This year, a Girl Scout used You Tube to promote her cookie sale. The video started with her stating her full name, then saying that she wanted to sell 12,000 cookies and why she wanted to sell that many. On one hand, it is an innovative way to sell more cookies. On the other hand, a young girl is saying her full name in a video, doing what some could argue as potentially risky online behavior.
The Girl Scout and her father went on the Today Show with a representative of the Girl Scout organization. Watch this segment of the Today Show and let us know where you stand. Do you think Girl Scouts should be able to market themselves online in any (tasteful) way to sell the cookies? Or should they be barred from online promotion or sales for the sake of safety?
Just a few short years ago, a young person could do something they might or might not later regret, but there was no photographic evidence of it. There were no pictures nor videos of embarrassing situations to end up in a place where the entire world could see it at any point. More to the point, parents, future employers, and future spouses or even future children, would never see it. This is no longer true.
The question is how do we modify the behavior? We (educators, parents and advocates) talk about it constantly. Most of the time, if the people in these situations would think, just for a second, about possible consequences, a crisis can be averted.
We hope that this wouldn't happen to our own kids, but someone's kids are posing for these pictures. I talk a lot on this blog about a variety of ideas, but I am curious about your ideas.
How would you (or have you) talked to your teens and young adults about how to avoid these very embarrassing situations? What would you tell your 18 year old self if you had the chance? I may feature your tips in a future post.
A Pennsylvania school district is being investigated by the FBI for remotely activating the web cams on the laptops they issued to students. The school district says that they were wanting to track online behavior when the students were supposed to be doing homework. The parents of these students disagree, saying it was a clear privacy violation. It is still unknown how the FBI will find, but I would not at all be surprised to find this a question posed to either the state's or the U.S. Supreme Court.
What do you think? Privacy violation or good intentions communicated poorly?
Richard Wood, vice president of Nielsen Mobile, discussing the company's Mobile Kids Insights report, recently said: "Tweens have grown up with mobile phones and expect them to do much more than make a call." Is it just the younger market with higher expectations?
Assuming the "need" of the tween/teen to have a cell phone is a real need, having a phone that just makes calls will not do. The phones need to make a phone call home, be able to text their BFF's, take a picture of him/herself for the social networking site, and the phone must be able to download the latest song for a ring tone to match the personality of anyone calling. Extra bonus points if the phone can hold their entire music collection, surf the Web and play the latest games and get the latest apps. They almost don't even need the cell phone to make calls.
I don't think this is exactly what Alexander Graham Bell had in mind.
As an adult, parent and a kids safety advocate and professional, I "need" the cell phones to be able to make a phone call, have safety features and parental controls built in. Actually, for my own use I also need it to access my email.
What do you expect out of a cell phone? At what age do you think of all the features that are now available are "needed"?
This article from YourSphere talks about this very problem, but poses a different solution. Instead of blocking them - use them as tools in teaching. This is a solution that I've suggested before - and I still believe in it.
When I hear from teachers, they say that if they can't get to a web site they need to use for teaching, there is always a student on hand who can help them get there. This is suggesting that we are preventing access to these sites for the wrong group. Why wouldn't we want to harness the good things social networks have to offer and include them in the curriculum, instead of pretending they are these dark caves that should be avoided?
What do you think about including social networking in the classroom?
The answer (in exactly 140 characters) is:
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that is asking you to share what you are doing right now with your friends and the world in 140 characters.
Why? This video from Common Craft answers this question:
While the Walsh family has my highest respect, the worst part about his story is that the services are needed. I hope that you will never have a need for these services. If I am wishing for things, I would wish that there was not a need for their services. Since there is a need – I am proud that AOL has been partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in many ways for more than 10 years.
Two services available on AOL that can help locate missing kids are:
Alerts: You can sign up to be alerted when an AMBER Alert is sent in the zip code of your choosing. These alerts notify you of a missing child in the area, so you can watch for them. As you know, the missing piece of information can come from anywhere. Alerts can come via e-mail, text message to your cell phone or via Instant Message.
Updated Notifications: You can include a widget for local missing children in your area by going to your local MapQuest page. If you can provide any information about any missing child, you can call the toll-free number 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
The National Center's web site is full of information about protecting kids. I encourage you to check it out.
Of the top 100, I was not at all surprised by what was searched, but I have to admit that I was quite surprised how highly ranked some of the search terms were - especially 'sex' and 'porn'.
There are things you can do to help mitigate your child getting to search results that are not age appropriate. The article mentions several and AOL Parental Controls can also help.
This article made me think. Thankfully, my daughter isn't old enough for the computer, but I am not sure how I would react if I discovered she was searching on these terms. Now that you read their article - what (if anything) will you change about your online habits at home?
Viruses are spread through programs and platforms that are most commonly used because of the law of numbers. Cybercriminals know that the more chances you have to spread the virus, the higher the impact it will have. So they attack things that "everyone" uses. This is a big reason why Windows PC's have a higher rate of viruses over the Mac. Does this mean you should toss your PC? Not at all! It does mean that we should take everything said online with an extra grain of salt.
McAfee, a popular antivirus software company, said: "Cybercriminals have long picked on Microsoft products due to their popularity. In 2010, we anticipate Adobe software, especially Acrobat Reader and Flash, will take the top spot." in its report (PDF).
Many of the apps and games found on social networking sites are created using Flash. The popularity of those apps and games combined with the popularity of social networking sites makes it a perfect place to target, if you were a hacker.
How can you protect yourself?
- -- Make sure your virus software is up to date. Most software that is available has regular updates available from the company's website. All of the virus protection software that I am familiar with has an option to automatically update the software every time there is an update. I like this option - takes out an extra step for me to do. If you think you may have downloaded a virus, run a virus scan.
- -- Don't trust everything you read online - even if it looks like it is from your friend. If you get a random request from a friend asking to do something unusual on your profile (or email, or anywhere else), question your friend. It is possible your friend's profile was compromised and the hacker sent the request (in hopes you will help further disburse the virus they are spreading)
- -- Report things that are viruses or you think might be a virus. Most social networking sites have a way to report violations. The companies normally work to get the viruses added to virus databases which, in turn, protect future people from that virus.
- -- Many companies offer similar things, but AOL does have a good product suite for safety and security, including free parental controls, free spam control, and free to paying members and discounted to everyone else, there is McAffee security suite.
When looking at the Internet's road from 2000 to 2010, it is amazing how much has changed. In 2000...
- -- Google existed (it started in 1996), but was hardly a verb in the American lexicon.
- -- If you wanted to share your home videos, YouTube wasn't an option until 2005.
- -- Social Networking was happening via profiles, online chat rooms and message boards, but "Social Networking" didn't happen until the middle of the decade. Now people have multiple social networking sites.
- -- In 2000, media was defined as the newspapers, broadcast news and other forms of "news" we always knew. During this decade there was a new media created, Blogs. There are several blogs that are considered equals to the traditional media. There is even a woman named 26th most influential woman in media, who got there by blogging. That's it. Blogging. According to Wikipedia, as of 2007 there were 112,000,000 blogs.
- -- Speaking of Wikipedia - it didn't exist until 2001. It is a free encyclopedia that is created by anyone who wants to contribute to it. Because anyone can contribute or edit any article, it is hard to use it as a soul source of information - but it is generally a good place to start. In my circle of friends it is considered enough of a source to settle an argument.
Everything Internet related changed so quickly in this decade that I wonder what the world will be like in another 10 years. Do you have any predictions?
Then, at the FOSI conference, I heard this startling figure: of the top 100 apps on the iPhone, 35% are geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, and 12% to elementary aged kids. I'm assuming they were purchased by the parents who are giving their kids a game to play with while they at the store, on a plane, waiting at the doctor's office, etc.. The person doing this seems like the polar opposite of the mom I first described. Are these parents this tech savvy to use the all of these gadgets and gizmos? Or are they the same parents, but have discovered a way to make the Internet part of their everyday world?
A not so scientific survey I heard about at the conference said that parents who don't use parental controls on their computer don't because they:
- don't feel they need to because the child knows more about computers than they do
- feel "that wouldn't happen to my child" when talking about being exposed to mature content
- are intimidated by the computer
I have a theory that the same parents that use technology to their advantage are the same parents who say they "can't"... they just don't realize they already are tech savvy.
What technology do you use in your life?
Many of the children's laptops don't connect to the Internet, like this one from Barbie. It is designed with girls in mind, having the Barbie packaging, but it is similar to a real laptop in how it works, regarding games and how you play them.
This one from VTech is more gender neutral. It is more "laptop like" in that it has educational games preloaded and Mom or Dad can help download new games from the Internet when your child is ready for them.
Even babies and toddlers have them. My daughter (who is not quite a year old) got a toy laptop as a gift. It just looks like a laptop, and has numbers, letters and colors. If children have toys like this at such a young age, is it any wonder that they want to get on the real computer at younger and younger ages?
What are your thoughts about computers being introduced to kids at such a young age?
Here are a few good web sites to start for kids who are probably just asking about getting online. Your child may already know a few that he/she wants to see:
- KOL - Yep, this is the AOL site for kids. It has celeb news, games, sports and style information. You can also sign your child up for an email address that is designed for kids. Because it is an AOL site, I will let you be the judge on how good it is.
- Nick.com - This site is from Nickelodeon and, as you might expect, it is filled with Nickelodeon characters. Everyone from Sponge Bob and iCarly to Rugrats and the Naked Brothers are represented with their own games and videos. If you like Nickelodeon channel, chances are you will like the site.
- Disney.com - Disney cannot be outdone for creativity, in my opinion. The games and videos are represented, all with the Disney characters, but there are a lot more interactive things to do on this site. My personal favorite is under the "create" tab, you can create mash ups.
- National Geographic for Kids - The fun way to learn and the best place for animal pictures.
- NASA - If you have a space nut in your house, this is a great site NASA made for kids.
This is a very short list of the many offerings for kids online. A good place to start looking for content for your kids is from their favorite activities, characters and toys. Do a search for the their favorite things and see what's out there. I would recommend you doing this search for the younger kids.
It is always a good idea to use tools like parental controls in conjunction with your help, especially when they start surfing on their own, but there is no tool that will parent better than you.
What are some of your young child's favorite web sites?
The law dictates what counts as "personally identifiable" and companies work within this law. There is a recent controversy about the collection of children's chat discussions through parental control software. I will note that not all parental control software collects this information. For example, AOL's Parental Controls does not track what a child says, only where they go and with whom they communicate with via AOL mail and AIM.
Assuming the risk of exposing personally identifiable information is gone, what are your thoughts about parental controls collecting information from chat to sell to advertisers?
One concern for parents is the potential of having very high cell phone bills; another is the risk of losing the phone. Once those are resolved in the minds of parents, there is the risk of behavior on the cell phone.
There are solutions to many of these problems, allowing for a little more peace of mind for parents.
AT&T offers a content blocker and a purchase blocker.
T-Mobile allows parents to set limits for messages, minutes and downloads. Once a limit is reached, they are no longer allowed to use the phone (except for those on the "always allow" list – ensuring parents can always be in contact).
Sprint has parental controls that include limited web access (restricting sites with mature content), blocking two way text messages, content purchase block, restricting of voice calls by phone number, turn on or off the ability to use the in-phone camera, and for an additional fee, you can use Sprint Family Locator, which locates the phone by GPS.
Verizon's parental controls are called "usage controls" and also offer usage allowances, time restrictions and blocked numbers. They also have trusted numbers, which allow for usage even after usage has been exceeded or it is out of time restrictions. They also break down the family locator fee separately from the parental controls. They do have a separate content filter for children, young teens and young adults that has no fee.
If your carrier doesn't have what you need, you can also check out companies who say their products will work with any carrier. Mobile Nanny, for example allows a parent to control how and when a cell phone is used. The company boasts about features blocking texting and call features by phone number, time restrictions, Internet or app blocking and even content monitoring. All this does come with a fee, but it may suit you better than alternatives.
These solutions offered by companies may put some minds at ease. There are still other questions about lost phones, etiquette regarding when to use the phone, or even if it is appropriate for your child or teen to have a phone.
When do you think is a good time to get a child a cell phone? What does it depend on?