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October 19, 2001

Dear Subscribers:

One last call (we promise): Do fill out the NFN survey! So far the response rate is the lowest in three years. Thank you so much. Here's our lineup for this third week of October:


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Family Tech

  1. In praise of the FTC

    "I don't often go out of my way to praise government agencies," writes's Larry Magid this week, "but I take my hat off to the Federal Trade Commission" for cracking down on deceptive Web site operators like John Zuccarini (see our ref to "mousetrapping" in Web News Briefs here). In his Family Tech column for the San Jose Mercury News, Larry adds that "it's hard enough keeping kids away from inappropriate Web sites that they choose to visit, but quite something else to protect them from sites that are trying to deceive them.... Prosecuting people guilty of deception is exactly the right tack for our government to take to help protect children online."

  2. Easier family computer-sharing

    Microsoft has finally made it easier for families to share a computer and set up a home network,'s Larry Magid reports in an earlier column at the Mercury News. How? Windows XP, Microsoft's new operating system, which lets families set up and manage multiple "accounts" on one PC. Larry's piece spells out the OS's family-relevant features and why they're helpful.

  3. Halloween fun

    Here are five great links for a really creepy 31st: You'll find the Home Sewing Association's Top 10 Halloween costume ideas and, on the practical side, dessert and snack recipes for leftover Halloween candy in the Christian Science Monitor. has multiple links to "Ghoulish Recipes," "Pumpkin Carving 101," and BrainPOP's special page for the holiday, including "Experiment with Bob the Ex-Lab Rat". offers up "horr-edible hands"; gauzy, wind-sock, and foam ghosts to make; and outdoorsy decorations like "trashbag tarantulas" for our "boneyards." points out "Things That Go Bump in the Night."

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Filling online-safety gaps at home

When we interviewed Nick and his mom for last week's issue, Leonor asked us what online-safety software we'd recommend. Here's our one-size-fits-all answer, which has to be very basic and generic because there are as many "right" solutions as there are families.

Ideally, we'd all discuss this together so we could consider different scenarios - for example, Nick and Leonor's and then Candy's more challenging one (with a proactively curious, technically sophisticated teenager at her house). But since it'd be tough to get you all in one room, let's start a virtual discussion here. Then you email us what works for your family, and we will gladly keep the conversation going!

Basically, we think the very basic priority list for working out the best home online-safety formula should look like this:

  1. People
  2. Software

In other words, rules and/or family acceptable-use policies/contracts come first and are best hammered out by kids and parents together (see links below for samples).

That said, we are not big fans of filtering software by itself - because kids can disable it, it can block out useful content, and blocking criteria are based on a software company's values, not your family's. But using some forms of filtering with some other aids can be quite effective for families that need them, e.g.:

Links to great online-safety resources

Editor's note: Next week we'll publish fresh statistics on parents' and kids' online-safety perceptions and practices, and how these have changed in recent years.

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Online news & commentary: For kids, by kids

We've been meaning to link you to these great resources for kids for a month, but there's been so much to get into the newsletter since 9/11! The White House gave us a nudge this week, though, with its announcement of a fund with which US children can help Afghan children. Here are some other places where youth are doing a great job taking action, speaking out, and keeping peers informed:

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Web News Briefs

  1. More on CIPA & schools

    As the next deadline for compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act nears (10/27), news stories on the subject multiply. A very useful one this week in points out the great variety of compliance approaches schools are taking nationwide. The story includes thoughtful advice for school administrators. For more perspective, see our two-part series on school online safety and CIPA (which starts here). Meanwhile, apparently timed to this latest CIPA deadline, a coalition of 50 nonprofit organizations that oppose censorship released a report calling filtering "hopelessly flawed." reports that the National Coalition Against Censorship "summarizes existing information about products designed to filter out Internet sites that are deemed controversial, offensive, or inappropriate for adolescents or children," while filtering software makers "dismissed the report as inaccurate and based on outdated information." As for specific tools, gave Vericept (formerly eSniff) its Editor's Choice award for monitoring at school. Vericept reportedly monitors all traffic on the school network, including email, chat, and instant messaging. Another monitoring product concept we like is that of "Policy Central" by Security Software Systems. Here's the issue with our mention of it.

  2. Parents' direct line into classroom

    The question is, do parents really want to know everything that's going on at school? Online gradebooks like and make it happen, reports the New York Times, also looking at the pluses and minuses of said. One abuse would be the posting of information that compares one child's progress with that of others in the class, the Times suggests.

  3. EU's connected schools

    Schools across the pond have been going online in force. Nua Internet Surveys has the latest data, which shows that "90% of schools in the European Union now have Internet access, and pupils have access in eight in 10 of those." Of course, the level of school Net access varies from country to country. "The European Commission says the provision of the Internet in schools is a priority in all member states," Nua adds.

  4. Net makes students lazy?

    That's what a leading British psychologist argues, according to ZDNet UK. Dr. Susan Blackmore of the University of West England in Bristol told fellow academics at a Royal Institute debate that "e-learning is making children mentally lazy by encouraging them to rely on the click of a button for information" and that "the expanse of information available on the Internet is preventing school children from memorizing and storing knowledge in their brains," ZDNet adds. Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this out. Meanwhile, another researcher, Dr. Naomi Baron of American University, told colleagues that ease of copying digital content threatens plunge ... writers "into a plagiaristic morass that they might not even recognize is wrong," the Washington Post reports.

  5. Latest e-viruses

    Alertness is needed among email users too! Be very careful about opening any attachments that come with email about Anthrax. A worm-bearing Spanish-language message has been circulating. According to, the message comes with a "photo" attachment that is actually a worm that spreads itself to everyone listed in the person's email address book and that can overwrite files on remote drives. Also this week, the Red Cross warned Net users to beware a credit-card-stealing Trojan horse program, delivered in a donation-soliciting email made to look like it comes from the disaster relief organization. The Washington Post report gives the URLs of seven partners authorized to accept online donations on the Red Cross's behalf.

  6. State online porn law rejected

    A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a Virginia state law aimed at protecting children from "harmful" Internet content, the Washington Post reports. "US District Judge James H. Michael Jr. noted that the law arose from 'legitimate concern regarding the proliferation of pornography on the Internet' but said its enforcement would violate First Amendment freedoms," according to the Post.

  7. Carolinas poll on Net dangers

    Ninety-five percent of North and South Carolina residents surveyed said "children face danger on the Net," according to a sketchy Associated Press report (via, and "more than half rate the danger as high."

  8. Recording industry 'spies'

    Gotta watch those lobbyists! The recording industry has been angling to hack into our computers and delete our stolen MP3s, Wired News reports, by trying to glue a "hacking-authorization amendment onto a mammoth anti-terrorism bill that Congress approved last week." And later this week the RIAA issued a public apology for its tactics, ZDNet reports. Meanwhile, the US Justice Department is looking into whether new online music ventures, backed by large record companies, are using copyright rules and licensing practices to control distribution, reports the Wall Street Journal Online (via ZDNet). Here's the South China Morning Post's story on the antitrust investigation.

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


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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