October 5, 2001
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Here's our lineup for this first week of October (don't miss the recommendations in our feature on constructive Net use in school):
- Family Tech: Making family videos better
- Constructive school Net use in a nutshell, Part 2
- US teens on terrorist attacks
- Web News Briefs: SF bans library filtering; How the NCMEC helps kids; Net 'myths' dispelled; Email turns 30; Girls' site settles with FTC; 500 million online....
- The MP3 struggle continues
Support us and shop at... Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software,
electronics, housewares, PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Amazing T-Shirt Design Kit on CD-ROM (Regularly $9.99, FREE after Instant Rebate)
Typing Instructor Deluxe (Regularly $9.99, FREE after Instant Rebate)
Travel Alarm Clock (Regularly $11.99, FREE after Instant Rebate)
Family Tech: Making family videos better
It really isn't that hard to get rid of the "out-takes" of home videos - "footage of the inside of my lens cap and of my feet, not to mention scenes of my kids crying, yelling, or dribbling" and "those long zooms of people I no longer recognize and lots of other junk footage," as dad and SafeKids.com founder Larry Magid put it.
In this week's Family Tech column, he writes that, "if you bought a video camera in the last year or so, it could very well be a digital video (DV) camera that makes it relatively easy to transfer video from your camera to your PC or Mac." And that means you can edit out all that superfluous footage and not only create something you and relatives would actually want to watch, but digital video that can easily be shared with loved ones via the Net. Larry explains how.
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Part 2: Constructive school Net use in a nutshell
As promised last week, here is a basic outline for age-appropriate Internet use in school. These recommendations - from educator, lawyer, and CIPA expert Nancy Willard of the University of Oregon's "Responsible Netizen" project - are timely, as US schools are working out - for an October 27 interim deadline - how to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). We also think the recommendations are an important service as talking points for a discussion required in the US but very much needed in schools worldwide. (But tell us what you think!)
[A note to parents: Nancy suggests to us that if we go to public hearings about CIPA and hear school administrators say, "We've installed this technology measure to ensure your child's safety," don't leave it there! Ask questions - such as, how filtering software will ensure that safety, not to mention constructive Internet use by students - because filtering just doesn't do the job (see Part 1 for reasons why).]
- Safe Internet places/educational portals only (curriculum-based white lists of links compiled by educators, ideally those from own school district (not AOL@School, e.g., Nancy said).
- Over-the-shoulder teaching and supervision. "This is especially crucial if a school chooses to use the ICRA ratings approach," Nancy said. "But, as a Consumers Union study showed, 1 in 5 porn sites were not blocked [by the popular filters it analyzed]. So regardless of what system a school uses, more should be done to keep kids in safe places. We cannot expect elementary school students to have the necessary knowledge and skills to make safe choices."
Middle and high school:
- Still primarily use the educational portal, but allow access, as necessary, to materials "out there" on the open Internet.
- Implement 3-part Internet proficiency/safety education: 1) specific instruction about avoiding inadvertent access of inappropriate content (and what to do if accidentally accessed); 2) Internet safety and responsible-use rules; and 3) integration of discussions about sex, violence, hate groups, etc. into general school curricula where appropriate (e.g., sex education, social sciences, ethics).
- Decrease supervision as appropriate for grade level and individual students, especially with use of a good monitoring system (software and human) and with implementation of Internet ed program in #2. Use of an Internet proficiency test could be used to grant students who pass it a level of trust that allows minimal supervision.
All grade levels:
- CIPA-compliant filtering/blocking software. "My preference is the ICRA* system [International Content Rating Association, ICRA.org]," Nancy said, "because I believe that this effectively addresses the concerns about over-blocking and is an adequate technology protection measure if, and only if, the other components are in place." She adds that another benefit of using the Web rating system is that it costs nothing, freeing up resources for the rest of the program. But she also advises schools to check with local legal counsel on CIPA compliance.
- Monitoring software (which detects accidental vs. intentional use of inappropriate material and whether students are obeying school acceptable-use policies/contracts).
- Human supervision of Internet use, appropriate to grade level and individual students, but some human supervision in all cases.
- Internet training for all school staff who are involved in academics.
* To configure the Internet Explorer browser to recognize content ratings, go into or launch the browser, click on "Tools" at the top of your screen, then "Internet Options," then the "Content" tab. Then simply click on "Enable" in the "Content Advisor" window at the top there. Netscape 6 doesn't recognize the ratings (yet, we hope), but Netscape 4.7 does. ICRA.org explains how to set Netscape 4.7 under where you click on "Parents: How to Use ICRA" on its home page. (The site is in "frames," so we're sorry we can't give you the direct URL.)
For further reading
- Nancy's complete school planning guide for CIPA compliance is available here.
- PC Magazine's "Clean It Up" looks at about a dozen Internet examples of filtering hardware and software designed for home, school, and office - though it lumps school in with "the corporate market" for Internet filtering, which is exactly what Nancy Willard said schools need to avoid. Convenient is the Editor's Choice chart right on the first page (linked to here), with Cybersitter 2001 (home) and St. Bernard iPrism (work) leading the editors' ratings.
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US teens' views on terrorist attacks
Last month Harris Interactive took time from its regular research schedule to find out what US teenagers think about the September 11 terrorist attacks - what may well be the defining event of their generation.
The nationwide poll of 640 teens (ages 13-18) asked them about their worries about terrorism, as well as their views on how the US should respond and on sacrificing personal freedoms (the full results can be downloaded in pdf format):
- 69% of them were worried the US might go to war, as opposed to the 50% worried that terrorism might strike near them (the No.2 worry of four).
- However, 69% support military action "against those responsible for the September 11 attacks" (78% for teen boys and 61% for teen girls).
- Support falls substantially if military involvement means US service people will be killed (50% boys, 24% girls) or if it means civilians will be killed (43% boys, 19% girls).
- 79% feel that those responsible for the attacks will be found and punished.
- 36% feel that the government will be able to prevent things like this from happening again.
Another poll, of 8-to-18-year-olds nationwide, "found that America's youth give high marks to President Bush, their parents, the media, and their teachers for helping them understand and cope with that tragedy," Harris Interactive found. Nearly half (49%) of 8-to-9-year-olds said their teachers have been talking about the crisis in class, and 71% said they have continued to discuss it with their parents; 21% said their teachers are avoiding the subject, but just 5% said their parents are avoiding discussion. Actions the respondents said they have taken since 9/11: 62% prayed; 60% have bought, flown, or displayed an American flag; 39% have donated money to relief efforts; 37% have attended a prayer or memorial service; 30% have cried.
A separate report in the Christian Science Monitor indicates that one reaction to September 11 by youth at the college and university level is the desire to get informed. The Monitor reports that it's "standing room only" in some US university classes on Islam, the Arabic language, and Middle Eastern studies, and new courses in these fields are in the works.
What views have teens in your home or classroom expressed - do email us via email@example.com.
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Web News Briefs
- San Francisco bans library filtering
This week San Francisco became the first US municipality to openly prohibit Internet filtering in its public libraries. The vote of the city's board of supervisors was unanimous, CNET reports, adding that the legislation does include an amendment saying the filtering ban does not apply to Net-connected computers exclusively for children's use (kids under 13). Wired News reports that, with this decision in favor of noncompliance with the 2000 Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the library system's budget loses relatively little - about $20,000 out of the system's $50 million budget. CIPA requires schools and libraries receiving federal "e-rate" connectivity funding to install filtering or blocking software on all connected computers. The library part of the law is being challenged in the courts by the American Library Association and civil liberties organizations.
- How the NCMEC helps kids
Read this profile of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CTO, Rick Minicucci, at CIO.com and learn a number of things:
- How the NCMEC uses technology to help kids.
- What it's like to work for this cause.
- How the Center works with law-enforcement agencies in the US and about a dozen other countries to track down missing children and prosecute pedophiles and child pornographers.
- How a smart nonprofit organization can partner with large companies to get the kind of support it really needs.
For more on the NCMEC's role in helping online kids, see "Online kids at risk: Who can help" in our 2/9/01 issue. In an emergency, go directly to the Center's CyberTipline.com or call 1-800-843-5678 (phone and online methods get equally effective results).
- 'Internet myths' dispelled
For anyone interested in the Internet's history, evolution, and/or sociology, this piece in MIT's Technology Review is not to be missed. It explains why, contrary to what we've all heard so many times, the Internet can be controlled and why "those who argue otherwise are hastening the day when it will be controlled too much, by the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons." Writer Charles Mann takes on the three "myths" that the Net is "Too International to Be Controlled," "Too Interconnected to Control," and "Too Filled with Hackers to Control." One example he gives is BearShare, a music file-sharing program that is supposed to be the perfect solution to Napster (because it "links together a constantly changing, ad hoc collection of users" and thus has no central index or database like Napster's former one to which recording companies can attach lawsuits). The problem is, the very popularity of BearShare and Gnutella (on which BearShare and other file-sharing programs are based) has had the effect of creating the kind of central repositories that recording companies can sue or seize as evidence. In the article, Mann explains why under Myth #2. He's also great at explaining the guts of Internet peer-to-peer (or P2P) technology - a real service.
- Privacy-violating girls' site
LisaFrank.com, a girls' site that revolves around selling Lisa Frank toys, stationery, and school supplies, reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission this week. The FTC said the site will pay $30,000 in fines for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act [COPPA]," reports WashingtonPost.com, adding: "The FTC said that the company asked children to register personal information before using many areas on its Web site, including the 'club' and 'shop' areas. Information that the company sought included first and last names, phone numbers, birth dates and both street and email addresses." COPPA requires sites to obtain parental consent before asking children under 13 for personal information. [Readers, if you run into sites that you believe are violating kids' privacy, email us their URLs!
- Email turns 30
Email as we know it started with a mere "200 lines of code," its creator told Reuters this week (via Wired News). Engineer Ray Tomlinson, at BBN in Massachusetts, wrote that code, which he modestly says was simply a combination of two existing programs - "one computer program to enable file transfers and a second crude messaging program," Reuters reports, adding: "But the programs had flaws. The message program only enabled a user to send a communique to a colleague's mailbox as long as that mailbox was on the same computer as the sender's. Mr. Tomlinson got around this by creating remote personal mailboxes that could send and receive messages via a computer network. He also conceived the now-famous "@" symbol to ensure a message was sent to a designated recipient."
- 'Teens love to text'
This week Britain's The Guardian describes the huge phenomenon among UK teens that is SMS messaging. "A recent survey by Sheffield Hallam University found that 90% of 11-to-16-year-olds had mobile phones," The Guardian reports, citing another study showing that UK 7-to-16-year-olds sent 12 million text messages a day last April. The paper adds that TV broadcasters have figured this trend out and are beginning to exploit it. Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this piece out.
- Net porn on Supreme Court agenda
In its new term, which started this week, the US Supreme Court will consider two cases involving Internet pornography and kids, reports Reuters (via Yahoo News). In one case, the justices will consider the government's appeal aimed at allowing it to enforce the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which would require commercial Web site operators to impose electronic proof-of-age systems before allowing users to view material deemed harmful to minors. The other case is about "whether it violates free-speech rights to extend the reach of a federal child pornography law to computer-generated images that do not involve real children," Reuters reports.
- Half a billion online
"The number the number of people with Internet access around the world is 513.41 million. Give or take a few million," estimates Nua Internet Surveys. It puts North America's figure at 180.68 million and Europe and Asia at 154.63 million and 143.99 million, respectively. "Far, far away on the other side of the digital divide are Latin America (25.33 million), the Middle East (4.65 million), and Africa (4.15 million)." Nua adds. As for Internet penetration, Sweden has the highest rate at 63.55%, followed by Iceland at 60.79%, the US at 55.32%, and Hong Kong 54.5%. "Completing the Top 10 are the Netherlands (54.44%), Norway (54.4%), Australia (52.49%), Taiwan (51.85%), and Singapore (49.3%).
- FTC's 'mousetrapping' crackdown
The crackdown began in earnest this week, when the US Federal Trade Commission filed charges of unfair trade practices against a Pennsylvania-based operator of more than 5,500 Web sites "that diverted Web surfers from their intended destinations and exposed them to pop-up ads," Reuters reports (via CNET). The FTC said the operator, John Zuccarini, registered multiple misspellings of popular sites "to draw traffic from sloppy typists" and maximize the number of clicks he could get on his popup ads. In its complaint, the FTC cited an example of "mouse-trapping": "After one FTC staff member closed out of 32 separate windows, leaving just two windows on the task bar, he selected the 'back' button, only to watch as the same seven windows that initiated the blitz erupted on his screen, and the cybertrap began anew." In its piece on this, WashingtonPost.com reports that Zuccarini has said he earns between $800,000 and $1 million a year from advertisers paying him a royalty of as much as $.25 each time one of those ads is clicked. This reflects new details since our lead Brief last week.
- Student techies save school money
Students in "Advanced Industrial Tech" class at Fort Frye High School in Beverly, Ohio, are custom-building computer systems for their school district and saving it tens of thousands of dollars, reports eSchool News. There's also some confidence-building going on at Fort Frye High, the story indicated: "The students, some of whom wouldn't have known how to open a computer case before the training, built the computers from the casing up."
- Ties that bind in cyberspace
On September 11 the Opera Forum discussion group at the New York Times lost a well-like participant, "billybobives" - and fellow opera buffs realized how deeply losses are felt in virtual communities too. As Amy Harmon of the New York Times writes, "it was not until the forum's members heard that Mr. Poulos was missing that many of them realized the strength of their feelings for someone known almost solely through notoriously pointed postings and his absurdist screen name: billybobives."
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Napster's new deal, MP3 update
There's been a lot of news on the digital music front lately, so we've boiled it down for all you MP3 fans out there. The New York Times describes file-sharing pioneer Napster.com's new deal with songwriters and music publishers, as does the Wired News looks at Napster's planned relaunch and, in a related piece, reports on how Napster's been overtaken by four new file-sharing systems ( Audiogalaxy.com; iMesh.com; and Gnutella).
But "this just in!", as the newscasters say: MusicCity.com and some of its next-generation file-sharing brethren are not immune to lawsuits either. CNET reported this week that record companies and Hollywood studios are suing MusicCity.com, Kazaa, and Grokster "in the first legal test of a new generation of [file-sharing] technology."
However, Nua Internet Surveys has numbers showing that MP3-swapping's as popular as ever: "Over 3 billion files were downloaded during August from the four leading systems [cited by Wired just above]. This level of downloading is higher than that of Napster at its peak, when 2.79 billion files were downloaded in February."
CyberAtlas says little has changed in this MP3 world, despite all the music subscriptions services due to launch (because "many consumers plan to continue downloading music for free through illicit online resources"). And the skeptical Forbes says all the talk about how the Internet will revolutionize how we buy, listen to, and make music is nothing but talk. Especially for Net-music newbies (like us), the best thing we've seen on the subject is a piece by New York Times music critic Neil Strauss. He dispels any mystery by describing his own experiences when he spent "two weeks listening only to music streamed or downloaded from the Internet" - one week before Napster was shut down by a US federal appeals court and one week a good deal later. And there's a useful related piece, "Buying MP3s Online, Frustration Included".
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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