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Friday, May 21, 2004 New site for teens

"We [teens] are a hard age group to please completely," said Rishi, "as our tastes vary so much, but I think in WebSafeCrackerz there's something for everybody.

"High praise from a 13-year-old, I'd say. He's a Briton, and this was his answer to my question about what he thought of this new online-safety site for 13-to-16-year-olds out of the UK. George, 15, thought the site is best for slightly younger teenagers, but liked two things about it anyway: WebSafeCrackerz is "confidential, so people using it don't feel embarrassed and ... can speak out" and it's got some good, straightforward information that "illustrates that it could happen to you if you aren't careful." Click here (to my newsletter) for more on WebSafeCrackerz, including Rishi and George's views on whether other teenagers would visit this site, which covers just about everything a teen could care about online: file-sharing, IM-ing, online harassment, spam, spyware, scams, etc.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Barring kid access to porn on phones

This is a sign of things to come in the US, as more and more children use cell phones. The Australian government is tightening regs so that porn won't reach children using mobile phones, Australian IT reports. The FCC's counterpart in Australia, the Australian Communication Authority, will now regulate access to content on the new 3G (3rd-generation) phones with high-speed Net access (to all of it - text, images, sound, video). "The new access controls will cover text messages deemed to be 'of an adult nature' on new phones ... and other audiovisual content with MA or R ratings. Content classified X or which is refused classification will be banned from the premium mobile phone services."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Easier PC recycling to come?

Dell and Hewlett-Packard say they want to take more of the financial burden for recycling computers off the shoulders of consumers and local governments, the New York Times reports. The companies' messages were "timed to the release Wednesday of an annual 'report card' of corporate environmental behavior by the Computer Takeback Campaign, a project of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental research group based in San Jose, Calif." Dell got poor grades in last year's report, while HP received the Campaign's highest rating.

Parents unconcerned...

A full third of US parents "are not concerned about their children's safety when using the Internet," according to a recent survey done for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Twenty percent of parents "do not know any of the Internet codes or passwords, IM handles or email addresses for their children using the Internet," according to the NCMEC's press release. And 5% or less of parents surveyed are familiar with the most commonly used acronyms used by children on the Internet, like "POS" ("parent over shoulder"), often used before a computer screen is quickly minimized before its contents can be seen by Mom or Dad.

Girl's photos published on the Web

A Canadian man who, with a camera phone, took nude pictures of his 17-year-old girlfriend and published them on the Web was convicted and imprisoned for distributing child pornography, Reuters reported this week. He was sentenced to six months and "will be banned from using a cellphone or computer for two years after he is released." Because of the nature of the Web, the tragedy is that the girl's photos can be copied and circulated around the world indefinitely, all copies of which would be difficult if not impossible to find, much less removed from the Web or all the computer hard drives connected to it. Here's a link to one educator's view on how parents and educators need to help kids think through implications like these.

What worries young file-sharers

Whether they're downloading games, music, or software, kids 8-18 are concerned most about viruses (60%), then lawsuits (50%), spyware (43%), and whether or not downloading copyrighted material is wrong (29%). This is according to a just-released Harris Interactive survey sponsored by the Business Software Alliance, which has a particular concern about copyright theft. Eighty percent of US 8-to-18-year-olds "understand the definition of copyright, and yet more than half download music, 32% download games, and 22% download commercial software illegally," the BSA's press release says, adding: "As youth grow up, their knowledge about copyright increases, but their illegal downloading habits do, too." Home is where the downloading is: 55% of tweens and teens download free music, software, movies, and games on a family computer, 52% on their own PC, 34% at a friend's house, and 13% and 8% at a public library or somewhere else, respectively. More TV ads about piracy may be in the works, because the BSA found that kids learn "respect for copyrighted works" first from TV (59%), then parents (44%), the Internet (44%), friends (30%), and finally at school (18%). And their downloading prefs? Not surprisingly, music first (53%), then games (32%), software (22%), and movies (17%).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Kids 'n' camera phones: Scan for more info

Picture this: There's a bar code on a child's backpack or school uniform. A camera phone scans the bar code (like taking a picture), and up on the phone's screen pops the child's Web page with real-time information about him or her. As any parent can visualize, there's a definite darkside to this scenario, described in a Wired News article about this new bar code technology, called "Semacode" (here's their Web site). "This week, the art group etoy will issue Semacoded uniforms to 500 children participating in its "etoy.Day-Care-2 project" at the Nieuwe Domeinen arts and architecture festival in Amsterdam," Wired News reports. It's technology that will probably catch on ("businesspeople could put Semacodes on their business cards to link to constantly updated contact information"; "museums could tag exhibits with Semacodes to provide information in multiple languages"), so - if your kid's school someday thinks this is a cool idea - be ready with another perspective. Just for the purposes of discussion: This neat technology could also get into the wrong hands.

Monday, May 17, 2004

File-sharing at school

Parents might want to tell music fans heading off to school this fall that universities don't necessarily protect them from anti-piracy lawsuits. "A federal judge has ordered Michigan State University to produce the identities of nine people accused of using the campus computer system to illegally make music available to others via the Internet," the Detroit Free Press reports, and MSU has made no objection to the request. The RIAA (recording industry trade association) has particularly targeted file-sharing at universities in recent legal action. The latest round of RIAA lawsuits targeted 477 file-sharers at 14 universities across the US (see this issue of my newsletter for details.) The way it works is, the RIAA identifies the IP addresses of the computers used by very active file-sharers (those who not only download music via P2P services like, but also make hundreds or thousands of songs on their hard drives available to others) and deliver those IP addresses to a judge with the request that the judge order an Internet service provider or university to reveal the names of the people who own those computers.