Dear Subscribers:Here's our lineup this second week of February:
- From dot-com to 'dot-hope': Awards for kids' sites
- Family Tech: Credit cards & the Internet
- A subscriber writes: A grandmother on teens & chat
- Top kids' sites: Librarians' picks
- Web News Briefs: Flawed filters finding; Tennis star virus; Napster decision; Fingering Altavista.com; Net pedophiles; Net in child development….
Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software, housewares,
PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Jumpstart Spelling Grades 1-4 (Reg price $29.99, FREE after rebate)
Genuine Leather Fanny Pack (Reg price $38.89, FREE after rebate)
Citizen Walkman-style Cassette (Reg price $29.99, FREE after rebate)
From dot-com to 'dot-hope'
Of course dot-coms are here to stay (some of them, anyway), but there's another part of the Internet that deserves more attention than it gets: the Internet as a learning tool in the hands of children.
What they can accomplish - for themselves and for peers, worldwide - once they've learned to use this tool responsibly might be called the "dot-hope" part of the Internet. London-based Childnet International, which coined the term, has an annual awards program designed to focus the spotlight on the best examples of this dot-hope sector of cyberspace - "the true worth of the Net to change our world for the better," as director Nigel Williams put it.
To give you a handle on this, here are a few of the 2001 Childnet Awards finalists, Net projects involving kids that are produced by, with, or for kids:
- The Flat Stanley Project, which last year involved elementary-school students in more than 1,000 classrooms in some 15 countries, is based on the children's book of that name by Jeff Brown. It started in 1995 by third-grade teacher Dale Hubert in Ontario, who wanted to develop a safe and fun way for elementary school students to share their creativity with the world (here's the how-it-works page).
- Pupiline.net, an e-zine by teens, for teens, was created by 16-year-old Oli Watts in England as a place "where young people can put over their views and ideas and get advice on things [e.g., teen pregnancy, bullying, exam stress] that are affecting people everywhere." Pupiline now has a staff of 15.
- Bullying.org, created by Canadian teacher William Belsey and a team of students, is a place on the Net where youth worldwide can share their struggles with this universal problem, as well as find help among more than 100 resources, many of them just a click away on the Web.
These are examples of what parents and teachers who work with online kids are finding: that the Web has become a place where children can express themselves and share their work in a world where there are fewer and fewer physical spaces for confident, safe self-expression. "Public play is increasingly restricted," Childnet's Stephen Carrick-Davies told us. In fact, psychologist and MIT professor Sherry Turkle this week told the New York Times that "online communities provide ample, new, and exciting spaces for adolescents to explore identity, be happy or sad, get mad, act out - all in a relatively consequence-free environment. This is the work of adolescence."
Last December we spoke with Stephen, the producer of ChatDanger.com, another Childnet project, for an item on chat. As we talked with him this time around, we were delighted to see the balance his organization is striking between protection (kids' online safety) and celebration (the awards). Balancing the two seemed to us both unusual and intuitive at the same time. There are organizations that focus on all aspects of kids' online experience - online-safety education, protection, legislation, research, policymaking - and other ones that promote and celebrate kids' constructive use of the Net. All are needed and do excellent work. But we hadn't encountered any other organization that is consciously working on both fronts simultaneously. That's the unusual part. As for intuitive: It seems to us this is not only a great way, but really the only way we - individuals and organizations - can expand the dot-hope regions of cyberspace.
Why? Well, back to the tool metaphor: The Internet is a medium that can be used to craft remarkable contributions, but - like a sculptor's blowtorch or a woodcarver's knife - it can be dangerous to the apprentice if she's not properly trained in its use. But, as Childnet's awards illustrate, artists are not just skilled tool-users; they need inspiration, talent, feedback, and safe, comfortable spaces in which to experiment and express themselves! That's what we hear, too, in our interviews with teachers, parents, and students who work with the Internet.
One of the Childnet Awards' judges, Norway's Ombudsman for Children, Trond Waage, probably sums it up best: "For the 'dot-hope' effect … to succeed, we all need to ensure that children's 'netvoices' are respected and treasured and that children have the opportunity to benefit positively from the amazing opportunities the Internet affords them."
Childnet received more than 200 entries from 47 countries. Awards go to Web sites in Individual, Nonprofit, Schools, and Government categories. Winners will be announced April 19th in Washington. Stephen tells us that, if any of you plan to be in Washington at that time, do contact Childnet. The ceremony's 400 seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
If any of you visit the finalists' sites, do send us your own impressions - or tell us about other sites that have inspired you and your kids. Always send URLs with any sites you mention!
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Family Tech: Credit cards & the Internet
In his Family Tech column this week, SafeKids.com's Larry Magid writes about Visa Buxx and M2Card, kind of credit/debit cards that benefit both parent and child. With them, parents can…
- Help kids learn how to manage spending
- Provide an allowance electronically
- Track their kids' spending (within minutes of card use!)
- Set limits on kids' spending
- Give grandparents and other relatives a new way to give gifts.
You'll enjoy Larry's family's own experience with these services. If any of you try them, do let us know what you think.
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A subscriber writes
Subscriber Dee in New Jersey is a wise and Net-literate grandmother. Here's her valuable personal experience in dealing with a granddaughter who likes to chat:
"Wonder if it would help to print some of the common ruses used by people with harmful intent to engage youngsters in communicating [in online chat]? These kids browse and chat and list their profiles for their friends to see - not comfortable with that!
"For example, my teen-aged granddaughter called to say that some guy with the same last name as hers, who has a daughter with my granddaughter's first name, contacted her by email. He lives a few hours away from her college. It might be true, but I worry about that sort of thing. It's a shrewd way to hook a kid! I know she thinks I'm paranoid, so I simply told her to give me his screen name so that I could send a message to him & see if there's a family connection, but I mainly want to let him know that an adult is monitoring her. After I contact him with a few questions, then I'll remind her AGAIN to never plan personal contact with anyone - and she'll say the usual, 'I know, Gram!'
"If some of the common kid-stalking plots were available, I'd simply forward them to her so that she can be aware of how careful she needs to be. Thanks for all!"
[Editor's Note: In answer to Dee's good question about tricks chat predators use to get kids corresponding, please see our Dec. 15 feature on online chat. In the first set of "bullets," we list key things for which chatters of all ages need to be on the alert when they're in chatrooms - from Stephen Carrick-Davies, producer of ChatDanger.com.]
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Top kids' sites: Librarians' picks
It would be tough to find a better endorsement of a children's Web site than that of someone whose profession it is to know what's good for kids on the Web.
A committee of six such professionals - members of the Association for Library Service to Children (part of the American Library Association) - recently announced its 11 selections for "The 2001 Notable Children's Web Sites". They cover everything from Harry Potter to the California Gold Rush, from "Captain Underpants" to the young product testers at Consumer Reports's Zillions.org. The committee looks for sites that are "outstanding in both content and conception," "notable" meaning "of especially commendable quality," reflecting and encouraging young people's interests in exemplary ways."
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Web News Briefs
- Flawed filters finding
We all knew this, but a very credible voice has added its opinion to the fray. According to InternetNews.com, Consumer Reports has found that Internet filtering software fails to block one out of every five objectionable sites and asks parents how they'd feel about using a seatbelt that failed 20% of the time. The study, "Digital Chaperones for Kids," will be featured in the magazine's March issue, reports NandoTimes.com. Its timing is interesting, following shortly after US legislation was passed (last December), mandating filtering in schools and libraries. The law is being challenged in court by the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and The People for the American Way Foundation (see our report "ALA & the filtering law"). The AP quoted a senior editor of Consumer Reports suggesting that parents are buying the software thinking it keeps their kids' online experience smut-free.
- Tennis star virus
We hope you haven't already encountered the Kournikova virus. According to the Associated Press (via Boston.com), coming in the guise of an electronic photo of teen-age tennis star Anna Kournikova, the worm has "overwhelmed e-mail servers throughout Europe and North America." Note that it only spreads via Microsoft Outlook email software on Windows computers. Here's CNET.com's roundup on all aspects of this international story, including arrests made.
- Napster decision
The much-anticipated final ruling on Napster's fate wasn't final. According to TechWeb.com, the music-file-swapping service will not be shut down, but the federal appeals court in San Francisco did order Napster to stop the trading of copyrighted material on its service. Reports CNET, Napster's ultimate fate "may hinge on whether it is possible - or impossible - to effectively police [what happens] on the labyrinthine networks created by file-swapping software…. As it has in the past, Napster will likely argue in its next appeal that it is technologically impossible to conduct this policing at the massive level demanded by the recording studios." Here's CNET on what all this means for music fans, and here's the index page to Wired News's stories on all aspects of Napster and other Net music stories, including an overview of peer-to-peer alternatives.
- CARU fingers Altavista.com
The search engine/portal has jettisoned bulletin boards, chat rooms, and other online-community services because CARU found the site "too loose in preventing children from visiting adult-only areas," reports CNET.com. "CARU" stands for the US Better Business Bureau's Children's Advertising Review Unit.
- Net pedophile on the BBC
The BBC this week broadcast footage of Internet pedophile David Hines discussing his activities, reports TheRegister.com. Hines, who pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography trading over the Internet and Tuesday was sentenced to jail time, was part of a child porn ring called "The Wonderland Club." The BBC program looked at techniques investigators use to track pedophiles' activities. The Register piece includes a link (bottom of the page) to the BBC's transcript of the broadcast.
Meanwhile, the UK division of Yahoo updated its instant-messaging chat service software to disallow access to US-based adult Yahoo chat rooms, reports TheStandard.com. The move followed consultations with UK children's charities and Internet watchdog groups such as Childnet International and the Internet Watch Foundation, TheStandard added.
- Possible pedophile law in Michigan
It's another battlefield for privacy advocates and law enforcement. A proposed law in Michigan would require all free ISPs (such as NetZero) operating in Michigan to identify their subscribers. According to Wired News, the Wayne County Sheriffs Departments, which drafted the law, says it's needed to prosecute pedophiles. "If a pedophile uses a paid provider such as AOL, the department can subpoena the company for the person's payment records," Wired reports, while for free ISPs there's no credit card trail. Wired adds that, of the 33 felony arrests made by the department' Internet Crimes Task Force since it was formed in 1998, 70% have been for child pornography.
- The Net in child development
Psychologist and MIT professor Sherry Turkle has spent a lot of time observing online kids, and she has some fascinating things to say about the Net's emerging role in their lives. Some points made in a New York Times interview this week include: how the Net is replacing college as a place for experimentation and personal development; how its "dark side" can be a starting point for family values discussion; and how online hate can be used to teach kids about discrimination - not to mention critical judgment about what one reads.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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