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December 8, 2006
Here's our line-up for this first week of December:
- Parenting media-sharers
- Web News Briefs: Online-child-protection law; MySpace safety news; Virtual concert for tweens; Eating-disorder 'ed'; Chaucer in MySpace?; Virtual community, real engagement; 'Cell-veillance'; Models or exploited kids?; The upward mobile; 'Mom cams' on campus?!; Collaborative play; E-etiquette....
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Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS have a lot in common with parents these days. Protecting their TV show copyrights on the social Web is not unlike parents trying to protect online kids.
Parents are finding themselves in the middle of that little game where you hammer one creature down and three more pop up in its place. They think they take care of a problem profile, blog, or video by getting the site to delete it, only to discover (if they're lucky enough to find it) that a very similar one has popped up almost immediately in the same site - or a different one focusing even less on kids' online safety. The problem page might be an impersonation of a child that's the work of a bully; it might be a copyright-violating video she posts; it might be his own public blog with compromising party photos that could jeopardize university acceptance.
Media companies are in a similar fix. The metaphor used in a Forbes.com piece about DailyMotion.com, a less-scrupulous YouTube copycat in Paris, is that wallpaper bubble that, as soon as you put your thumb on it, it just moves over. Because YouTube (recently acquired by Google) "aggressively removes copyrighted material from the site and limits uploaded video clips to ten minutes," some users have simply moved to DailyMotion, where entire TV shows, even series, can be viewed.
So now there are specialty sites providing links to shows hosted on DailyMotion and making money by selling Google ads. Forbes tells of a 17-year-old in Buffalo, N.Y., who linked to "every episode of shows like The Simpsons and South Park" and made about $5 a day on ads at the bottom of his page of links (past tense now, because the link to his page in the Forbes article is now dead). A British college student told Forbes he's making about $220 a day on his "All South Park" site and plans to buy a BMW with his earnings.
The student's AllSP.com has a legal disclaimer saying it's legal because it doesn't host the TV shows but only links to DailyMotion. Not a strong legal argument for the parasite site, Forbes reports, but it's not even totally clear if DailyMotion is illegal the article adds, and this certainly complicates things for Comedy Central - which owns the copyrights to South Park - that DailyMotion is based in France.
As for more homemade uses of video-sharing sites: In "We're All on Candid Camera," University of Ottawa cyberlaw professor Michael Geist points to a classroom-produced video with the teacher as unknowing "star." Its "producers," two 13-year-old students, shot some footage of their teacher yelling at a fellow student and posted it on YouTube. "News reports indicate that the video may have been staged, with students inducing the teacher into the shouting match specifically so that it could be captured on video," Prof. Geist writes, adding that "the teacher is currently on stress leave, the two students have been suspended, and the school has banned personal electronic devices from the classroom."
As we're all working out the legal issues of video on the Web, we should also be working on the ethics of posting text, photos, and video of others on the Web - and it's essential that we include the Web's most experienced videographers (of all ages, mostly young) in the discussion. Geist writes that we need especially to consider the boundaries between transparency and privacy in this time of highly concealable, always-on digital cameras and free media-sharing accounts.
What solutions do parents have in this world of rapidly multiplying media, blogs, and profiles? Nothing much beyond what parents have grappled with for eons, but here are some ideas:
- Rules for posting. At the bottom of its article, Forbes brings up the old strategy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," suggesting that media companies may have to offer their own free media-sharing sites. For parents, "joining them" may mean 1) getting the hang of sharing family photos and videos privately in sites like FlickR or Vox.com, 2) getting our kids to give us a tour of YouTube or whatever their favorite media site is, and 3) getting everyone to help establish family rules like asking for a person's permission before posting images that include him, or asking what level of privacy the person's comfortable with before posting a group shot. Maybe family Net rules include ideas like: "no photos of Mom or Dad in your profile without our permission" or "no stills or video of you gets posted if you wouldn't want your grandmother to see them."
- Fair use. Have a family discussion about copyright law. Daunting thought, I know, but maybe go online together and check out sites like CreativeCommons.org's search engine for content you can legally share, mash up, and build on for free. Related articles include "Children 'swap music via phones'" at the BBC and "Copyright crusaders hit schools" in Wired News. For parents, there's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's brief on parental liability and copyrights and much more on their "Recording Industry v. The People" page.
- Spin-control lessons. Try to get a family discussion going about how we present ourselves in public - how your kids think they can control their "public image" at school and online. You might think out loud together about how to negotiate with friends about what they post about each other. Look at some MySpace profiles together (your children's or just random ones) and talk about how people might react to what's there. Talk about future prospects - summer jobs, applying to schools, etc., and how impressions are important when these developments near. If they say their pages are private, remind them that friendships can sour, and friends who do have access can cut and paste anything posted into other pages, IMs, emails, etc. - that nothing's really private online. If they've already thought about all this, maybe the conversation is just about self-respect and self-knowledge and how we win others' respect online as well as offline - why those things are important.
- E-commerce. If your child seems to be asking for money less these days, something might be wrong with this picture! You might ask if she's involved in an online business or if he has online ads on his page [You probably want to make sure a Webcam isn't involved - email me if you have questions about that.] Feel just as free to ask questions as you would if a party at a friend's house is being planned for Friday night. You could ask questions like: Whose music are you using in that video you made (who owns the copyright?), where did you find that TV show you're watching online, or where did you get that BMW? ;-)
- "YouTube's Doppelganger" in Forbes.com
- "We're All on Candid Camera" by Prof. Bill Geist
- "Survey: Recruiters use social networking sites like MySpace to filter job candidates" at the Indiana Daily Students
- "Teen reputations, jobs at risk" in NetFamilyNews
- "Protecting teen reputations on Web 2.0" in NFN
- "The age of over-exposure" in NFN
- "File-sharing realities for families" NFN
* * * *Web News Briefs
- Online-child-protection law proposed
There is logic to this legislation, announced by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) yesterday (12/6). Among other measures that strengthen anti-child-exploitation law, it requires sex offenders to register their online contact info too - "their email addresses, as well as their instant messaging and chat room handles and any other online identifiers they use," says Senator McCain's press release about the Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act. The law would also require social-networking sites as well as ISPs to report child pornography, and would more clearly define what should be reported, create stiffer penalties, make failure-to-report a crime, increase recommended sentences for sex offenders, and require Net companies to preserve data 180 days in case it's needed as evidence. If the bill passes, MySpace will be able to include the required online identifiers in the national sex-offender database it's building (see this 12/5 item), and sites that use the database (which I imagine MySpace will make available to them) will be able to check it for the email addresses and screennames people use to establish accounts - another tool for keeping pedophiles off social sites. The two senators said they will introduce the bill at the beginning of the 110th Congress in January.
- MySpace safety news: 3 items
Popularity definitely has its downside, as MySpace well knows. Its 130 million+ profiles tend to attract the attention of all sorts, including malicious hackers and pedophiles. If the latter are registered sex offenders, though, operating on MySpace will soon get harder. "MySpace is partnering with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. to build a database containing names, physical descriptions and other identifiable details on sex offenders in the United States," the Associated Press reports, very probably beating the establishment of the national database mandated by the Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act that was signed into law last July (see Wikipedia on the law). MySpace will develop technology to check profiles against that database. The site's popularity also makes it the target of malicious hacks. The latest is a worm in the form of a malicious video that "changes people's profiles when played, embedding itself [in the page] and adding links to fraudulent Web sites" that try to trick people into giving up personal info," CNET reports. Tell your kids to check the html code associated with all links on their pages and to be really careful about clicking on links in other people's pages. CNET says infected pages include a blue navigation bar that isn't on real MySpace pages. On the positive side, MySpace has established an Impact Awards program, recognizing individuals and organizations on the site who are making "a positive impact on our culture" in the areas of poverty, environmentalism, health & safety, international development, social justice, and community building.
- Virtual concert for tweens
Whyville - which claims to be "the leading educational virtual world" for kids 8-15 - is putting on its first virtual concert. The very real pop/R&B singer Stacie Orrico, who sold 3.8 million albums by the time she was 18 (she's now 20), will appear (as an avatar) in a live, 45-minute performance this Saturday (12/9), the site announced this week. The some 6,000 "Whyvillians" expected to attend "will be able to chat with each other during the performance"; clap for Stacie; buy virtual souvenirs, tunes, and ringtones (using "clams," Whyville's virtual money); and submit questions to Stacie during the concert. "Selected kids will join Stacie on 'stage' at the site's "Greek Theater" and ask their questions, live in front of thousands of their virtual friends." Stacie will also "make several virtual costume changes during the show and auction off these virtual goods on ebay.com." All this seems very educational about concerts in "real life," including the commercial part of the music biz. More such education' is coming from Toyota. "Whyville will co-sponsor a [Toyota] Scion owner's activity - a special [concert] 'after-party' for kids who own a virtual Scion in Whyville, and their passengers," the Whyville press release says. Youth marketing expert Anastasia Goodstein explains in Business Week: Toyota "let kids buy and customize virtual Scions and taught them what happens when they miss a virtual payment" (here's more on Whyville in an earlier issue of Business Week). Anastasia describes how marketing works in other youth-targeting virtual worlds, including There, MTV's Laguna Beach, and Teen Second Life. A very different education campaign in Whyville is its joint program with the Centers for Disease Control to teach kids about disease prevention with virtual flu shots - administered to Whyvillians so they won't catch "Why-Flu," a CNET blog reports.
- Eating-disorder 'ed' on the Net
Young sufferers of eating disorders are getting the wrong kind of reinforcement on the Web, according to a new study in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not only are they learning about "new weight loss or purging methods from Web sites that promote eating disorders," but also from each other on "Web sites aimed at helping them recover," Reuters reports. "The survey by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford showed a third of patients [aged 10-22] also visited pro-recovery sites, and half of them learned new weight loss and purging methods." Here's Newsweek's coverage.
- Chaucer in MySpace?
Now here's a boy-bites-dog story: "How the Internet Saved Literacy" at Forbes. The Internet isn't making reading go away; rather, it's turning it from a solitary experience to a collective one - not just interactive (as in person interacting with Web page), mind you, but collaborative (as in digital class participation). An example Forbes gives is a literature class's collective interpretation of "Jenny," "a poem by the 19th century British poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti," whereby students assume the roles of characters in the poem using a software program the professor helped develop. "Students are free to change their characters' actions, add stanzas and delete others. As long as they provide substantive justification - historical and psychological - all changes to the text are justified and encouraged." Picture students creating MySpace literarily correct profiles for the characters of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Could be serious fun! Forbes reports that, though "a number of studies have been released that suggested a negative correlation between Internet use and reading ... [they] are now considered to have been unduly alarmist."
- Virtual community, real engagement
Online community has a "direct impact on civic activism," reports education technology expert Andy Carvin in his review of the Annenberg study, which I linked to last week. In fact, the authors led with this, among more than 100 other issues covered in their 2007 Digital Future Project. So I thought parents, especially those with concerns about kids' online socializing, would want to know that - besides the informal learning that's going on, highlighted by MIT's Henry Jenkins - young people are also engaging in social activism on the participatory Web as well (e.g., see my item about Rock for Darfur in MySpace). As Andy points out, the USC-Annenberg researchers found that "just over one-fifth of online community members - 20.3 % - take action offline for a cause related to their online communities at least once a year. Nearly 65% of online community members say they now engage in civic causes that were new to them when they started going online, while an additional 43.7% say they participate in social activism more since they've joined their online communities. This may explain why 43% of online community members feel as strongly about their virtual life as they do about their real-world life." In his last paragraph, Andy explains why this data leaped out at him. Meanwhile, the anti-poverty World Development Movement is trying to encourage just such real-world activism, The Register reports. The WDM has put a digital counter in the Second Life virtual world of 1.5 million members. The counter provides a real-time tally of "the number of preventable child deaths since [Second Life] was first opened in 2003. A child's life is lost every three seconds."
- 'Cell-veillance' & instant infamy
USATODAY tech reporter Janet Kornblum calls this "the age of citizen journalism," referring to the way comedian Michael Richards's "racist rant" could be seen nationwide within minutes because of a little videocam someone in the nightclub made a quick decision to use. She also refers to on-the-spot footage of police using a taser gun on a student in a library and teachers yelling in classrooms. Law professor Michael Geist tells in the Toronto Star of two 13-year-old students in the Ottawa area posting on YouTube.com "classroom video taken with a cellphone of their teacher yelling at a fellow student." On the one hand, transparency can be good - we're all more accountable. On the other hand, it can be badly abused. For certain, we all will be increasingly on guard knowing someone might be around wielding a digital camera of some sort. [In a sidebar, USATODAY links to the infamous videos Janet refers to.]
- Models or exploited kids?
Are so-called child modeling sites legitimate businesses or child porn? Some are, some aren't, but the law is very unclear, indicates an in-depth CNET article on the subject. The FBI and the US Postal Inspection Service investigation are currently conducting an investigation "of so-called child modeling sites, which have been the subject of a series of critical congressional hearings and news reports in the last few years." CNET looks at a range of examples and perspectives, as well as the cases that helped establish the less-than-definitive definition of "child pornography" being used in law enforcement.
- The upward mobile
This Korean experience will soon be reality here in the US. In "Upward Mobility," BusinessWeek.com describes the phone-based digital life of ambitious Korea University student Park Hyun-A, who watches satellite TV, reads e-books, plays games, snaps and sends photos, and - oh, yeah - text messages her friends on her mobile. The article doesn't mention that she connects to Cyworld or some other social site by phone, but she probably does that too (Cyworld's used by 90+% of South Korea's teens and 20-somethings and last summer launched in the US). Business Week goes on to take a very thorough look at just how fast-developing all the services for smartphones are. And the Washington Post looks at the American female fashionista, who "wants her technology to cut a stylish and up-to-the-minute profile" ("we're not being sexist," its sources say, just accurate). Meanwhile, CNET zooms in on a new phone service called Phling that says it can sync up the music libraries on your phone and your computer. It's "the first to offer this capability over a wireless network, which streams the music from the PC to the handset." And USATODAY reports that mobile music could be the recording industry's saving grace. At $3 a pop, the new, richer-sounding master ringtones (or "mastertones") are slated to represent $6.8 billion in revenue by 2010. "Labels are thrilled not only with the fat revenue stream but also with promotional potential," according to USATODAY.
- 'Mom cams' on campus?!
When I first glanced at this story, I was almost as depressed as I imagine a college student would be. Thinking it was about Webcams on campus for parental surveillance, I thought to myself, kids' lack of privacy and parental fears really have gone to extreme! But when I actually read this story in the Christian Science Monitor, I realized it's not quite the imposition on students I thought it was - at least not in the Monitor's lead about Mom calling kid and saying, "I'm on the Web site now - could you just look up at the camera atop Barnes Tower [on the Cornell University campus] and wave?" Used in this way, there's an element of free will on the kid's part. Whew! (And I was all ready to recommend The Blessing of a Skinned Knee to the Monitor writer and any parent who reads the piece!) But some of the Web cams/Mom cams shoot a little more close up, and their use can definitely be abused, as we all work out the boundaries between child protection and privacy. "The [Mom cams] trend coincides with a crop of students who are in far more frequent contact with parents than earlier generations," the Monitor reports. What got us here?, one wonders. Maybe it's the fact that many kids start having cellphones in elementary and middle schools, so kids and parents are used to being in constant touch (see this about MIT professor Sherry Turkle's thoughts on "the tethered self"). The Monitor also cites the view that some parents may be monitoring their investments in expensive college educations! I'll leave that one alone. But tell me your view on this latest form of parental monitoring. You know where I am.
- Those who play together...
...have more fun in videogames these days. Washington Post games columnist Mike Musgrove reports that in even (or especially) in shooter games, it's more fun for his friend Daniel and him to "fight the alien bad guys together" than to shoot each other. "This cooperative-play buddy feature has been catching on in action games lately and is starting to show up in other genres, as well, from the kid-friendly Lego Star Wars II to the rock 'n' roll title Guitar Hero 2." They're still fun "when played solo, but they're a lot more compelling if you can get someone to drop in and play along," says Mike. He explains how cooperative play works in Gears of War, the latest action game for the Xbox 360 and the latest versions of Guitar Hero and Lego Star Wars.
- Etiquette for the e-connected
A teenager reading this New York Times article would probably just roll her eyebrows. But we grownups tend to move slowly enough in our tech adoption to reflect on things like proper email signoffs. While young people are indeed struggling with the social implications of who's in the "Top 8" of their MySpace friends lists and their friends' friends lists, we're trying to figure out whether to use "Warmest regards," "Yours truly," or just "Best" in our email sign-offs. Some people don't even bother with a signoff, which Letitia Baldridge told the Times is not good, too "abrupt." And in a thoughtful piece, the Wall Street Journal's Jason Fry considers the social implications of buddy-tracking and socializing on cellphones - how technology can be "subtly coercive," incipiently changing the norms by which we live and socialize. He's not talking about youth safety so much as how mobile social services just may eventually affect even us socializers who are above loopt's targeted age range of 14-25. While we're on the subject, here's Business Week on "the device formerly known as the cellphone" - a phrase it got from Motorola CEO Ed Zander.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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