The site launched yesterday and my 8-year-old beta tester had a great time exploring the Kidzui environment. The "stickiest" features of the site involved creating a "Zui" avatar, which collects points as kids browse and rate videos, photos and other content. … Read more
Our daughter was rummaging through a box of memorabilia and found an evelope of photos taken in early 2001, about the time I'd purchased a cool new macro lens. One minute she was flipping through a series of cute puppy pictures and the next minute she's face to face with a set of full-frontal nude photographs depicting...a wolf spider. In fact, the spider was so exposed, the close-up so extreme, that Amy could not bring herself to even handle the photos so as to put them back into the envelope from which they came.
So when I … Read more
I have always enjoyed and admired David Pogue's tech journalism at The New York Times, but I was disturbed by his recent piece "How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?" which I believe dangerously minimizes the seriousness of the challenges that online life poses for families.
Pogue sets out to write a corrective narrative to what he perceives as a media-overhyped fear of online pedophiles luring children out of their homes, but in the process he discounts other reasonable concerns. The resulting commentary overreacts to the overreactions.
He talks about a mother becoming "hysterical when her 8-year-old stumbled onto a pornographic photo," and reassures us that his 7-year-old was not harmed by accidentally finding doctored "naked" photos of the animated characters The Incredibles.
"Naked pictures" covers a lot of ground, from a National Geographic photo to hard-core pornography. The type of image, extent of exposure, and intent are all relevant in deciding how harmful the experience has been. Pogue's example is not necessarily typical. As I have reported previously, I have spoken to several families whose young sons have been shown explicit, violent pornography by their 8-year-old peers. This was an incredibly upsetting experience for everyone involved.
Additionally, molesters use pornography and exposure to sexuality in many forms, including explicit online conversations, to desensitize and groom their victims.… Read more
Adults are increasingly aware of the risks of identity theft, but how many of us think about protecting our children's identities? This is an issue that we should be thinking about from birth, when baby registries, online birth announcements, and even the "Stork News" sign in the front yard expose kids' personal information--name gender, date of birth, and home address--to the wider world.
Children who get their identities stolen may not know for years, until they grow up and go to apply for a job, student loan, or credit card themselves. You can imagine what a mess … Read more
The law doesn't seem to have caught up with the evolving concept of online defamation yet, so internet service providers and websites are generally not responsible for the content that their users post. There are many valid reasons for that legal approach, but the website JuicyCampus.com stretches the credibility of this concept. The website's sole reason for existence is to serve as a portal for anonymous gossip, spreading rumor, sexual defamation, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism at colleges across the country.
The New York Times recently reported a heartwarming story about a lost digital camera being returned after a kindhearted stranger analyzed the photos on the camera to find the owner.
The camera was left in the backseat of a New York taxi, and contained sightseeing photos of Manhattan, as well as Florida snapshots including people wearing name tags. Leads took the hunt to Ireland, back to New York, and finally to Syndey, Australia, where the rightful owner lives. He was "over the moon" with gratitude to get his camera back.
This story has a happy ending, and perhaps most of us would be glad to get our camera back in that situation, but it also made me uneasy to realize how much personally identifiable information was stored on one camera card. I would rather have a locked camera than could not be accessed if it was found, than have a stranger be able to peer into my photos.
The situation is even more crucial when it involves smartphones.… Read more
What's more worrisome than a public MySpace page? A page that the user only thinks is private. I was just alerted to several stories by Kevin Poulsen of Wired News that publicize recent security breaches on MySpace.
Poulsen reported on January 17 about a MySpace Bug that leaks "private" teen photos to voyeurs. He wrote, "A backdoor in MySpace's architecture allows anyone who's interested to see the photographs of some users with private profiles--including those under 16--despite assurances from MySpace that those pictures can only be seen by people on a user's friends list. Info about the backdoor has been circulating on message boards for months."
These message boards include self-described groups of "pedos" who hacked into underage-girls' private MySpace profiles. According to Poulsen, one poster reported successfully pilfering photos from a randomly chosen 14-year-old girl, "It worked and I was shown her pictures. Now lets see some naked sluts."
On January 18, Poulsen updated the story to say that the next day, MySpace quietly fixed that back-door bug, without publicly acknowledging the problem, even though users' profiles had been vulnerable for months. … Read more
When PBS's Frontline reported on "Growing Up Online" this week, it called the gulf between kids who grew up with technology and their parents "the greatest generation gap since rock 'n' roll." That's a bitter pill to swallow for adults in their '30s and '40s who have been involved in computers for 20-plus years, but I have to say I agree with their assessment. Maybe we kicked it old school with Pong and the Atari 2600. Or we had a Commodore 64 or a Macintosh with a whopping 512K of memory. We may have even written code since we were teens ourselves, but that's nothing compared to growing up with ubiquitous access to cell phones, media, and social networking.
Producer Caitlin McNally describes this shift in thinking that exists even between her, as a twentysomething, and the teens she interviewed:Despite the research we did, I don't think I was prepared when we started talking to kids for the extent to which the Internet and other electronic communication has permeated all aspects of being a teenager. Almost every kid expressed the utter importance of being connected with friends all the time and how unthinkable a life without that connection would be. I think a lot of kids were bemused by our list of questions about 'life online,' because they don't sit around thinking about the Internet in their lives. It's just there, always, another tool for them to use or place for them to go.
I've been writing about parenting and technology long enough for themes to begin to emerge. Like Lou Dobbs talking again and again about the "War on the Middle Class," I am going to keep following the evolving story about kids and online safety, and supporting the idea that "Safe Product Design is Good Product Design."
Monday's announcement that MySpace has unveiled a new safety plan, working in cooperation with 49 attorneys general, is a step in the right direction. However, it did draw the predictable criticism epitomized by this reader comment on The Social blog:
A Novel Idea...: reader comment from jltnol Posted on: January 14, 2008, 2:24 PM PST Story: MySpace agrees to social-networking safety plan
Why can't parents just do what the [sic] are supposed to do? Part of parenting is knowing what your kids are up to all the time.
If you can't do it then hire a baby sitter who can.
You need a license to drive and a license to fish, but anybody can have a child.
Wonderful! Another chance to hone my argument against such an unrealistic point of view. This is like saying, "You had a kid, so it's your job to drive safely. Why should car makers have to provide seat belts and antilock brakes? If you don't like it, don't drive at all."
Parents can't know exactly what their kids are up to at all times, especially when the category "kids" includes teenagers. In fact, I bet that if I told you that I maintained absolute surveillance on a 15-year-old at all times, you'd think I was a paranoid, hyperinvolved parent.… Read more
I spent the whole day at CES attending the Sandbox Summit, an ambitious new specialty session put on by the Parents' Choice Foundation. We heard presentations from over 20 speakers, from Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop (an Elvis-impersonating Elmo showed up live as a keynote speaker!), to Michelle Slatalla, Cyberfamilias columnist at The New York Times; Anastasia Goodstein, founder of YPulse.com; and Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review. The five panels addressed topics in depth and from several angles, including marketing, safety, the quality and effectiveness of educational media, and the question of how families can develop reasonable limits on screen time. I will be covering the details this five-hour summit in many upcoming blog posts.
The Sandbox Summit was well-attended and I had the most amazing networking experience afterward, talking to other women who attended as audience members. … Read more