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December 14, 2001

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Here's our lineup for this second week of December:


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Family Tech: Cell phones in the hands of children

No one needs to tell Britons that mobile phones are huge with kids there. Riding on top of a London double-decker bus last week,'s Larry Magid saw kids as young as eight playing with their phones. "Some were talking, others were playing games, and a couple were 'texting'.'' That's the term for sending and receiving short messages or instant messages from phone to phone or between a mobile/cell phone and a PC." It's a little like the instant-messaging craze in the US, Larry explains in his column for the San Jose Mercury News.

Both (IM and phone "texting") are two-edged swords - great for keeping in touch, but bearing risks as well. Please see Larry's article for well-considered reasons why from Nigel Williams, director of London-based Childnet International and father of teenagers.

Do tell us your own experiences with mobile phones & kids - especially the Europeans among us (via

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Web sites worth noting

Here are new and enduring Web resources - for kids, parents, and teachers - that have come across our desks recently:

Send us your (and your kids' and students') favorite Web sites and resources!

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Web News Briefs

  1. Health info: Key Web destination for youth

    Searching for health information is a primary online activity for US young people, a just-released survey shows. The study, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that 90% of all US 15-to-24-year-olds have been online. Of them, more (75%) have searched for health information than have played games (72%), downloaded music (72%), participated in chat (67%), shopped (50%), or checked sports scores (46%). Here are other key findings:

    • 50% have searched for info on specific diseases, e.g., cancer or diabetes.
    • 44% have sought out "youth-oriented topics," e.g., sexual health and pregnancy, birth control, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
    • 25% on weight issues, 23% on mental health, 23% on drugs and alcohol, and 23% on violence.
    • 17% say they trust health information on the Internet "a lot," compared to 85% trusting information from doctors, 68% from parents, and 30% from TV news.
    • 82% identify confidentiality as "very important" (as a reason for seeking information online) and 76% said "the Web is good because they can look things up without anybody knowing it," according to the survey press release.

    And some interesting views on filtering from the study's findings:

    • 63% of 15-to-17-year-olds said they favor the US Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requiring filtering in e-rate-funded schools and 46% of those of this group who have sought health information online say they've been blocked from sites that were not pornographic.
    • 70% said they've accidentally come across porn on the Web and 45% said they were upset by the experience.
    • 57% of 15-to-17-year-olds believe that being exposed to online porn can have a serious impact on people under 18, while
    • 41% said such exposure "is no big deal."

    Here's Reuters's piece on the survey (via CNET).

  2. Child-abuse summit in Japan

    Some 2,000 people from 118 countries are expected to attend next week's conference in Yokohama, Japan, on the sexual exploitation of children, reports Kyodo News (via Timed to the conference, UNICEF released a report this week finding that "the multi-billion dollar worldwide sex trade in children is growing, with more than 1 million youngsters trafficked every year for the purpose of sexual exploitation (here's an Associated Press reports via Yahoo News). The trafficking is taking new forms in Southeast Asia, the Christian Science Monitor reports. As for the Internet's role in this perverse business, a new book, "Child Abuse on the Internet: Breaking the Silence," documents early efforts worldwide to combat it. Edited by Carlos Arnaldo, the book has been published in association with UNESCO and covers cooperative work being in and among Albania, Brazil, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. The book's publisher is Berghahn Books (to download the Table of Contents and Preface in pdf format, search by author on the left-hand side of the home page).

  3. Teen virus creators & virtual gangs

    The pesky Goner virus, it was discovered this week, was the result of a new, virtual kind of gang rivalry. Over the weekend four Israeli 15- and 16-year-olds were charged with authoring the worm, the development of which grew out of a "turf battle" between "gangs of script kiddies (youths who cut-and-paste existing code to create malicious programs)," reports ZDNet. Providing fascinating insights into this parallel world, ZDNet continues: "Where virus writing was once seen as beneath the typical script kiddie, it's now apparently the cool thing to do. It made Goner's authors famous overnight. According to email screening service MessageLabs, Goner, at its peak, spread at the rate of 1 in every 30 emails. By comparison, the ILOVEYOU virus spread at the rate of 1 in every 28 emails." Damage from Goner has been put at $5 million worldwide. But pride preceded a fall, because, unfortunately for them, the authors "gave themselves away by signing the worm with 'greetz,' simple messages (including Net nicknames) from one group to another that are akin to spray-painting graffiti on city walls." The accused could each face sentences of between three and five years in prison, under Israeli law. Here's Reuters's straightforward report, via CNET.

    We tell you these things because there could be a script kiddie at your house or school (if there is, and s/he doesn't mind talking to a non-code-writing grownup in an interview, tell him or her to email us).

  4. Nobel laureates on terrorism

    Terrorism and September 11 were topics of much discussion in Oslo this past week at "the largest gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates ever." According to the Christian Science Monitor, 30 past winners of the peace prize were there, and about a dozen of them are "trying to craft a joint statement expressing their concerns about terrorism, reactions to terrorism, and the conflicts in the world today." You'll find comments from eight laureates in the article (excerpts from the talks and interviews with the Monitor).

  5. Middle East conflict through kids' eyes

    "Promises" aired this week on the US's Public Broadcasting Service. It's a documentary about what seven children, Palestinian and Israeli - all of whom live within 20 minutes of one another - have to say about growing up in the Middle East. The show's Web pages include a timeline, lesson plans for grades 7-12, and links to related resource elsewhere on the Web. (Our thanks to for pointing out this resource.)

  6. Web's creator on its future

    Marking the 10th anniversary of the first Web page (12/10), CNET interviews Tim Berners-Lee about his thoughts on its growth and development to date, as well as its future (and what he's doing to help shape it). For example, asked when the Web "exploded into the mainstream," Tim said " For me, it was a slow transition from the feeling of needing to push the bobsled to the feeling one had to jump in and steer. This happened between 1992 and 1994, when the World Wide Web Consortium started [Tim is director of the Consortium]." Asked what the future holds for the Web, Tim pointed to the Semantic Web, a project of the WWWC that he says will have "revolutionized the way we do business, collaborate, and learn" within the next 10 years.

  7. No must-have toy this year

    Unlike previous years, when Furbies, Pokemon cards, or Cabbage Patch dolls reigned, there is no "top toy" in the minds of young gift-openers this holiday season, Wired News reports. But there is a group of favorites, as cited by the "Toy Guy," a Wired interviewee and toy expert officially named Chris Byrne. Lego, LeapFrog, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sesame Street, are the main organizations benefiting from these kid picks.

  8. Online cigarette sales & kids

    Definitely something to be alert to: Online cigarette sales are expected to soar in the coming decade, researchers said this week. According to Reuters (via CNET), this " will pose new problems for tobacco controls to curtail underage smoking." Here are some numbers from "one of the first published studies into Web sites that sell cigarettes": A fifth of the $40 billion in annual US cigarettes sales will occur on the Net during the next 10 years. And researchers the North Carolina School of Public Health found 88 Internet cigarette sellers based in 23 US states. US lawmakers are trying to do something about this, having this week introduced legislation that would force online cigarette sellers "to obtain hard proof that none of their customers were younger than 18," reports.

  9. Net history in a nutshell

    Internet historians, media scholars, and plain-old Net fans like us now have quite a remarkable new research tool. The search engine has put 20 years of Usenet archives in its Web site and gives the public quick access to a number of "firsts" in early Internet history on this page. For example, there's Tim Berners-Lee's August '91 first announcement of his project at CERN (what we now know as the World Wide Web); Marc Andreessen's March '93 announcement of the availability of Mosaic, the first Web browser; Finish code writer Linus Torvald's October '91 announcement of his "pet project," the kernal, or starter code, of the open-source operating system, Linux ("open source" because collaboratively built over the Net by software engineers worldwide). Our thanks to BNA Internet Law News for pointing this out.

  10. 15-year-old interviews Bill Gates

    We think the questions (and their scrappy delivery) were much more interesting than the answers! You'll find the complete interview at CBBC, the BBC's version of news by kids, for kids, where "nearly 15 journalists work on the site, updating it from 9am to 9pm, 365 days a year." This is another great "by kids, for kids news" like the nonprofit, UK-based Children's Express and New York-based Young PRESS. Here's "The Team" at CBBC. Our thanks to for pointing the Gates interview out.

  11. Problem with laptops in school

    Some 50 students won't ruin a laptop program for nearly 12,000 others, apparently. According to the Associated Press (via The Guardian), 50-60 is the number of students in a suburban Richmond, Virginia, school district who have been found to have downloaded pornographic images on laptops provided via an $18.5 million, four-year computer-leasing program. The students have been disciplined ("a first offense generally results in a 10-day suspension," AP reports), and the district superintendent "emphasized that an overwhelming majority of students have used the laptops responsibly."

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


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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