Dear Subscribers:Can it be June already?! Don't forget to send in your examples of "Great Thinks Kids Do on the Internet" (for details, see last week's issue). We appreciate any contacts you send in - at your house or school, or just a great Net-savvy kid you know of. And that address is email@example.com!! Here's our lineup for this final full week of May:
- Protecting kids' privacy: KidsRunning.com
- Digital-divide 'toolkit'
- Web News Briefs: Librarians & Net porn; Minor CIPA victory; Pedophile arrest in Italy; Net porn 'marginal'?; SMS & mobile phones; New book on 'indecency' history; Schools & tech; Singapore parents; 'Advergames'; EC's online-safety site; Gurl.com's move….
- Class of 2001
- In the Food for Thought department
Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software, housewares,
PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
VTech Cordless Phone (Reg price $57.95, $27.95 after Instant Rebate)
JumpStart Numbers Ages 5-7 (software) (Reg price $29.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
Advent Wireless Speaker System (Reg price $199.99, $99.99 after Instant Rebate)
How KidsRunning.com protects kids' privacy
Would that every kids' Web site put as much care into COPPA compliance as KidsRunning.com has. This Web site for young runners (4-12) is produced by first-grade teacher, runner (and now kids'-privacy expert) Carol Goodrow for Runner's World magazine. We wonder how they found such a qualified Webmaster - Carol does all the site's content, art, and HTML code in her spare time, when she's not teaching and running! Some parents have written in to tell how the site has changed their kids' lives.
That's a long way of saying there's something reassuring about the simple, low-tech system KidsRunning.com has arrived at, through careful research, for obtaining parents' permission for their kids to interact with the site, under COPPA (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission). And there's no mystery to COPPA. It's simply designed to put parents of kids under 13 in the driver's seat when it comes to the information their kids give Web sites. The law requires virtually any site with content attractive to children to…
These requirements don't mean anything very complicated to parents (in fact COPPA requires sites to keep it simple!). They basically mean two things for us: 1) We need to be as alert to where our children are going in cyberspace as in our physical neighborhoods, and 2) if, in the interactive sites our kids spend time in, we don't see prominently placed privacy policies or those other COPPA requirements in the list above, we should steer our kids to alternatives that we and they can find on the Web together.
- Display their privacy policies prominently
- Make those policies explain thoroughly everything the site does with info kids send in
- Get parents' permission to use children's personal information
- Give parents access to information collected from their child
- Allow them to delete their child's information and to opt out of any future collection of it.
- Limit the information collected from a child
- Give clear notice to parents when their consent is needed.
For example, the "permission slip" parents send in to Kids Running allows children to send in their running stories, journal entries, artwork, and questions about fitness and have their contributions posted on the site's pages (with only first names and states of residence). The "Log-a-Mile" program is the site's most popular (we love the Hundred Mile Chart), and Carol's personal favorite is "Run the Seasons" because it adds lessons in math, language arts, science, and art to kids' running experiences.
The site's parental consent process is supremely simple (described here): Parents print out the form, sign it, and send it in via snail mail. Carol checks all children's submissions against the parental-consent list she keeps in a notebook by her computer. That personal attention does say that the site's traffic isn't huge yet, but it also says a lot about the control its Webmaster has over what happens to kids' information and submissions. Because recreational running is just one interest your child might have, KidsRunning.com is just one Web site s/he might frequent. But it's sites like this one - with which kids might spend a good deal of time interacting and sharing their personal experiences - that need parents' attention and consent most.
For further information, here is kids'-online-privacy information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for all interest groups: parents, kids, teachers and Web publishers.
As a Web publisher, Carol also found an FTC slide presentation to Congress very helpful and, almost as useful, the Commission's FAQ on the subject. Do share your kids' privacy concerns with us.
Other examples: 3 kids' privacy guarantee programs
Incidentally, another organization, TRUSTe, was just accepted by the FTC into its "Safe Harbor" program, joining the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Better Business Bureau and ESRB Privacy Online of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Newbytes.com has the story.
What this means is that children's sites that are members of these organizations' privacy-seal programs are guaranteed to be in compliance with COPPA. For an example of companies (with kids' sites) complying with COPPA under one of these programs, have a look at ESRB Privacy Online's Participating Companies. Our coverage of COPPA's first birthday can be found in "Kids' online privacy: A report card."
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In a very practical way, a group of US nonprofit organizations are going right to the heart of bridging the digital-divide: policymaking. They've put together a "toolkit for action" to give state and local policymakers everything they need to develop "policies that increase young Americans' access to the benefits of the Internet and other information technologies," according to the campaign's overview.
The toolkit includes…
- "State-by-State Fact Sheets" on youth and digital-divide issues
- A California "State Policy Model" with "actual language" for policymakers from a proposal currently under consideration
- A "National Fact Sheet" with the "latest data about US kids and families online at home, in school, in the community"
- A "National Policy Agenda, providing a framework and program examples
- An "Online Resource Companion" with links to related organizations and Web sites.
The organizations involved are The Children's Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Center for Policy Alternatives, National Urban League, and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
We've mentioned it before, but it's very relevant here: direct help for computer-less kids who will be looking for Net access over the summer. It's the Digital Divide Network's English and Spanish searchable database of at least 20,000 locations US-wide that offer free Internet access. Here's a New York Times piece about ConnectNet.org and Conectado.org.
And here's an essay from Compaq CEO Michael Capellas in the New York Times with his personal feelings about youth, technology, and the digital divide.
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Web News Briefs
- Librarians & workplace porn
This week saw "a new twist in the fight against mandatory Web filtering," CNET reports. They're referring to a preliminary finding by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in favor of a complaint by 12 librarians in Minneapolis that the accessing of Net porn by library patrons subjects them to a "sexually hostile work environment." CNET adds that, according to the American Library Association (ALA), 25% of US public libraries use filtering software. CNET cites legal experts' views that the EEOC finding will have little to do with the free-speech fight over a law, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed last December requiring schools and libraries receiving federal e-rate funds to block content inappropriate for minors. The ALA and civil liberties organizations are challenging the law in court. A Newsbytes story on this development takes a thorough look at filters' flaws and civil liberties organizations' objections to filtering. To zoom in on librarians' experiences with the Net in another US state, Montana, please see the lead feature our Jan. 26 issue. Any librarians who'd like to support or counter these views, do email us.
- CIPA in libraries: Small reprieve
While we're discussing CIPA, the law's challengers (among them the ALA) won a "minor victory" this week, according to Newsbytes. "Public libraries that receive federal funding for Internet access will have an extra year to decide whether to stop accepting the funds or to comply with a new law requiring Internet content filters on all computers, under the terms of an agreement reached by the US government and groups fighting the law," reports Newsbytes. The piece makes no mention of schools.
- Pedophile arrest in Italy
Our thanks to QuickLinks for alerting us to a London paper's report on the recent arrest of "six suspected paedophiles accused of planning 'terrorist' attacks on people engaged in Italy's fight against child sexual abuse." According to the Daily Telegraph, police uncovered plans to kill magistrates, priests, and police officers and information on how to make bombs and wage guerrilla warfare. Among the arrested were two former policemen and a porter at a primary school in Rome who is alleged to have made school rooms available to the pedophiles for filmmaking purposes. (Please see "Net pedophilia exposed" in our March 23 issue for mention of and link to other coverage of Italy's crusaders against child pornography.) In an unrelated pedophile case, a priest in New York state has been arrested on Net pedophilia charges, the New York Times reports.
- Net porn 'marginal'?
While we're on the subject, Forbes recently looked at how big an industry porn, including Net porn, really is, suggesting that "it's as marginal as it ever was." On Net pornography's popularity, Forbes cites (Net market researcher) NetRatings figures showing that "in April 2001, there were 22.9 million unique visitors to porn sites,… less than the number who visited news sites (41.1 million), finance sites (34.2 million) or greeting card sites (25.5 million). When was the last time you heard anyone talk about how greeting card sites dominate the Net?" Our thanks to QuickLinks in England for pointing this piece out.
- 'TXTMSGRQL,' they say
That headline is actually a typical message on a mobile phone (usually called "cell phones" in the US). Translated, it means "Text messages are cool," which many teenagers - so far mostly outside the US - believe to be true, according to BIGScoop.net, a service for inventors that tracks youth trends. SMS (for "Short Messaging Service") has become "the coolest of the cool in Europe," reports BIGScoop," "There, where the number of teen mobile phone owners is head and shoulders above that of the US." The piece includes a brief guide to SMS lingo, many of which phrases can also be found in teen online chat. In fact, SMS is becoming so big in Europe, Wired News reports, that Britain's Guardian newspaper recently held a contest for the best poetry on mobile phones - written, of course, in SMS.
The bad news is that SMS's very popularity means that advertising, aka "spam," on mobile phones is expected to take off this year, the BBC reports.
- 3 schools serious about tech
For a closeup on how two schools in Connecticut are using tech and how that use is affecting them, see a New York Times piece about "inner-suburban Carmen Arace Middle School and rural Kent Center School. Both provide laptops for school *and* home use by students in their laptop programs. And across the country in Brothers, Oregon, there's a one-room K-8 school in which all 18 students have laptops too, each with a wireless high-speed Internet connection. Wired News has the Brothers School story. Both stories provide insights into how US communities and educators are thinking about young people's futures. Teachers and administrators, your own stories about tech-in-classroom/school/community would be so welcome! Do email us.
- PowerPoint in the classroom
Some adults are bowled over by the concentration they see on young PowerPoint users' faces. Others "are concerned that too many students will become fixated on fonts and formats without actually thinking about what they are typing next to all those bullets," says the New York Times in a report on the nationwide classroom invasion of Microsoft's popular business presentation software.
- EC's online-safety Web site; EU privacy plans
The European Community's new SaferInternet.org is packed with kids'-online-safety-related news and information from both sides of The Pond. According to Newsbytes.com, "clearly the site's central focus is on efforts to mold the European legal and regulatory framework on these issues." In somewhat related news, Reuters reports (via iWon Internet News) that Internet founding father Vint Cerf says this week that "European Union plans for new rules to fight crime on the Web risked clashing with existing EU privacy regulations…. He told Reuters in an interview that Internet traffic should be retained only for billing purposes and was too cumbersome to be stored for police investigations."
- Singapore parents trust online kids
A recent survey of parents in Singapore found that 81% trust their children to behave responsibly online, "in spite of being concerned about dangers such as addiction, porn, and violent," reports Newsbytes.com. The study also found that Singaporeans prefer to use education (as opposed to tech solutions such as filtering, we assume) for problems with Net content. The report adds that all Singapore Internet service providers must provide a "Family Access Network" (FAN) filtering service, which customers can choose to use. Sixty-four percent of parents in the survey were aware of FAN; of those, 81% subscribe to FAN. Meanwhile, Asia "leads the world in Internet activity," CNN.com reports, with South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan leading the region, in that order. Another report, from Beijing's People's Daily, says China has 30 million people online. For comparison purposes, look at Net-use growth in Thailand: Nua Internet Surveys cites a South China Morning Post report saying that the number of Net users in Thailand is expected to double just this year to 4.6 million, partly because of greater Internet access in schools there.
- Beware 'advergames'
They're free Web "mini-games" and they're replacing banner ads in Web sites in popularity, probably as much for kids as for advertisers and Web publishers. According to Newsday (via BrainerdDispatch.com) , "the slickest of these interactive commercials incorporate 'assets' of a product or a brand name in the title and action of a 3-D mini-game that's sufficiently entertaining to bring players back for return visits." The piece gives a number of examples of these games.
- New book on history of 'indecency'
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has just introduced Not in Front of the Children, a new book that "explores the … history of 'indecency' laws and other restrictions aimed at protecting youth." The NCAC's introduction suggests that "there is an urgent need for informed, dispassionate debate about the perceived conflict between the free-expression rights of young people and the widespread urge to shield them from expression that is considered harmful. Not in Front of the Children will spur this long-needed conversation."
- Gurl.com fans may see changes
Girls' retailer dELiA*s Corp. has sold its gURL.com to Primedia, publishers of Seventeen, Tiger Beat, and other magazines targeting teens, reports Internet.com. According to a more in-depth piece at Silicon Alley Daily, the Primedia magazines' Web versions could never attract teens the way gURL and other designed-for-the-Web sites could; e.g., Seventeen.com's April traffic was 288,000 unique visitors while gURL.com's was 559,000.
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Class of 2001: Student loans vs. MyRichUncle.com; Net-use data
In these days of ever-rising college tuition, there is now an alternative to student loans: MyRichUncle.com. The service's "network of investors … will help finance a student's undergraduate or graduate education, and, upon graduation, the student must pay the company a percentage of their income for up to 15 years," Wired News reports. There is no principle or interest involved, there's fixed cap on the percentage of income that will be applied, and - if a student is temporarily unemployed during the specified period after graduation - payments can be deferred.
It does appear that the timing is right for an alternative. In "Diplomas, hugs, and a mountain of debt," the Christian Science Monitor reports that a tight job market and record levels of college loans to repay are forcing graduates to adjust their expectations.
And this week turned up some fresh Net-use data on these newly minted graduates: Almost 100% of them are online, and time they spend on the Net has nearly doubled from 6 to 11 hours a week since they entered university, according to Harris Interactive. Here are some other interesting Net-related findings about Gen 2001 (born between 1979 and 2001):
- Four out of five turn on their computers instead of the radio (57%) or TV (55%) to get news and information. Newspapers and magazines are the least favored (37% and 39%, respectively) news sources.
- Nine out of 10 send and receive e-mails on a daily or frequent basis; 13% write letters by hand.
- 54% have visited career-planning Web site Monster.com, and significant numbers have frequented other such sites, including myjobs.com, Headhunter.net, and JobDirect.com.
- Though they express some concerns regarding isolation created by the Internet, 78% of college grads say it has brought them closer to the world.
- Only 23% are concerned about their online privacy and security, roughly half the proportion found among the general US connected population.
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In the Food for Thought department
- "Granddaughters of Feminism" at Demographics.com
Who are these "Gen Y feminists"? American Demographics says "They have access, on average, to 62 TV channels, not to mention the Internet, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones - increasing the avenues through which advertisers can reach them. Most important, they are the first generation to take women's equality for granted." One researcher likened today's feminism to fluoride - you don't notice it; it's in the water.
As for young females (ages 7-24) and the Internet: "Beware the power of a Gen Y woman scorned. Word of mouth is intense among this group, and will continue to be so as they mature, thanks to the Internet…. For Gen Y girls, it's all about connecting - to each other and to a greater purpose. That seems to be why sites like ChickClick.com are doing so well. The 3-year-old Web site invites its more than 7 million unique visitors each month - many between the ages of 13 and 17 - to chat about everything from going to college to starting a business." American Demographics quotes one marketer in calling Gen Y "the Participation Generation." And there's a fund of interesting data and info here going beyond surfing habits.
- "The Organization Kid" in The Atlantic's April issue
You may well have seen the April cover story, but for it writer David Brooks went to Princeton University "to see what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like." Who knows if he found a representative sample, but what he did find - in multiple conversations with students as well as faculty - makes for fascinating discussion on baby boomers as parents; the values and plans of today's economic and academic elite, at least on the US's East Coast; and the place (or non-existence?) of character education these days.
If any of you have food for thought, do send it in with URL(s) of original material.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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