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December 21, 2001

Dear Subscribers:

We will be on holiday break next week. The next issue will arrive in your In-Boxes January 4. Meanwhile, we wish all of you every joy this holiday season! Here's our lineup for this third week of December:


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Your rules: 2001 Survey results

We have smart subscribers. For example, here's sound advice for kids that one of you shared in a response to our 2001 Subscriber Survey: "Remember that many people live fantasy lives online - they very likely are not who they appear to be." Sexual predators wouldn't have much reason to hang out in public chat rooms if more children digested those wise words. They remind us of some similarly good advice shared recently: The best filter is what lies between a child's ears (and their parents and teachers can help them to develop that)!

On the other hand, we were dismayed to see in the new Kaiser Family Foundation survey (see last week's issue ) that nearly a third (31%) of teenage Net users in the US have access to the Internet from their bedrooms. That's a cardinal online-safety rule: to have connected computers kids use in high-traffic areas of the house, not where kids and teens enjoy some privacy. It was one of the Top 3 online safety rules on a number of your survey responses.

As for all the responses: In answer to our question, "What are your Top 3 rules for kids' safe/constructive Internet use?", here are the three rules you shared most (by number of respondents providing them):

  1. Do not share personal information online (name, address, phone number, or any other identifying details). This was by far the No. 1 rule you provided - an important one!
  2. Stated various ways: Do not visit any adult/bad/inappropriate/sexually explicit Web sites.
  3. Basically, "don't 'talk' to strangers" was the third most well-established rule, taking various forms - no email with people you don't know, no online chat with strangers, no instant-messaging with strangers, etc.

Other rules you cited a lot (in order of popularity) include:

And we'd be remiss not to publish some less-used rules that are still very useful: Immediately close any Web page that isn't what you wanted; Don't open an email message if you don't know who it's from; No downloads; Be careful about opening attachments; Don't make arrangements to meet with anyone you meet online; An adult must be with you when you're using a search engine; Use the Web for school research only; and various instant-messaging rules - none before 5th grade, only with a parent present, and only with relatives.

Send in your family Internet-use policies and rules - especially ones you feel we've missed here. We'd be delighted to share them with your fellow subscribers. The address is feedback@netfamilynews, of course.

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A subscriber writes: Animated e-messages

Subscriber Elaine in New Jersey took the time to email us over the weekend about a fun service for kids she's run into:

"I just came across a great site for animated email cards for kids. I learned of it through a news article saying how much English teenage girls loved it. Didn't see any commercials or links and it's really neat: Please let me know what you think. Thanks."

Editor's note: Move over instant-messaging

FunMail is a cutting-edge little service that has a way of bringing out the kid in anyone - turning text in email and on tiny mobile/cell phone screens into little animations. It's fun and free for those who use it with email, but the company's really focusing on cell phones, which haven't yet taken off among US teens. David Coursey of ZDNet explains why in his extremely useful piece about kids and SMS (for Short Message System), or text messages on cell phones, which itself sends the strong (and surprisingly conservative) message, "We've got to stop it [SMS] before it gains a foothold on these shores."

The following certainly is more information than Elaine asked for, but parents and educators will want to know more about this technology's pluses and minuses.

First its appeal: The Guardian recently reported that 90% of 11-to-16-year-olds in the UK have mobile phones. FunMail itself sponsored a survey of users at British teen site that gives a feel for how much SMS compares with the easy-going, light, stay-in-touch feel of IM and chat in the US. David Coursey points to data showing that "in countries overseas, users - mostly young people - partake in this activity some 750 million times each day. It's reported that in Finland, young people spend as much as 90% of their allowance to pay for it and related items.... Kids love it because it puts them in immediate and constant touch with friends. Cellular telephone carriers - think of them as SMS pushers - love the little messages because they burn up connect time or per-message charges. That's where the allowance money goes."

A useful example David gives (of why he doesn't like to see kids using SMS) is the site ("ac" stands for "always connected"), "which is intended to draw American youth into the SMS frenzy." The site, David writes, "thinks it's ahead of the curve by offering the ability to send a message to any SMS user today. The company has created SMS aliases to hide your telephone number. It also offers a variety of SMS user clubs, including those for SMS flirting, dating, and, yes, sex, as well as classmate and people finders, and other services aimed at what looks like a high school and college crowd."

[Another content provider targeting teen cell-phone users in the US is "teen portal", which has just teamed up with the PocketBoxOffice "micro-entertainment network" to provide content for mobile phones. You can see exactly what it looks like and what kind of content the network provides teens on this page.]

It's not that mobile phones are bad, David says - among other things, they enable parents and kids to keep track of each other, as's Larry Magid points out. It's SMS that David doesn't like.

Is he being old-fashioned, or forward-looking? Email us your views (via! There's a lot of interesting feedback below David's somewhat inflammatory column, including this one: "I'm an American in Europe with 2 teenagers - One of the them related this to me just yesterday: that during their exams, a classmate was text-messaging another who was at home, for ALL OF THE ANSWERS!!! Yikes." But here's another mom who's a supporter: "My daughter has lived in Switzerland for the past 10 years. I can send her an SMS message from my email client. I love it. So does she. Being in North America, I (and you) enjoy local phone service that is not tied to per-minute ... rates for our phone service. In other words, here, Internet messaging is 'free," in Europe SMS makes messaging the next best thing to free, cheap. ISP service in Europe is similarly not cheap, and you still pay per-minute connect charges for the ISP and tel services. These factors alone make SMS a good thing." SMS at least presents yet another opportunity for Net ethics education, no?

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For young travelers: Airport security video

Easing kids' fears appears to be one of BrainPOP's missions - easing fears by providing facts in a kid-friendly format, that is. Last October this educational filmmaker came out with a short animated film on anthrax (see our Web News Brief). Now, for young holiday travelers, BrainPOP explains the ins and outs of airport security (on this page) - "measures that are taken to ensure a safe flight." Here's BrainPOP's press release on its new film, which runs about 3 minutes and is designed mainly for preteens.

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Web News Briefs

  1. Portals' double standard in the US and (France's 6th-most-visited Web site) offer very different content between midnight and 3 a.m., according to MSNBC. Suggesting a double standard for the two sides of the Atlantic, MSNBC says that during those hours opens its gateway to pornography on the Internet, pointing to similar practice at the European version of Yahoo! as well. "When asked about the risk that their offerings will expose European children to porn, MSN and other US portals are quick to note that users can't access the explicit content on their sites without getting by a warning or disclaimer. But, all youngsters need to do is say they are 18 to get through. Of course, Americans of any age can easily access all this, too...." In self-defense, the portals say late-night programming is no different from what's available on European TV. Here's's article, which also mentions similar content on Terra Lycos's European portal.

  2. Using the Net to catch Net criminals

    The Internet is both friend and foe to child pornographers. An article in eWeek this week explains how the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children uses technology to follow up on leads from its CyberTipline ( or 800-843-5678) and find the sources of child pornography on the Net. The National Center (NCMEC) then passes along to the appropriate law enforcement agencies information that's genuinely useful to them. One type of technology Tipline analysts use, eWeek reports, is VisualRoute - software that quickly gives the analysts "information on the location - usually the city - of a server hosting a Web site or delivering an email message." It's used for the Tipline's triage, or prioritizing, process that kicks in when tips - many of them anonymous - are received via phone or email through the Tipline. EWeek adds that 10-15% of high-priority cases are turned over to local law enforcement agencies in the cities and states that have anti-online-child-exploitation laws. "The rest are sent to federal agencies such as the FBI, US Customs Service, and US Postal Inspection Service."

    BTW, from coverage coming out of this week's international conference in Yokohama on child exploitation, note this well-written Reuters piece, "The Fight Against Child Abuse Goes High Tech" (via And here's Reuters on the conference itself.

  3. Britain's 'Curriculum Online'

    It's been billed as "the world's first partnership between government, leading public/private broadcasters, and software producers to provide materials for every curriculum subject," according to The Guardian. Curriculum Online is a 50-million-pound (about $73 million) program designed "to help teachers in England bring Internet materials into the classroom and motivate pupils [mostly 11-to-14-year-olds]," the paper says. The program will put video and other digital content (that teachers have downloaded from the Net) on big screens called "whiteboards" at the front of classrooms. The BBC reportedly is investing 150 million pounds (about $219 million) in the program. Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this out. As for tech in the classroom on the US side of the pond, recently looked at next-generation schools - "small, technology-driven magnet schools that focus on providing students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in the digital world."

  4. Lingua electronica?

    The Internet is not spawning a generation of illiterates, according to one eminent authority on language. In a review of David Crystal's new book, "Language and the Internet," the New York Times relates the contention of this Welsh "producer of many scholarly volumes" on the English language that the Net "is developing into a splendid new medium that shows language users at their most inventive, adapting a variety of styles for a variety of purposes, some formal, some highly informal." In fact, he says the Internet is the third of the as yet three most important developments in the history of communication: 1) speech, 2) writing (about 10,000 years ago, he says), and now "computer-mediated discourse." This from the producer of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language! His enthusiasm is a welcome departure from the usual gloomy predictions about the Net's impact on language, though it might be a bit "big picture" for sticklers of good grammar in classrooms around the world.

  5. Uncle Sam's new 9/11 site

    Wired News calls the site "unabashedly sentimental" for material coming out of the US State Department's Office of International Information Programs. Wired's referring to a "Web-based pictorial documenting life in New York City three months after the attacks." It's a departure, Wired says, because since World War 2 "the US government [has] rarely included any emotional content in its press materials, knowing that public relations that pander to emotions are often dismissed as propaganda by the media and the general public." Nonetheless, the site is educational - because these, after all, are photographs.

  6. Psychologist on 'cybersex addiction'

    "Contrary to popular belief, cybersex addiction isn't a problem restricted to lowlife losers you'd never want to know," reports USAToday. Some 200,000 Americans have a cybersex addiction, the paper reports, citing figures from San Jose, Calif.-based psychologist Kimberly Young, who specializes in and has just come out with a book about Net sexual behavior. The book, "Tangled in the Web: Understanding Cybersex From Fantasy to Addiction," explains how people get hooked on this new form of "addiction." One explanation, Young says, is "access, affordability, and anonymity." Here's a Reuters piece on the subject (via the South China Morning Post), citing a study by another California psychologist aimed at identifying those at risk for such an "addiction."

  7. Paying for music twice

    This will annoy many a music fan: Universal selling copy-protected CDs that won't allow customers to listen to them on their computers. But, according to Wired News, Universal will allow customers to subscribe to its online music service (to open shortly) if they want to hear the same music there. In other e-music news, Yahoo! this week opened its online music service, "Launch," "featuring 7,000 music videos, artist interviews, and Internet radio, Reuters reports (via Our thanks to BNA Internet Law News for pointing these stories out. While we're on the subject, here's a book review and handy digital-music backgrounder at, "How the music industry blew it".

  8. Ultimate 'catalog'?

    As if paper catalogs in Americans' snail-mailboxes weren't enough! Google the search engine has come out with a searchable database of catalogs selling all manner of wares. According to Wired News, "Google Catalogs" "combs the pages of 600 current catalogs -1,500 [if you include] back issues - to help both consumers and corporations find everything from apple butter to zipper doodles [jewelry to hook on zippers]."

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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