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How to stay safe when shopping online

While online shopping is super convenient, it is also essential to be aware of the dangers of internet shopping and take steps to keep your details safe and secure.

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It can be hard to remember what it was like before online shopping took the retail industry by storm and transformed the way that people buy goods forever. According to research, 75% of Americans have shopped online, and it’s easy to see why when it is such a convenient option with so much choice readily available for you to browse from your own home. Nowadays, you can buy pretty much anything and everything online from groceries to cars; you can even buy weed online.

Image credit: Pixabay

While online shopping is super convenient, it is also essential to be aware of the dangers of internet shopping and take steps to keep your details safe and secure. Cybercriminals are continually coming up with new ways to get us to part with our personal information and cash, so being savvy when shopping is so important.

Here are some ways to help keep you safer when online shopping.

Passwords

There’s nothing more irritating than forgetting a password, which makes it all the more tempting to stick with the same password for absolutely everything. While using just one password may make it easier to remember it when you need it if your password is compromised, everywhere that you use that same password is compromised too.

WiFi

While WiFi is an incredibly useful thing, it can also leave you vulnerable to hackers too. Using public WiFi connections when you’re at the coffee shop or in a store is tempting, but it can leave you vulnerable, especially if you are doing some online shopping.

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Lock

A simple way to see if the online retailers you are buying from are secure is by checking the address line. Any site that you are purchasing from should start with HTTPS rather than simply HTTP, you should also be able to see a padlock in the address bar too. Having https and a padlock shows that the site has secure sockets layer encryption.

Feeling

Some websites can give you a bad feeling about them from the get-go, if you visit a site that you don’t like the look of, trust your instincts and don’t make a purchase. You may be wrong, it may be entirely reputable, but you don’t want to find out the hard way that it is not.

Check

You may have been happily shopping away without anything sending alarm bells ringing about a security breach, and then the post arrives, you open your bank statement and get a shock. Even if you don’t think that anything untoward has occurred while you were shopping online, it is still essential to check your bank and credit card statements so that you can check through for any irregularities.

Credit

Never use your debit card when shopping online, as this could leave you open to trouble. Using your credit card when you buy, means that you have a better level of protection if something goes wrong with the transaction, such as your item is never delivered to you despite your payment still being taken.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Weight stigma affects gay men on dating apps

A study found that Grindr, the most popular dating app for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and queer men, had a negative effect on men’s body image, especially when it came to weight. Three out of four gay men are reported to have used Grindr.

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Weight stigma is an issue for queer men using dating apps, says a new University of Waterloo study, authored by Eric Filice, Amanda Raffoul, Samantha Meyer and Elena Neiterman, all from the University of Waterloo, and which appears in Body Image.

The study found that Grindr, the most popular dating app for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and queer men, had a negative effect on men’s body image, especially when it came to weight. Three out of four gay men are reported to have used Grindr.

“Dating apps have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade or so and have radically transformed the ways individuals connect with one another,” said Eric Filice, a public health doctoral candidate and lead author. “We were surprised to find that weight stigma is perpetuated by individual users and embedded within the app’s information architecture.”

For example, because Grindr facilitates anonymity more than other apps (it doesn’t require a name or link to other social media platforms), and because its pre-set body descriptions don’t acknowledge being overweight (you can be ‘toned,’ ‘average,’ ‘large,’ ‘muscular,’ ‘slim’ or ‘stocky’), most participants in the study perceived being overweight as a stigma.

“Participants recalled their body weight or shape being scrutinized for allegedly being incompatible with their gender expression or preferred position during intercourse,” said Filice. “We think this points to the importance of locating weight stigma within and alongside other intersecting power relations.”

The study also found that apart from weight stigma, body dissatisfaction stemmed from sexual objectification and appearance comparison. “It doesn’t help that because Grindr exists to connect users for dating or sex, physical appearance bears greater cultural salience,” Filice said. “People often compare their candid, in-person appearance to the meticulously curated or digitally altered appearances of others they encounter online.

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“On the other hand, we were especially compelled by the myriad protective factors and coping strategies that participants suggested help mitigate Grindr’s deleterious effects on body image,” said Filice. These included the prioritization of positive self-esteem, strong social support, and avoiding situations that increase insecurities.

Filice said that he doesn’t think trying to curb overall dating-app use is an effective public health approach. “Health promotion strategists should focus on patterns in app use that are most harmful and orient their interventions accordingly. Many of our participants see Grindr as a necessary evil, as internet-mediated communication has served a unique historical role for gay men in circumventing social, cultural and legal barriers to making connections in public spaces.”

He added, “Much remains to be done. We still have little insight into how dating apps influence the bodily perceptions of trans and gender-nonconforming folks.”

Thirteen participants from several cities in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as surrounding municipalities, took part in the study, called “The influence of Grindr, a geosocial networking application, on body image in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men: An exploratory study.”

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Technology

Passive social network users in danger of developing depressive symptoms

It is not the use of social networks that generally and directly leads to or is related to depression, but that certain preconditions and a particular type of use increase the risk of depressive tendencies.

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Photo by NordWood Themes from Unsplash.com

Great holiday, fantastic party, adorable children, incredible food: everyone shows their life in the best light on social networks. And those who take a look around on such sites can find that their self-esteem takes a hit as it seems as though everyone is better than them.

This is because users who use social networks passively, i.e. do not post themselves, and tend to compare themselves with others are in danger of developing depressive symptoms, according to a team of psychologists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) led by Dr. Phillip Ozimek.

The result of the study appeared in Behaviour & Information Technology.

Information on the first five people

The answers to the question of whether using social networks can trigger depressive tendencies have been contradictory so far. The researchers from Bochum carried out one experimental and two questionnaire studies. In the first study, they had two groups of test subjects spend five minutes writing information about the first five people they saw either on their Facebook wall or on the staff website of the Faculty of Catholic Theological at RUB. A third group skipped this task. All three groups then completed a questionnaire that provided information about their self-esteem.

“It was shown that being confronted by social information on the Internet – which is selective and only positive and favorable, whether on Facebook and on employee websites – leads to lower self-esteem,” reports Ozimek. As low self-esteem is closely related to depressive symptoms, researchers consider even this short-term effect to be a potential source of danger.

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Over 800 test subjects

They investigated long-term prospects using questionnaire studies. They interviewed over 800 people about their use of Facebook, their tendency to compare themselves with others, their self-esteem and the occurrence of depressive symptoms. They found that there is a positive correlation between passive Facebook use, in particular, and depressive symptoms when subjects have an increased need to make social comparisons of their abilities.

“So, when I have a strong need to compare and keep seeing in my newsfeed that other people are having great holidays, making great deals, and buying great, expensive things while everything I see out of my office window is grey and overcast, it lowers my self-esteem,” Ozimek sums up. “And if I experience this day after day, over and over again, this can promote greater depressive tendencies over the long term.”

In a third study, the researchers used questionnaires to find out whether their findings could also be transferred to other networks. As professional networks work somewhat differently, they chose Xing.

“Although people’s profiles on there have still been candy-coated, they keep themselves grounded in order to appear as genuine, yet positive, as possible,” explains Ozimek. The results of the evaluation were very similar to those of the Facebook study.

The type of use is significant

“Overall, we were able to show that it is not the use of social networks that generally and directly leads to or is related to depression, but that certain preconditions and a particular type of use increase the risk of depressive tendencies,” says Ozimek.

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Private and professional social networks can promote higher levels of depression if users mainly use them passively, compare themselves with others socially and these comparisons have a negative impact on self-esteem.

“It is important that this impression that everyone else is better off can be an absolute fallacy,” says the psychologist. “In fact, very few people post on social media about negative experiences. However, the fact that we are flooded with these positive experiences on the Internet gives us a completely different impression.”

Ozimek worked with Hans-Werner Bierhoff for “All my online-friends are better than me – three studies about ability-based comparative social media use, self-esteem, and depressive tendencies”.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Easy access to modern tech has changed the face of multiplayer gaming

The main way in which the multiplayer gaming world has changed as a result of easy access to modern technology is the way in which it’s now possible to play against each other no matter where each participant is physically located.

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Anyone who took a stroll around a gaming arcade in decades gone by, such as the 1980s, would have found people playing against each other on everything from an ice hockey table to a pinball machine. But one thing that has changed in recent years is that it’s now much simpler to play against each other in a game battle – and that goes for gamblers looking for a global poker promo code, quiz fans using mobile apps, and wargamers battling it out over the web.

This article will explore the role of tech in the changing gaming scene.

Geographical distribution

The main way in which the multiplayer gaming world has changed as a result of easy access to modern technology is the way in which it’s now possible to play against each other no matter where each participant is physically located. The other player could be someone you know, and it could even be the case that you are playing against someone in the next room or you could play against a random person you’ve never met who is based anywhere in the world.

These exciting opportunities have come about largely as a result of the availability of superfast Internet connections, and the rise in access to broadband. It’s also partly down to changes in screen size, too: larger screen surfaces mean that it’s now possible to split a screen and see what your single competitor is, or your multiple competitors are, doing with total ease.

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Speed of games

The speed with which multiplayer games can take place is also a very important development. It’s now also possible for players to send messages internally which are instantaneous, and which allow the gamers involved to make informed and fast reaction decisions. This is especially important for those who are gambling online: in a game such as poker where every second of response counts for your strategy and your interaction with others, fast in-game turnaround times can be critical.

Communication and collaboration

Multiplayer games have always emphasized the role of collaboration. But now, the communication choices are maximized. You can still recreate that feeling of sitting next to each other and participating in a game if you wish, perhaps by using headsets and webcams. If you prefer to speak by text, however, that’s fine, too. This extended level of choice is a key hallmark of the technological age of gaming – and one that many who operate in multiplayer contests are grateful to have, especially if the culture around multiplayer gaming is one that doesn’t initially appeal.

Multiplayer games have always emphasized the role of collaboration. But now, the communication choices are maximized.

Save and restart

The routine involved in multiplayer gaming has also changed as a direct result of changes in technology. Previously, you would have had to save your game and follow a cumbersome process to restart it – and if the progress was saved on a game disc, you’d need one designated participant to look after it. But modern technology means that each participant can auto-save progress. With game data now stored in the cloud, meanwhile, all participants can pick up where they left off, and enjoy customized and personal performance data even if they’ve been playing together.

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Types of game

And finally, it’s worth exploring how technology has delivered new types of the multiplayer game. Take the example of quiz or word game apps: while playing a multiplayer game like this was once something that could only be done using board games or quiz sheets at a planned, designated event, it’s now the case they can be played on the go no matter where you are. This, in turn, means that leisure habits have changed, with games now being played on commutes, during lunch breaks, and even while other leisure activities – such as watching television or going to the cinema – are happening concurrently.

Modern technology has touched almost every aspect of life, and multiplayer gaming is certainly no exception to the rule. Activities which were once essential for a multiplayer game to function, such as all participants gathering in the same room or heading down to a physical arcade to play games together, are now seen as retro rather than a required part of the process.

Thanks to the rise in superfast Internet connections, the changes in physical dimensions of screens and the arrival of webcams and microphones, everything from how gamers play the games, to how they communicate and where they save their work has progressed to improve the game playing experience for everyone.

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NEWSMAKERS

Loneliness and social anxiety a bad combination for people using dating apps

Loneliness and social anxiety is a bad combination for single people who use dating apps on their phones, a new study suggests.

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Loneliness and social anxiety is a bad combination for single people who use dating apps on their phones, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people who fit that profile were more likely than others to say they’ve experienced negative outcomes because of their dating app use.

“It’s not just that they’re using their phone a lot,” said Kathryn Coduto, lead author of the study and doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University. “We had participants who said they were missing school or work, or getting in trouble in classes or at work because they kept checking the dating apps on their phones.”

Coduto said it is a problem she has seen firsthand.

“I’ve seen people who use dating apps compulsively. They take their phones out when they’re at dinner with friends or when they’re in groups. They really can’t stop swiping,” she said.

The study was published recently online in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Participants were 269 undergraduate students with experience using one or more dating apps. All answered questions designed to measure their loneliness and social anxiety (for example, they were asked if they were constantly nervous around other people).

Compulsive use was measured by asking participants how much they agreed with statements like “I am unable to reduce the amount of time I spend on dating apps.”

Participants also reported negative outcomes from using dating apps, such as missing class or work or getting in trouble because they were on their phones.

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Results showed, not surprisingly, that socially anxious participants preferred to meet and talk to potential dating partners online rather than in person. They tended to agree with statements like “I am more confident socializing on dating apps than offline.”

But that alone didn’t lead them to compulsively use dating apps, Coduto said.

“If they were also lonely, that’s what made the problem significant,” she said. “That combination led to compulsive use and then negative outcomes.”

Coduto said people need to be aware of their dating app use and consider whether they have a problem. If they have trouble setting limits for themselves, they can use apps that restrict dating app use to certain times of day or to a set amount of time each day.

“Especially if you’re lonely, be careful in your choices. Regulate and be selective in your use,” she said.

Coduto’s co-authors on the study were Roselyn Lee-Won, associate professor of communication at Ohio State and Young Min Baek of Yonsei University in Korea.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

‘Sexting’ not at epidemic levels, but has not decreased despite preventive efforts

Non-heterosexual students were approximately twice as likely to have shared an image with others and to believe their image had been shared with others without permission.

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Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

A study on teen ‘sexting’ has good news, and – yes – bad news. The good news is that adolescent “sexting” is not at epidemic levels as reported in some media headlines. The bad news is that it also has not decreased despite preventive efforts by educators and others.

Most commonly, the term sexting has been used to describe incidents where teenagers take nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves and exchange that content via text or private social media messages. While intended to be shared with trusted romantic partners, these images also can find their way into the hands of others.

While various studies have contributed to the understanding of sexting behavior among minors, the prevalence estimates are dated (prior to January 2011), and therefore, little is known about its frequency and scope on a national level in recent years.

A new study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is providing a much-needed update to what is currently known about the nature and extent of sexting among youth today.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, examined prevalence rates for sending and receiving sexually explicit images or video among a nationally-representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students (ages 12 to 17) in the US. Researchers focused only on explicit images and videos (as some previous studies have conflated the picture by also including explicit texts) in order to isolate those experiences that have the greatest potential for problematic outcomes.

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Results show that across all sociodemographic variables explored, the vast majority of students were not participating in sexting. Approximately 14 percent of middle and high school students had received a sexually explicit image from a boyfriend or girlfriend, while 13.6 percent said they received such an image from someone who was not a current romantic partner. About 11 percent of students reported sending a sext to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Males were significantly more likely to have sent and received a sext from a current romantic partner. However, males and females were equally likely to receive them from someone who was not a current boyfriend or girlfriend.
Photo by Cristofer Jeschke from Unsplash.com

Interestingly, most of the students who were asked by a current boyfriend or girlfriend to send a sext complied (63.9 percent). Among those students who were asked to send a sext by someone who was not a current romantic partner, only 43 percent complied.

Males were significantly more likely to have sent and received a sext from a current romantic partner. However, males and females were equally likely to receive them from someone who was not a current boyfriend or girlfriend. Female students were more likely to have been asked to send a sext by someone who was not a current romantic partner (14.3 percent), but only 34.1 percent complied.

Among the different racial groups examined, no statistically significant differences emerged with regard to sexting participation. As expected, older youth were more likely to both send and receive sexts. Students who identified as non-heterosexual were significantly more likely to be involved in sexting in all its forms.

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With regard to frequency, about one-third of the students who sent or received explicit messages did so only once. Most commonly, students engaged in these behaviors “a few times.” Fewer than 2 percent of all students said they had sent a sext “many times,” while 2.6 percent said they had received sexts “many times.”

Overall, about 4 percent of students said they shared an explicit image sent to them with another person without their permission, and the about same number believed an image of them was shared with others without permission. This, of course, can lead to instances of “sextortion,” which the authors also have studied. Males were more likely to have shared an image and were more likely to believe an image they sent had been shared with others without permission.

Non-heterosexual students were approximately twice as likely to have shared an image with others and to believe their image had been shared with others without permission. It also appears that 15-year-olds were the most likely to have shared a sext and to believe a sext of them was shared without permission.

“Findings from our study provide a very important message for youth who may believe media headlines that suggest sexting is more widespread than it actually is,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, who co-authored the study with Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “Showing adolescents clear evidence that a relatively small proportion of teens engage in sexting could actually result in decreased overall participation since it underscores that it is not as normal, commonplace, or widespread as they might believe.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Apple updates Holding Hands emoji to represent more LGBTQIA relationships

In a major update to the Holding Hands emoji typically used to represent couples and relationships, users will now be able to select any combination of skin tone, in addition to gender, to personalize the people holding hands, opening up more than 75 possible combinations.

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Apple is previewing a selection of new emoji coming, revealing the newest designs that bring even more diversity to the keyboard, alongside fun and exciting additions to popular categories of food, animals, activities and smiley faces.

In a major update to the Holding Hands emoji typically used to represent couples and relationships, users will now be able to select any combination of skin tone, in addition to gender, to personalize the people holding hands, opening up more than 75 possible combinations.

Following Apple’s proposal to the Unicode Consortium last year to introduce more disability-themed emoji, a new guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg will be available in the emoji keyboard. Celebrating diversity in all its many forms is integral to Apple’s values and these new options help fill a significant gap in the emoji keyboard.

Many additional emoji categories are getting exciting updates with a new smiley face for yawning, a one-piece swimsuit, new food items including a waffle, falafel, butter and garlic, and new animals like the sloth, flamingo, orangutan and skunk.

Fifty-nine new emoji designs will be available this fall with a free software update for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Thousands of emoji are currently available, including emotive smiley faces, gender-neutral characters, more professions, various clothing options, food types, animals, mythical creatures and more. New emoji are created based on the approved characters in Unicode 12.0.

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