Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this first week of May:

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Al Gore's news: A tool for parents

In what appears to be one of Mr. Gore's "kitchen table issues," the vice president this week announced a bi-partisan, industry-government initiative to protect children online. The "One Click Away" initiative has the US's biggest Internet companies agreeing to provide a link to a not-yet-unveiled Web site listing and linking to information and technology related to safe, constructive surfing.

"The idea behind this is to give parents very easy-to-reach and trusted answers to questions about what they can do for their kids online," said Alan Davidson of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a Washington-based civil liberties group that has a leading role in the project.

This is better than passing laws, Alan told us. Much more effective, he said, is to "give parents the tools and thereby the ability to take responsibility for what's happening online in their homes. Congress wasn't going to focus on tools for parents - it was up to the Internet industry."

The "One Click Away" Web site, due to debut in July, will be like an "annotated Yellow Pages," as Alan put it, "one-stop shopping for all the various kinds of tools out there," including links to information and technologies like filtering and monitoring software.

The information will also be distributed via CD-ROM and the Web sites of the 'Net companies supporting the project (a complete list of signatories can be found in the "One Click Away" announcement on the CDT site).

Here are some articles for your background:

  1. "Gore posse tackling online safety" -includes comments about the project and Gore's announcement from ZDNet readers.
  2. "Gore puts Net protection in parents' hands"
  3. "Kids Need Chaperones Online"
  4. "Gore Says Internet Limits 'Honor the Lives' of School Victims"
What do you think of this "One Click Away" program? What would you say to Al Gore and the Internet industry about the program? We'd love to hear your thinking on this - or any aspect of the story (including Al Gore's participation). Please e-mail us via

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Dear Mr. President

Parry got an earful when she asked students in an inner-city school Wednesday what they would tell President Clinton about violence in schools and using the Internet - if they were invited to his summit next week on teen violence and the media. Here's their perspective on everything from bomb-building instructions to media ratings to filtering software (in the CyberAngels site), and here is Parry's reaction:

"As Cyberangels Executive Director and as author of A Parents' Guide to the Internet ...and how to protect your children in cyberspace (SC Press 1997), I visit schools and student groups often to discuss safe use and the Internet. This week, while speaking to several classes at an inner-city high school in New York, I learned far more than I taught.

"While I fight for free-speech protections - arguing that kids would never build bombs just because they can access bomb-building sites, and how violence in the media doesn't lead to violence in "rl" (that's "real life," to those of you new to cyberspace, and means the offline world) - I stand corrected. Thought this won't change our strong support for the First Amendment, it makes us think."

CyberAngels is a partner of 'Net Family News.

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'Nerds' defined

If 1) you don't have a much-loved teenager in your house who's crazy about computers and the 'Net and who spends a lot of time on both, and 2) you are among the large number of Americans who have been saddled with negative characterizations of "nerds" in the media, you might quietly wonder, "What are nerds really like?"

Well, they're happy to fill you in! A group of likable, enterprising, proud self-avowed nerds in Michigan offer insights into their world via an e-zine called "Slashdot: News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters". Slashdot's "#1 enchilada" (owner and maintainer) is computer programmer Rob Malda, aka Cmder. Taco. He founded this irreverent, secretly high-minded, and increasingly popular Web site (about 87,000 unique visitors a day!) way back in '96, when he was in college. In his bio on his personal Web site, he says that what he likes are computers, the Internet (which to him is the whole point of there being computers), and music (he's a "major Who fanatic"). Rob also likes Star Wars (says he's seen the first trilogy "a little over 100 times"), and there's a whole section of Slashdot dedicated to the phenomenon for the Star Wars fanatics in your house and/or classroom.

Spontaneous community (and support)

On a much more heart-rending note is a series of articles in Slashdot about the impact of the Littleton tragedy media blitz on "geeks, nerds, non-conformists, and the alienated," as writer Jon Katz put it. The articles incorporate and reflect upon thousands of e-mails to Jon and Slashdot from "geeks" all over the US. The e-mails were a "river of pain," as Jon put it in one article, "an outpouring of anger and compassion" that describe "the other side," the view from "geek-dom." In his final piece of the series, "Hope in The Hellmouth: Looking Ahead", Jon says the bad news was the "geek profiling epidemic" that's been going on in high schools nationwide since Littleton; the good news is the extraordinary sense of community that has arisen spontaneously because of it.

"Kids by the hundreds were sent home, ordered into counseling, sent to special classes, lectured, suspended, expelled, and ostracized for thinking differently and being different," Jon writes. Jon, a former media columnist at HotWired, is now working on a book (working title: "The Rise of the Geeks") and writing columns as a First Amendment scholar at the Freedom Forum. He writes that, since Littleton, "the cost of being different has gone up." (The cost has been exceedingly high in Kosovo too - how can we teach our children how close the roots of ethnic cleansing are to those of ostracizing peers? If you have a thought or two on all this, do e-mail us at

Then there's "Listen to Us": concrete action being taken by Doug Peterson of Aurora, CO, the parent of a five-year-old who was "looking for something [he] could do to help prevent something like [Littleton] from happening again." Building on Jon Katz's articles and the e-mail Jon describes, Doug decided to create a Web site where e-mail like what Jon received could be posted publicly, for the " 'outsiders' caught in this hunt for the oddballs, to tell their own stories."

For more parents' reactions, see a piece by the New York Times's Amy Harmon, who last week spoke to parents all over the US, particularly about how they feel about having their kids online.

That term again

We suspect names like "nerds," "geeks," "jocks," "Goths," etc. are used more in places like very big public high schools, where there are large numbers of people who are:

  1. Moving through a largely impersonal process (getting schooled)
  2. Without the chance to get to know one another in a meaningful way (due to their sheer numbers),
  3. Without meaningful adult guidance (too many kids for the adults to really get to know),
  4. And therefore without the discernment they need to 1) be tolerant of peers' different-ness and 2) reject overall US culture's worst, most convenient labels and generalizations.

This view has certainly been expressed in many places. One of the more thoughtful commentaries we've seen was Peter Applebome's in this past Sunday's New York Times. Note what he writes about sizes of high schools (and studies about them, including one in which only one in four 6th-12th-graders said s/he goes to a school where adults and other students care about him or her) and about the out-moded values and educational models some experts say many high schools represent.

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Toward helping tornado victims

Here's CNN's story following Monday night's dozens of tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas. According to CNN, some of the storms in Oklahoma were "the largest ever" for that state. And, by Tuesday night, President Clinton had declared 11 counties in Oklahoma and one in Kansas federal disaster areas, clearing the way for federal aid to those locations. Ongoing local coverage can be found at the Daily Oklahoman. Here are links to information about aid for tornado victims:

The American Red Cross's page on the Oklahoma and Kansas tornadoes.'s "Give Help" page shows how to make donations or volunteer for American Red Cross disaster relief work. And for more in-depth information on tornadoes themselves: The Tornado Project. It's by a small company in Vermont that has been gathering information about tornadoes since 1970 and has a fund of information on the Web. The site has a lengthy links list that might be useful to meteorology students.

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Kids' picks

Nickelodeon and Entertainment Tonight aired their big Kids' Choice Awards splash this past weekend. Has anybody at your house been walking around humming some 'N Sync song? Well, they won the "favorite group" award. Will Smith, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Michael Jordan, Tara Lipinski, The Rugrats Movie, and Salem the cat were No. 1 in their various categories. All the winners can be found on the home page of the Nick site.

Netscape's Kids' Choice Awards advertising pitch page shows you how children's programmers position kids' Web programming for advertisers. There are some interesting statistics on the page: for example, Jupiter Communications's finding that the number of 2-12-year-olds online will grow from 5 million at the end of '98 to 22 million by 2002 and a Texas A&M University finding that kids under 12 spend or influence the spending of $500 billion a year.

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One family's house rules for online time

This past week a subscriber wrote us saying she's developed some simple household 'Net-use policies that work very well for her and her child. She wanted to share them with you:

"I have just read your most recent letter. While I am grateful for all the work that you and others are doing for online safety for our kids, I feel I must point out some very obvious tips. Prior to making my decision to go online, I reasoned and researched the very important issue of online safety for my teenager.

"I am the single parent of a gifted child who used to know more about computers than I did and got so bored in computer class at school. When my computer and modem entered my house, it was placed in my living room - not in my kid's room, where she could stay locked away for hours without any supervision. I also installed appropriate software to limit accessibility to inappropriate Web sites and chat rooms. My kid was warned that the use of the computer was a PRIVILEGE, not a birthright. Finally, I warned that ANY abuse would result in the suspension of her use of the computer.

"I learned very quickly how to UNPLUG the MOUSE and KEYBOARD, and place it in my locked (to which I have the only key) office. Yes, the computer can be powered up, but it's pretty hard to operate without those essential pieces of hardware.

"As for violent games, I no more allow them in my house than I allow violent or inappropriate videos to be rented and watched on my VCR. And yes, my child does have friends who own computers. But I make and take the time to know my kids' friends and how their parents enforce things like movies and Internet usage. If I don't feel it's safe, my kid finds new friends.

"Come on, parents, we can't control every factor in our kids' lives, but there are some very simple things about which we CAN and SHOULD take heed. Let's take and make the time to learn who and what are kids are doing, rather than just throw more money towards expensive toys and entertainment for them that may not be very safe for them. Keep up the good work!"

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The latest filtering information

SafeKids.Com is pleased to announce that it has just posted a new up-to-date version of its Comprehensive Directory of Parent Control Software. The directory, which is maintained for by Anne Bubnic, operator of the PEP Site for Parents, Educators and Publishers, is a popular source of information about filtering software.

SafeKids.Com does not endorse specific filtering products and does not recommend filters for all families. Instead, we provide parents with information they need to make informed decisions as to how to best protect their children in cyberspace. An Internet filter is a tool that can be employed if necessary, but it is not the first resort. Old-fashioned parenting - including talking with your children about what they should and should not do online - is always the best first step. If parents feel that a filter is necessary, he or she should carefully consider what to use and, for that, the Directory of Parent Control Software, is an indispensable resource.

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


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