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Friday, December 21, 2007

Musicians' view of teen social networking

Come enter, here's my world
Closed off from pain and cold
Come enter, come inside
A secret place of light
'Cause in this world I'm rid of you,
You can't get through

Those are lyrics from a song entitled "Digital Deceit" by Netherlands-based band After Forever. A rare artistic depiction of teen social networking, it's part of a concept CD "about a family with serious issues," wrote researcher Daniel Cardoso in an email to me. Most of this song represents the voice of the daughter, who is "taking refuge in her Internet persona," said Daniel. You may recognize the other voice in the lyrics, that of the adults around her….

Stop dreaming and wake up
Your silly world is not what's real
This world of fake friends
and computers - digital deceit

What struck me immediately about the teenage voice in this song is how it resonates with the latest research in the US about the teens who are most vulnerable to exploitation on the social Web (see "Profile of a teen online victim"): Online "I'm beautiful and all my friends would say the same … the queen of her own world … another me, not someone insecure and strange / My father's will in here, it doesn't mean a thing / And I don't fear his violent rage" (here's a video of After Forever performing the song in YouTube). By the end of the story, however, this teen sounds too grounded to move toward victimization (for more on this CD as a whole, click to this sidebar on my server).

I was fortunate to have met Daniel Cardoso at an online-safety conference held in Lisbon last week by (Portugal's pioneering online-safety organization) and sponsored by Portugal Telecom. The conference was an unprecedented opportunity for the country's biggest Internet provider, children's advocates, research community, law enforcement, and government to compare notes on an important subject. Daniel is a researcher as well as Webmaster for EUKidsOnline Portugal, directed by Prof. Cristina Ponte at the New University of Lisbon (EU Kids Online is a huge ongoing research project involving research in 24 countries).

If you're wondering about After Forever's music, the band itself says it's hard to categorize. In its MySpace profile, it says it "has never pinned itself strictly on any given style. They have the obvious combination of metal and classical themes, but can just as easily implement rock, pop, industrial and progressive styles into their songs." The songs I've heard on this concept CD (including this other, climactic, one), sound like rock opera to me, maybe partly because they're part of a story.

Daniel kindly sent more info on the CD - Invisible Circles - as a whole. You'll find it and lyrics of "Digital Deceit" here.

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'Teens rule the Web'

That was just one (the Washington Post's) of an interesting range of headlines about the latest Pew Internet & American Life study about US 12-to-17-year-olds online. The Post's reporter blogged about how "teens continue to lead the pack in creating content on the Web." The San Jose Mercury News reported that "More teens move their social lives online." The Associated Press and USATODAY took the boy-bites-dog angle - that good, ol'-fashioned (land-line) phones and face-to-face conversation are still valued by US teens communicating with friends. Internet News zoomed in on the "super-communicators" part: "Representing 28% of teenagers, super-communicators are those kids who use every technology to communicate that is available to them, including landlines and cell phones, social-networking sites, text messaging, instant messaging and, as a last resort, email." The study was picked up internationally, of course, including in Mumbai, India, at the TechShout blog. Here are some key findings:

  • "Publishing" as conversing: 41% of teens who are on social networks said that they routinely use those sites to send messages to their friends. When teens blog, post videos, etc., they're "looking to start a conversation as much as they are trying to promote their own creative output," Internet News reports.
  • Privacy - 66% of teens with social-networking profiles limit access to their pages; 77% of those who post photos "restrict access at least some of the time." Pew's study released earlier this week found that adults are less concerned about privacy protection than teens.
  • 64% of online teens in general "engage in at least one type of content creation," up from 57% in 2004.
  • "Girls dominate most elements of content creation," according to Pew/Internet.
  • Blogs, girls; videos, boys - 28% of online teens have created a blog (up from 19% in 2004), and almost all of the new ones are girls'; while 19% of online teen boys had posted video, compared to 10% of girls.
  • 27% manage their own Web site.
  • 39% post photos, videos, and other artistic content; 54% of girls and 40% of boys have posted photos.

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  • Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Kid videogame picks & pans

    Just a quick heads-up for any last-minute shopping: CNET has a "18 top game picks: The DOs and DON'Ts of games for kids." The guide includes screen shots so you can see what the games look like, and it offers "nine games you can count on for your child, and nine you should shy away from (or keep for yourself)." They're all good games, just not all child-appropriate, CNET adds. There is one "don't" concerning hardware rather than a game, on the very last page: the Xbox 360 headset. "The premise: This simple headset plugs into your Xbox 360 controller and enables voice chat over Xbox Live and compatible games. The good: Lets your kids talk to other people over Xbox Live. The bad: Lets your kids talk to other people over Xbox Live." See also "Support for young videogamers."


    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Public wi-fi's risks

    If you're traveling for the holidays, be careful when you use wi-fi hotspots in public places. "Few things expose your [computer] to greater security risks than latching onto a public Wi-Fi service," USATODAY reports. "Computer criminals can 'sniff' the traffic in a cafe, or set up a fake hot spot that you might innocently log into. When that happens, watch out: Everything you type goes directly to the host computer, known as an 'evil twin'." The "twin is ready to grab passwords, financial info, etc. Some retailers with wireless service are now advertising secure connectivity, which really helps. If you log on and see "https" instead of "http," your connecting is also probably secure. USATODAY has a sidebar with other tips.


    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Parents speaking 'txt'?

    This is probably not news to you: Many technologically challenged parents are being introduced to the world of texting by their children, the Denver Post reports. "Statistics point emphatically to kids and young adults under 25 driving the tidal surge in text messaging - up fourfold in the past two years to almost 30 billion messages a month," the Post cites wireless industry figures as showing. But I love the basic message of the article, that "the process of young people instructing their parents can be gratifying for both." It tells of an Arizona computer services company advising parents that it's fun to surprise your kids by sending them an out-of-the-blue message like, "I love you" or "What would you like for dinner?" Meanwhile, it looks like 2007 is the year when Americans will have spent more on cellphones than on landlines, the Associated Press reports.

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    Be wary of e-cards!

    Warning: Those "holiday e-greetings" you and your kids find in your email in-boxes may not all be from friends. "E-cards can spread cheer, cheesy humor, and, unfortunately, computer viruses," the Christian Science Monitor reports. "Spammers and hackers continually shift their strategies to match the calendar. And this time of year, they often hide behind season's greetings." The temptation to click on a friendly greeting is called social engineering. The Monitor quotes a Trend Micro expert as saying that the most successful email virus ever had the subject line "I LOVE YOU." One thing people should always do is check to see if the email has the name of the person sending you the greeting and that you know the person! Check out the article's sidebar for other tips for malicious e-card avoidance.


    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Very public binge drinking

    When CNN contacted a 22-year-old university business major about a video she posted of herself drunk she took it down, saying the interview request made her realize anyone could see it, CNN reports. She's a member of a Facebook group with more than 172,000 members called "Thirty Reasons Girls Should Call it a Night," which has a page linking to 5,000 photos of drunk college students - many of them extremely humiliating (CNN describes some of them). And many of the photos "are accompanied by full names and the colleges the women attend, apparently without much concern that parents, or potential employers, will take a look." I hope it doesn't take a call from a news reporter for it to occur to other group members that the images and videos they post could be harmful to future prospects! Forty percent of US college students binge drink, reports CNN, citing a 2007 report by the Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

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    Half of us search for ourselves...

    …or someone else in Web search engines, according to the latest study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The exact figures are 47% searching for ourselves, up from 22% in 2002, and 53% searching for others. The findings "reflect how people are sharing more and more of their lives on the Internet, as well as how Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace are encouraging users to post their home videos, photographs and personal profiles online, including data ranging from their favorite movies to their cell phone number," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In other findings, some 36% of us have searched for someone we've lost touch with and 9% have "dug up information on someone they were dating." In its coverage, the Associated Press reports that teens are "more likely than adults to restrict who can see their profiles … contrary to conventional wisdom." In other findings, some 36% of us have searched for someone we've lost touch with and 9% have "dug up information on someone they were dating," according to the Chronicle. Note that 60% of us are not worried about how much information about us is online, sixty-one percent "have not felt compelled to limit it," and 38% use privacy controls. The Pew/Internet study - "Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency" - is here.

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