Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this third week of April:

* * * *

What parents can do

Kids' online privacy is in a crucial phase in Washington right now. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law to protect people under 13 from Web sites' collection of their personal information, was passed by Congress last October. Now the ball is in the Federal Trade Commission's court. Charged (by COPPA) with coming up with rules for regulating Web sites' data-collection practices, the FTC this week issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making. It is followed by a 45-day period in which citizens and organizations can send the FTC comments and suggestions. "We would very much like to hear from individual consumers, especially parents!!!," FTC senior attorney Toby Levin told us.

The more that parents know about this issue the better. Ours is a crucial voice in this debate because COPPA is about people in our care (children under 13). The Center for Media Education, a children's advocacy and research group in Washington, is up to its ears in the process and - whether or not you agree with their position on online collection of children's personal information - they are doing a great job of educating citizens on the issues and players involved.

[CME's position is: "CME and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) are concerned that certain provisions outlined in the rulemaking, particularly methods of obtaining verifiable parental consent, will not be strong enough to render the bill effective."]

Their COPPA Web page includes links to the full text of the law, their position statement, and a description of parents' and children's privacy rights.

We asked CME senior policy analyst Katharina Kopp what message CME would like to send parents concerning kids' privacy. "Certainly parents should be involved in their children's engagement with the Internet," she said. "But they don't just have responsibilities in terms of parenting; they also have clear rights. They need to exercise those rights. If parents continue to allow data collection of children's personal information, it will continue. That documentation gathered by Web sites can follow children into their adult life." She told us of a meeting she attended at Disney last year, in which an executive, as if to ease concerns, said, "We won't use the information we collect from children until they're 18." That's quite a shelf life!

Some examples Katharina gave us of how parents can exercise their rights:

The FTC's page on COPPA includes an e-mail address ( citizens can use to send comment through June 11. "We will review the comments and have a statutory deadline to publish the final rule one year from the law's enactment (Oct. 21, 1999)," says the FTC's Toby Levin. "The final rule will reflect the comments we received." And while you're writing the FTC, we'd love to hear your comment too. With your permission, we'll consider publishing it. Just e-mail us via

For further reading, here's Tuesday's New York Times piece on the subject.

* * * *

Local, yet global - children and violence

Sometimes local coverage of an event is the best coverage, and the Web makes that reporting accessible to all of us. Here are Denver-based sites following the Columbine High School shooting tragedy closely: the Rocky Mountain News the Denver Post Online, and Denver TV stations KMGH and KUSA. KUSA goes the extra mile by offering contact information for crisis intervention organizations, as well as a "How You Can Help" page. And there is a form in its Web site that visitors can fill out to send a message to Columbine H.S. students. The station will forward messages to the school.

* *

An editorial from Larry Magid

The moment I heard the tragic news about the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado, I thought to myself that someone would find an Internet angle on this story.

And, sure enough, it was soon revealed that one of the youths who opened fire on his fellow classmates ran a Web site that provided some clues to his disturbed personality. The site, which was taken down before I had a chance to look at it, reportedly contained information on how to build a bomb.

The day after the shooting, CNN called me to arrange an interview on the Internet angle, specifically to provide suggestions on technology that parents can use to prevent their kids from posting hateful messages on the Web. I wasn't sure how to answer. Yes, I suppose it's possible that some of the filtering programs could be configured to block kids from posting hateful messages or bomb recipes to Web sites but, let's face it, if a kid is savvy enough to create a Web site, chances are pretty good that the parents aren't going to prevent it by technological means.

I don't have any magic answers that can prevent tragedies such as what happened this week in Littleton any more than I can offer a simple solution for keeping kids out of trouble on the Internet. I do know that communications between children and parents can help in many cases but can't prevent every child from falling through the cracks. I also know that there are some warning signs that parents, teachers, and other kids need to look out for to help kids who may be at high risk. The tragedy also reminds us that there are many threats to children's health and safety. Pornography and child endangerment on the Internet - a subject that I write about frequently on SafeKids.Com and other venues - may be unpleasant but it must be put into a broader context. It's easy to become worried about kids being hurt online but, as the events in Littleton remind us, children are hurt in many other ways as well. Although the risk of a child being killed at school is, literally, one in a million according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children are increasingly being confronted with the treat of violence.

A 1997 CDC survey found:

Interestingly, the CDC's recommendations for reducing the risk of violence are similar to the recommendations of SafeKids.Com for keeping kids safe on the Internet:

"Effective strategies include school-based curricula that emphasize the development of problem solving skills, anger management, and other strategies that help kids develop social skills. In addition, parenting programs that promote strong bonding between parents and children and that teach parents skills in managing conflict in the family, as well as mentoring programs for young people, are also very promising.

But many - perhaps millions - are at risk in other ways. Marion Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, has written that "Every 10 seconds in America, a child is reported abused or neglected." But it starts long before that. Every day, according to the child advocacy group, 443 babies are born to mothers who had late or no prenatal care, 781 babies are born at low birth weight, 1,403 babies are born to teen mothers, 1,827 babies are born without health insurance and 2,430 babies are born into poverty.

So, before we begin a national obsession on safety on the Internet and pass legislation that requires filtering in schools or bans so-called "indecent" material, we should consider the larger issues of what it means to protect America's children.


The American Psychological Association has created a Web site that helps parents, teens and others identify and deal with children who are at a higher risk of committing violence. The site helps you recognize the signs of anger and channel angry feelings into productive rather than destructive behavior.

If you need help talking about the Colorado tragedy with your children, check out the "Top 10 Tips For Talking about Tough Topics" on ParentSoup.

ParentTime also has advice about talking with your children as part of a special report about the tragedy.

* *

Mothers Against Violence in Society

Friend and subscriber Roslyn Mac has for a long time believed strongly that there is a need for an organization of this name. "MAVIS is really for everybody who takes care of kids," Roslyn told us. "We're not being sexist; we just picked a name that implies nurturing - something which fathers, grandparents, and so many other caregivers do. It's really about helping children develop into loving, non-violent adults."

Roslyn is in the preliminary stages of building this grassroots organization, which she intends to be a Web-based resource center where parents and other caregivers can seek information and support for finding and tapping "the fine child-raising resources they already have within themselves," as Roslyn put it. "Sometimes outside support is needed, and when it is we also want to be able to direct parents to it," she added.

By way of explanation, she had a story: "I know a child who, when in the fifth grade, moved to a new, public, school. He'd been in much more sheltered private-school environment before, and when he encountered the much rougher language and behavior of his new school, his grades plummeted. During a parent-teacher-student interview, the teacher told the mother, in front of her child, that he saw no potential in the boy. The mother took him home and told him to disregard the comment. 'I believe in you,' she said, 'and I know that in your next class with your next teacher you will shine. You will prove the teacher wrong.' That child is now completing an MD/MBA program at a top university."

She added, "That experience illustrates to me that parents need to believe in their children and support them, and this empowers children to perform to their true potential. I think that we should give of ourselves to our children for they are our greatest responsibility and the hope for the future. This, I really believe, is the beginning of a solution to situations like Columbine High School."

MAVIS will be a grassroots effort. Roslyn would appreciate help and ideas from any of you interested in the project. Areas in need of support are legal, financial, and volunteer time - "online or wherever," she said.

You can contact Roslyn at And please send any thoughts you have on the subject which you'd like to share with fellow subscribers to us. With your permission, we'll consider them for publication.

* * * *

Web News Briefs

  1. Our young surfers

    Every now and then we get e-mail from you saying you want to get a better handle on your children's online interests and behavior patterns. The people at Kid Connection (KC), a research arm of Saatchi & Saatchi advertising, are studying this all the time. They're doing so for large corporations, of course, but their findings can shed some light on what's going on 'Net-wise in our homes and classrooms. The research is also just plain fascinating. In its latest study, reported by American Demographics magazine, KC followed the online activities of three girls (9, 12, and 16) in three stages of "engagement with new media": fascination, exploration, and integration. Once people enter that last phase (such as a 16-year-old with a small buddy list who's turned the 'Net into a well-worn communication tool), their communication circles start widening and they form interest communities all over the Web. One example is "fanfiction," where fans of certain shows collect into communities and begin to develop a program's story line together. Of course, marketers salivate over the level of customer loyalty that develops when fans/customers become that integrated with their brands. Yet another example of how the Internet reflects, then affects, human nature and behavior.

  2. What's Comdex?

    Few of us would ever care to endure the crowds at this mother of all tech trade shows. But if any of you are into household/office gadgets and tech of the future, they're all there. The Chicago Trib (the show's going on in Chicago this week) thoughtfully offers its best-of-show picks right here.

  3. A librarian challenges librarians

    A librarian in Oregon who runs a site called Filtering Facts says US public libraries are hiding complaints and other evidence that allowing unfiltered access in libraries causes problems. According to the New York Times, librarian David Burt is looking for hard evidence that children are viewing inappropriate Internet material on library computers. He says it's a problem and he's trying to gather as much documentation as possible. His position pits him against the anti-filtering position of the American Library Association. He has enlisted the help of an attorney associated with the American Family Association, a Christian group that backs filtering across the board (earlier this month we reported on a filtering service offered by the AFA's Internet service provider, American Family Online. We would love to hear your views on filtering in public libraries - just e-mail us.

  4. Daily (Internet) manna

    A recent study by The Strategis Group in Washington found that the Internet is becoming "a daily essential" to many of us. According to MediaTrendWatch, the study found that: approximately 37 million US adults are using the Internet at home on at least a daily basis, compared to only 19 million in mid-1997, and the number of daily Internet users at work has mushroomed to 32 million from 19 million in mid-1997. And who are these people? Another study, by research group Cyber Dialogue has found that there are 28 million parents using the Internet in the US. Our surfing habits, they say, are transforming the content choices on entertainment and shopping Web sites. Cyber Dialogue's "Families Online" survey indicates that family users now account for over half of all adults who go online monthly or more.

  5. And a couple of choice bits from the Association of Online Professionals Bulletin:

    a. Uncle Sam's privacy flaws
    This item's about across-the-board online privacy - for grownups as well as kids. Only one-third of federal agencies have posted a privacy policy on their Web sites, according to a new study by the Center for Democracy and Technology. CDT said it could find no policy on 22 government sites and had to search for the policy on eight others. The CDT also noted that some sites, including the CIA site, track users without their knowledge. And while we're on the subject, Rep. Edward Markey's privacy legislation in the House of Representatives (see our report on it last week) is joined by similar legislation filed in the Senate by Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) (dubbed "The Online Privacy Protection Act"). The New York Times has that story.

    b. High-tech help for Kosovo
    Online auctioneers, including Yahoo, EBay, and LiveBid.Com, have banded together to host auctions to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in Kosovo. Visitors to the auction sites can pledge donations, and merchants auctioning items in April have been asked to donate a portion of their profits to the cause.

* * * *

Listen to Larry!

SafeKids.Com founder Larry Magid has recently appeared on two National Public Radio programs that may interest you. On NPR's Science Friday April 9, Larry talked with host Ira Flatow about child safety on the Internet. A couple of days later, Larry was on NPR's Public Interest Show with Kojo Nnamdi. You can listen to these and many of Larry's other NPR interviews and commentaries at

* * * *

Synergy for Sage

This week from our long-time partners CyberAngels, executive director Parry Aftab welcomes Sage's latest development (showing how tight this wonderful online-parenting community is):

"Cyberangels is very proud to hear that Larry Magid is now partnering with Sage. Of course, Cyberangels staked a claim to Larry by naming him to our advisory board last August. I think that gives us prior rights . When I found myself at the unlikely place of taking over CyberAngels last summer, Larry was the first one I turned to for advice. And, I was smart enough to take his advice. It made a huge difference in what we have been able to accomplish.

"I am honored to call Larry my friend. I was a Larry Magid groupie long before I had the joy of meeting him face-to-face. We did four of the five MCI Smart Surfing Conferences together. I always looked forward to these occasions, because I would always learn something new. We also share the same approach to online safety. We both respect adults' rights to view legal materials, and each family's role in defining its family values.

"No one does it better. He understands how children think, and how teens react. He manages to make complicated things easy to understand. He truly cares about kids and has wonderful kids of his own to make his research easier. Look for Larry in May 14th's issue of Family Circle, with a photo no less!

"Larry always manages to say things that I wished I would have said. I have even offered his materials at speaking engagements (when I don't have my book, A Parents' Guide to the Internet, with me ).

"He's my idol! Welcome, Larry.

"Your biggest fan,

[Parry can be reached at or]

* *

Advice from SafeKids.Com is featured in an article in the May 11th issue of Family Circle (on newsstands now). In addition to interviews with SafeKids.Com founder Larry Magid and CyberAngels Executive Director Parry Aftab, there is a picture of Larry and his son William. The article, "Good Kids Can Get into Trouble - How Parents Can Keep Them Safe" (by Jo Cavallo), includes Rules to Surf By from SafeKids.Com.

* * * *

Share with a Friend!! If you find the newsletter useful, won't you share that information with your friends and relatives? We would much appreciate your referral.

To subscribe, they can just send an e-mail to (SafeKids is our partner site) - no need to type anything in the Subject field or the body of the message.

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


Net Family News

HOME | newsletter | subscribe | links | supporters | about | feedback

Copyright 1999 Net Family News, Inc. | Our Privacy Policy