Privacy and safety on the web

Summary of  two meetings with 10th graders, Hof Hasharon High School, Israel.  22 students participated: 7 girls and 15 boys. 

Most participants seem to be concerned that various entities are monitoring their activity in cyberspace and are using private information about them without their consent.

Some participants even called it “espionage.” The concern was raised that smartphones “listen” to participants without their consent. They believe that the proof of their opinion is that they often see targeted advertisements that match what they said on the phone. To some of them this seems scary. On the other hand, some of the participants said they had no problem with it, because it directs them to products of their own interest and this “makes life interesting”.

There was a short discussion about possible solutions. Although some think that the solution is possibly technical-regulatory (it is possible to prohibit such “espionage” by law), some participants noted that the economic motive of commercial organizations is too strong, and this makes it very difficult to deal with the problem.

Some participants said they would prefer social networks without advertisements, but they are aware that today this would be very difficult to achieve because advertising is the economic basis for such networks.

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Real vs False information; Fake News

Summary of meetings with 10th graders, Hof Hasharon High School, Israel. First meeting: 20.1.2019. Second meeting: 3.2.2019. 22 students participated: 7 girls and 15 boys.

First meeting:

The issue is problematic due to the multiplicity of sources of information, especially in social networks. Some participants noted that in many cases the problem is not necessarily false information but information that is only partially true, or biased.

Some students think they have the ability to distinguish between true and false info, and some of them say they do not have such ability. Some participants said that they have the ability to distinguish between false and real information only in subjects known to them thanks to personal experience. One participant said that in his opinion, this is the only way to distinguish – even though not everyone can personally experience everything.

Therefore, another participant recommended that one should rely on the knowledge and personal experience of others.

Some participants said that the problem also exists in non-digital media (printed newspapers or television), and that it is not advisable to rely on journalists. They believe that most information in the media (any type of media) is either biased or only partially true.

With regard to the example of people avoiding vaccines due to the distribution of false information, one participant noted that there is also a positive aspect: this phenomenon may encourage the development of vaccines with fewer side effects.

Second meeting:

Participants were asked to express their opinion on the expected situation in 10 years. To this end, three alternative scenarios were presented for the year 2029:

1. Fake news are dominant. The majority of news is distorted, you cannot trust any source on the net.

2. Reliability of information on the Internet is guaranteed by new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence) and other means.

3. People who were born and matured with the Internet know very well how to distinguish between real and false information.

Most students think that Scenario 1 is too extreme. They think that in the future a lot of information will be false, but not all of it. The majority may be false, but it is more likely to be about half – half.

Some students believe that the situation will be quite similar to the present situation.

Some students tend to agree, in part, with Scenario 2. They think reliability will increase, but it is not certain that reliability will really be guaranteed. It is possible that for a significant part of the news, perhaps for most of them, reliability will be indeed guaranteed by new technologies.

One participant believed there will be more trust in information thanks to technology, but not only because of technologies. The change for the better will also happen because more and more people will want to be able to check and verify.

One participant mentioned Wikipedia as a possible model for improving reliability. On Wikipedia all false things are filtered and corrected within a short time. It is possible to develop a kind of correction mechanism for news items.

Some participants think it is more likely that in the future there will be a combination of Scenarios 2 and 3. That is, there will be many more experienced people who can distinguish between real and false information, and also the new technologies will help to increase reliability. Overall, the ability to distinguish real information from false information will improve, mainly through cumulative experience. But it will never reach 100%.

Regarding Scenario 3, one of the students commented (contrary to the views expressed in meetings with other groups) that actually adults today have more experience than young people and can better distinguish between false and real information.

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Digital Addiction

Summary of meetings with 10th graders, Hof Hasharon High School. First meeting: 20.1.2019. Second meeting: 3.2.2019. 22 students participated: 7 girls and 15 boys. Each session lasted an hour and a half.

First meeting:

Most participants think that this is the most problematic issue related to online activities of young people. 

Implications: damage to social relations (lack of personal contacts, face to face), physical damage (mention was made, for example, to damage to eyes and joints). Participants also mentioned the waste of time involved in the phenomenon, time that would have been better to invest in other activities.

One of the students said that he was addicted to the Fortnite game. He was used to play for hours each day, and now he plays only on weekends (due to parents’ ban…), while others noted that such imposed restrictions were not a good solution.

Some of the students said that enforced restrictions and prohibitions are not effective. On the contrary, they achieve the opposite result, as young people will continue to do the prohibited things. He noted the importance of developing awareness of the problem.

Second meeting:

It was clarified that the intention was not necessarily addiction in the clinical sense, but rather excessive preoccupation and difficulty in disconnecting. (However, one student noted that his parents thought he was a “clinical addict”).

All students said they are “living in their smartphones” a lot of time every day. Most of them would like to occupy themselves less with their screens.

There was a discussion about “screen time”: there was a disagreement about the typical time devoted to screens, but most agree that it is hours per day. Some students are busy with their screens four hours a day, maybe even more.

One of the students noted that the criterion is not necessarily the time spent of “living in the screen”, but rather the manner in which “addiction” is expressed. This is how the user copes when he or she needs to log out. The crux of the problem is the difficulty of disconnecting, even though you know it would have been better to do something else. There are those who find it difficult to break away after 5 minutes, and there are those that have a difficulty to disconnect after an hour or more. The issue is how you cope with this. Is it easy or difficult for you to move to another activity?

Some of the participants noted that they are aware that their “screen time” is exaggerated and comes at the expense of something else they would like to do, but the problem is that it is very hard to disconnect. Students often cancel things in order to “be on screen” – for example, they sacrifice sleeping or watching TV.

One of the students said he saw youngsters in a restaurant with friends or family and instead of chatting they were stuck on the screen. He noted that he found it strange. As if the entertainment was being with a tablet and headphones. It seemed to him to be “over-addiction.” “With the iPad you have to be at home, not in a restaurant!”

It was mentioned that parents often give a screen to children too early, when they are too young. Several participants said that the problem is not just health risk (eyes, etc.). The problem is that we give up on social activity and that’s not good.

The question arises: How do you deal with the problem? What can be done?

Here are some comments made by the participants:

• Revolution! Decide with friends to boycott the phones, and so with time more people will join.

• You cannot make everyone boycott. You can ban half the people, maybe some of the time. Who will decide which people to boycott? I will!

• I have no problem with addiction.

• Being occupied with the screens is good for me. If wanted to stop I would stop.

• You have to turn off when entering social events or entertainment. For example, school trips should be without telephones.

• I know people who when they come to the restaurant leave the phones in a heap. Those who connect pay for everyone! But I am against this solution…

In response to the question, “do you accept that in certain circumstances it will be necessary to disconnect?” –  Most of the participants oppose coercion. Here are some comments:

• It is not good to force. And it is not good to preach. It should be voluntary. If you took the phone from someone he would want it even more.

• Voluntary disengagement can be based, for example, on applications that automatically warn the user and recommend stopping after a certain time. You define a certain time limit and the mobile alerts. The proposer was asked: As for yourself, do you follow the alert and stop, or  you give yourself an extension? Answer: Extension.  Question: So what’s the use of such an application? Answer: “It’s better than nothing….”

The participants were asked whether there is a role for education to address the issue. Answers:

• Education at school? No Comment.

• The problem is not only of children, but adults that are also addicted! My mother keeps telling me to hang up, but she herself does not hang up. She claims that this is for work… On the other hand, when you see that adults have a problem with disconnecting, it actually raises your awareness of the problem.

A number of participants related to the development of appropriate applications/technologies:

• Anyone who develops applications actually intends to arouse excitement. That’s the goal. The apps give us something we need, excitement. As long as we do eliminate this, it will never change. It’s a problem of the present time. Everything is fast and accessible, all is excitement, you cannot prevent it, it’s part of the progress!

• In response to a question about why this is different from quitting smoking cigarettes: it is impossible to compare. Cigarette is a product, connectivity is a general phenomenon. If everything becomes linked, it is impossible to prevent it. You can restrict certain things (like games), but not using a smartphone or the Internet in general.

• You need to focus on what you need and can limit, such as excessive gaming hours of small children, who can be harmed by this.

Possible addiction scenarios:

Participants were asked to express their opinion on the likely situation in 10 years from now. To this end, the following alternative scenarios were proposed (by the facilitator) for the year 2029:

1. The situation is grave. Most people are digitally-addicted. Many are hospitalized or suffer greatly because there is no proper treatment.

2. The problem has disappeared. Thanks to education and public campaigns, people have learned to find the right balance in their digital activity.

3. There is no problem at all, because the digital activity is perceive as the new normal, a “natural” condition, and is no longer considered an addiction.

Participants’ responses:

Some students think the situation will get worse. Maybe not everyone will be addicted, but much more than today.

Maybe technology will solve the problem of physical damage, such as eye damage.

It may be that in the future people will decide that this is not a problem. The children who do not see this as a problem will get older and will not treat it as a problem. More technology, more tampering with gadgets – would be considered normal.

Only one or two of the participants expect scenario 1 to be realized. It seemed too extreme to them. Some think there will be more “addicts”, but not the majority and it will not be that serious.

Most did not agree with Scenario 2. Most students tend to agree more with scenario 3. When asked whether other scenarios could materialize, there were no ideas.

We went back to discussing possible solutions.

• One of the students recommended automatic locking of some specific “addicting” applications, but not of tools such as Whatsapp used for communication. Again, this should be done willingly: “Compel voluntarily!”

• Technology should interact with people to improve social communication. It was mentioned that Facebook was originally meant for this, but it turned out that it actually increases loneliness. Facebook is not really human connection. One needs a technology that takes into account human needs, emotional needs. This should embedded in the technology itself.

• How can this be achieved? Any examples? Perhaps by using Virtual/Augmented Reality. This technology may enable more personal communication. Maybe using a hologram that feels like a real conversation. With the ability to meet together in a group. This seems like a difficult challenge for developers, not simple!

Several participants expressed the opinion that so far technology developers had missed this, and failed to cope with this challenge. Ostensibly, the existing technologies enable us to connect and play, but they do not meet a real human need. You can communicate with someone who is tens of kilometers away, but you end up being alone. Maybe developers think they know better what users want, but that is not necessarily true.

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What’s wrong with the education system

The project is carried out by High School students from “Hof HaSharon” regional high school in Israel. This group is called “Shfayim Community” in the WYRED platform

Number of participants: 14.  Age: 17
Project and topics discussed: What’s wrong with the education system and how it can be improved.

Summary of discussions:

The problem: What’s wrong with the education system in Israel – “vomiting the learned material”

During several meetings, discussions developed regarding the shortcomings of the education system in Israel as perceived by the participants. The discussion focused specifically on the difficulties that arise from the conduct of the current education system, which, in our opinion, makes our learning very difficult and hampers our ability to reach high level achievements. Highlights are listed below:

In the discussions we have reached the understanding that the current situation is very burdensome and does not allow us to maintain an efficient lifestyle that includes participation in additional frameworks other than the school.
We feel that the education system does not really see us as students, as individuals. Our feeling is that we are wasting our time memorizing material that will not help us in future. 
During the exams period, the students are under a heavy pressure. The teachers don’t consider us and our difficulties in this period, and give us a lot of homework. This doesn’t help to alleviate the pressure. 
We feel frustrated in particular because every teacher is sure the she is the only teacher, and gives a lot of homework without considering the assignments we get from other teachers.
All these  – assignments, homework, exams  – cause us to fail; Instead of helping us, the teachers only increase the burden, and they don’t understand that we have life outside of school.
At the end of the day, we feel frustrated from the school system, because the way it works today really makes our life difficult.
We want the school to pay more attention to values and less to grades. We want more meaningful learning, so that we learn necessary life skills, rather than memorizing the material.
Our desire is to change the teaching method, to apply the learned material in a useful way, and that the system find a better way to appreciate the student, besides exams.
 

Specific expectations from decision-makers:

Listening to young persons and understand them in order to alleviate the burden that students experience. They should come not just to hear us but also to really listen.
Changing the education approach and the curriculum. Reducing the workload and more consideration of students’ private lives.
To open the possibility for students to choose the topics of learning, namely allowing them to choose the subjects of study in a broader manner.
Reduce the number of compulsory subjects.
Changing the reform done in the high school curriculum, returning the start of matriculation exams to 10-th grade, and distributing the exams over the three years in high school.
The implementation of so-called “meaningful learning” in a clearer and broader sense.
To stop causing the students to just “throw up” the learned material, with an emphasis on changing the teacher-student relationship.
Especially to emphasize the significant reduction of pressure on high school students and the expansion of their activity possibilities after the school hours.

 

Planned artefact: Graffiti

We decided to present our frustration from the education system through a graffiti on the school wall. The aim is to arouse attention and awareness of the stressful situation that we experience as 11-th graders.

Proposed design of the Graffiti:

An image of a “hypnotized” person whose brain explodes due to extensive learning. To this image, we will add a statement that will express our frustration and feelings towards the Israeli education system.

 

Objectives: 
To discuss the problem/shortcomings of the education system in Israel, from the perspective of high school students.

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