YouTube Kids can be a parent’s best friend

YouTube Kids App IconMy wife and I were having dinner with some friends recently when I decided to show their four year-old twins a video from YouTube. I loaded up the app on my phone, searched for a video and played it but — all the while — I had a nagging fear that maybe I had accidentally launched a video that’s not appropriate for that age group. YouTube, as one would expect, has a wide variety of content and even though they have rules prohibiting nudity and violence, there is plenty there that’s not suitable for four year-olds — and that’s as it should be. Still millions of children — and their parents — rely on YouTube for great content.

But the next time I visit our friends’ house, I won’t have to worry because I’ll be able to use the new YouTube Kids app with content for kids and only for kids. Or, as Shimrit Ben-Yair, mother of two and YouTube Kids Group Product Manager, posted on the YouTube blog, “It’s the first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.”

Listen to Larry Magid’s CBS News 1-minute segment about YouTube Kids

Brilliant idea

Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea and, after extensive testing of the product over the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that — while nothing can replace parental involvement with their children’s media use, tools like YouTube Kids can be a parent’s best friend because it helps them do their job better when it comes to finding age appropriate content.

Leading children’s channels

The free app, which runs on Android and iOS, features content from leading children’s entertainment and education brands including DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, National Geographic Kids, Sesame Street and other shows from PBS Kids. There is also a music section where children can enjoy music videos and a separate “learning” icon that brings up content from PBS Kids, Ted Ed, Kahn Academy and other sources of kid-friendly learning resources.

Parental controls

Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so parents can set a timer to control how long their kids can watch (it defaults to 30 minutes but can be extended to 1:20). And parents can also turn off background music — something I recommend since you’re likely to find it annoying after awhile even if your kid loves it. Parents can also turn off the search feature so their kids can only select from featured content.

The app is advertiser-supported but the ads are, of course, age-appropriate and relatively unobtrusive.

About time

Personally, I think it’s about time that Google released a kid-friendly app for its youngest users. And speaking of time, it’s also about time management. Kids should be encouraged to consume age-appropriate entertainment and educational video, but — like everything else in life — it should be part of a balanced activity diet that also includes reading, conversations, exercise and plain-old playing.

Disclosure: receives financial support from Google. I was pre-briefed on this product, tested early versions and provided feedback to Google on its features.

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Create your own online courses with Versal

Read the full post at

 Listen to interview with Versal founder and CEO Gregor Freund

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A conversation with Esther Wojcicki on ‘Moonshots in Education’

Esther Wojcicki is an award winning journalism teacher and the author of a new book ocovern education called Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom. The book explores digital and online learning with models and examples from schools that are already implementing digital learning.

Moonshots is an approachable book that’s part  Wojcicki philiophy and part tips and advice from her  co-author Lance Izumni and contributors Alice Chang and Alex Silverman. One of my favorite passages is about a culture of trust

The first thing to establish in a classroom is a culture of trust. That doesn’t mean the students are given complete freedom to run wild and do what they want; it means the students trust each other to help in the learning process and the teacher trusts the students.

A conversation

The interview you can hear below, a conversation really, is more than just about the book. It’s about an educational philosophy that stresses doing rather than just studying and is based on something quite radical in education — respect for students.

And the reason I call this a conversation rather than just an interview is because Esther touched on subjects that are near and dear to my heart as a former educational reformer back in a different era.

Author and teacher, Ester Wocicik

Author and teacher, Ester Wojcicki

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inPowered Offers Brands a Solution to Clickbait

inpowYou’ve seen clickbait. Those are web pages that promise to deliver interesting content but lack substance. It could be a promise of an interesting news article, perhaps a review or a product or maybe celebrity gossip. But, when you get there, you see nothing original and very little depth. There are, of course, advertisements and paid links.

As both a consumer of news and information and a journalist, I find them annoying. They waste my time and they take clicks away from legitimate articles like the ones I and my fellow journalists strive to write.

A company called inPowered has a partial solution, at least for articles about companies and products. The idea is to get companies to link to legitimate articles about their products which not only helps the company, but rewards the writers and publications  that create those articles.

My first concern about the product is that it might tempt bloggers to write only positive things about products so that they would be promoted by the company, but, according to founder Peyman Nilforoush, the company uses software that measures the engagement of bloggers so that those who are frequently cited will rise to the top. I’m not sure it’s a perfect algorithm but it’s an interesting idea.

And, by the way, the website has an unsual spelling. It’s



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Google files patent application for an odor removing device

Schematic of Google's Odor Removing Device

Schematic of Google’s Odor Removing Device (U.S. Patent Office)

When I first saw this story at the New York Daily News website, I thought that I was probably looking at the Onion or some other fake news site. But then I saw a link to the actual application at the U.S. Patent Office site and realized it’s not joke.

It’s described as a device “which includes an activity sensor, a compunctions portion, and a route suggesting portion.” The route suggesting portion “may provide an alternative route to travel such that the predicted odor may not offend others that are socially connected to the user and that travel the same routes as the user.”



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President Obama’s Cybersecurity Speech and Executive Order

On February 13th, President Obama visited Stanford University in Silicon Valley where he spoke about the need for greater cooperation between government and industry to protect cyberspace. Here is a video of that speech (and here’s  transcript). Scroll down for a copy of his executive order that provides for greater information sharing.


Office of the Press Secretary

Executive Order — Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing


- – – – – – -


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Continue reading

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CBS News Tech Talk: Safer Internet Day Celebration Streamed Live From Facebook HQ


Click the TV to watch Safer Internet Day stream live 4:15 ET Tuesday 2/10

Tuesday is Safer Internet Day, which is celebrated in more than 100 countries including a live streamed U.S. event from Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley featuring talks by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Discloser: Tech Talk’s Larry Magid helps run the non-profit organization that coordinates Safer Internet Day in the U.S.

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‘Revenge porn’ is about betrayal, not pornography

Sharing explicit pictures or videos with an intimate partner is not always a harmful practice, but it can be devastating if those images get into the wrong hands — like those of Kevin Bollaert.

In the first criminal prosecution using a new California law targeting “revenge porn,” San Diego-based Bollaert, 28, was convicted Monday on six counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft for operating two websites. One of Bollaert’s now defunct sites posted nude and sexually explicit pictures of woman, often taken by a former intimate partner, with names, age and other information about the victims. Another reportedly enabled victims to pay to have their pictures removed from the first site.

Cowardly act

“Just because you’re sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, you will not be shielded from the law or jail,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “The result of this conduct was to make people feel shame and embarrassment in the context of their family, their community, and their workplace,” she added.

“Revenge porn” is a term for pictures posted or shared, often by a former intimate partner, to embarrass or shame the victim. It’s sometimes referred to as “sextortion,” especially if the perpetrator demands money, sex or for the victim to remain in an abusive relationship.

Sexting gone wrong

Some revenge porn involves images or video taken by a partner, or using concealed cameras with one or perhaps both parties unaware, but in many cases the images are self-produced: Sexting gone wrong.

Often the pictures were consensually taken by or shared with the partner during a time when the victim trusted the partner not to misuse those images. It’s increasingly common for partners to share intimate photos — often via their smartphones — as a form of flirting or showing affection. There’s been a fair amount of research on sexting both for adults and teens and most sexting incidents do not result in anything bad happening; some have even argued that it’s a form of “safe sex,” because there is no chance of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.

But, by definition, revenge porn is not consensual. Even if the victim consented to the video or images being produced, that doesn’t mean they’re consenting to them being shared.

Cindy Southworth, from the National Network to End Domestic Violence said that the revenge porn term “belittles and doesn’t really capture the true crux of the issue.”

She said that the “problem is photos being shared without consent. It’s not pornography, it’s a crime.”

Breaking of trust

Of course, most people who allow others to take or possess intimate pictures of them do so out of trust. You’re in a relationship or trying to start one and you have every reason to believe that the other person will enjoy the images but not share them with others. And, in the vast majority of cases for both teens and adults, that’s exactly what happens.

But, as many people have sadly discovered, relationships can fall apart. Although most people who break up are decent enough not to publicly violate the trust of their former partner, our world has its share of creeps and criminals, which is why we have revenge porn.

Distributing these images, said SSP Blue CEO Hemanshu Nigam, “can be destructive in all sorts of ways. It can affect your work environment, your kids and your community.”

Nigam, who is a former federal prosecutor for computer crime, called revenge porn “a form of digital rape.”

Added consequences for minors

In the case of minors, there is the added risk of legal consequences even if nothing malicious takes place because it’s illegal to produce, possess or distribute sexually explicit images of minors — even if the minor is the one taking the picture.

Of course, child pornography laws were designed to protect kids, not prosecute them for bad judgment, but there have been cases of youth being placed on sex offender lists for consensual sexting. Fortunately those cases are getting increasingly rare as prosecutors and law enforcement realize that there are better ways to deal with teen sexting.

There is also the possibility of an image getting into the wrong hands by accident or as a result of a hack. There are cases, for example, when someone gets their hands on another person’s phone, only to see and perhaps share images that were never meant for them. And — as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and other celebrities learned — there is also the possibility of someone breaking into an account to access and then share photos and video.

As Nigam pointed out, “It’s not just a celebrity problem. It can affect anyone who winds up in a bad relationship.”

So, the only way to be 100 percent sure that a photo won’t be circulated is to not take it or at least not share it. And if you do share it, make sure it’s someone who you can trust and hope that person never violates your trust. If images of you are distributed against your will, save the evidence and contact an attorney or law enforcement to explore civil or criminal actions.

For links to tips on how to prevent and deal with revenge porn, visit




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Want Google Earth Pro? Don’t Pay $400 — Read On

Google Earth pro outlines indivdiaul parcels

Google Earth pro outlines individual parcels

CNET news has a story on how you can get Google Earth Pro for free instead of paying the $400 that the search giant used to change.

But, as CNET points out, there aren’t that many things most of us would do with the Pro version that we don’t get in the regular one that’s long been free. Still, if you want make high resolution prints or get a more precise measure on the size of the parcel or import hundreds of addresses, than the Pro version is definitely for you.




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Award winning teacher calls for an education ‘Moon Shot”

Author and teacher, Ester Wocicik

Author and teacher, Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki, an award winning journalism teacher at Palo Alto High School, has come out with a new book, Moonshots in Education: Blended Learning in the Classroom where she talks about schools that are already engaged in connected learning, including the “flipped classroom,” where kids get their instruction online at home and use class time to collaborate.

Collaboration is a big deal for Wojcicki. I’ve visited her journalism class and it feels more like a newsroom than a classroom. Students are working in teams to get out the campus paper, not listening to lectures on journalism theory.

Here’s my 1-minute CBS News Tech Talk segment with Esther, but come back later for the full interview.

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