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February 2, 2007

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Mobile socializing: Accelerating change

Until very recently there were basically two kinds of mobile social networking: 1) the Web + phone kind, using a mobile phone to access your page in a social Web site, and 2) the phone + "real life" kind, using your phone to locate friends' physical location and go to meet them. But, predictably, the line of distinction is blurring.

Here are a couple of examples of this mashing up parents may want to know about: Helio's deal with MySpace (MySpace Mobile) used to be just the first kind, but now Helio has "Buddy Beacon," which allows its users to "broadcast their location to friends on their 'buddy' list," the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Another example: Jaxtr, a feature people can add to their MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, Piczo, etc. profile that lets visitors call them on their cellphones. "Your visitor enters his phone number and receives a call. Once he picks up, your phone starts ringing and the call is connected," explains It adds that "there are tools to block unwanted callers [such as stalkers or ex-friends] or only allow certain friends to call," all of which is good, but it also raises privacy questions and offers yet another tool for unknown people to reach teen social-networkers wherever they are, any old time. Jaxtr, which can also be added to an email signature, is available for Blogger, Friendster, Hi5, MySpace, Tagged, and Xanga, Information Week reports.

This is just another clear sign that "old" categories are getting mashed up together, creating new ones (see below for more) and the "Web 2.0" that we've just started to understand is changing fast. The social producing, creative networking, and pure socializing that happens on the Web happens on all the devices connecting to it, and the Web is on phones too.

During any given Saturday night in a teenager's life, socializing will be both online and in person and on multiple devices when it is "online." They make no distinction between "online" and "offline"; they just socialize. That familiar term "online safety" is becoming obsolete too (maybe it just needs to lose the first word). A lot of the old safety tips still make sense - e.g., keeping connected devices out of kids' bedrooms (giving parents a few more clues as to what's going on) - but with connectivity so mobile, that's getting harder, and more critical thinking is demanded of our kids. The thinking in the Net safety field needs to broaden out (embrace many kinds of expertise) and be as adaptable and interactive as the technologies our children are using. See also "Cellphone social networking" and "Virtual worlds on phones."

Links to numbers, new services, security, etc.

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Web News Briefs
  1. National sex-offender database

    MySpace today donated the US's first national sex-offender database, which it built with identity verification company Sentinel Tech Holdings, to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The database "combines close to 50 US state registries in an aim to help police keep track of an estimated 600,000 convicted sex offenders," Reuters reports. Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center, said his organization "will use the new database to help law enforcement in investigations." The Adam Walsh Act, which President Bush signed into law last summer, called for a national sex-offender database, but it would likely have taken months, if not years, for the federal government to create. Internet News's story led with this: "During the four years that Missouri teen Sean Hornbeck was abducted, he was sometimes able to visit social networking sites. Could a database like the one [unveiled] today have helped speed Hornbeck's return, or kept him safe? Ernie Allen ... told he believes so."

  2. Teach ethics in tech class?

    That's what Camilla, Ga., teacher Vicky Davis recommends as she blogs in about this time in which our (and every teacher's) every action can be videotaped and instantly uploaded to YouTube and many other social sites. Among other examples, she cites the incident in Canada of students using a cellphone to take video of a teacher being abusive (later reports indicated they might have incited her yelling for video-sharing purposes - see "We're All on Candid Camera"). Where technology's concerned, she says, "students are largely self-taught.... When students teach themselves and adults are left out of the equation, teens focus on HOW to do things rather than if they SHOULD." Other bits of wisdom include: "Update acceptable [Internet] use policies" to include extracurricular use of video; understand that school hours are not 24/7; understand that filtering doesn't protect your school from this issue (which so far has been most schools' "solution"); and this interesting point - teachers "should always be ethical and kind, for truly it is the teachers who are wronging students or who are easily excitable who I think are most at risk."

  3. Schools banning cellphones

    Schools all over the US are "cracking down on students whose cellphones disrupt classes and make it easier to cheat," USATODAY reports. For example, Milwaukee's 222 schools just started enforcing an if-you-use-it-we'll-take-it rule "prompted by fights that escalated into brawls when students used cellphones to summon family members and outsiders." Reporter Judy Keen gives us other examples in Minnesota, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New York City. Meanwhile, 2006 was a record year for cellphones - more than 1 billion shipped in last year, the Associated Press reports. And in the New York Times,'s Larry Magid points out that, with a mere download or two, most any kid could figure out how to make the most basic phone do a lot of what today's expensive "smart phones" can do.

  4. YouTube as police tool

    Toronto police have posted video of missing 17-year-old Eva Ho on YouTube to help their investigation, CTV Toronto reports. Investigative leads suggest she might be in Hong Kong, so the social Web is a logical tool to get the word out internationally. It's a first for the Toronto police but a growing trend in law enforcement, CTV adds. In another case last December, "Hamilton police posted surveillance video of two men attending a hip-hop concert in the city. They were hoping to gain clues in the investigation of a stabbing death. The short video was viewed online more than 30,000 times." Within about two weeks, a suspect turned himself in.

  5. An experiment in the YouTube 'lab'

    Copyright pressures on YouTube are mounting as media companies struggle to find the right balance between the marketing value of exposure on the top media-sharing site and actually getting paid for their content. "Viacom Inc., parent of MTV and Comedy Central, said it has ordered YouTube to immediately remove more than 100,000 video clips placed on the popular Web site without its approval," the Wall Street Journal reports. Among them would be the likes of Colbert and The Daily Show. "The decision comes after Viacom and YouTube executives failed to reach an agreement over a distribution deal despite months of negotiations," the Journal adds. This is like one long lab session in a giant experiment concerning the mixing of a user-driven Web, content creators, and businesses that live on distributing the content users love to upload, remix, and/or view whenever they like.

  6. YouTube, users to share revenue

    This will make YouTube even more attractive to aspiring videographers and producers: The videosharing social site's co-founder Chad Hurley said over the weekend that YouTube would be sharing revenue with its users, the Associated Press reports. He didn't offer details as to how much revenue or how it would work. More than 70 million videos are viewed each day on YouTube, which is now owned by Google.

  7. A globally safer Internet

    That's the aim of the fourth-annual Safer Internet Day on February 6, with participants in nearly 40 countries. The event involves the work of nonprofit child advocacy organizations in multiple countries, led by Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. "The highlight of the day will once again be a worldwide blogathon, which will reach Australia on 6th February and progress westward through the day to finish up in the USA and Canada," according to European Schoolnet, the event's organizer. The blogathon will include the work of young people from 200+ school in 25 countries participating in a content-creation competition. They created "Internet safety awareness material on one of three themes: e-privacy, netiquette, and power of image." Really great topics US educators might consider for next-generation (Web 2.0) Net safety curricula! The winners will be announced and their projects uploaded to the blogathon on Tuesday (2/6). Here's coverage from out of Dublin.

  8. Do-it-yourself social sites

    First there were do-it-yourself Web sites (called blogs), now there are user-created social-networking sites with the help of, the Wall Street Journal reports. With the privacy choices Ning allows, teachers could create private mini-social sites to create class discussion around Canterbury Tales profiles their students create and social activists can generate buzz and support around their causes with a very public social-networking site. The service offers all the tools for free, only charging for upgrades like extra storage (for all those photos or videos users can upload). Ning "allows users to easily set up three different kinds of sites - a social-networking site, a photo-sharing site and a video site." What a great tool for a photography or filmmaking class! The Journal also talks about socializing around events (such as high school reunions or local arts events) with services like Google Calendar,, and

  9. Nick's virtual world for kids

    Move over and, make room for, Nickelodeon's new virtual world for kids 6-14. "Nickelodeon was prompted to join the surging world of online activities for children in part by research that showed that 86% of 8-to-14-year-olds were playing games online, more than 51% were watching TV shows and videos online and 37% were sending instant messages," the New York Times reports. And - as in and the virtual world the BBC's planning (see last week's issue), young users will navigate this virtual world with the avatars, or online characters they create in Nicktropolis. There will be familiar friends (brands) too, such as SpongeBob and other characters in Bikini Bottom, which the Times says will be one of the world's play environments. The Times doesn't say much about safety, only that there will be no message boards, as in, but avatars will be able to chat in real time. Nicktropolis's safety info for parents doesn't say chat is moderated, but the interaction is apparently governed by a "sanitized dictionary" with a profanity filter and no violent or threatening language.

  10. Habbo's safety campaign

    Habbo Hotel, "one of the world's largest and most popular online destinations for teens" (claiming 2 million members in North America) is following the lead of other responsible social sites and raising safety awareness. Having designated February "Teen Online Safety Awareness Month for North America," Habbo's press release says it will "saturate its site ... with interactive activities for teens such as the 'Infobus,' a virtual bus inside the Habbo community on which members can learn how to protect themselves from online scams and predators." There will be incentives for hopping on the "bus," Habbo says, in the form of prizes and "Habbo Coins" with which users decorate their "rooms." Habbo has sites for users in 25+ countries. If the above link goes dead, here's the "Press Room" for Habbo's parent company, Helsinki-based Sulake Corporation Oy, which will probably archive the release shortly.

  11. Teens' own tech site

    A few weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Arizona 13-year-old Kimberly Kolwitz "had fully-grown, professional manufacturers practically groveling at her feet," KVOA in Prescott, Az., reports. It's understandable, because Kimberly and two cousins (aged 15 and 16) in California publish ("neek" being a cross between "geek" and "nerd," Kimberly told KVOA), which is "basically an online teen tech site [aka blog] filled with new product reviews," photos, and podcasts the girls record. Though KVOA doesn't provide site traffic numbers, electronics manufacturers are "groveling," apparently, because the site attracts cutting-edge technology-seeking teenage readers, an important market for the tech industry. These site publishers sound smart, too, because they're having a lot of fun (favorites at CES were Ultra Mobile PCs at the Intel booth and the ASIMO humanoid robot at the Honda booth) and covering other teen interests too, like finding the right college/university (last summer "the neeks" traveled east to look at and blog about MIT, Harvard, Wellesley, and Dartmouth). For further perspective, here's a New Jersey high school student's commentary on social networking.

  12. News sites in the classroom

    News Web sites, not newspapers, are the tool of choice in US classrooms. Reuters reports that 57% of teachers use Net-based news "with some frequency," a just-released survey of more than 1,200 teachers of grades 5-12 found. That compares with 31% who use TV news and 28% who use papers. Topping the list for news sites were the BBC, the New York Times, and CNN. "Teachers prefer printed papers, but only 8% said the newspaper was a student's preferred choice," and 75% put papers at the bottom of the students' preference list.

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


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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