SafeKids/NetFamilyNewsletter 1/13/06 issue

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  • Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 14:43:49 -0500

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SafeKids/NetFamilyNewsletter 1/13

Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this second week of January:

* 18-year-old blogger Amanda on blogging
* A sampler of the latest coverage & resources on teen blogging
* Web News Briefs: Everywhere TV; iTunes issues; For music-loving
families; Students catch sex offender; MS to debug software; The thing
about texting; iPod-compatible jeans; Whither childhood?...

18-year-old blogger Amanda on blogging

Teen blogging is definitely on parents', educators', reporters' radar
screens now (it has been on law-enforcement ones a while longer).
Stories about it - good, bad, and somewhere in between - are popping
up in local news sites nationwide.

The story of Karen, mother of a MySpacer in California, represents
that snowball effect. Last August she talked with me about her
concerns for her teen blogger. After NetFamilyNews featured her story
< a
Wall Street Journal reporter called me for sources on the subject, and
Karen gave permission for him to call her. Since that article ran
national-level TV interest kicked in. Karen told me this week she's
had calls from producers at The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning
America. Below you'll find just a sampler of the best recent coverage
and resources from around country, including a Business Week cover story.

But first: a blogger's own perspective, that of Amanda, 18, an
American au pair in The Netherlands and user of three blogging sites.
She emailed me in response to Karen's story, "A mom writes: Teen
solicited in MySpace"?.

"Of course there are creeps on MySpace," Amanda wrote, but there are
creeps everywhere. Not just on the Internet. Besides, blogging teaches
important job skills! Many kids learn how to edit style sheets and
html because of blogs.

"They are also a great place to make friends that you can tell
everything. You have times when you just can't tell your real-life
friends about the things going on in your life."

I emailed her back, wondering if she'd talk about her own blogging
experience, and she sent back some great insights:

NetFamilyNews: Where do you blog? Why did you pick that service?
Amanda: "I have 3 different blogs: a livejournal
< a
xanga <
and a myspace <>. I have three because
my friends all have different blog spaces and this helps me stay in
touch with them."

NFN: How much do you share - pretty private stuff? Do you use privacy
features in the sites?
A: "I put a lot in them. When I am angry with someone, that goes in.
Something funny happened today, that goes in. Sometimes I cut stuff
out of one journal because of the friends I have on it. My best friend
is on my livejournal and not my xanga. So when I am mad at her, it
goes into my xanga. I don't usually, I used to, but I don't have my
ex-boyfriend's mom reading my journal either."

NFN: Have you been contacted by strangers? What do you do about it -
just ignore them?
A: "If they are nice, I might talk to them. If someone posts a really
useful comment on my journal, I usually skim through their journal.
Sometimes you get creepy people trying to contact you, but I just block them."

NFN: Do your parents know you blog - have you all talked about it at
all? What's their position?
A: "I haven't lived with my parents since I was 15, so they have no
control of my Internet usage."

NFN: So are the people in your blogging community mostly people you
met online, i.e. 'strangers'? Is your purpose in blogging mainly to
explore stuff you wouldn't share with people you've met in person, or
is that just part of it?
A: "Some of my real-life friends are on my blogs also, a lot of people
from old schools, people from concerts. Some people are from forums.
It's really nice to read about how someone else's life is going. I met
my best friend online. We talked on a fourm for a long time, and then
we talked on AIM, then we met in person. You can find people
interested in the same things you are - music, books, animals, etc.,
so much easier than in person. You're not limited to just people in
your own city."

NFN: Do your real-life friends (at school, for example) not know about
your blog?
A: "Some of them do, the ones that also have blogs. When I was in
school anyway."

NFN: Does blogging kind of replace the social life you had when you
were in school?
A: "No I go out a lot. I had the same online life when I was in
school. I have been a pretty heavy Internet user for a couple years
now. It's an easy way to find things to do. I found my favorite coffee
house in Oklahoma over the Internet. We all take our laptops and watch
webtoons and help each other with coding for our blogs."

* * *

Sampler of coverage/resources on blogging

* "'A place for friends' and foes:?Students, schools struggle with
Myspace" in Verde, a magazine by and for students of Palo Alto High
School ("Paly")

* "'There are some real creeps out there': Some North Coast parents
are ramping up their Internet savvy as more local children log on and
converse with strangers" in the Daily Astorian (Ore.)

* "Boy meets girl, and the Internet goes wild: Jackson native faces
Web 'Will she or won't she?'" in the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun

* "Lesson for Murdoch: Keep the Bloggers Happy" - the New York Times
looking into how/whether changed after News Corp. acquired
it last year for $580 million

* "In the blink of an eye, blogs became big" - the Philadelphia
Inquirer looks into blogging's growth

* "Sites are the new parenting frontier: But hardly one to despair
over, so long as you take precaution" at the Lexington Herald-Leader

* "Online confessions: A growing number of teens are using their
online blogs to express themselves" at the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News

* "Website's power to overexpose teens stirs a warning: Parents
alerted to" in the Boston Globe

* Security is becoming an issue for bloggers themselves: "Student
blogs on the rise, despite security risks" in Washington University's
Student Life newspaper

* "Give & Take" at A mom and her 14-year-old blogger
talk to's Larry Magid about their takes on teen blogging

* Back doors to MySpace: Blogger Randy Charles Morin provides
work-arounds for students seeking "alternative access" to MySpace at
schools where it's blocked by school network filters
< [I
was surprised that Randy emailed me his instructions for students -
did he feel parents and educators should know of the workarounds too?]

* "What to Do When Your Mom Discovers Your Blog" in's Help
section <

* "The MySpace Generation" - Business Week cover story
including the sidebar, "Protecting Your Kids From Cyber-Predators:
Tips for parents as their teenagers venture into social networks"
Business Week reports that "last spring, MySpace created an algorithm
to identify underage users and eradicated 330,000 profiles." MySpace
says "about a quarter" of its 165 employees monitor safety through
customer service." The article doesn't say how it does that, but a
cybersafety consultant and attorney MySpace hired for the purpose,
Parry Aftab, said the site "reviews photographs and removes snapshots
showing members topless or in offensive t-shirts." Facebook also
"employs algorithms to remove problematic users and follows up on
reports of user abuse." Another protection is that "college users also
must have an email address ending in "edu" [and basically communicate only with people on
their campus] and high school users can join only if a member invites them in."

Find Definitions, folksonomy and Resources for Podcasts,
webcasts,audiocasts, Blogs, audioblogs,odeo, flicker, RSS, wiki, and smart mobs.
Myspace - find out how kids get into trouble on social networks and get caught.

Web News Briefs

1. Everywhere TV

Move over, iTunes - now there's Google Video. The online video store,
already offering popular CBS programs like "Survivor" and NBA
basketball games 24 hours after they aired, is bringing the goal of
everywhere TV a little closer. But with Google Video, TV-producer
wannabees can also upload their own video and set their own prices for
their shows (including free). It's a remarkable opportunity for
creative young media mavens to experiment with TV as they're learning
to be actors or journalists or animators. And they can do so in the
comfort of their own homes, as well as other places, where parents may
not be aware of what they're uploading. As with all technology there's
a huge upside, but also a downside of which parents will want to be
aware. Here's the BBC on the Google development
and a 1/6 item in this newsletter about several Web sites where video can be
uploaded and stored for free (Google says it screens all videos,
the other two have anti-porn policies but do not screen)
Meanwhile, we're barely into the "Everywhere TV" era, and already
there are tools for putting TV on the video iPod and Playstation
Portable, The Register reports First it cites TiVoToGo and To Go,
adding that "four other US companies, Hauppauge Computer Works, InterVideo,
Proxure and Bling Software have launched products this week that do something similar,
mostly citing the Video iPod, but all able to work just as well
targeting the Sony PSP." [Watch out, programmers! Only TiVo provides
any copyright protection so far.]

2. iTunes issues

Privacy concerns have surfaced with the latest version of iTunes, CNET
reports In the new iTunes, when you click on a song in your playlist, a little
"MiniStore" window on your screen turns up links to tunes you might
like to buy. "To provide those recommendations, the software sends
information about the selected song, such as artist, title and genre,
back to Apple," according to CNET, which adds that the iTunes software
is also sending Apple "a string of data that is linked to a computer
user's unique iTunes account ID." There's speculation it includes info
like credit card numbers and email addresses. However, an Apple
representative told CNET that the company "does not save or store any
information used to create recommendations for the MiniStore."
Meanwhile, because video iPod users are going to be more and more
itchy to download video beyond the so far meager offerings in iTunes,
CNET's Declan McCullagh looks at the software options for otherwise
downloading TV shows or copying
("ripping") them from DVDs (it looks like, for now, the options are
either pricey or legally murky).

3. For music-loving families

Making iPods work when there are several in one house is not an easy
task. Out of the box, it won't help copy a music collection to
multiple computers, and it won't help you put multiple music
collections on a single computer. But the Wall Street Journal's Walt
Mossberg reviews low-cost software programs that can help For
the multi-computer problem, he explains how these apps help: CopyPod
for Windows, PodWorks for Mac, and PodUtil for both. For the problem
of copying parts of a family music collection to Mom's, Dad's, and
Junior's iPods, he suggests a workaround or a $10 utility program
called Libra.
BTW, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced this week that 42
million iPods have been sold so far, 14 million of them just in the
last few months, the Washington Post reports
In the UK, a study by researchers at Leicester, York, and Surrey
Universities found that, because of easy and constant exposure to music
(via iPods and the Internet), people today don't value it as much as they did in the past.
Reporting on this, a commentator at The Register
writes that the findings were predictable. "Still, it's good to have
it down in black and white, all statistically verified and everything.
And it keeps academics off the streets."

How to work with the Apple Ipod

4. Student reporters catch sex offender

A 22-year-old man occasionally visits a Minnesota high school and
poses as a 17-year-old "prospective student" and British royalty -
until smart school newspaper reporters do a little Web research on
him. That's the story told by KARE TV in the Twin Cities
 "At the school newspaper, they thought, if Caspian's story were true, it
certainly would make an interesting feature." They found his page, headed the "Earl of Scooby." Next he turned up in
Florida's registry of sex offenders. He turned out to be Joshua
Gardner, of Austin, Minnesota, "convicted of fourth-degree criminal
sexual conduct in Winona County in 2003." Though the principal said
there were no reports of any student harassment during his three
visits to the school, KARE reports that he's been charged for
violating probation, and " his probation officer is recommending that
he go to prison for 21 months, which is the sentence that was stayed
 after his conviction back in 2003."

5. Microsoft to debug software

Last week's PC security flaw that caused a storm of confusion and
controversy, as well as an early patch from Microsoft, is causing the
company to treat such flaws differently from now on. MS said it will
scour all its software for similar bugs, ZDNET reports
Last week's flaw was different from anything that went before in the world
of Windows PCs, Microsoft says. "Typical flaws are unforeseen gaps in
programs that hackers can take advantage of and run code. By contrast,
[this flaw] lies in a software feature being used in an unintended
way." So MS is "pledging to take a look at its programs, old and new,
to avoid similar side effects." Here's our latest coverage of how PC
security has gotten even more complicated
 (and don't forget the 3 basic rules: firewall, anti-virus, and up-to-date
patches on family PCs!).

Everyone Needs Security Information
FREE and it checks your computer to see if you're
vulnerable and/or have been infected by a virus or Trojan Horse.

6. The thing about texting

?is it's asynchronous, teens will tell you. When they're on the fly
and don't want to talk to somebody because that could suck up sooo
much time - but there's something brief they *have* to tell that
person - they'll text. That's what 16-year-old Cybil told the
Sacramento Bee in a story that starts out being about the jaw-dropping cost of teen
texting to parents not yet familiar with its attractions to teenagers.
So, as with phone bills for parents, ironically, texting is all about
control and predictability for teens. They can control the length of
the connection when they're busy - they don't get sucked into the
black hole of a phone conversation. As for parents' control over phone
bills? Well, there's the prepaid option, so that when the communicator
runs out of minutes and text messages paid for upfront, that's it.
Parents can actually budget for that amount. The other option, which I
looked for but didn't see in the article, is not allowing texting. I asked my service (Verizon) to turn
off texting on our family plan, so we don't have to pay the $.02 for
every incoming message, the $.10 for every outgoing one, or the
$7-10-or-so/month for unlimited texting. Something to look into, anyway.

7. iPod-compatible jeans

Jeans and iPods are now sharing more than their universality,
according to news reports from the US, UK, India, Romania, Germany,
Australia, the fashion industry, and
That last media outlet says this new line of Levi's jeans (due out next
fall) will include "a watch pocket with a special joystick that allows
for the operation of an iPod within." The iPod itself will have its
own special pocket that includes a built-in docking cradle. (is
housed in a special pocket that includes a docking cradle built into
the jeans. The BBC adds that the jeans will also sport retractable headphones. But never fear,
parents, they're washable (after the iPod's removed). What is a little
scary is the price: about $200. I can't resist quoting Levi Strauss's
own description (from the iLounge, news site for iPod users
?The new Levi's RedWire DLX jeans have been developed to be practical and leading-edge
in their aesthetic. A crisp white leather patch and joystick, bluffed
back pockets with hidden stitching, and clean minimalist buttons and
rivets allude to the iPod's famously pure design.? But what the
fashion-conscious will *really* be glad to hear, thanks to,
is: "Levi Strauss has designed the jeans to hide the iPod 'bump,' so
as not to injure the aesthetic appeal of the jeans." Whew!

Up to the second News and Blogs
with links to the need to know stories

8. Whither childhood?

If you're one of many parents a bit puzzled about "KGOY" ("Kids
Getting Older Younger"), you might find two New York Times
commentaries interesting. In her "Domestic Disturbances" blog
Judith Warner (author and XM Radio host) writes about how girls are
ditching (sometimes violently so) their Barbies at younger and younger
ages. She asks, "With competitive soccer now starting in kindergarten,
academic tutoring beginning in preschool, and catty parlor games now a
part of girl life as early as the third grade, what?s left of the
years that can properly be called childhood? Does little-girlhood end
now at 4?" And in a column about how we took the child out of
childhood, Peter Applebome asks the questions: "How did we get to the
point where few kids ever get to play with friends outside of a play date, to walk to a neighbor's
house without parental escort or to have free,
unsupervised time in which they're not tethered to a television set,
computer or Xbox? How is it that Mr. Bernstein's friends in their 40's
go out to play soccer every Saturday but their children wouldn't know
how to organize a game on their own without parents around?

Play's the Thing - the Importance of Play and Laughter
Fun Learning Games - play's the thing: research shows
learn the importance of laughter and play to avoid
teenage depression and burn out

+ = + = + = +

Net Family News, Inc. / 1121 3rd Ave. / Salt Lake City, UT 84103 / USA.
Anne Collier Editor
Net Family News <> and
The Online Safety Project <>

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