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Snap launches tools for parents to monitor teens’ contacts

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  • Parental control tool will let parents see who their teens are talking to, but not substance of their conversations.
  • Feature is launching at time when social media companies have been criticised over lack protection for kids.
  • Parents can also confidentially report any concerning accounts.

Snap, owner of the popular messaging app Snapchat, rolled out its first parental control tools on Tuesday, which will allow parents to see who their teens are talking to, but not the substance of their conversations.

The new feature called Family Centre is launching at a time when social media companies have been criticised over a lack protection for kids. In October, Snap and its tech peers TikTok and YouTube testified before US lawmakers accusing the companies of exposing young users to bullying or steering them toward harmful content. 

Instagram also testified in a Senate hearing in December over children’s online safety, after a Facebook whistleblower leaked internal documents that she said showed the app harmed some teens’ mental health and body image. 

Parents can invite their teens to join Family Centre on Snapchat, and once the teens consent, parents will be able to view their kids’ friends list and who they have messaged on the app in the past seven days. They can also confidentially report any concerning accounts.

However, parents will not be able to see private content or messages sent to and from their teens, said Jeremy Voss, Snap’s head of messaging products, in an interview.

“It strikes the right approach for enhancing safety and well-being, while still protecting autonomy and privacy,” he said.

Snap said it plans to launch additional features in the coming months, including notifications to parents when their teen reports abuse from a user.

Prior to Family Centre, Snap already had some teen protection policies in place. By default, profiles for Snapchat users under 18 are private, and they only show up as a suggested friend in search results when they have friends in common with another user. Users must be at least 13 years old to sign up.

Snap’s new tools follow a similar move by Instagram, which launched its Family Centre in March, allowing parents to view what accounts their teens follow and how much time they spend on the app.

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WhatsApp to let users ‘pin messages’ within chats, groups

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Meta-owned WhatsApp always brings out the best updates for its users, making it easier for them to enjoy the experience while connecting with their loved ones. 

The messaging app is rolling out another feature that would allow its users to pin messages within chats and groups in the future update, WabetaInfo reported Friday. 

The app is launching the new update through the Google Play Beta Program, bringing the version up to 2.23.3.17. 

The feature, however, is inaccessible to the beta testers as of yet because it is not ready and is still under development.

Through this feature, it will become easier for users to find important messages in a conversation. 

— WaBetaInfo
— WaBetaInfo

However, if a message is pinned but the recipient is using an old version of WhatsApp, the messaging app will “add a message in the conversation in order to ask to upgrade to the latest version available on the store”. 

This feature would also help “improve organisation” in the groups as it can become difficult to keep a track of messages, whether it is a group for your friends, family, or workplace. 

These pinned messages will be easily accessible to everyone in the group chat so that people know what is important. 

The feature will be released in a future update of the app. 

Recent iOs update 

Users will be able to react to messages within the announcement group in a new feature that is under development, according to a report from WABetaInfo.

Reportedly, several users discovered that they are unable to react to messages posted within the WhatsApp community announcement group.

Responding to messages in the community announcement group is not possible because doing so would make your phone number public. WhatsApp is working to make it so that the user’s phone number is hidden when responding to messages in this particular group. 

WABetaInfo learned that WhatsApp is working on the same feature for a future update of the iOS app. 

WhatsApp is developing “an in-app banner to announce when an update that brings message reactions within the announcement group is available.”

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ChatGPT owner launches ‘imperfect’ tool to detect AI-generated text

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OpenAI, the creator of the popular chatbot ChatGPT, has released a software tool to identify text generated by artificial intelligence, the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.

ChatGPT is a free program that generates text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry, which has gained wide popularity since its debut in November, while raising concerns about copyright and plagiarism.

The AI classifier, a language model trained on the dataset of pairs of human-written and AI-written text on the same topic, aims to distinguish text that is written by AI. It uses a variety of providers to address issues such as automated misinformation campaigns and academic dishonesty, the company said.

In its public beta mode, OpenAI acknowledges the detection tool is very unreliable on texts under 1,000 characters, and AI-written text can be edited to trick the classifier.

“We’re making this classifier publicly available to get feedback on whether imperfect tools like this one are useful,” OpenAI said.

“We recognise that identifying AI-written text has been an important point of discussion among educators, and equally important is recognizing the limits and impacts of AI-generated text classifiers in the classroom.”

Since ChatGPT debuted in November and gained wide popularity among millions of users, some of the largest US school districts, including New York City, have banned the AI chatbot over concerns that students will use the text generator to cheat or plagiarise.

Others have created third-party detection tools including GPTZeroX to help educators detect AI-generated text.

OpenAI said it is engaging with educators to discuss ChatGPT’s capabilities and limitations, and will continue to work on the detection of AI-generated text.

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YouTube launches ‘Study Hall’ which will allow earning college credits online

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YouTube, Arizona State University, and Crash Course, the well-known YouTube channel of writers and brothers Hank and John Green, have announced an astonishing expansion of their accessible education programme Study Hall. 

According to YouTube’s announcement, the partnership is “a new approach that demystifies the college process while creating an affordable and accessible onramp to earning college credit,” outlining the chance for online learners to pursue transferable course credits with fewer restrictions than traditional college programmes.

In addition to being able to watch all Study Hall videos for free on YouTube, users can register for related courses developed by Crash Course and academics at Arizona State University in order to receive credits and compile a transcript. 

Beginning on March 7, 2023, the current lineup of four “College Foundations” courses will address postsecondary fundamentals including English composition, college math, American history, and interpersonal communication. Each course costs $25 to enrol in, plus an additional $400 registration fee to acquire credits. Prior to March 7, 2023, each course will cost $350 to enrol in.

When Study Hall is fully operational, the number of credits available will equal the whole first year of study at most institutions and the cost is “less than one-third of the typical course cost at a public four-year university,” according to YouTube.

Enrollment does not require a minimum GPA or even an application, and students are allowed to retake classes as many times as they need to. Any eligible student who wants to use their Study Hall experience toward a degree can apply for admission to Arizona State University through the Earned Admissions program or transfer to any school in the US that accepts ASU credits.

According to Katie Kurtz, head of learning at YouTube, the company wants to serve as a middleman between the general public and higher education.

“At YouTube, we want to empower learners to go further by breaking down barriers to high-impact learning experiences. Postsecondary education is still one of the best drivers of economic and social mobility, yet the path to higher education has too many barriers,” she explained.

“We want to help address this urgent challenge by tapping into our endlessly creative and passionate learning creator community. With 10 years of experience delivering compelling and engaging educational content, we knew Crash Course, paired with ASU’s world class faculty would be a dynamic partnership to address this challenge.”

The Green brothers, well-known for being early, influential creators on both YouTube and Tumblr, launched the Crash Course channel in 2012. The channel has produced a decade’s worth of educational material on a variety of topics linked to early college and Advanced Placement high school courses, including psychology, world history, and even intellectual property law. The Green brothers’ quick and easy educational videos have an even wider audience now that they are both regulars on the TikTok For You Page.

Hank Green discussed his most recent educational endeavour, writing, in a tweet: “Around 43 million Americans are saddled with 1.75 trillion dollars in student debt. This may sound bad, but it’s worse than it seems: 40% of those 43 million people do not have degrees and will not pursue them.”

The biggest obstacles to getting degrees in the hands of students, according to Green and his production firm, Complexly, included fees, the complexity of college admissions systems, and the difficulty of many college courses for people who didn’t acquire a thorough high school education. “With some funding and a lot of hard work, we started to build ‘Study Hall’ with the goal that it helps lower these barriers.”

Along with the new course options, Study Hall also offers educational material on comprehending and navigating the higher education landscape, including a Crash Course series on “How To College” and quick primers to popular ideas and subject areas, hosted by Green and other academics.

By January 2025, the programme is expected to have 12 courses accessible. On the Study Hall website, prospective students can sign up.

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