Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at

Friday, December 31, 2004

Kids & video-game violence

It isn't just the Internet that pits child protection against civil liberties (for an example, see "Still undecided on COPA"). Now, with a recent proposal by Illinois's governor, it's video games too. Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed law, "which would make selling violent or sexual games to anyone under 18 a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $5,000 fine, is just the latest maneuver in an ongoing battle among kids, parents, the game industry, civil libertarians, and politicians eager for parents' support," the Christian Science Monitor reports. The Monitor cites experts' view that the law wouldn't meet First Amendment requirements, but it raises "pressing issues" and an important debate about who's responsible for what games children buy or receive and about the current game rating system, which is much like the US's film ratings. "Like the movie guidelines, it's self-regulated. A store can card teenagers, and [as with some theaters showing R- and X-rated films] many refuse to sell M-rated [for "Mature" player] games to anyone under 17, but no law requires them to abide by the rule - and critics cite lax enforcement," according to the Monitor. It points to similar efforts to regulate video-game sales in Indianapolis, St. Louis County, and Washington State, which "have been struck down by courts as recently as July." The article does a great job of laying out a range of views and issues on this subject.

For more on games and ratings, see also "Check out the game ratings!," 10 worst video games," and "Kid-tested, parent-approved video games" in my newsletter.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Emails: Something for nothing?

Very unlikely. Tell your kids to be skeptical about messages promising free iPods, software, or laptops. If the programs are for real, at best, the New York Times reports, they're "riddled with problems" or hurdles. "Participants may have to spend a lot to qualify or may not get the reward if they fail to follow what can be complicated rules. Ultimately, they may end up with nothing more than a big increase in spam as their e-mail address and other information is passed along or sold." The messages are usually from marketing companies that get around $40-60 for each person who signs up. An example is a reportedly legitimate program called, providing hurdles such as required participation in a free, 6-week trial of some service such as AOL and getting 5 friends to do the same. You can read about people's experiences with these promotional programs at complaint sites like The FBI told the Times it had not as yet received reports of fraud involving these programs but urged people to look them over carefully.

Tsunami relief: Contributor help on the Web

"In a disaster on a scale rarely experienced on planet Earth, it is perhaps appropriate that there are so many ways to use the most global of media - the Internet - to help the hundreds of thousands injured in the south Asian tsunamis and the millions suddenly plunged into homelessness," writes's Larry Magid on his page linking to Web pages for donating funds and goods to support the tsunami relief effort and pages to get information on various charities. There are similar links at USAID, National Public Radio, the BBC, and the New York Times. This article at offers insights into what's being done on the ground in southern India. Though one would think the very last thing of critical need is technology, I was grateful to read in this piece how tech aid from the US came to the rescue at the central relief center in Nagapattinam, the "worst hit" city in Tamil Nadu State. "To bring some order to the relief effort, a US-based technology company rushed a team of experts to Nagapattinam to install a management information system" to get critical data daily to all the relief centers. "The system will use police radio sets to gather calls for aid and log it onto software for tracking purposes to set priorities and respond with supplies to the most needed sites quicker." For the bigger picture, here's a roundup of reports from BBC correspondents in affected areas all over the tsunami region.