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Dear Subscribers:

We learned a lot this week and hope you will be as interested as we were in the new information that's just emerged about online teens. Please keep in mind we're looking for your stories of "Good Things [big and small that] Kids are Doing on the Internet" (see our description). We're also very interested in hearing about lessons learned (by kids and their families) on and with the Internet.

Here's our lineup for this final week of June:

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Global data: Teenagers in the digital age

We know a great deal more about online teens and their families' Net-use policies this week, thanks to a whole passel of just-released surveys and reports. We were quite fascinated by what these data show about the Internet's impact on young people's lives, and we think you will be too. (We also think the survey questions and responses say something about wise online-safety practices and policies in the home.)

Three important studies - by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Canada's Media Awareness Network, and the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire - came out in the past couple of weeks. The Walt Disney Company, too, released fresh data on 6-14-year-olds online, and there were related media reports from Germany, Norway, Iran, and Malaysia.

  1. The online life of teens

    The US now has 17 million Net users aged 12-17, according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and the Net plays "a major role in their relationships with their friends, families, and schools" (e.g., 17% have used IMs to ask someone out, 13% to break up with someone!). Here are other fascinating findings:

    • 73% of US teenagers 12-17 use the Net.
    • 74% of all US online teens (13 million) use instant messaging, and 19% of them say IM is now the main way they communicate with their friends.
    • 75% of the online teens said they'd miss the Net if they couldn't use it.
    • Half said being online has improved their relationships with friends and a third said it's helped them make new friends.
    • Their Top 5 online activities are email, surfing for fun, visiting entertainment sites, instant messaging, and researching hobbies.

    Teens' phenomenal adoption of instant messaging was the focus of reports from both and USAToday (at CNN says the study shows that "teenagers have adopted the Internet and instant messaging so completely that it has even replaced face-to-face communication as the primary mode of interacting for some teens." And USAToday says IM is becoming "an indispensable means of teen socialization." (Tell your teens to "get ready for IM advertising," the New York Times warned this week.)

    The gap between what parents say and what kids say about parental restrictions on kids' Net use was the focus of's coverage of the Pew Report ("61% of parents said they restrict when and for how long their children may use the Internet, and 37% of the kids reported having any online restrictions").

    Disney just released a survey of slightly younger kids (ages 6-14) and their parents (see below), reports Reuters). It found that:

    • 80% of children reported that a parent has told them what to do if someone they don't know asked personal questions about them online.
    • Asked what they do when faced with inappropriate solicitations, 42% of children said they don't answer, 34% notify their parents, and 23% log off.
    • 91% of the children said they would not reveal their name, 96% would not give out their address, and 99% would not give out their phone number to a stranger online.

    One student's stand against filtering

    Seventeen-year-old Daniel Silverman in Santa Ana, Calif., gives a clear view of the online life of students, teachers, and administrators in a US high school in a piece he wrote for We don't think his school's experience is one bit unusual. His description of his stand for students' "fair and equitable access to online information," one that he says even some teachers supported, yields insights into how tough decisionmaking can be for administrators when students know a lot more about technology than they do; schools' filtering dilemmas; and what schools face in complying with district-level Net-use policies as well as the Children's Internet Protection Act, the US's new mandatory-filtering law for schools and libraries. (Search for "CIPA" at the top of this page to find all updates on the law and lawsuits filed against it.)

    Canadian teens' online times

    An even higher proportion of young Canadians are online than US teens. Seventy-nine percent of Canadian teens are accessing the Net from home, and a majority of them are well ahead of their parents in knowledge and exploration of cyberspace, according to a Media Awareness Network study funded by the Canadian government. Here are just a few key findings:

    • Half of young people said they think they know more about the Internet than their parents do.
    • 84% said they're by themselves when they go online, at least some of the time.
    • 70% said their parents talk to them very little or not at all about what they do online.
    • 38% said they use the Net for schoolwork (though not as much as their parents think they do). The Net was ranked No. 1 among young people as their preferred source of information, followed by books from the public library and books from school.

    Norway's even more wired kids

    A whopping 92% of all Norwegians 7-18 have Net access, according to a Norwegian Film Control Board survey of parents in that country. According to Aftenposten Interactive, "most [Norwegian] parents are concerned about their children's Internet use, but an amazing nine out of ten have no idea whom to contact about security control measures."

    German teens: Most time spent online

    Germans 16 and under are "not as smitten" with the Internet as online kids in other countries, but those online are spending more time on the Net than their counterparts elsewhere. cites a NetValue Deutschland survey that looked at teen Net use at home just during the month of March '01. It showed that only 6.8% of German adolescents used the Net that month, behind Norway (18.9%), the UK (11.6%), Denmark (11.4%), the US (10.8%), France (8.2%), Germany (6.8%), and Spain (6.7 percent). Then the study looked at the average number of hours teens spent online a week during March and found that German youth averaged 10.9 hours, compared with 5.9 hours in the US, 5.8 in the UK, 5.6 in Spain, 4 in Norway, 3.9 in France, and 3.3 in Denmark. As for online *communications*, the study also found that young Germans "spend on average almost twice as much time chatting and instant messaging online as the average of adolescents outside of Germany. One explanation offered for German online kids' heavy use is that they're early adopters, compared with young Net users in other countries, and early adopters tend to be heavier users.

    Iran, Malaysia, Taiwan: Cyber-cafe controversy

    Several news outlets reported that Iran's national telephone monopoly had issued new regulations forcing Internet service providers to block access to juveniles, but the phone company denied the charge, according to Its response offered insights into how many young people access the Net in Iran: The phone company said there had been a misunderstanding; it had simply told ISPs that they cannot authorize people under 18 to open cyber-cafes.

    "The capital city of Tehran boasts more than 1,500 Internet cafes, with more in other large metropolitan areas," CNN reports, adding that "the businesses are favorite hangouts for the mostly young population of Iran, an Islamic republic where conservatives direct the state media. Last month authorities closed down more than 400 cyber-shops in Tehran, demanding that owners obtain licenses to remain open."

    Cyber-cafes appear to be causing controversy and/or concern in other countries, too. In Malaysia, which has spent billions of dollars in the last five years on becoming a tech-literate society and preparing youth for high-tech jobs, "cyber-cafes have sprung up in the smallest towns. But many Malaysians believe [the] freedom of access [the cafes represent] may give youth too many of the wrong kind of ideas," reports Reuters (via Wired News). New regulations are afoot in at least one Malaysian state.

    And in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, which has proposed "draconian regulations" for cyber-cafes, cafe owners are offering some compromises. According to the Taipei Times, Net cafe proprietors "said they were willing to pay for the installation of monitoring systems connecting their premises to the police and to implement self-monitoring measures in exchange for the city government's relaxation of the regulations."

    2. Risks encountered

    Sexual solicitation of online kids was the focus of a study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week. Findings cited in the New York Times included these:

    • 19% of the young people surveyed said they had received at least one sexual solicitation in the past year.
    • 3% characterized the solicitation as aggressive.
    • 10% of those solicitations were reported to the police, and a majority of children and parents said they did not know how to report an incident to authorities.
    • 25% of the young people reported being very upset or afraid because of the experience ("and neither the presence of filters nor parental monitoring ...decreased the likelihood that a child would be sexually solicited by a stranger online, the researchers said").
    • Those at the greatest risk of such encounters are kids who 1) spend the most time online and 2) directly communicate with others in chat rooms or via instant-messaging.

    3. Parents' views and policies

    In the US

    The Pew survey also offered insights into American parents' policies and feelings about their teens' online activities:

    • 55% of parents of online teens say learning how to use the Internet is essential for their children's future success and a further 40% say it is important.
    • Just over 60% say they have rules about Internet use, and the same proportion check to see what sites their children visit.
    • 70% have the Net-enabled PC in an open family area in their home.
    • 41% have installed filters or content controls.
    • 45% of parents are worried that the Internet leads young people to engage in dangerous or harmful activities.
    • 40% have had arguments with their children about the Internet.

    We parents are definitely setting more online rules and limits, the Disney study (of 774 US parents with children 4-14 and of about 400 children 6-14) found. Here are its key findings on parent policies:

    • 71% of parents set rules on the content their children interact with online.
    • 48% set limits on surfing time.
    • 88% of parents say their child does not go online at all from his/her own bedroom.
    • 55% say the child goes online with parents or the entire family present.

    In Canada:

    Here's what the Media Awareness Network found in its parents study about Canadian family online practices:

    • 35% of parents said they know "a great deal" about the Web sites their kids visit; 36% "a fair bit."
    • 38% said they talk "a great deal" to their children about using the Net; 40% "a fair bit."
    • 75% said the family computer is located in a common area of the home.
    • 70% have set rules for their children's Internet use.
    • 67% said they check the bookmarks or browser history to see where their children go online.
    • 21% of children have come across sexually explicit material (that their parents are aware of).
    • 6% of children have been sent unsolicited sexual material (that their parents are aware of)
    • 4% of children have met someone in person whom they first met on the Net (that their parents are aware of).

    In the UK:

    In a relevant news piece, "The Once Project," a European Union-backed online-safety project, tells parents they need to be as familiar as their kids with chat and IM in order to ensure their online safety. According to the BBC, "Greater familiarity would mean that parents have a better idea of what their children are getting up to online, and make more sensible decisions about policing Net time."

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Now we'd like to hear about experiences with and policies for online kids at your house or school - do send views and stories to!

(We want to thank QuickLinks in the UK for pointing out some of the above stories.)

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Seasonal stuff

  1. Celebrating independence

    There's lots of July 4th fun and learning at this week - from a fireworks screensaver to instructions on how to make a red, white 'n' blue pinwheel and shoot virtual fireworks online. Homeschoolers have probably already found the Betsy Ross home page and the "Happy Birthday America" Web site.

  2. Chill out…

    …courtesy of's "Antarctica". You can see what it's like to be on an expedition to that chilly continent by checking out the dispatches, video, audio, and photos from researchers on an icebreaker just now ending its mission. They were studying krill, a small sea creature that is key to Antarctica life. And for the latest kid features at this site, go to National Geographic Kids for fun summer learning with the likes of "Creature Feature," a Pearl Harbor message board for kids, and "Cartoon Factory," where kids supply the words.

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Web News Briefs

  1. International cyber-crime pact

    The "Convention on Cyber-Crime," expected to be ratified and signed by multiple countries shortly, might help advance the world's fight against child pornography online, but it has its critics. According to CNET, the broad treaty, designed to improve international cooperation in fighting crime on the Internet, will also help combat crimes such as unauthorized access to a network, data interference, computer-related fraud and forgery, and digital copyright infringement. The critics, ZDNet reports, mostly from the US, voiced their opposition to the treaty following the end of a two-week drafting session on Wednesday. [They] claim the pact threatens free speech and could force Internet service providers to become global content police."

  2. Minority of 400 million

    The Internet is "merely a minority pursuit in the global scheme of things, says Britain's, explaining that - according to fresh data from Ipsos-Reid researchers who spoke to people in 30 countries - only one in 10 people use the Net out of a world population of 6 billion. US-based Nielsen/NetRatings confirms that number as conservative with its figure for 1st-quarter 2001: 429 million people with Net access worldwide. The regional breakdown: "The US and Canada still account for the largest proportion of the world's Internet access, with 41% of the global audience located in those countries. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa has the second highest proportion of access, with 27% of the world's Internet population, followed by Asia Pacific with 20%, and trailed by Latin America with 4%.

  3. State of the Net: Africa

    And while we're getting a handle on Internet demographics, Nua Internet Surveys summarizes a thorough update just done on Africa, where 1 in 200 people are online (1 in 3 in North America and Europe, 1 in 30 worldwide). Nua cites the prohibitive cost of access as the biggest barrier, though work-arounds are in process. The study, by African Internet company SANGONeT's Mike Jensen, shows that there are now "about 1.3 million dial-up Internet access subscribers in Africa, with 750,000 in South Africa, 250,000 in the North African countries, and 300,000 shared out across the rest of the continent." Between three and five people use each dial-up account, the report found, which means there are now "at least 4 million" Net users in Africa (2.5 million of them in South Africa) and 640 Internet service providers (75 of them in South Africa). "Many ISPs allow users to have an email-only account for a lower subscription fee. Others, including the regional market leader, Africa Online, are rolling out public access points. Apart from kiosks and cyber-cafes, Internet access is also being made available in public buildings such as schools, police stations, and clinics.

  4. Good news for Microsoft

    Anyone interested has probably already heard plenty about a US federal appeals court's unanimous decision to throw out a lower court's order for the breakup of Microsoft (though the court said MS had indeed abused its monopoly power in the software business). Just in case you'd like a few more angles on this top tech story of the week.... Here's some perspective via a Washington Post editorial and CNET's very complete roundup. Here's Microsoft's official response and the somewhat vague one from the US Justice Department, as reported by The New York Times spells out the options both Microsoft and the Justice Department now have and describes the antitrust actions MS still faces.

  5. More legislation: Student privacy, pedophilia

    The US Congress just gave schools more to deal with than mandatory filtering and the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). According to, "the Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would require schools to get parental consent before collecting personal information from students for commercial use." Looks good at first glance (as did CIPA), but the National School Board Association and the American Association of School Administrators "have generally opposed the legislation, saying it would severely restrict student access to the Internet, undermine local control, and impose an administrative burden on local schools."

    Other legislation that advanced in Congress this week would give police broader powers to "to track and pursue pedophiles who target children over the Internet." The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, reports, but "some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill could needlessly expand the federal government's surveillance powers."

  6. 'Napster and libraries'

    For over a year libraries have been looking into a Napster-like system called Docster to share files and documents between library branches, according to But Napster CEO Hank Barry says that just because Napster's copyright problems are subsiding doesn't mean other organizations engaged in Net-based file-sharing won't run into similar battles. At the American Library Association's annual conference in San Francisco, he told librarians to watch out for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. gives a hypothetical situation in which file-sharing libraries can run into trouble under the copyright law.

  7. Most wired school

    A private school in Winston-Salem, N.C., is requiring that all high school students come to school with a Palm IIIc and a portable keyboard. In a great followup to our last issue's feature on pocket PCs in school, Wired News reports that, according to Palm, it's the first K-12 school in the US to have such a requirement.

    Also from Wired's ed writer, Katie Dean, see "New Tools for the Schools", her report from the National Educational Computing Conference (of 15,000 educators!) on the latest on tech for school.

  8. Parental advisory on music

    Feel the need to be more up on today's music scene and the latest censorship issues? Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing out a interview with Eric Nuzum, author of "Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America." The interview was picked up by the New York Times. One interesting factoid we learned from it is that, according to Nuzum (pronounced "news-um") "the Wal-Mart chain is the world's largest music retailer, selling as many as one out of every 10 CDs sold in the US." And Wal-Mart "has a blanket policy not to stock any music product with a parental advisory," Nuzum heard from a music buyer for the chain.

  9. Does Web encourage extremism?

    Some social scientists think so, reportedly. A New York Times piece explains the "group polarization" the Web fosters, whereby "like-minded people in an isolated group reinforce one another's views, which then harden into more extreme positions." The Times reports on the views of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, author of "," a book about the "negative political effects of the Web." Professor Sunstein says the Internet "allows people to filter out unwanted information, tailor their own news and congregate at specialized Web sites that closely reflect their own views." Other views are discussed in this interesting piece, too - great for students of politics.

  10. Uninflated kiddie-pool prices

    This mom has done us a service (those of us also in the market for backyard wading pool, that is). Be sure to read to the end before you order The Playground Pool at any of a number of Web-based pool purveyors (URLs provided in this fun-to-read New York Times "Online Shopper" column.

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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