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Friday, June 18, 2004

Teen convicted for eBay scam

Cole Bartiromo, a 19-year-old in California, will go to prison for defrauding users of eBay's auction services. He was sentenced to 33 months and ordered to pay $20,000 back to eBay users to whom he sold items he never sent, The Register reports. This was not his first exploit. "He was also found guilty of bank fraud for trying to convince a Wells Fargo employee to wire $400,000 to an offshore account he had set up," and, when he was 17 and still in high school, the SEC made him pay investors back $900,000 after he scammed them for $1 million, claiming to offer risk-free bets on sporting events.

Rethinking 'stranger danger': Part 2

Last week, I featured Janis Wolak - mother, sociologist, and research professor at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. One of my takeaways from a phone interview with her is the suggestion that, before we start trying to explain anything in a one-way, us-to-them sort of arrangement, it might help first to understand how the online social scene works in our kids' lives. There's a lot to learn - their online/offline blend of a social life is unprecedented. Here's one approach Janis suggested: "When your child has some friends over, talk with them frankly about their Net activities in general, then get more specific and ask them how they form relationships on the Internet.... Do you know anybody at school who's met a friend online, then offline? How did they get together? "It's not so much that we need to be telling kids, 'don't have sex with 40-yr-old men'," she continued. "We need to be talking with kids about Internet relationships in general." Here's more on this in the SafeKids/NetFamilyNewsletter. Email me anytime about conversations you and your kids have had about this - your experiences would be great to share with other parents!

Harry Potter creator's home page - not the forthcoming Book 6 or the just-released movie under a new director - is the most significant Harry Potter development, according to the New York Times. Said to be entirely written by Rowling herself, "the site has tallied 76 million page views in just a few weeks," the Times reports. The only problem is, it's designed to dispel rumors and guesswork about future developments, and rumors and guesswork are major fan fuel. What hard-core fan would prefer reading the truth?!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Cool games on cell phones

Charge up your batteries! Or at least, get ready for major competition with your kids over the family cell phones or time on their battery chargers. And not just for communicating with or taking pictures of their friends. Because very cool, graphically intense games are coming to a cell phone near you. "The switch from stubby cartoon figures to graceful golfers and lifelike superheroes is likely to be swift," the New York Times reports, because the games will probably be ready about the same time as phones will have the sophisticated graphics chips needed to support them. Actually, you know how some people use those teeny iPods with their 30- and 40-gig hard drives to carry around and transfer files from their desktop PCs? Well, cell phones are really becoming more and more computer-like too. And, believe me, kids will find ways to use their phones as computers just as much as game platforms. Get them to teach you how!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Dublin on protecting young 3G phone users

Dublin is taking unparalleled care to protect young users of next-generation cell phones. Because the Irish government sees 3G phones as potential "tools of pedophiles," Wired News reports, it's establishing a national register that "will require the name and address of anyone who buys a 3G phone to ensure that people who use it abusively, either to target children or to access or distribute child pornography, can be traced to their physical address." Wired News explains that 2G phones have always-on Net access like DSL; 3G phones have full-time access but at even faster speeds, making images and video much more part of the phone users' online experience. The government reasons it's simply getting in on the ground floor of the market for this new model of phone - to provide a deterrent to porn distribution more than a blanket solution, Wired News adds. Certainly the move has its critics, who say it represents "infringement of civil liberties for little real benefit." And cell phone companies are working on filtering and other protection technologies.

Taking on hate

Any effort to reduce our children's exposure to online hate is good, and this week's conference on the subject in Paris was remarkable just in its level of participation. "Officials from more than 60 countries were attending the two-day conference aimed at finding ways to keep racist information off the Web without compromising free speech and freedom of expression," USAToday reports. European governments see hate Web sites as a factor in the growing number of hate crimes. Certainly, the number of hate sites is on the rise. In the SafeKids/NetFamilyNewsletter last month, I mentioned new figures from the UK showing that the number of hate and violence sites had increased 25% since this past January and 300% since 2000. UK Net filtering company SurfControl monitors nearly 3,000 sites that "promote hatred against Americans, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and people of non-European ancestry, as well as graphic violence."

Blocking P2P in high school now

In some high schools around the country all the tune-swapping happening in the lunchroom may actually be replaced by lunch. According to CNET, what used to be a preoccupation of college and university network administrators has moved down to the high school level. "Filtering technology from Audible Magic has been installed at several high schools around the country, most recently at private Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose, Calif., and a technical high school in Cape Cod, Mass.," CNET reports.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Nemo's coming to a PC near you

Finding Nemo and most other films shown on the Starz cable network will soon be available online, the New York Times reports. "The new service, called Starz Ticket on Real Movies, will cost $12.95 a month, and subscribers will be able to download and watch 100 or more movies each month, using Real's media player software," according to the Times, which adds that the move is part of Hollywood's effort to head off the kind of financial losses like those the recording industry says it's experiencing because of MP3 file-sharers' piracy. Here are USAToday and the Washington Post on the new service, which launched this week.