Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at

Friday, May 04, 2007

Read 'Totally Wired'

In this week's issue of my newsletter, I review the new book Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online, by Anastasia Goodstein. Please have a look!

Free speech on social Web: Canada

Anyone concerned about defamation on the social Web – such as school teachers and administrators – might be interested in a lawsuit filed in Canada by a businessman who says postings in a variety of sites “paint him as disreputable and as a bully.” Writing in the Toronto Star, law professor Michael Geist says that if Wayne Crookes, formerly involved with the Green Party, wins his cases against MySpace, Yahoo, and Wikipedia, among other services, they “could have a significant chilling effect on free speech in Canada.” Geists writes that “the suits would effectively require websites - including anyone who permits comments on a blog or includes links to other sites - to proactively monitor and remove content that may raise liability concerns.” Sites and bloggers would respond by dropping the option for people to add comments. He cites the US’s Child Online Protection Act of 1996, saying “courts in the US have repeatedly denied attempts to hold intermediaries liable for content posted by third parties on the grounds that a 1996 statute provided them with immunity for such postings” and concludes that Canada would do well to introduce a similar provision,” explaining why.

Obama's MySpace: Lesson for teens?

What happened this week with Barack Obama’s MySpace profile could happen to anyone, and it’s a useful illustration for people trying to understand ways cyberbullying happens on the social Web. One way: A friend sets up a blog or profile for someone. The someone begins to feel that friend is misrepresenting her and suggests maybe she should take over her own profile. The profile creator takes offense because he feels he was so nice to set things up. He changes the password so the person the profile’s about can’t have access. Friends become ex-friends, and now the page is an imposter profile, where harassment and defamation can happen. It didn’t get that bad for Barack Obama, but his campaign let some nice volunteer supporter in L.A. create the candidate’s profile and run it for more than two years, the Associated Press reports. It was pretty convincingly Obama, you can see from this amusing Los Angeles Times commentary about how the writer was getting way too many bulletins from Barack and had to delete the candidate from his Friends list. Probably not because of the L.A. Times piece but wisely, Obama’s campaign people were beginning to feel it was time to take control of the profile and asked the L.A. supporter/profile creator to hand over the password. You can read in the AP piece how a sticky situation seems to have been resolved fairly amicably – thanks to a personal call to the guy from Obama himself - but with Obama having to give up the 160,000 friends the supporter amassed for his MySpace profile while it was under the supporter’s control. That 160,000 was “about four times what any other official campaign MySpace page has amassed.” But by Wednesday evening, the Obama profile’s Friends count was back up to 20,000. In a bigger social-Web fracas this week, user-driven news site experienced a user rebellion that could mire the site in litigation that would have the potential to put it out of business – see

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How the CyberTipline works

The tips about child exploitation or child porn that the US’s CyberTipline receives 24/7 are acted on immediately. One of the Tipline’s analysts at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children looks at what comes in via the Web (at or phone (via 800.843.5678) and immediately looks at the threat level to a child. If it’s top-priority, the people behind the Tipline, the Center’s Exploited Child Unit, contact the parent immediately, do a search for the best help local to the case, and contact law enforcement in that jurisdiction and other relevant law enforcement agencies, including the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force if there is one in that state. “Since it started, the CyberTipline has received about 450,000 child sexual exploitation reports, about 400,000 of which involved possession, distribution and/or manufacture of child pornography,” reports the Visalia [Calif.] Times-Delta. It adds that, “during a typical week, the CyberTipline gets more than 1,000 child pornography reports. Not every tip involves illegal activity…. Some report adult pornography or simply offensive online content.

Disney's social site for tweens

Aimed at social networkers under 14, Disney Xtreme Digital will allow them to create their own “personal mini Web sites” as in MySpace only with parental controls, Reuters reports. Parents will be able to monitor interaction, and “a chat feature requires parental approval for kids to go beyond trading canned messages designed to prevent users from revealing personal information, or from using profanity.” Kids can decorate their sites with Disney characters and themes (which sounds a little juvenile for older tweens, so we’ll see). The site’s goal, Reuters says, sounds like viral marketing, actually. It’s “to create a community of kid marketers for Disney, as kids visit each other's sites and talk up Disney TV shows, characters, and products.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MySpace, Chinese-style

Tom won’t be your friend if you join MySpace in China. A Chinese person will be, the New York Times reports. MySpace China “faces stiff competition from China’s home-grown Internet companies, including Baidu, Tencent, Sina and, as well as dozens of other Internet start-ups.” So its parent, Fox Interactive, is not going down the bumpy road other US Internet companies took in that country but rather will license the MySpace name to “Chinese entrepreneurs who understand their market.”

Closer look at mobile social networking

Phones as personal location devices. That’s one big reason why cellphones are joining computers as social networking devices (the other being that people have a lot of fun sharing media on phones). Friends and family can find each other’s physical location and get together or blog about their locations as they go. “Location-based services (LBS) represent at least a $750 million market in 2007,” reports co-director Larry Magid in “Soon, thanks to Federal Communications Commission rules, all phones will be able to transmit your location. The question isn't whether you can be found, but how that information will be used and who will have access to it.” And there are other tracking technologies besides GPS for both phones and computers using instant messaging. That’s why “members of the location services industry met with Washington policy makers and other stake-holders at the April 25 event that was sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation. Although no formal proposals came out of that meeting, there was discussion about "best practices," Larry writes. Socializing by sharing media and documenting our lives on phones is the focus of the New York Times’s report this week on mobile social networking. For some data on teens sharing media with phones, see this M:Metrics study. On mobile socializing in general, see also and

Lawsuit over student's MySpace photo

A student has sued her school for denying her a teaching degree “because of a MySpace photo,” the Associated Press reports. “Millersville University [in Pennsylvania] instead granted Stacy Snyder a degree in English [instead of Education] last year after learning of her Web-published picture, which bore the caption ‘Drunken Pirate’." The AP says the dean of the Education School “accused Snyder of promoting underage drinking, the suit states.” Snyder is seeking “at least $75,000 in damages” with her federal lawsuit, the AP adds.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Schools banning music players

Where cheating’s concerned, first it was baseball caps (answers under brim), then it was cellphones (texting answers), “now, schools across the country are targeting digital media players as a potential cheating device,” the Associated Press reports. Kids can podcast (audio record) answers, store them on an iPod, Zune or Zen, and hide them “under clothing, with just an earbud and a wire snaking behind an ear and into a shirt collar to give them away, school officials say.” The National Association of Secondary School Principals told the AP it’s becoming a “national trend.”

Monday, April 30, 2007

Kids need to listen to *this*

Rapper Ben Johnson has joined a team of hearing loss specialists who talk to young music fans with earbuds about ear damage. He’s a very cool-looking 20-something musician who’s very effective at driving home the point that people need to be really careful about earbud volume levels and music listening time, reports National Public Radio. He does this for a very personal reason and because of some numbers. First, “his father Isaiah, who is looking on from the back of the cafeteria [of the middle school where the team is conducting a special assembly], is a classical musician - a conductor - who lost much of his hearing a few years ago.” Second, according to a Centers for Disease Control study NPR cites, nearly 13% of Americans ages 6-19 (more than 5 million) have suffered noise-induced hearing loss. Earbuds can cause that if they’re used for long periods (at 7+ volume on a scale of 10). The rule of thumb these experts give is to “limit earphone listening to an hour a day, at a setting no greater than six” on that scale of 10.” If other people can hear the music “leaking” from their phones, it’s too loud. If they hear ringing in their ears when they take the earbuds out, that’s “a sign of imminent ear damage.” If your children want to know why earbuds can be damaging and they don’t want to read the NPR piece, tell them it’s because they’re actually in the ear canal, very close to the “cochlea, the inner ear chamber where hearing happens.” See also this item about Apple’s free software for protecting iPod users’ ears and this about teens and hearing loss from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.