional issues. The report suggests that staff wellbeing may need to be more of a priority in some settings.
It concludes that remote learning is “an imperfect but necessary substitute in mitigating against learning loss where classroom teaching is not possible” whilst acknowledging that it was not entirely inferior and there would be advantages in continuing with some aspects of remote learning when schools return to normal.
FRAUD AT EPIDEMIC LEVELS
A number of current frauds and scams have been highlighted by Action Fraud UK this week. Their website contains details of the frauds as well as advice on how to avoid them. They include:
- a renewed reminder of email phishing scams purporting to come from the NHS and asking for bank details in order to book a vaccine.
- a huge increase in “clone” investment scams where fraudsters replicate the websites of genuine investment firms. These scams are often advertised on social media platforms or via search engines.
- a fraud involving automated calls saying National Insurance numbers having been compromised and encouraging victims to “press 1” and reveal their personal details.
- Instagram scams offering “get rich quick” schemes in return for £600 investments. There have been 356 reports during October 2018 and February 2019 alone with victims losing an average of £8,900 each.
According to the independent think tank Royal United Services Institute RUSI fraud in the UK has reached epidemic levels with 3.7 million incidents of fraud against individuals in the year ending March 2020, the great majority of which is cyber-enabled. It notes that the UK has become a “target destination for global fraudsters”. The report proposes that fraud should be considered as a threat to UK national security due to the involvement of organised crime groups and its role in funding terrorism and suggests a greater involvement of the UK’s cyber intelligence capabilities to tackle it.
On a more positive note, an international police operation coordinated by Europol has disrupted and taken possession of the infrastructure of “one of the most significant botnets of the past decade”.
SPOTIFY TO ANALYSE USER’S MOOD, ACCENT AND AGE
Technology which could enable Spotify to analyse and make recommendations to users based on their emotional state, age, gender and accent has been granted a patent in the US, according to a BBC report. This is bound to raise issues of intrusive data collection and the ethics of doing so.
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