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Friday, June 27, 2008

Benefits of social networking: Study

In what Science Daily calls a "first-of-its-kind study" of teen social-networking practices, researchers at the University of Minnesota looked low-income, 16-to-18-year-olds in 13 urban schools in the Midwest. It found that - contrary to reports of a high-income/low-income digital divide - 94% use the Internet, 82% go online at home, and 77% had social-network profiles. "When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills." They're editing and creating content, designing and laying out pages, creating "original work like poetry and film," and "practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology," the researchers said, adding that social network sites "offer tremendous educational potential." Though directed at educators, I thought this point from study author Christine Greenhow just as useful to parents: She "suggests that educators can help students realize even more benefits from their social network site use by working to deepen students' still emerging ideas about what it means to be a good digital citizen and leader online," Science Daily reports. Here's a video interview with Dr. Greenhow.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Social-networking manners

A Telegraph columnist understandably asks, basically: What's wrong with this picture - a stuffy old publisher "identified in the popular mind with ... the appropriate usage of pudding forks and cheese knives" writing rules for polite social networking? But somebody at Debrett's must have a profile in MySpace, Bebo, or Facebook. They're pretty good rules, actually - except maybe for the one that says you're supposed to always use a phone or card to wish a friend happy birthday, not a comment on his/her wall. However, Washington Post writer Kim Hart, blogged this question: "When it comes to maintaining relationships, do social networks let us 'cheat' a little too much?" She was writing about a just-released survey by the Consumer Internet Barometer finding that "common pet peeves among social-networking regulars include 'lack of manners'." Debrett's five "golden rules" are at the bottom of this other Telegraph report on the subject. It'd be very interesting to ask a teenage focus group what's missing. And the Telegraph columnist's right, of course, that "codes of behaviour emerge from the users [of social sites], and are constantly modified by them." It's just that some older users don't always want to wait that long.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What makes good digital citizens?

The answer at points to the next phase, I think, of all our efforts in online safety: "Digital citizenship isn’t just about recognising and dealing with online hazards. It's about building safe spaces and communities, understanding how to manage personal information, and about being Internet savvy - using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same." That helps me think about how to teach children accountability for their behavior online. If they begin to see online environments as communities they're helping to shape so that they have a stake in appearance, atmosphere, and outcomes of activity within them, they'll simply act more accountably. Maybe disinhibition and anonymity become less problematic when users are citizens as much as socializers., a report from UK-based Childnet International, looks at social networking with this potential in mind. The report examines the risks but also how the social Web is "being used to support personalised formal and informal learning by young people in schools and colleges." The site defines social networking and links to a pdf comparison chart of seven social network sites. An equally important section of the site addresses cyberbullying, with advice on how to "embed anti-bullying work in schools" and some powerful video teaching tools.

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GPS: Matching ads to phone users

"We’re in the midst of a boom in devices that show where people are at any point in time," the New York Times reports. The devices - cellphones, mostly - not only show people where people are (as in parents tracking kids) but also show advertisers where people are. In effect. Cellphone users can opt to allow the information about their location to inform software in the phone what advertising would be relevant to the user at that moment. Groups have raised consumer privacy issues, and providers of the ad-targeting software (at least some of them) seem to be factoring those concerns into it. With one such product, CitySense, users opt in (e.g., for ads that tell them where everybody's going for pizza or music near them) - and "opt in" means it isn't there by default - to the service and "if they want to purge their data, they can do so at any time," according to the Times.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Social-networking friends in ads

The industry term is "behavioral ad targeting." What it means is, advertisers are tracking young social networkers' (and everyone else's) online behavior the better to persuade them to "sell" the companies' products to their friends. "Internet start-ups out to crack the problem of advertising on social networks are developing ad technology that can analyze which people are most influential to their friends on social networks so that they can target those people with pass-it-on messages about Apple's latest iPhone or The Incredible Hulk movie," CNET reports. Widgets, those little applications that social networkers install in their profiles, are the key. Startups such as SocialMedia Networks and 33Across use them to figure out, with a mathematical algorithm, which friends are most important to the person with the profile - to decide which friends should be in a banner ad on the profile. Interesting: using math to qualify friendship. Anyway, here's CNET reporter Stefanie Olsen's example: "Instead of a banner advertising The Incredible Hulk movie, a social banner would ask which of your close Facebook friends, among a short list, you'd like to invite to see the movie. Or a social banner might inform you that a friend Jim just ranked Iron Man with three stars, and it might ask to 'click here to buy tickets at Fandango'."

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Felony charges for teen hackers

Two high school seniors in California were charged with "breaking into their school late at night and using stolen log-ins to hack into its computer system and change their grades," eCommerce Times reports. One faces a maximum sentence of more than 38 years for "34 felony counts of altering a public record, 11 felony counts of stealing and secreting a public record, seven felony counts of computer access and fraud, six felony counts of burglary, four felony counts of identity theft, three felony counts of altering a book of records, two felony counts of receiving stolen property, one felony count of conspiracy and one felony count of attempted altering of a public record." The other student faces a maximum of three years for "one felony count each of conspiracy, burglary, computer access and fraud, and attempted altering of a public record."