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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Oz plan to 'clean up the Web'

One piece of Prime Minister John Howard's plan to "clean up the Web" for Australian families is to provide free filtering software for them to install on household computers, Australian IT reports. That'll help families with young children who use the Web only on those computers, not those who access the Web on gameplayers, phones, or other portable devices. "Of the $189 million [US $155 million], $43 million will be provided immediately to double the size of the online child sex exploitation branch of the AFP [Australian Federal Police] and establish a working group to find ways of getting around privacy laws that protect sexual predators (Howard has pledged to "upgrade the search for chat-room sex predators and cut off terror sites"). He made his clean-up pledge "on a Webcast to more than 700 churches and thousands of churchgoers around the country." Here's the New York Times on a US cleanup effort,, run by Morality in Media.

Labels: ,

NJ AG's wider social-Web effo

This is one of the more unusual stories I've seen in the news about a state attorney general dealing with teen social networking: Instead of focusing only on MySpace, as many attorneys general have done (at least on the public airwaves), New Jersey's seems to be more practical. Attorney General Anne Milgram "has asked a dozen Internet social-networking sites to find out whether convicted New Jersey sex offenders have created profiles on their sites," reports . The sites are Xanga, Facebook, Community Connect, TagWorld, Bebo,, Tagged, Friendster, LiveJournal, Imeem, Hi5 and Gaia Online. The AG's office found "at least 269" sex offenders registered in New Jersey in the latest list MySpace provided attorneys general. Of the 269 … 109 are either on probation or parole," and one has been charged with a parole violation, the AG's office told Fox News. What is not known is how many other sites have the technology to detect and report registered sex offenders on their sites. General Milgram said New Jersey would help the sites in their searches.

Labels: , ,

FL: Teen sex offenders for life

The private records of juvenile court are fully public in Florida, as far as young sex offenders are concerned. "A state law that went into effect July 1 will list teens as young as 14 on the same Web site as adults who are convicted pedophiles and sexual predators. The designation will follow them and their families as they enter schools, move to new communities and eventually apply for colleges, trade schools and jobs," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. This is a double blow for teens who commit minor offenses, because they don't have the benefit of being tried before juries in juvenile courts and the privacy that has been afforded juveniles for over 100 years is suddenly gone. The article cites the view of "some public defenders and legal experts" that being listed for life with adult sex offenders could hinder these teenagers' rehabilitation. "Public defenders plan to challenge the [Florida] law," the Sun-Sentinel adds. For more on this, see "Juvenile sex offenders & Net registries."


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cellphone socializing takes off

Mobile social networking is taking off. "Mobile user-generated content will generate revenues of over $5.7 billion in 2012, compared to $572 million this year. And of that 2012 total, 50% will be accounted for by social networking services," reports, citing Juniper Research numbers. And mobile research firm M:Metrics just released a "snapshot" of worldwide mobile social-networking: "Of note it is the US audience, which is traditionally hesitant to use the Web browser on their mobile handsets, that is the largest with 7.5 million or 3.5% of mobile subscribers accessing a social networking site with their mobile device during the month of June 2007," reports. Italy, the UK, Spain, Germany and France follow the US in that order." Also interesting was that US mobile social networkers are more of college age (18-24), while those in other countries were in the 13-18 age group. The most popular sites accessed by phone: MySpace and Facebook in that order, followed by YouTube in the US and Meebo in the UK. Here's CNET on the M:Metrics findings. Let's hope that, while they're social networking by phone, people are doing so safely. Check out some tips that might help parents at And moblogging (blogging by mobile phone) service Juicecaster has some for cellphone socializers themselves here.


Euro kids unfazed by P2P risks

"Everyone's doing it," is the rationale European kids use for their P2P music-downloading, Reuters cites a "major survey" by the European Commission as finding. "Other excuses included: the download is for personal and private purposes; the Web sites presumably remunerate the artists; claims of harm inflicted on artists lack credibility; and DVDs and CDs are simply too expensive." The vast majority of the young people surveyed in 27 EU member countries, Norway and Iceland said they planned to continue downloading music through file-sharing services. The survey also found that most European teens go online several times a day and, "while Internet use is to some extent limited by parents, most own their own mobile phones, the use of which is largely unsupervised." For more on file-sharing risks, see "File-sharing realities for families."

Labels: , ,

Adding strangers as 'friends'

A new study found that Facebook users may need to take their personal privacy more seriously - also that there seems to be some confusion about who is and isn't a friend there. It doesn't appear to have been that scientific a study, but the methodology is interesting: IT security firm Sophos "created a fake Facebook profile, under the name 'Freddi Staur' ('ID Fraudster' with the letters rearranged), and randomly requested 200 members to be friends with 'Freddi'," CNET reports. "Out of those 200, 87 accepted the friend request and 82 of those gave 'Freddi' access to 'personal information' such as e-mail addresses, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers, and school or work data. Presumably, the other five had restricted 'Freddi' to limited profile access, which many users select for bosses, parents, or people they don't know in real life." Sophos says that, although it's unlikely this behavior will result in theft, this is the kind of fuel phishers seek for their social engineering (manipulation). BTW, I admit to a bit of that friending confusion - I have a Facebook profile and get friend requests all the time from people I don't know personally, and I confess to feeling kind of mean and unfriendly if I ignore them. If an online-safety advocate feels that way….

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Important patches coming

Windows users can expect a "flood" of security updates this week, reports Washington Post security writer Brian Krebs.
Microsoft plans "to push out at least nine patch bundles," seven of them plugging "some 19 different vulnerabilities." Most of the updates are to fix what Microsoft has deemed critical flaws. "Among the Microsoft products to be patched are: just about every version of Windows (including a standalone update for Windows Vista), Internet Explorer, Visual Basic, Microsoft Office, and Office for Mac." Brian links to the key security pages at


Parents of college-bound in Facebook

Parents of the college-bound are beginning to use Facebook too - to find out what their kids' roommates will be like - and schools aren't sure this is a good thing! "A growing number of schools say they're getting more requests for changes — from parents who don't like the roommates' Facebook profiles," USATODAY reports. The article says housing officials cite party photos as referenced most by complaining parents, but one Syracuse University "says race, religion and sexual orientation are the top three concerns from parents contacting officials there," and an administrator at Suffolk University in Boston said sexual orientation was the No. 1 parental concern she heard about. Most schools USATODAY contacted said they don't make changes because of these calls, and the University of Chicago said it never allows changes until the third week (at Syracuse the wait is between 8 weeks and the whole fall semester). Meanwhile, you know social networking's mainstream not only when parents are checking up on potential roommates but when Wal-Mart's advertising back-to-school products in Facebook (see Reuters on this.)

Labels: , ,

College social networking good or bad?

Is it good or bad that social-networking eases the transition from high school to college? The Washington Post looks at that question, citing "experts" as saying that, in addition to making things easier with online "introductions," over-reliance on tech "can also hamper their adjustment by making it easy for some students to hold too tight to the life and friends they've left behind." With cellphone texting, social sites, and IM, they can not only meet roommates-to-be to find out if they're bringing the microwave, they can also relax back into friendships back home, which can leave them "less emotionally available to confront new challenges, test their beliefs or engage in serious introspection - what college was once thought to be about." My guess is, they'll be challenged one way or another, but what do you think? Post your thoughts in the forum!


Monday, August 13, 2007

Advertisers' social-Web headaches

It's a fascinating dilemma advertisers have these days, and it's related to a concern of parents we see turning up in the forum time and time again: How to control standards in a medium the user controls? How can an advertiser be guaranteed its ad won't appear next to inappropriate user-generated content? "In London, with the number of Facebook users swelling, government agencies and six companies, including Vodafone, Virgin Media and First Direct, made a jumpy, temporary exodus from the site this month. The companies withdrew advertising accounts from Facebook after their brands surfaced in blind purchases alongside a page for the anti-immigrant, right-wing British National Party," the International Herald Tribune reports. Also in the UK, where junk-food ads have been banned from TV programs targeting kids 4-9 (and that will soon be extended to include ads targeting 10-15-year-olds too), Bebo and HabboHotel are drawing criticism for displaying selling candy and food ads, the Herald Tribune adds. "But the controversy in Britain has had an impact on all companies in the social networking category, many of which have been taking steps to highlight their ethical responsibilities." Here's Reuters on the UK Facebook story.

Labels: , ,