Dear Subscribers:Happy New Year, everyone! Here's our lineup for this first week of January:
- Family Tech: A good resolution; Real tech integration in classrooms
- Web News Briefs: Chat No. 1; Net & spiritual life; Minors in adult sites; K-12 e-learning venture; Net aids adoption; Starbucks gets connected; AOL vs. spamů.
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- Resolve to spend more family time online!
New Year's resolutions aren't for everyone, but we feel this one makes sense for anyone who has children who spend time online. In his Family Tech column for the San Jose Mercury News this week, SafeKids.com's Larry Magid gives sound reasons why. He also highlights another favorite of his and ours - one for our kids: "I will teach my parents what I know about computers and the Internet.'' "You may be surprised to see what you can learn from your kids," Larry suggests. "Have them show you sites that they like and help you discover ones that may benefit you. Ask your kids to use the Internet to help you plan a family vacation or outing or research a good investment or perhaps a good charity to donate to. Depending on their ages, your kids may also know how to use search engines but, if they don't, take them to Yahoo.com, Google.com and others and ask them to come up with terms that you can search for."
- True tech integration
And another column of Larry's on the Education Commission study calling for fast connections in schools, better Net training for teachers, and regulatory reform points out what those goals are ultimately all about: true integration of technology into the curriculum. The more teachers understand the Internet and the more convenient it is for students to use, the more it becomes what it's supposed to be: another tool to enhance all aspects of the curriculum and learning. Larry also speaks to the most controversial part of the report: regulatory reform. As he puts it, "Regulations that focus on 'seat time' - how long children are physically in school buildings - don't match today's realities. The whole notion of the teacher as the center of learning and the classroom as the cathedral of knowledge needs to be looked at."
Parents and teachers, do you agree? Send us your own views on the report and its proposals - via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Web News Briefs
- Chat still No. 1
Netizens are a very social group, a study only confirmed. A survey released New Year's Eve by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that "more than twice as many people used the Internet to message friends and relatives during the holiday season than to buy gifts," according to ZDNet. The study found that 53% of Internet users sent emails to relatives and friends to discuss the holidays or to make plans, while 24% bought gifts online.
- The Net & spiritual life
And while we're looking at Pew surveys, another one - believed to be the first extensive, quantitative effort to learn how churches and synagogues in the United States use the Internet - has found that congregations in the United States say "the Internet helps their spiritual and community life." The findings challenge concerns that the Internet isolates people and replaces real community with virtual ones. "Most of the Most of the 1,309 responding congregations said their Web sites and email use have helped the spiritual life of their faith communities and bound members closer together," reports the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Among the findings, 83% of respondents say their church's use of the Internet has helped congregational life (25% say it has helped a great deal), and 81% say the use of email by ministers, church staffs, and congregation members has helped the spiritual life of the congregation to some extent (35% say it has helped a great deal). Respondents say they use the Web to: encourage visitors to attend their church; post mission statements, sermons, etc.; link to denomination and faith-related sites; and link to scripture studies or devotional material.
- Minors in adult sites
NetValue.com, a research firm in New York, has found that people under 18 spend more time in adult Web sites than they do in gaming or other entertainment sites. According to WebTrendWatch, NetValue found that "27.5% of minors online visited an adult site in September 2000, representing more than 3 million unique visitors. By way of comparison, one of the most popular music sites among minors had 802,400 unique visitors for the month." Other findings indicate that minors spent 64.9% more time overall on porn sites than on game sites, 21.2% of minor visiting adult sites are 14 or younger, and 40.2% of all minors visiting adult sites are young women.
- High-profile vote for e-learning
Former Education Secretary William Bennett seems to have changed his mind about the Internet in a big way. According to the New York Times, in his book published just last year, "The Educated Child," Mr. Bennett showed some skepticism toward online learning. But last week he announced he is starting K12, a for-profit, all-online K-12 school primarily targeting homeschooled kids (an estimated 2 million in the US). Tuition will be about $1,000 a year; interaction with live teachers will cost more than that. Though there are plenty of high school and college courses and degrees offered online, "Mr. Bennett's venture is among the first to imagine shepherding a child from the ABC's to a high school diploma," the Times points out. The venture got a fairly skeptical reception in much of the media coverage of it, reports TheStandard.com.
- Online? Yes and no
A lot of Americans got connected last year - about 35 million, according to Nielsen/Netratings - but how many of those connected people actually go online on a regular bases is a different story. Wired New reports that "in November, for example, Netratings found that 153,844,012 had access to the Internet at home. But only 95,353,868, or 62%, had used the Net during that month." Why do they pay the $20 a month if they're not using the service? Netratings points to "the old health club model" - too much effort to disconnect. But what do you think? Do you have friends or relatives who signed up but don't actively use the Net? Email us!
- Rapid UK growth
As for across the pond, Internet.com reports that nearly 8 million (7.8 million, to be exact) UK households are now online. That's 32% of all households, rapidly closing in on Internet penetration in the United States. The report, which breaks those numbers down in terms of gender and favorite online pastimes, does not offer a percentage of those who've signed up but don't use the Net. Americans seems to be ahead in that category.
- How the Net aids adoption
The Internet is increasingly helping parents find children to adopt. According to the New York Times, 47 states have set up Web sites featuring photographs of foster children available for adoption and several national and regional nonprofit groups, including the Adoption Exchange and the National Adoption Center, have Web sites. If this is a subject of interest to you, this article provides a thorough update.
- Starbucks + Microsoft
Seems it was inevitable. Starbucks cafes will soon be offering Internet connectivity, according to Forbes.com, through a just-announced deal with Microsoft. But Starbucks is being careful to clarify that its cafes will not be cybercafes. It's not installing PCs - just wireless access for customers bringing their own notebooks and palmtops. In surveying various reports on the development, TheStandard.com offers details on what connecting at Starbucks will really be like: e.g., heavy doses of Microsoft content with one's "mocha, 1%, no whip." Also, what hardware will/won't work (e.g., Palms yes, Net-enabled cell phones no, but in any case people will have to subscribe to a third partner's wireless service - MobilStar's - to connect at all).
- AOL vs. spam
America Online gets a lot of complaints from its customers about spam - as many as 250,000 in a single day. CNET has an article this week on the media giant's latest lawsuit against spammers, one of more than a dozen it has filed in the past five years. The company's been fighting spam since 1996, and this latest case is among more than a dozen lawsuits AOL has filed against spammers. The article updates users on both the problem and what's being done about it.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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