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Friday, November 09, 2007

Social networking: What cops know

Indiana State Police Lt. Charles Cohen's 16-year-old nephew "has seven MySpace pages, including one in which he and his buddies pretend to be Chuck Norris," the Associated Press reports. That's a great observation for parents to hear, echoed by many experts on Web 2.0 - that there are all kinds of blogs and social-networking profiles, from pure fiction to "reality TV" on the Web to hybrids of the two (the majority probably being in that in-between gray area). The content of Lieutenant Cohen's talks to fellow law enforcement say something about how police work is changing, about social networkers' use of privacy tools, and about how the Web increasingly mirrors offline life (here's the main article. "Many police departments have computer crews that perform skillful forensic analysis on hard drives and specialize in nailing online predators." Cohen's talks are for everybody else - "beat cops, homicide detectives and other investigators" who are either in denial about needing to understand the Net or don't realize what a tool it can be.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tragic school shooting in Finland

A high school student in Finland shot and killed himself, six other students, and the school principal yesterday "after announcing plans for the rampage on YouTube," the Financial Times reports. The FT cites a Reuters reports saying the boy's video was "called 'Jokela High School Massacre' and posted by a user called Sturmgeist89, meaning Storm Spirit in German. The video's musical backing was a song called Stray Bullet." The Washington Post reports reports that "the song was a favorite of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine High School shooters, who had featured the band's lyrics on his Web site." According to the FT, "there have been occurrences around the world, including the death of 16 children in 1996 in Dunblane, UK, the 1999 killing of 12 students at the Columbine High School in Colorado, the 2002 deaths of 18 in Erfurt, Germany and this year's killing of 32 at Virginia Tech University in the US." The Times of London looked at what's unique to Finland about this tragedy.

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'Kickstart' for students

Yahoo has a new niche social site for college students that's supposed to be more professional than social but not quite as professional as, a PC World blog reports. Apparently a profile on "Kickstart" is designed to be more like a resume than a place for friends' "pokes" and comments. The site's photo upload page reminds users, "You'll want to use a professional-looking photo, since your future boss may see this."

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Child porn networking shut down

European police arrested 92 people allegedly involved in a child pornography operation that sold videos to 2,500 customers in 19 countries "including teachers, doctors and lawyers," the Associated Press reports. "The alleged mastermind, Italian Sergio Marzola," and a Belgian man suspected of abusing his own children, were arrested last year. Marzola "allegedly made some 150 videos in Ukraine, the Netherlands and Belgium." Investigators said that at least 23 girls aged 9 to 16 were tricked into on-camera abuse by being promised "lucrative modeling careers." Here's coverage from The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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New virtual worlds for kids 6+

Close on the heels of her report that a "boomlet" of kids' virtual worlds was in the works, CNET's Stefanie Olsen blogs about toy company Playhut's two new online playgrounds, one for girls 6+, one for boys. Like ClubPenguin, it appears, "the free sites enable members to play games, dress up virtual characters and chat with friends - once parents send a permission slip via e-mail to the site." Well, ClubPenguin has very limited, scripted, chat, where kids are given phrases to choose from. VirtualWorldsNews reports that the free sites are Wowbotz for boys and Mystikats Kutties for girls.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New book on cyberbullying

The good news is there are usually no physical scars from cyberbullying. The bad news is there are usually no physical scars to alert parents to what's going on. And that's not even the biggest problem with cyberbullying: "that children will not report it," reports CNET, citing a new academic book on the subject, Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age, by Patricia Agatston, a licensed counselor and consultant on bullying, psychology Prof. Robin Kowalski at Clemson University, and Sue Limber, director of the Center on Youth Participation and Human Rights at Clemson. Rather than report cyberbullying, kids "try to deal with it themselves for fear of being cut off. Many times parents will overreact and punish the victim by forbidding them to continue using things like instant messaging, blogs, or a social network." Overreaction and overprotection are increasingly risky these days because of the damage they can do to parent-child communication in a time when the Web is so ubiquitous on so many devices in so many places, and communication with caring adults is the most reliable protection kids have.


'Protecting Social Networkers' Privacy 101'

If people at your house are concerned about their or others' privacy in social-networking sites, there's help at now. The nonprofit, Washington-based site (for full disclosure I'm a big fan and on GNW's Advisory Board) has simple, step-by-step video tutorials on how to turn on privacy features in three of the most popular social sites: Facebook, MySpace, and Xanga.

Now, you may be one of those Net-literate people who knows there are thousands of social-networking sites and sites on phones and the Web with profiles, media-sharing, and other social-networking features. This fact in no way diminishes the value of these tutorials because…

1. The three sites they're about together have well over 200 million profiles on them, and
2. Though each site has a unique set-up, the tutorials show (parents, mostly) that privacy protection is not rocket science.

They illustrate how easy it is to use privacy tools in social sites, which promotes parent-child discussion and may help get kids over a big hurdle we've noticed in the forum which social networkers have trouble clearing: checking out the tools and protections their favorites sites provide them. It's that age-old aversion we all have to reading instructions, but it keeps getting more important.

So, armed with the clear audio-visual info in these tutorials, parents can go through the privacy features with young social networkers and have informed conversations with older ones about how they're protecting their privacy - from restricting access to their profiles and photos to deciding if search engines can list them to blocking comments and other communications from people who aren't their friends. There are more options in these sites than GetNetWise could possibly cover in a 2-3-minute video, so hopefully these little tutorials will make it easier for people to take a look at all the ways they can manage their privacy and reputations on the social Web.

Related links

  • "Online spin control"
  • "Protecting teen reputations on Web 2.0"
  • Our book, MySpace Unraveled, attempts to do something quite similar: demystify teens' social-networking experiences for parents with some background and an illustrated guide to how it works. Our reasoning: When parents understand how things work, we're less likely to overreact and send kids into "stealth mode," which can put them at greater risk than if they're using responsible Web sites we know about at home, where we (parents) still have some influence.

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  • Monday, November 05, 2007

    Social graces on the social Web

    It's always fun to get a snapshot of where we (people in general) are in developing etiquette or, as Macworld put it, "social graces" on the social Web. And that's all there is, really, in this little article, a little snapshot of where the thinking is. The best reminder in it, for teens (or anyone) concerned about being seen as mean or snobby when they're just protecting their own interests or privacy in Facebook, is that it's ok to delete someone from their friends list - Facebook doesn't make an announcement or anything. Also, there's a good answer to the question, "What do you do if you get an unwanted invitation?" "I say ignore invitations without shame. Some people send them to everyone they have the slightest connection to - in that case, they probably won’t even notice your silent rejection."

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    Young 'sex offenders'

    "Lawyers and health educators say most teens - and even many parents - are unaware that even consensual teenage sex is often a crime," the Associated Press reports. There are three related problems: 1) though prosecutions are rare, they happen, 2) there is a lot of confusion about the laws in various states (e.g., "across the country, ages of consent range from 14 to 18"), 3) sex-offender registries are increasingly accessible, and teens placed on them can be "branded" for life. The only good news in all this is that "some states have moved in recent months to craft so-called Romeo and Juliet exceptions to prevent sexually active teenagers from being lumped together with child molesters." See also "Juvenile sex offenders & Net registries."