Dear Subscribers:Don't forget to send in those nominations of kids who are doing great things on and with the Internet! Here's who we're looking for (lead item of the 5/25 issue). And here's our lineup for this first week of June:
- Family Tech: Could COPA actually protect online kids?
- Filtering in other languages
- Web News Briefs: The Net in libraries - more; ISP rate hikes; Avoiding identity theft; Students down on Net jobs; Child porn call to action; Teen sex gossip on Web; Alternative school newspapers; Napster's new life; Adoption & the Net….
Support us and shop at... Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software,
electronics, housewares, PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Reader Rabbit's 2nd Grade (Reg price $29.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
Toshiba Cordless Phone (Reg price $169.95, $79.97 after new Instant Rebate)
Sony Wireless Stereo Headphones (Reg price $99.99, $49.99 after Instant Rebate)
Family Tech: Could COPA protect online kids?
You won't find a better-thought-out opinion, from a parent's perspective, on legislating children's online protection than this week's column for the San Jose Mercury News by SafeKids.com's Larry Magid.
Because the US Supreme Court is reconsidering this issue at the urging of the Bush Administration's Justice Department (see our breaking-news item May 25), two basic questions have come up again: 1) the constitutionality of a law like the Children's Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998, and 2) whether it would actually protect online kids.
Many of us are aware of the high barrier that the US's free-speech rights place in front of any legislation involving publishing - online as well as in traditional media. In this sense, it's probably harder in the US to legislate protection of online kids than almost anywhere else in the world. It's fascinating, and fairly extraordinary, that the Supreme Court is revisiting this issue, and it will be equally interesting to find out (when arguments are heard next fall, at the earliest) why the Court is revisiting it and what it decides.
The other very practical question, which Larry also addresses, is how protective the law really is: "It applies only to commercial Web sites," he writes, "so it doesn't cover sites run by students on university servers or non-profit groups. It certainly can't be enforced when it comes to the many sites operating from overseas…. The law also doesn't apply to newsgroups, chat rooms, instant messages or other areas of the Internet where the real dangers lurk. So, as well meaning as COPA might be, it does very little to protect children."
Over a year ago, in a conversation we had on Capitol Hill with a congressional aide who drafts Net-related laws, we learned that lawmakers by then had moved beyond trying to legislate at the publishing end to writing legislation that focused on the user end. And direct evidence of this was CIPA (the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000), which mandates filtering in schools and libraries that receive federal e-rate funds - though it too is being challenged in the courts. Whatever its flaws or constitutional issues might be, CIPA addresses user protection rather than publisher restriction by controlling what children are exposed to. The fact that the Supreme Court is going all the way back to 1998 and the publisher end of things (by revisiting COPA) makes the forthcoming decision that much more interesting.
All of this is just the American part of the unfolding story of this huge new medium's impact on the world's children. We say "huge," because the Internet is really many media - publishing, communications, broadcast, etc. - affecting many parts of life: education, consumer privacy, economics, ethics, and so on. We'd love to hear from those of you outside the US about how you feel online kids are best protected.
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Filtering in other languages
A German-speaking interpreter in Switzerland contacted us recently about a new, multilingual filtering software product made in Japan. We're just savoring the sheer internationalism illustrated here! The product, called "Kids GoGoGo," filters on Macintosh computers in English, German, Spanish, and Japanese. Its makers are Maki Enterprise, Inc. in Tokushima, Japan.
Like many filtering products, the software uses both keyword and database blocking technologies, meaning it blocks material that contains key words specified as objectionable and it checks all URLs against a "black list" database of Web sites (users can add keywords and objectionable URLs to be blocked). The database, which Maki says now has some 500,000 objectionable sites in it, is updated biweekly, and the software provides an update button the user can click for free automatic updates. The software also monitors and records online activity. There's a 2-week trial copy that can be downloaded from the Maki site. If any of you try it, email us what you think!
Here are other non-English filtering products we've found:
ContentBarrier - Filtering in French and English by Paris-based Intego software makers. Interestingly, this product too is for Macintosh computers only.
Optionet for the Home - filtering for Windows PCs by San Sebastian, Spain-based software company, Edunet. The product is available in Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, German, and Italian (product-description Web pages are also available in these languages - here's the Spanish version, Optenet). The company also provides Internet service in some countries.
This item is by no means comprehensive. If any of you have tried software that filters in non-English languages - at home or school - do email us what you think (please include addresses of their companies' Web sites).
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Web News Briefs
- More on the Net in MN libraries
Here's thoughtful - and sobering - coverage by the New York Time's Cyber Law Journal of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's decision in favor of a group of Minnesota librarians. It provides insights into the difficulties some librarians are experiencing in libraries that have chosen not to install filtering software on connected computers. The piece also discusses the Minneapolis Public Library's new Net-access policy and how it has improved the situation. This one should not be missed; it clarifies the breaking-news item we ran last week: "Librarians & workplace porn".
- Filter maker: Filtering law not needed
As Massachusetts lawmakers were debating whether or not to require libraries statewide to install filtering software on their computers, SurfControl issued a statement calling such a law unnecessary. According to CNET, SurfControl said most schools and many libraries already have filtering, but - more important - the decision should be made locally, "not handed down from state or federal governments."
And the South Dakota state government doesn't approve of filters either, apparently. According to Wired News, instead of installing filters to keep employees from "messing around" on the Web, it's chosen a more old-fashioned deterrent: unemployment!
- ISP rates rising
At least eight national Internet service providers have raised their rates in the past few weeks, according to the USIIA Bulletin. America Online started the trend with a 9% rate hike. It was joined by Comcast (12.5%), AT&T Broadband (15%), and Verizon and other DSL providers (20%). "Microsoft's MSN is deliberately holding the line on prices in the hopes of attracting defectors from AOL," the Bulletin adds. And Walmart, the reports says, is offering a cheaper alternative, Walmart Connect, at less than $10 a month, coming to a Walmart near you this fall. Meanwhile, if anyone does switch ISPs, here are some tips from ZDNet on dealing with the toughest part of the experience: getting your email moved over to that new email address. The tips aim to make the process go as smoothly as possible. ZDNet also points out an email re-routing service that - for $10 for the first month and $25 for three - will do the email-switching work for you.
As for ISPs themselves, New York-based Juno and California-based NetZero just announced their plan to merge, making the resulting company the second-biggest Net service provider after AOL. Internet.com has the story.
- How to avoid identity theft online
The process sounds both a bit exhaustive and quite effective. For identity-protection tips, ZDNet interviewed Beth Givens, "a woman who turned a career in library science into a mission to help people protect themselves from privacy-related crimes."
- US students: 'No thanks' to dot-com jobs
A recent survey shows that far fewer undergraduate and MBA students in are saying they'd like to work in the Internet industry this year than did last year, Nua Internet Surveys reports. The study, by WetFeet Internet recruiters, found that only 5% of the students polled ranked the Internet industry as the "hottest industry," down from 36% last year. "Management consulting is now seen as the best option for students" (with 17% choosing it this year, 2% last), followed by pharmaceuticals and biotechnology (12% this year, 3% last) and investment banking (11% this year, 3% last).
- Child porn: Call to crack down
Even this absolutely legitimate MSNBC opinion piece, about two blatant child porn sites and what's not being done about them, is not easy to read. But it's a call for action; it updates law enforcement's challenge statistically; and it spotlights a "one-man child porn wrecking crew," a nonprofit organization called "Better a Millstone" that is "dedicated to hunting down and making life miserable for child pornographers."
- Teen sex gossip on the Web
"It used to be the stuff of locker rooms, bathroom walls, and little black books," reports the New York Times. Now the names, phone numbers, and embarrassing personal information about classmates are being posted on the Web, and law enforcement is getting involved. The Times cites two schools in the New York area, one of whose students put up a page where peers could vote among 150 names for "most promiscuous." In another such case, two students have been charged with aggravated harassment. Please see our April 20 feature "Kids & Net ethics" for information on a book that might help prevent behavior like this.
- Alternative school 'newspapers'
Then there are some student efforts on the Web that are shaking things up in a very different, possibly worthwhile way: in the underground version of high school newspapers. According to the New York Times, "some underground Web sites run by students are serious journalism efforts, while others are simply the rantings of teenagers. A few alternative publications have joined together on Web portals, like those at www.alternet.org/wiretapmag and void.oblivion.net/~ugpapers, to increase their exposure. An underground publication at a South Carolina high school broke an article about how a businessman was looking to buy the land the school sits on." In other cases, students are trying to keep discussion about school violence and how to handle it going, while administrators are trying to shut it down.
- Beware the Web's anonymity
What many Weblog (online diary) readers worldwide thought was a courageous teenager's tragic life and death turned out to be a highly detailed, serial hoax. The New York Times chronicles what was fact, what was fiction, and lessons learned from those caught up in "Kaycee Nicole Swenson's" story (written by the mother of two real teenage girls).
Also from the "Watch What You Say on the Internet" Department, the Times Sunday magazine's "The Way We Live Now" column provides graphic examples of what the Web can do for (or really to) "virtual boors" - people who put locker-room talk in email and on the Web. What one young man working for a financial firm in Seoul shared with 11 coworkers via email "ricocheted across the planet faster than Pokemon, appended with comments like 'one blazing moron' and 'he is the laughingstock of the world.' " He also lost his job.
- Napster's new life
Of course British news media never mince words; as TheRegister.com puts it, "Napster signs away its soul" in the deal it just signed with the three major record companies (AOL Time Warner, EMI, and BMG Entertainment) that got together and created MusicNet. "The deal will see Napster relaunch in name only as a subscription-based service," The Register adds. Here's TheStandard.com with a stateside version of that story.
- Adoption & the Net
There's an upside and a downside to adopting children with the Internet's help. The upside is the tremendous research tool the Net represents. The downside is its anonymity. "The Internet is a helpful tool for people in the adoption market," reports Wired Newssidebar asks the logical question: "Adopt-a-Kid Lists: Too Public?" Wired is referring to resources like the New York's State Adoption Service Web site. The piece offers links to this and other adoption services on the Web.
- US Web use still growing
Though dot-coms and share values are diminishing, Net use is only growing - and diversifying, according to CyberAtlas. CyberAtlas cites The Media Audit, "a syndicated survey of both online and traditional media in more than 80 markets," based on 350,000 phone review conducted annually for the past three years. Findings include:
- 44% of African-American households are now on the Web, a 41% increase during the past three years.
- 42% of Hispanic households are now online, a 45% increase.
- 63% of Asians were logging on in 1998 and 70% in 2000, exceeding white households, now just above 58%.
- Nearly 25% of retired households are online, an increase of 84% since '98.
- Online blue collar workers increased from 29% in '98 to 44% in 2000.
- 44% of working mothers were online in '98, 63% in '00.
- And single parents online increased from 35% to 49% during that period.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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