Banning Tablet Computers Is Modern-Day Grounding For Kids

Ban tablets

A new study has shown that today’s parents use tablet computers in a bid to control their children’s behaviour. A parenting website has branded restrictions on tablet computer use as the “modern version of grounding”.

The Childwise study suggests parents reward children by allowing them to spend more time on their tablet computers, and restrict time spent on tabs as a punishment.

According to the survey, there has been a big increase in the number of children using tablets such as iPads. The Childwise study has tracked trends in UK family life for two decades.

Technology and children

Children are now growing up surrounded by a wealth of technology, including tablets, laptops, smartphones and video games. In fact, the study suggests that children now spend more time online than they do watching TV.

Tablets are now overtaking laptops as children’s technology of choice, becoming a vital tool for parents in bargaining within the home. The study describes tablets as “controllable” because they can be given and taken away to reflect positive or negative behaviour – as rewards, children can extend the activities available on their tablet through the purchase of apps.

The study points out that there is also the strong perception of educational advantages.

The study took a sample of 2,000 children between the ages of 5 and 16. It showed that some of the favoured online destinations of children included YouTube and online Minecraft.

The research director Simon Leggett says access to the internet is now so integrate into the lives of children, they no longer view it as a privilege but as a fundamental right. Children in the 13 to 16 age group used the internet for an average of 2.5 hours a day, while two-fifths of five to seven year olds spent an average of an hour a day on the net.

Why is this important? As a business, looking at the prevalence of the internet and computers in young people’s lives should instill the importance of a strong internet presence. After all, if five year olds are doing are accessing the benefits of the online world, you should be too.


Symantec Uncovers New Computer Spyware, Regin

computer security

Computer security company Symantec says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software – a bug named Regin.

The six-year-old malicious software has been used on targets in 10 countries, including governments, private companies, individuals and research institutes. Symantec has not named any of the victims of the spyware but named the countries affected as follows: Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, Austria and Pakistan.

The malware is said to use a range of stealth features and is “highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets”. Even when Regin is detected it is incredibly difficult to find out what it’s doing. In fact, many of Regin’s components are still undiscovered, so there may be extra functionalities still to be found out.

Its stealth features include anti-forensic capabilities, a custom-built encrypted virtual file system (EVFS), and alternative encryption in the form of a variant of RC5.

Symantec said about Regin: “It is likely that its development took months, if not years, to complete and its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks. Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.”

Regin was witnessed in action between 2008 and 2011, abruptly withdrawing after this; however in 2013 a new version of the malware came to light. Nearly half of Regin’s attacks (48 per cent) targeted small businesses and individuals. Twenty-eight per cent of infections occurred in the telecomms sector.

Symantec believes Regin is a highly complex threat used for systematic data collection or intelligence gathering campaigns. Because the development and operation of the spyware would require significant investment, Symantec says there is the indication a nation state is responsible.

Most Mobile Apps Have Been Hacked, Report Shows

smartphone security

A new report shows that mobile applications downloaded from non-official sources is becoming more dangerous.

The “State of Mobile App Security” report and infographic by Arxan found that mobile app usage is “exploding” and that most apps have been hacked. Ninety-seven percent of the top 100 paid Android apps, and 87 per cent of Apple iOS apps have been hacked according to the research. The iOS percentage worryingly represents a sharp increase on 2013’s results, which showed 56% of iOS apps had been hacked.

Of some concern is the type of apps we have on our smart phones. The report looked into high-risk sectors including financial, retail/merchant and healthcare apps. It found that 95 per cent of financial Android and 70 per cent of iOS apps were cracked. Ninety per cent of Android and 35 per cent of iOS retail/ merchant apps were compromised. And 90 per cent of Android healthcare apps, 22 per cent of which are FDA approved, have been hacked.

The future for mobile apps

Analysts are now calling for an increased focus on app security, alongside new approaches to protect users.

Experts estimate that free app downloads will increase at a 99 per cent rate by 2017, reaching 253 billion downloads. Paid apps downloads are forecast to increase at a rate of 33 per cent, reaching nearly 15 billion by 2017.

Arxan’s report recommends that mobile app security is improved and that apps with high risk profiles be made tamper-resistant and capable of detecting threats and defending themselves.

Applications used to enable mobile wallets and payment apps need to be protected, and apps should be developed maintaining code confidentiality.

Arxan also suggests organisations consider mobile app assessments to find out whether existing apps are at risk, and conduct Penetration Tests to assess vulnerability.


UK Youngsters Win Microsoft Coding Challenge

Youngsters from the UK have proven to be the best in Europe when it comes to computer programming.

At a gaming competition organised by Microsoft, a team of three young coding enthusiasts from the UK defeated competition from around the continent – including teams from Portugal, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Lithuania and Estonia – to take the crown as the champions of the ‘Kodu ‘Kup.

The Kodu Kup is designed to encourage children to to create their own computer game using Kodu, which is Microsoft’s visual programming language. It is part of the ‘EU Coding Week’, which is targeted at trying to get more children interested and involved in coding in order to to learn the skills that will secure the jobs of the future.

The winning game was called ‘Confined’ and was set in the future, where players were required to defeat an evil robot. The games young designers were 14 year old Alfie Finch-Critchley, and 12 year olds Jospeh Banerjee and Jonathon Haley from Uppingham Community College in the East Midlands.

As part of the rigourous competition, the teams had to present their games to a Dragon’s Den style panel, which included MEPs and education and gaming experts. One of the Judges, Kelly Smith, head of television and games at BAFTA, was quoted by the BBC as saying that the standard of competition “blew her away”.

“They had really thought about the design, usability and where their product would be placed in the market, which is remarkable for a group of 12- to 14-year-olds”.

The winners were picked based on their teamwork, details put into the game and presentation skills.

The news will be of interest to the UK government, who have recently added computer programming to the curriculum for 5-16-year-olds in a bid to stop British children falling behind their global counterparts.

Five-year-olds To Learn Computer Programming

In a bid to stop British kids falling behind their global peers, children will be taught computer programming in their first few years of school.

While teaching these complex processes to very young children may seem optimistic, they are considered vital by the government, in a world where so much of life revolves around technology.

The next generation of adults will have grown up with a whole host of advanced technology at their fingertips – something you’ll know if you’ve ever seen a 4-year-old happily navigate an iPhone. It’ll be very interesting to see what the technological landscape looks like when today’s kids reach adulthood.

What’s changing?

Children between ages five and seven will have to create and de-bug simple computer programmes under the new computer coding requirements of the national curriculum. In addition to computer coding, primary school-aged children will be taught about search engines, and storing and retrieving photos and audio files.

However, this has been a tough transition for primary school teachers, many of whom have had to learn a whole new subject in time for the start of the new school term. There are concerns from unions who think the 160,000 primary school teachers should have had more time to learn these new skills, and suggests the curriculm changes should’ve been phased in more slowly.

Some teachers’ leaders reported in the BBC have said the new timetable for English schoolchildren is unrealistic. However the Department for Education claims it is preparing children for life in modern Britain.

Here are some of the changes to this year’s curriculum:

  • Pupils will be taught to write code
  • 5 to 7-year-olds will be expected to know what algorithms are
  • This age group will also be expected to create and debug simple programs
  • By age 11 children will be able to design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems
  • Design and technology lessons will include 3D printing and robotics
  • Five year olds will be expected to know basic fractions