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Friday, August 13, 2004

Bullying chat shut down

A UK teen online community was shut down because of allegations that it was being used by bullies to victimize children, The Register reports., "which claims to be the 'largest online teen community' in North London and Hertfordshire ... contained death threats and racist comments, according to anti-bullying charity, Bullying Online. The organization had received complaints from kids and parents about the discussion board, so its director, Liz Carnell, The Register reports, spent most of last weekend trying to persuade the bullies on Mouth2Mouth that their abusive comments could "tip someone over the edge into suicide" and "were cowardly as none of the posters gave their names." Mouth2Mouth later posted a notice saying the community had been shut down "pending further notice." For more on this, see "The growing 'cyberbullying' problem" in my newsletter.

AOL's low-cost connecting

Starting this month America Online will help low-income and minority households get connected by selling low-cost PCs with a year of dial-up Net service, Reuters reports. AOL says it hopes to attract the 27% of US homes comprised of seniors, African Americans, and Hispanics who don't own a computer. Reuters cites AOL figures showing that, with 2 million members, the ISP's Latino service, launched last October, is a leading online service provider for the US Spanish-speaking community. AOL will launch Blackvoices next month. The new connected-PC package will be sold at Office Depot stores.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

19-year-old worm writer

Jeffrey Parson pleaded guilty in a federal court in Seattle to creating a variant of the MS Blaster worm, Australian IT reports. The Minnesota teenager "admitted to intentionally causing and attempting to cause damage to a protected computer by authoring and spreading a version of the worm that spread rapidly on the internet, clogging computer networks, including Australian ones." He faces 18 months to three years in jail and potential fines.

Net & everyday US life

The Internet may be a little more than icing to Americans' everyday lives, but it hasn't changed the cake. In a major multi-year study, the Pew Internet & American Live project found that "the vast majority of online Americans say the Internet plays a role in their daily routines and that the rhythm of their everyday lives would be affected if they could no longer go online. Yet, despite its great popularity and allure, the Internet still plays second fiddle to old-fashioned habits." Some key findings: "88% of online Americans say the Internet plays a role in their daily routines. Of those, one-third say it plays a major role, and two-thirds say it plays a minor role. The activities they identified as most significant are communicating with family and friends and finding a wealth of information at their fingertips." Here's coverage from the San Jose Mercury News and MSNBC.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

'Drive-by downloads'

This is something all parents of busy young Web surfers should know about. "Drive-by downloads" are nasty little programs people inadvertently download to their computers just by going to some not-so-well-meaning Web sites. The Washington Post's "Computer Guy" does a great job of explaining what can be done about them (they are largely an Internet Explorer problem, so users of other browsers can ignore this post).

3rd & 4th graders on cybersafety

Most of the third- and fourth-graders at Deer Park Elementary have a Net-connected computer at home, but "only 39% of the third-graders and 43% of the fourth-graders are required to ask their parents' permission before using their home computer," according to a survey conducted by the Washington, D.C., area school. Teacher Diane Painter reports in that Deer Park celebrates Computer Learning Month each October by working with its students on "Cyber Safety and Ethics Awareness issues" and this summer surveyed its 3rd- and 4th-graders to find out how much they knew already. The study is a helpful look - for parents and teachers - at what parents and kids should know and at the excellent tech- and media-literacy work being done at some schools. In a few other findings, one-third of the 3rd- and 4th-graders have their own email accounts; less than 15% said they go into chat rooms, but by 4th grade, about 25% engage in instant-messaging; 39% of 3rd-graders and 63% of 4th-graders said they talk about Net safety at home. [On chat rooms, a police officer told a Deer Park school assembly that, while most crimes in their school district were on the decline, cyber crimes went up in Fairfax County, Va., "450% from 2001 to 2002. Many of these crimes were directly related to chat room use."] There are helpful tips for parents under "Safety Clicks Assembly" in this report, and don't miss the "Third Grade Cyber Safety Cartoons."

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Families, look for AIM update!

This is for AIM users and their parents (a whole lot of teenagers use AOL instant-messaging!): Look for a critical update that AOL will be releasing very soon. A vulnerability in AIM has been discovered which "could allow a malicious hacker to use the 'Away Message' feature to take control of a user's machine," reports. AOL says a hacker could take over an AIM user's PC only if "a user actively clicks on a URL in an instant message conversation," which is always a bit risky.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The 'pirate generation'

The Business Software Alliance says that the younger people are "the more likely they are to own and use pirated goods" such as software, CDs, and DVDs, the BBC reports. The article cites fresh BSA research finding a "growing disrespect" for copyrights, with nearly half of UK 18-to-29-year-olds owning pirated or counterfeit goods. The study found that 17% of people over 50 own pirated goods, compared to 44% of people 18-29, and 28% of 18-to-29-year-olds "did not even consider copyright laws before they bought such goods.