Here's our lineup for this third week of January:
- Interview with a fellow Web-literate parent
- The latest, greatest Web deal; 'Net fraud; the UN looks at child porn on the 'Net; and other Web News Briefs
- An item for gamers (and their parents)
- Cheap textbooks online
- That other impeachment trial
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This year we'll occasionally bring you an interview with a fellow Web-literate parent. Our reasoning is that, as in all other areas of parenting, we are often each other's best sources of expertise. This week's interviewee, John, who has been online for about three years, lives on Long Island in New York State. He and his wife Mary have six children, 40-48 (he advises us not to ask about the remarkably narrow age spread!). They have 13 grandchildren and "three greats," he wrote. His professional background: education. "I was mainly a public secondary school social studies teacher and later guidance counselor … though I at times taught adult ed and junior college classes as well as a variety of interdisciplinary courses and discussion formats.
We asked him his favorite uses for the Internet. His response:
- "E-mail - to keep in closer touch with family. They're spread all over the country. And to develop discussions which come up in the [online] forums [in which he's active]. The religion forums give me a chance to relate to people of similar interests and passions.
- "Research - mainly as quick information when subjects come up. I'm past writing presentation papers and having to 'keep up' (thank heavens)."
Next question: His Top 10 Web sites.
"I don't think there are 10, but the MSN Religion Forum (Christianity and All Faiths newsgroups), in some of which I participate and some I lurk. For quick, ready reference there's a little thing call 'Ask Jeeves', which is easy and fun. I also spend a lot of time on graphics and animated graphics sites, lifting stuff for e-mails, postings, birthday, and anniversary cards and patterns for lawn figurines, which I like to make (not too well). Sometimes I just surf far and wide to see what's out there. Gave up on the political and conspiracy sites after a short while. My fantasy life is adequate without them."
Then we asked him what other members of his family used the 'Net for….
"Our son is an expert on military and industrial supply systems via computer. One son is an expert on crashing his computer at least once a week as he tries out new applications and sites. A cousin once worked in Holland for a year by getting up in the morning in a neighboring state, taking his coffee into his study, and logging on to Amsterdam for the day. One daughter is a bank VP who lives on the 'Net, in acquisitions (I think)."
He had some good tips for parents on kids-and-the-Internet. You've heard many before, but repetition is sometimes good reinforcement:
"For children under the age (of 30?!) of whatever, I would put the computer in a room where there is constant traffic, going online only with permission, listing sites that are off-limits (most kids, if they want to, can get around filters, even if it means visiting a friend whose parents are not as careful), and letting the kids know that there are ways to monitor computer usage.
"They will try to get around rules, or they aren't real kids, so the best rule I know is to be an involved parent. I would have time limits and curfew on usage, subject to discussion but enforced."
If you have any questions for John, just e-mail us, and we'll get them to him.
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Web News Briefs
"High bandwidth" is about to become the buzz phrase of '99. And this week marks the beginning of the Internet industry's high-bandwidth maneuvering. What we mean by that is a growing number of mergers and partnerships between carriers and programmers that will lead to true interactive media on the Web (TV-like action + user-to-programmer two-way interaction). Even bigger than the recent AOL-consumes-Netscape deal (about $2 billion bigger) will be At Home Network's $6+ billion acquisition of Excite. The former is a high-speed (read high-bandwidth) Internet service, the latter a popular search engine and portal. But there's a rather important stealth participant in the deal: AT&T, which owns a big chunk of At Home (also known as @Home). According to the Association of Online Professionals (AOP), the deal "will give @Home - and its future parent AT&T - control over one of the most valued portal sites on the Internet." The New York Times, the AP, and many other Web news outlets have the story. In other high-bandwidth news, the NBC-backed portal called Snap! (by CNET) announced this week that it'll be building a high-speed site called "Cyclone" (with animation, video, and gaming). That story's at Wired News.
Here's a headsup from the AOP for people who like auction sites, register for online contests, or buy things from little-known Web pages: online fraud tops the list of public policy issues for '99. AOP says the Federal Trade Commission has already charged seven California businesses with billing consumer credit cards for Internet services they didn't order. Other fraudulent practices to watch out for (besides the three we mentioned above) include computer equipment sellers who don't deliver on what they advertise; pyramid schemes in which profits are made from recruiting others; work-at-home plans; credit card issuing; and sales of books in the self-help and genealogy categories that never get delivered.
A sobering story about pedophilia on the Internet: Participants in a two-day UN conference on the Internet and sexual abuse of children said offline offenses have risen to emergency levels, and part of the online problem is that many Web sites provide materials that are legal in the countries where they're published. The Associated Press report was on AOL. Experts at the conference (from organizations like the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, the International Labor Office, and INTERPOL) said it's almost impossible to estimate how many Web sites are publishing photos of sexually abused children. Sage Family friend and contributor Parry Aftab, executive director of CyberAngels, was among the 300 experts from 40 countries invited to this week's two-day conference in Geneva. She'll be reporting her impressions here next week.
For those of us who don't want to pay any more than we have to for computers, here's some worthy news: Onsale.com, known for being one of the first Web auction sites, this week started selling computers at wholesale prices. According to Bloomberg business news (via CNET's News.com), Onsale plans to make money from advertising on its site, fees for service contracts and leases, and a handling fee for each order.
Maybe the American public isn't as apathetic about the Clinton trial as the conventional media are saying we are! The Senate impeachment trial has increased the amount of e-mail to the US Senate from an average of 70,000 messages per day to more than 500,000, according to the AOP Bulletin. Traffic to the Senate's Web site has also increased by about 200%, the Association of Online Professionals reports.
BTW, an excellent social studies lesson for which the Web is perfect would be to look at how newspapers outside the US are covering the impeachment trial - how much they're covering it, if it's on Page 1 or heading up the international section, and what they're saying about it. Some examples might be:
- The Sydney Morning Herald. The impeachment story led the World News section Wed., a step away from the Web equivalent of Page 1's top news for a particular market. The top story in Sydney, which will play host to the 2000 Olympics, is the Olympic bribery scandal.
- The Jerusalem Post. Clinton made the lead item of the whole site (probably the whole paper) on Wed., in a story important to Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the US president to put off making his decision on the case of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard until the impeachment hearings are over.
- Electronic Telegraph (from London's Daily Telegraph). The Clinton story - about the "surreal" situation of a president delivering his state-of-the-union address to the "jurors" in his impeachment trial - is three down from the top of the home page (e-Page 1). The lead story is about US Secretary of State Albright's warning to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of possible NATO air strikes.
Send in your children's or students' own discoveries! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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You may have a child who's a prodigious interactive gamester. If you do, s/he may already know what Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle has to say about computer equipment for gamers (his paper's site requires registration, but access is free). On the other hand, your interactive gamer may find some useful tips for add-ons to his/her already fairly expensive machine.
If you have a child who wants to be a gamer, this piece may represent either preparation or warning. Dwight says we don't need powerful high-end computers for most of the things we do (word-processing, Web browsing, e-mail, family-photo scanning), but gamers are the one category of computer users that "screams" for $2,000-plus machines and a few add-ons (for speed and better resolution). Some are good for gamers on a budget. Good news there! :-)
We'd love to hear of your experience if you have a gamer in your house. Do you have to limit his or her time on computer? Is computer time a useful incentive or fodder for disciplinary discussion? How does your gamer support his or her avocation? Do e-mail us!
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And from fun 'n' games to schoolwork….
Interesting things are going on in the world of online textbook sales, and they all spell convenience and savings for students. We're sure Amazon, which hasn't yet tackled textbooks, is watching closely. For one thing, its biggest online competitor, Barnes and Noble, is actually running a number of college bookstores across the company. We've shopped in one of them, Boston University's.
But there are some "little guys" on the Internet who are giving both Amazon and Barnes and Noble a run for their money, and Reuters (via Wired News ran an in-depth article on them: VarsityBooks.com, Bigwords.com, and efollett.com. Each has a different strategy; the bottom line, though, is that textbooks don't have the mass market of other books, so online with its low overhead is a real solution to the headaches of college bookstores, distributors, and publishers - not to mention students on tight budgets.
And the solution takes a lot of forms: for example, VarsityBooks.com partners with hundreds of schools to publish all their course book lists; BigWords orders directly from publishers instead of a distributor; eFollett, supplier of used books to college bookstores, is now selling them direct only online; campus bookstores themselves find it easier to shop online than to order from a distributor. Yet another story about how the Internet is changing the rules of economics! If you have a story like this, e-mail us at email@example.com. We'll consider publishing it - with your permission, of course.
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One of Homework Central's top picks for this week is the Andrew Johnson Impeachment Trial site by Doug Linder, a law professor at University of Missouri (Kansas City) Law School. It offers students historical context for today's Senate trial, including a section on the Constitution (with James Madison's notes from the Framers' debates on the subject), opinions of senators in the Johnson trial, photos and cartoons, and 19th-century press coverage. The site is under construction, but there's already a lot there. It's a little annoying that Homework Central won't let us go directly to the site in question (the link is to their frames-design site, which puts others' sites inside the host site's main box), but we understand why they do that.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend.
Net Family News
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