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What happens when beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder ?

beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder

A recent Tweet by Irish Cyberpsychologist, Dr. Mary Aiken caught our attention. For some time now, Dr Aiken has been highlighting how technology has infiltrated our lives and impacted us on a psychological level, right down to an individual’s level of self-perception. AI or Artificial Intelligence has many different levels. It is used in some of popular Apps, to digitally improve or alter images, before it shared online with others. There is a negative emotional and psychological side to this, many adults may have not considered or be aware of which is why it is the topic of this weeks #COTDAge blog.

 

The concept of beauty is a very transient perception. One which is highly open to influence and manipulation, through mediums of TV, Movies and Magazines. The shoulder pads of the 80’s and big hairstyles did not survive the 90’s, as trends frequently come and go. Image manipulation has been around for a long time. Many top fashion magazines have been caught over the years, having featured airbrushed celebrities on their covers, to make them look thinner. The difference now however, is that the perception of what we consider as beautiful, is no longer naturally realistic or achievable. How can anyone possibly measure up against celebrities, who are not only altering their physical appearance through surgery, but also using very accessible technology to then alter their image even further in the persuit of perfection?

 

There has been a lot of criticism lately of the Apple’s iPhone XS, for over smoothing selfie photos. Some users complained the images were being over manipulated, producing an airbrushed version of the picture. These type of App are generally referred to as a ‘Beautification Apps’. There are countless Apps available, which are designed specifically to alter an image, by removing any unwanted features such as skin blemishes, or acne. One filter App promoted by Kyle Jenner enables users add ‘Beauty Filters’ to their Instagram images. It widens the user’s eyes, softens the skin, and creates plump fuller lips. If you wish you can even add length to eyelashes. It essentially enables the user, to look just like someone who has had surgery so extensive, she no longer even looks like herself.

 

We often ask children, are they the creator of their own destiny, when they create their online persona? Inevitably, almost all say yes. We try to educate both teens and parents about the how Apps work and their use of Gamification. Describing the process which is actually controlling and directing the user on popular Apps like Snapchat can leave audiences stunned. Gamification is used on many popular Apps that are used by children. It is designed to encourage user interaction by turning the App in to a game, often without the user even realising.

 

snapchat trophies

The Apps encourage frequent use through notifications and streaks, a little competition among Friends or Followers. The Apps use rewards like Emoji Trophies for completing certain tasks, such as take 1000 snaps using your front facing camera. As an adult reading this, if we were to offer you an Emoji and ask you to go and take a thousand pictures of yourself, undoubtedly you would say “ Are you ****ing kidding me or what?”. Yet our kids are happily doing this, all the while oblivious to the level of manipulation actually taking place.

 

If a child has taken one thousand pictures of themselves and over time been introduced to adding a variety of filters to alter their image in order to improve it, will the child still be satisfied with themselves when looking at an unfiltered normal regular photo. over time will the App influence their perception to the extent of now needing to add a Beauty Filter to their image, perhaps as a result of a preference now for wider eyes, smoother skin or fuller lips? Even the suggestion that a child or teen needs to make use a Beauty Filter, immediately gives the suggestion that there is something wrong with their image.

 

Adults have not grown up with this technology, we can’t even imagine what it is like to live in a world, where you are consistantly encouraged to alter your own image in order to make it conform to the current perception of beauty. What gives us further cause for concern, is the way Apps then encourage users to share their altered image of themselves with others. Now the user is seeking validation and feedback of an online world, where the harsh and frequent horrific judgement and comments can cause devastation to an individual’s self-esteem and concept of self-worth.

 

The number of young girls and boys reporting dissatisfaction with their very perception of themselves continues to increase, along with the numbers suffering from self-esteem issues, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, self-harm and eating disorders. The figures being reported are higher than they have ever been before. Beauty Apps, and Apps which are using psychology and gamification to condition a user to habitually alter and share their own image, will eventually create an altered idea of what the perception of beauty is.

 

Incredibly, when you listen to those who make millions and profit from selling their image as the one to aspire to, the Jenner/Kardashian media monster machine, even these people, who at this point must be made of more plastic than Joan Rivers, say they are not happy with their image. They are still complain constantly about what they are not happy with about themselves to a very vulnerable audience. Children are learning the negative lesson of the importance of astetics rather than ability, tallent or skill.

 

No child, male or female, can ever aspire to the perception of beauty held by people who no longer even look like themselves, or images which have been altered to unrealistic proportions. Children are unique, that is where their beauty lies, in their uniqueness. Who wants to live in a world with 3.2 billion internet users, who all look like Kardashian or Jenner replicates. For parents it is really important to pay attention to the image your child creates of themselves online. Be mindful of the harm caused to a child, who becomes unhappy with their own perception of their identity. All the filters and AI in the world will never improve who a person is on the inside, however it does have very powerful ability to destroy them.

 

 

Team @COTDAge

Blog

Spotify Phishing scam targets Apple users Log In credentials

Apple iPhone Spotify Scam

#Apple users are at risk of having their accounts compromised in a new Spotify Phishing attack. Emails purporting to originate from Spotify are advising the recipient, they have purchased a year’s Premium Streaming service and are asking to verify the subscription by logging in to the users Apple account. The link when opened appears as a very authentic looking, branded Apple site, however the address at the top of the screen is clearly not an authentic address.

Some people may not recognise that this is not an authentic address and enter their Apple ID and Password. It is also likely some of those who receive the email will be curious and log in, as they will not have subscribed for the Spotify premium service.

 

Users are asked to enter their login details. Upon entering the log in details, users will have provided their information to the designers of this particular Phishing attack, compromising the security of their account allowing access to their iCloud and personal content including their PICTURES and PERSONAL DATA. This can also allow access to Apple Pay and even the location of all your Apple devices.

 

We would ask people to delete this email if they receive it, and advise your children and teens who are using an Apple device to do the same. If you have entered your details, we strongly advise that you change your log in credentials immediately. Phishing scams work due to people’s natural curiosity and very often just old-fashioned ignorance, fear or greed. Be exceptionally careful when opening any links in emails you are not expecting. Never open content or click on links contained in emails you are not expecting to receive, even if they are sent from a trusted contact, as your device may end up compromised.

 

 

Team @COTDAge

Blog

Just like the Titanic, your online life is far from Unsinkable

The titanic

One issue, which is becoming more obvious while speaking to children, teens and parents, is how ignorant everyone appears to be, in relation to their level of vulnerability online. We frequently see tremendous over confidence, in the amount faith people have placed in how protected or secure their online data is. Most have actually put all of their data eggs in the one basket, without realising the dangers.

It is almost like watching a re-run of the Titanic story, so many people mistakenly believing that their online lives, are also unsinkable. We have found that the use of the Titanic as a learning aid is an excellent example for helping people to understand their level of online vulnerability. So this is why, we have decided to share it with you in today’s #COTDAge blog.

Continue reading “Just like the Titanic, your online life is far from Unsinkable”

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Tellonym – An Potentially Dangerous App Warning for Parents

Tellon

The use of Anonymity Apps are on the rise again, with Irish teens installing and using an App called Tellonym. From the outset #COTDAge are issuing a strong Cyber Safety Warning to parents, check younger children’s devices to see if they are using this App or, if they are receiving messages on their Social Media from their own contacts or other people using this App. It is also really important to discuss the use of this App with teens and young adults. We would strongly advise, both children and teens do not use this App.

 

Tellonym, initially launched in 2016, both as an App and a platform it is similar to Sarahah, which was known as the Honesty App. Saraha was removed due to concerns the App was being used to target and Cyberbully people. Tellonym permits it’s users to send messages to others whilst remaining anonymous. However, unlike Sarahah, upon receiving the anonymous messages you can choose to reply to the comments, which have been posted on the App.

 

This App currently boasts over 5 Million users and is available both on for Android and IOS devices. The App is being targeted at teens 16 years and older, however this is easily bypassed by selecting the Yes I am over 16 tab. Once signed in with an email address or your contact number, a user is invited to permit the App to access the devices contacts list. The App can also be linked to the users other Social Media platforms such as their Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram accounts. We would also have Privacy concerns for the Personal Data gathered by the App and its use.

 

The setup of the App is really simple and the navigation through the App is pretty basic. Once you create a profile you can search and follow other users, leave comments, or even just read comments which have been posted. The random content we viewed appeared to be interactions, which lead to the suggestion of moving to another platform and also requests to share sexualized imagery. For a parent, we suggest you install the App yourself and view the content. It will not make for pleasant reading. The App does not permit posting of images other than a profile picture, or imagery in the content feed.

 

While the developer’s web page does host advice for parents and has features such as reporting content, blocking users, reporting users, our main concern here is what people inevitably end up doing under the guise of being anonymous. While the App promotes itself as “The most honest place on the Internet”, users posting a question, then forwarded to their contacts who can answer the question anonymously, the user may not like the replies they receive. Given that children and teens afford access to themselves by accepting Friend and Follower requests from complete strangers, this enables strangers now to engage with children without even having to identify themselves.

 

We ask, why is there a need for a platform that permits a user to seek validation from others in this way? Essentially asking other people to judge and then comment on you anonymously. If people wish to post positive commentary, why would they need to hide who they are from the user the content is directed at? Parents also need to consider the amount of sexualized content on the App. The App affords anonymous access to a child, who could be groomed in to the exchange of explicit imagery or worse. There was considerable requests for the exchange of imagery on the pages we visited. An uncomfortable amount to be honest.

 

When people are afforded the ability to conceal their identity online, the comments and posts generated are generally not the most positive. This App is the perfect forum of targeting and harming young people through Cyberbullying and Online Sexual Exploitation. Already we have been made aware of a teen who has received horrific comments on this platform. Parents need to be aware of the Apps existence. For children and teens, are we would strongly recommend against the use of this App.

Team #COTDAge

Blog

Switch OFF Notifications to Conserve Your Capacity for Concentration

 

The last supper

 

Consider the ability of a person to concentrate on a task. Not necessarily a mammoth task, such as creating a famous work of art such as Michelangelo’s The Last Supper. Instead, perhaps a Word Search puzzle. In order to complete this task, you need the capability to focus and concentrate. Sounds simple enough. Now before we begin, it is important to note, the average attention span of a human is about 12 seconds. Well it used to be. It has actually seen a reduction from 12 seconds in 2012, down to EIGHT seconds as discovered in 2017. You may be pleasantly surprised now to discover, that is one second less than the NINE second attention span of a Goldfish.

 

Ok, so we are going to have a little less of an attention span, but we can still do this. Once we begin our task, inevitably there will be a beep from our mobile device. We put the puzzle down, to check the notification on the device. A feeling of anticipation rises, what could this notification be? It’s nothing, just a Snapchat notification, to informing us one of our contacts are also on Snapchat. Filled with disappointment we resume our task, only to be distracted once more by a WhatsApp Group Message, a meaningless but funny Gif we then forward on to several friends and family members. That feeling of boredom might make a little appearance now as we return to the puzzle, but thankfully the sound of the phone ringing has interrupted it.

 

After taking the twenty-minute call, we return to the Word Search. This time we see a word we don’t understand, however this simple word search on Google lasting forty minutes inevitably takes us on a journey through the internet. We are two hours in to this Word Search now and nowhere near to completing it, as there are lots of other more important jobs to do, we put it down and possibly never return to it. So what just happened?

 

When we attempted to complete our task, we were distracted. On being distracted once, it may have been easy to return to the task. But it required our attention. The more our attention was broken by the interruption of the device, it becomes harder to regain our concentration and stay focused. Worse once boredom sets in, at time we really need motivation to continue what we are doing, the device offered us more distractions, and delivered nothing of benefit to us, it simply impeded the completion of our simple task.

 

The ability to concentrate, requires focus. It requires our attention. If we permit ourselves to be conditioned by the distraction of our digital devices, we end up refocusing our attention on the device, rather than the task at hand. Given enough of time repeating this type of behaviour, our capability to remain focused reduces. This is possibly one reason, we have seen such a significant reduction in the average attention span. A four second drop is a considerable reduction.  An Airbag company, who’s product took four seconds longer than the next competitor to activate, would be out of business pretty quickly.

 

the last supper 2

 

From early infancy, right up to the day we die, we need to have the ability to concentrate. It is this ability which enables us to learn the skills required to advance in life. If we begin to lose this skill, and instead develop poor concentration, it becomes more and more difficult to focus. The purpose of today’s blog, was to show how easy it is for an adult to become distracted from a very simple task, given the multiple interruptions from our digital devices. Imagine if Michelangelo was around today and attempted to paint The Last Supper while Snapchatting, Messaging and updating his profile.

 

Now consider it from a child’s perspective. Imagine sitting down to do your homework when you were younger. Just as you start to focus on what you’re doing, someone taps you on the shoulder and interrupts you. This continues as you battle to get to get through it. By the end you’re possibly at the stage of saying to yourself, “I’ll just wait till later on, or the morning to complete it”.

 

This should give you some idea of the cost of having a device which is constantly craving your devotion and the consequences of giving in to its demands. It is also important to remember, Social Media sites and other Apps we use have been designed specifically to distract you then prompt you to return to the platform. We hope that you didn’t think you were doing it of your own free will. You have been conditioned to respond to the notifications without even realising.

 

This is one of the primary reasons parents need to set a screen time limit for children. Parents should also look at their own screen time and to see how much their device is interfering with the everyday tasks. Switching the device to Airplane mode for a set duration of the day, is one way of ensuring that you remain uninterrupted. All those needless notifications will still be waiting, but at least you get to manage them on your terms rather than the App developers.

 

Hope you all had a great weekend

 

 

Team #COTDAge