Dear Subscribers:Here's our lineup this final full week of February:
- New online-safety program: 'NetSmartz', on-site & online
- A subscriber writes: Our family's online time
- Child porn in newsgroups: Landmark case
- Web News Briefs: 30 million online kids; E-rate's red tape; Tech industry on filtering; Student loans & e-learning; 'Net addiction'; Napster users guilty; Wire-free teens….
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)
Get your 'NetSmartz' here!
Kids, parents, and educators have a new "work space" on the Web to learn about online safety together. NetSmartz.org is an age-appropriate program created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with support from Compaq Computer Corporation.
The Web site uses sound- and video-streaming technologies to make it fun for kids to learn about - and avoid - "WizzyWigs" like "Follow-Me Fiona" (the scariest one, representing cyberstalkers and sexual predators), "Spamozoid" (who sends email to people he doesn't even know!), and "Oogle" (who uses your personal information to watch what you do on the Internet).
The WizzyWigs were designed for kids 8-12. Littler ones (ages 5-7) get introduced to "Webville's" Most Wanted (for crimes similar to the WizzyWigs') by "Clicky" the good guy. And WebWatchers, the section for 13-to-16-year-olds, includes CyberCrush, a serial about "Stacy Ellis" and friends at "Bluff High" (Chapter 1 available now). The section, still under construction, will also have online opinion polls, quizzes, an advice column, and "Express Yourself," where users can send NetSmartz-branded e-postcards to friends and share "embarrassing online moments." We can see that last feature developing a cult following!
NetSmartz.org is the Web companion to the NetSmartz Workshop, a program for Boys & Girls Clubs that combines a DVD-ROM of similarly high-tech and age-appropriate online-safety lessons for kids 5-19 to use in the clubs; an instructor's manual; Internet "basic training" for club instructors; and a help desk at the NCMEC for ongoing support. The program makes on-site online-safety instruction available to more than 3.3 million kids US-wide, including those who don't have PCs at home but still need Infobahn "street smarts" for online work in public spaces. It will be piloted this month at 50 clubs, soon rolling out to 2,800. Compaq's funding put the program on the Web for kids and parents worldwide. Here's the NCMEC's press release about the program.
Parents and educators, your feedback is always appreciated. If any of you use NetSmartz.org in your Netiquette or online-safety discussions, tell us how it works for you.
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A subscriber writes: Our family's online time
Subscriber and California mom Robin sent us some feedback recently after we asked subscribers how much time their families spend online. First she answered that question, then, after we asked her if she'd mind telling us what family members use the Net for, she kindly sent some details. We think she provides some interesting insights into how Web-literate families view the Net (e.g., note that it's a primary means of staying in touch during an extraordinary episode in their lives)….
"I am online 1/2 hr/day M-F and 5-6 hrs/wk, adding up to a total of about 8 hrs minimum. Then my husband goes online about 2-3 hrs/wk. And my son goes online about 1-2 hrs/wk. Altogether, our family goes online about 12 hrs/week."
Here's her second message:
"M-F I spend about 1/2 hr downloading stock prices and e-mail and uploading those that have accumulated. If I have time, I may investigate a stock. On weekends, or whenever I can stay awake well into the wee hours of the am, I surf the Net, going to stock Web sites as well as taking care of as much business as possible by Internet and investigating Web sites that people have referred to me. There's no way I could do it all. Web surfing is VERY time consuming and often leads me to an address that requires a USPS letter or a phone call anyway. I could have saved hours by skipping the Web surfing and just using the postal service or phone. I IM [instant-message] with the buddies on my Buddy List and keep up a brisk email exchange with people from a wide range of interpersonal connections.
"My husband does mostly email online and occasionally researches a product or stock. My son mainly goes to Nintendo sites to get codes for his Game Shark or to Pokemon sites. Most of his email exchanges are with his Independent Study Program teachers. At 12 years old, he still needs to be guided step-by-step on how to do Web-based research for his homework.
"Since we currently don't have a phone line of our own, we depend either on commercial Internet outlets, the public library, or friends' phones. Web surfing must be short and sweet when you're on someone else's phone. Although our address is listed as California, we are currently on an epic journey for a couple of years, and we have recently arrived in Tuscon, Arizona. We will be here for less than a week. While we are traveling, email is the main way to reach us."
[Editor's Note: Subscribers' own experiences on and lessons from using the Internet are always appreciated. Please send them to email@example.com.]
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Landmark child porn case
The charge to which a New York Internet service provider pled guilty this week was a misdemeanor, but it was a landmark case even so. According to the USIIA Bulletin, the ISP, BuffNet, was charged with criminal facilitation for providing child pornography by offering UseNet newsgroups to its customers. "New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer noted that the ISP failed to remove the offending child-porn related newsgroup, "Alt.Binaries.Pictures.Erotica.Preteen," even after law enforcement officials identified the content as being illegal and requested its removal." Newbytes.com covered the development, too.
We asked Dave McClure, president and CEO of the USIIA, a trade association for Internet businesses including ISPs, to explain the significance of this development, and his answer was so helpful we're publishing it here in full:
"The ruling was easy for the judge. It is ISPs who are confused on this issue. ISPs believe that if they simply subscribe to the entire list of newsgroups and then pass them along, without ever touching the contents or looking to see what is there, that they will in some way be protected from prosecution. Not so. The law says clearly that child pornography is illegal and is not protected free speech. If you possess more than three images, you go to jail. If you solicit the images to be transmitted or transmit them to another party, you go to jail.
"There are any number of legitimate discussion groups that touch on very sensitive areas of sexuality without violating the law. But a newsgroup entitled "Alt.Binaries.Pictures.Erotica.PreTeen" is exactly what its title suggests - a newsgroup of binary-formatted pictures of pre-teens for erotic purposes. Hard to confuse that with discussion on constitutionally protected speech…. Once law enforcement has notified an ISP of the specific illegal contents of a newsgroup, if the ISP fails to act to remove the offending material [as BuffNet did in the case reported this week], the ISP could be held liable under the law. ISPs who do not understand this need to read the law….
"From a more practical standpoint, why on earth would any ISP want to carry such content? Why would families subscribe to an ISP who would?"
Parents might want to look into whether their ISP provides newsgroups and, if so, what they are. To access newsgroups, you need "news reader" software, which is built into most leading email programs such as Outlook Express, Eudora, and Netscape and can be called up in both the Explorer and Netscape browsers.
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Web News Briefs
- 30 million online kids
There are now 30 million kids and teens online in the US, 45% of Americans under 18, according to the latest study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Almost three-quarters of middle and high school students (12-to-17-year-olds) have access and 29% of kids under 12 go online. It was the first time the Project reported on US kids' Net access. It also found that the number of American adults with Net access grew by 16 million in the last six months of 2000, "as women, minorities, and families with modest incomes continued to surge online. In all, more than 104 million adults had access to the Internet at the end of 2000." This report is part of an ongoing research project looking into the Internet's impact on Americans and US society. Here are a few more highlights:
- 56% of American adults now have Net access.
- On a typical day at the end of 2000, 58 million Americans were logging on - that's an increase of 9 million people in the daily Internet population from mid-year.
- There are notable increases in Internet access among women, minorities, those from households with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, and parents with children living at home. Those groups are also a bigger proportion of the Net's daily users.
- N2H2 & kids' data
N2H2, makers of filtering software used by 14 million students in 40% of US schools, has decided to stop gathering and selling data on kids' surfing habits. The news came out "after privacy groups howled and the Defense Department had second thoughts, the company disclosed Thursday," according to the Associated Press (via the New York Times ).
- E-rate's red tape
There appears to be a bit of a clog in the e-rate funding pipeline. It's not that the money isn't available, though. According to Wired News, the federal program designed to help wire schools and libraries "has a windfall of $1.3 billion in unspent funds, leaving some schools without the Net access that they may be entitled to … and some officials scratching their heads." The windfall figure comes from a recent report from the US General Accounting Office.
- Filtering: Tech industry's response
Consumer Reports didn't have the final word on Net filtering, of course. Late last week the high-tech industry's lobbying organization (the Information Technology Association of America, ITAA) issued a response to the consumer organization's just-issued report on filtering software. According to Newsbytes.com, the industry says the Consumer Reports article "ignores the fundamental utility of such tools and raises questions about the methods used in the study." The ITAA said Consumer Reports's "reliance on 86 'hand picked sites' was minute compared with the number of sites with problematic content that can be found online."
- Student loans & e-learning
US Rep. Johnny Istook (R-GA) has studied the subject thoroughly and has become a strong supporter of Web-based learning. According to the USIIA Bulletin, Representative Istook "says he will push to overturn regulations that curb the use of student loans for Web-based education. He notes that nearly every major university now uses e-learning as part of its mainstream curriculum, but a 1992 law bans them from federal student loans."
- Net addiction?
Some scholars object to the term, others are actively studying "Internet addictions" (online gambling, cybersex, multi-user games, etc.) to analyze their impacts. "For researchers, the hot question is whether the Internet is simply the latest 'drug' of choice for people who have compulsive inclinations or whether it creates problems for people who would otherwise be fully engaged with their families," reports FamilyPC. For example, the article - one of the most thorough treatments of the subject we've seen - cites data showing that "between 13% and 30% of all virtual affairs lead to real-life adultery." The article concludes with a look at ways to treat these problems. FamilyPC suggests that this piece is not recommended for kids under 12.
- Napster users: Guilty
They're like looters during an urban blackout, says a legal expert quoted by the New York Times. "Napster's 50 million users have engaged in a kind of mass looting by downloading and copying music files from the system without permission from the record companies." They're the "the primary infringers," the court indicated in its ruling, with Napster the "contributory infringer," according to attorney and Internet law expert Ian C. Ballon. It's just that the plaintiff is not about to go after 50 million "perpetrators." Meanwhile, Napster this week offered the record companies $1 billion over five years to settle the dispute, CNET.com reports. They're not impressed, Wired News reports. CNET also reports that an organization representing the global music industry "is developing software that will automatically detect people who are illegally swapping songs over the Internet - and is prepared to pass the information on to the police."
- Wire-free teens
Whatever parents think about it, teens are a plum market for all players in the wireless electronics industry. "Wireless service providers, handset makers, and game makers have all turned in earnest to the under-18 market for their hot new source of revenue," reports RedHerring.com. The article cites research showing that about 25% of 13-to-18-year-olds regularly use wireless phones, 68% by 2005, and teens 12-19 spend nearly $82 a week on entertainment, fashion, food, and technology. And another statistic, cited by ChildNet International, indicates that we've seen future and it's in the UK - where a whopping 75% of 14-to-18-year-olds have cell phones! As for adult wireless users in the US, the New York Times this week ran a piece that explains the realities of high-speed wireless access in the US - who will be able to get it, where, by when.
- PC Mag's picks
The magazine recently published its annual Top 100 Web sites. They come in mostly grownup categories such as News and Entertainment, Shopping, Careers, Travel, and Computing, but there are some great kids' sites in the Lifestyle and Fun category.
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P.O. Box 1283
Madison, CT 06443
That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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