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March 17, 2006
Here's our lineup for this second week of March:
- Teen social-networking: Latest-news roundup
- Media's impact on kids: Study
- Web News Briefs: New help in fighting child porn; 'Paid for homemade'; Teens prefer Net; Mobile porn's fast growth; New earbud-risk study; Mac, PC patches; 'Bully' game protested; PS3's delay; Inside online poker; 'Cybersmears'; Windows Live snowball; Lego gets fans' help....
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Teen social-networking: Latest-news roundup
There has been so much coverage that I could do a weekly digest! Here's a summary....
Readers, do you think teen social-networking is a passing fad? If so, what's next? Ask your kids! Do send your views via firstname.lastname@example.org - or post them at NetFamilyForum.org.
- Facebook factoids. The Stanford [University] Daily had three developments I haven't seen covered elsewhere: 1) Facebook.com now has more than 8 million registered users ("roughly equal to the combined populations of Los Angeles and Chicago"); 2) Facebook's now at every US college and university and has a presence at schools in 13 other countries; and 3) while a high school version of Facebook has existed since late last year, site administrators "made the decision to allow members of the high school version ... to be friends with their college counterparts" (site spokesperson Chris Hughes "explained that the decision was made because of the similarities between college and high school students").
- Staggering growth, but sustainable? USATODAY reports that 65% of all US undergrads at four-year colleges and universities are on Facebook; 900,000 high school students are (a lot of them probably have accounts at MySpace or Xanga too!). The New York Times just reported that MySpace is adding as many as 1 million new registered users a week. ABC News, however, asks the question of just how cool MySpace really is among teens (or how long it can sustain the coolness factor - see also "Teen's-eye-view of tech in 2006").
- Reputations & repercussions. In another piece in its teen-blogging package, USATODAY warns that "What you say online could haunt you," as did the San Jose Mercury News a few weeks ago, both articles providing teens' and parents' own stories. Another USATODAY piece reports that university administrators are beginning to regulate athletes' social-networking activities. Some examples: "Administrators at Florida State and Kentucky recently issued ultimatums to their athletes to be careful what they post"; Loyola University Chicago forbids its athletes to belong; two LSU swimmers were "kicked off the team after athletics officials discovered they belonged to a Facebook affinity group that put up disparaging comments about swim coaches"; and "Colorado athletes cannot use Facebook on computers in the academic lab."
- Grassroots views. Parents' views were well represented in this week's reporting: see USATODAY on parents vs. "Internet natives" and ABC News's "A parent learns about MySpace" and the three moms and their three daughters featured in an article and video interview with Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson. A high school junior publishes her perspective in the Sun Herald in Florida.
- Teen traffic. Research firm eMarketer recently looked at traffic from 12-to-17-year-olds and 18-to-24-year-olds to the top 6 social-networking sites: MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, MyYearBook, Hi5, and Friendster. Interestingly, teen traffic increased between November and December (the latest figures available) at MySpace (+9%), Xanga (+29%), and especially MyYearBook (+44%), while it decreased at Hi5, Friendster, and Facebook (whose 18-to-24-year-old traffic increased for that same period). Another firm, comScore Media Metrix, has numbers showing how integrated online activity has become in 12-to-17-year-olds' lives. ComScore has a chart showing the top 10 Web sites for this age group from 2/05 to 2/06, MySpace being No. 2 and Facebook No. 5.
* * * *
Media's impact on kids: Study
Talk about research surveys! Andrea Millwood Hargrave and Prof. Sonia Livingstone at the London School of Economics reviewed more than 800 studies and just published their findings. Andrea emailed me from the UK this week after seeing last week's feature, "Online sex & child protection: Latest research"....
"Dear Anne ... I was interested to read about the research that Dr Block had pulled together and am taking advantage of this to refer you and other readers of the newsletter to a comprehensive review of the research evidence for harm and offence in media content that my colleague ... I have conducted [summary and conclusions in this pdf doc].
"We looked across the media platforms [TV, radio, print, film, Internet, music, videogames, cellphones, and advertising] ... and our conclusions show both the gaps that there are (as researchers we would!) but also that the evidence for potential harm is clear among certain vulnerable groups. Like Dr Block, the importance of the quality of family communications and mediation is clear....
"Key points from the evidence on harm and offence" can be found in the study's press release.
* * * *Web News Briefs
- Fighting child porn: New help
Great news in the fight against child pornography: On Capitol Hill today, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children today unveiled the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography. Made up of 18 of "the world's most prominent financial institutions and Internet industry leaders," according to the NCMEC's press release, the coalition includes multinational companies that enable transactions online, such as Citigroup, Bank of America, Visa, American Express, PayPal, as well as Internet companies such as AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft. It's a logical and ethical development, since - as the National Center's presser says - "child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise and is among the fastest growing businesses on the Internet." The number of child-porn sites is hard to capture, but the NCMEC's CyberTipline (CyberTipline.com or 800.843.5678, for reporting online child exploitation) shows that growth this way: "In 2001 [the Tipline] received more than 24,400 reports of child pornography. By the beginning of 2006, that number had climbed to more than 340,000." [The Observer UK recently reported on growth both in Web sites and in attempts in the UK to access them.] The coalition will be collaborating with international anti-child-exploitation organizations such as Child Focus of Belgium, the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, and the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE). In related news, US and Canadian law-enforcement officials today announced they'd cracked an international online child-porn operation, arresting 27 people in four countries, CNET reports.
- 'Paid for homemade'
That's one reason why young "auteurs" (homemade media producers) are flocking to sites like YouTube.com and iFilm.com - to get paid, yes. But more common reasons for all the "viral videos" up there on the Web are for winning contests, e.g., getting picked to produce a band's music video or - for most auteurs - just being able to upload their videos for all their friends to see. "The number of postings [of homemade videos] has jumped in the last few weeks since [iFilm.com] introduced a contest with the cable channel VH1 called 'Show Us Your Junk' that will feature the best submissions on the television program 'WebJunk20' and reward winners with digital gadgetry and flat-screen TVs," the New York Times reports. The Times gives many other examples of contests at sites like Metacafe.com, Current.tv, eBaumsWorld.com and even MSN and Yahoo, but auteurs don't just upload videos. There are cellphone-generated photos, mashups of photos, video, and animation, and text in recipes, book reviews at Amazon, blogs, Web pages, readers' comments on local events in newspaper sites, etc. The social, or interactive, aspect is the key to homemade media's popularity. The Times cites research firm Technorati data showing that the 27 million blogs that were on the Web in January are "doubling every 5.5 months, with 75,000 blogs created daily." See the New York Times also on "slivercasts" on the Web.
- Teens prefer Net to TV
People 13 to 24 spend more time online than watching TV or talking on the phone, a new Yahoo-sponsored study, "Born to Be Wired," found. In its coverage, MSNBC reports that this age group spends "an average of 16.7 hours a week online" vs. 13.6 hours watching TV. Radio gets 12 hours, phone conversations 7.7, and books and magazines 6 (of course, a lot of that probably happens simultaneously!). Interesting: "Being in 'control' of how they surfed the Web and the ability to personalize their media content online is most appealing to them," but they "don't feel overwhelmed by the abundance of media choices available to them," MSNBC reports. Meanwhile, now we find out - from a study at the University of Chicago - that TV doesn't rot kids' brains after all. The New York Times reports that the study tapped into "a trove of data from the 1960s to argue that when it comes to academic test scores, parents can let children watch TV without fear of future harm."
- Mobile porn's fast growth
Parents might want to know that - although Cingular, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile "have voluntarily chosen not to directly offer any adult content for download" to phones, the San Jose Mercury News reports - there's certainly a work-around on Web-enabled phones. "Many mobile phones now have Web browsers, which can make videos, photos or text available for download with a credit card. Sales of dirty videos, naughty chats and pornographic images over mobile phones reached about $500,000 globally in 2004." The Merc cites Juniper Research data showing that figure to be $2.1 billion by 2009. The Web on phones is the explanation for that exponential growth. But right now, Google has found, porn accounts for about 20% of all searches conducted via cellphone - "quite a bit more than the 8.5% [of searches] conducted from the desktop" computer, a San Jose Mercury News blog cites Google researchers as saying.
- New earbud-risk study
More than half of teenagers surveyed report at least one symptom of hearing loss, reports Larry Magid at CBSNEWS.com. Citing findings just released by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Larry added, "High school students, according to the survey, "are more likely than adults to say they have experienced three of the four symptoms of hearing loss." These are turning up the volume on their television or radio (28% of students vs. 26% of adults); saying "what?" or "huh?" during normal conversation (29% students, 21% adults); and tinnitus or ringing in the ears (17% students, 12% adults). Less than half the high school students (49%) say they have experienced none of these symptoms, compared to 63% of adults." The survey also found that 1) "less than half of the parents were willing to place limits on the amount of time their children used these devices," and 2) adults tend to use earbuds for longer durations than teens, while teens tend to crank up the volume. Both duration and volume can involve risks, experts say. One audiologist gave Larry a simple tip: If there are people talking around you and you can't hear what they're saying, your volume's too high. Larry's article explains. Listen to his podcast for the view from ASHA's chief scientist, Dr. Brenda Lonsbury-Martin.
- Mac, PC security updates
The patches were all over tech news early this week, on both the Mac and Windows sides of the OS spectrum. Apple issued its second security patch in less than two weeks, Internet News reports (here's more from Washington Post security writer Brian Krebs). Meanwhile, Microsoft has issued its monthly security update for March, CNET reports. It plugs a bunch of security holes, most in the Office software suite (including MS's update for Office 2004 for Macs). Brian elaborates on the Microsoft patches too.
- Game about bullies protested
The Miami-Dade School Board has registered a protest against "a secretive new videogame about school bullies," the Miami Herald reports. "Little is actually known" about Bully, which was scheduled to be released last fall by Rockstar, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series, one of which, GTA: San Andreas, was the subject of a lot of controversy and fresh efforts to regulate videogame sales because of hidden sexually explicit content that was unlocked by modification code circulating the Internet. School Board member Frank Bolaņos introduced a resolution against Bully last week. The full board unanimously approved a watered-down version this week, the Herald later reported. "The original language urged local retailers not to sell the game and parents not to buy it.... The approved version ... urged retailers not to sell Bully to minors and directed the district to inform parents 'on the potential harmful effects to children of playing interactive video games containing violence'." Miami-Dade is "the first major school system in the country to take sides against Bully," the Herald adds. As for real-life student harassment, the Hartford Courant reports that a Connecticut teen has been charged with "threatening high school students on MySpace.com." The charges are for misdemeanors that, with conviction, could lead to a maximum sentence of two years in prison. His father told the court his son suffers from depression, "has not had troubles with school or police," and "stays up in his room.... Police say that may have been the problem," according to the Courant.
- PlayStation 3's delay
By now you've probably heard (from your kids) that you won't be able to purchase them the PS3 as soon as they thought. Sony delayed its shipping date (see tongue-in-cheek coverage of this, for gaming industry shareholders, very serious story at this San Jose Mercury News blog, which links us to "So that's one PlayStation 3 - will that be cash, credit or your firstborn?" and "PS3 to launch with indentured servitude purchase plan"). The good news (for your kids) is that this handy little multipurpose, Net-connected, much-hyped console will still be available in time for the 2006 holiday shopping season, Reuters reports. The reason for the delay is given in Greek (your kids can translate): Sony says it "hadn't yet been able to finalize the console's digital rights management technology, an important component of the device, which will read media and games stored on high-capacity Blu-ray optical discs."
- Inside online poker
The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently profiled a couple of avid online poker players. They're not teenagers, but the cost of joining in is so low and poker is so hot at colleges and universities that this inside view might be helpful to parents. "For the growing population of poker enthusiasts, the high-speed connection has become an all-access pass to the biggest virtual casino in history. And questions of legality aren't keeping them up at night," according to the Times-Dispatch. A college student Larry Magid recently interviewed for StaySafe.org isn't losing sleep over his poker experience. For the big picture on online gaming of all sorts, see my "Understanding Games & Gaming: A Parent's Guide" at Staysafe (the latest numbers on poker are in point no. 2).
- 'Cybersmears' on 'dissing sites'
They're along the lines of RateMyTeachers.com and RateMyProfessors.com, and they're all about exposing not just bad behavior, but actions the "disser" simply doesn't like. Calling them "dissing sites," the Chicago Tribune tells the story of a lawyer who left a pitiful tip (he said mistakenly) and found his name on the cheapskate list at BitterWaitress.com. "He was none too pleased that a waitress had lifted information from his credit card - his name - and posted it on the Internet." Then there's JobSchmob.com and Consumerist.com. The point in the kid-tech new space is how common it's becoming to take one's beef, whatever it is, public and how little the subjects of those beefs can do about it.
- The Windows Live snowball
Microsoft keeps rolling out more Windows Live services - mail, IM, search (Web and phones), maps/directions, parental controls, homemade media hosting, etc. (see 20 of 'em at a glance in CNET's handy chart. Microsoft "seems to crank out a new Windows Live service every five minutes," according to CNET. The parental-controls service was mentioned by several news outlets this week. Red Herring mentions an intelligent approach Microsoft is taking: "The company has been consulting with child development experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help set age-based guidelines for the service," and it's also talking with family organizations outside the US "to take into account cultural differences" and "help [Microsoft] set up localized guidance for parents in different parts of the world." Free, built-in parental controls for a single computer almost seem like a too-little-too-late for the 24/7 Web on all devices, but a lot of smart families still have younger members using a single PC plugged into the wall of a family room or other high-traffic location in the house, and it's logical that controls be built into the operating system for littler Web surfers. Plus, another tool for the parental toolbox never hurts.
- Lego gets fans' help
Do you have bins and bins of only occasionally Legos lying around your house too? At least we're supporting a very forward-thinking company that supports Lego designers of all ages. CNET tells of Lego's Mindstorms developer program, which harnesses customer power. "The 100 Lego fans named last week have a chance to help develop the product by road-testing it in ways Lego never anticipated, and then share their impressions with Mindstorm executives." More than 9,600 people in 79 countries applied (Lego execs told CNET they thought it'd be "really cool" if 1,000 applied). The 100 winners are in 26 countries (40% US), "range in age from 18 to 75, and are heavily technical. Only six are women. Mindstorms NXT is "a sophisticated and open-ended robot development kit masquerading as a kid's toy," CNET reports in a separate story. The box says it's for kids 10+, but Mindstorms obviously appeals to grownup kids every bit as much.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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