Dear Subscribers:Here's the lineup as we head into December:
- Family Tech: Toy sites & product safety; Tablet PCs
- A subscriber writes: Home-networking
- CME: Quality for online kids
- Web News Briefs: Lively US Supreme Court Web site; Net's healthcare clout; Safe e-shopping; Teens & cell phones; UK on tech safety & kids; Web's red-light district; Porn sites nervous; Tech boot camp; Finding cheap airfares….
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- Toy sites & product safety
There are some real advantages to shopping for toys online. But in the flurry of holiday shopping, it's good to be reminded of an important disadvantage: You can't pick up the toy and read the product safety warning label on its packaging. In his Family Tech column for the San Jose Mercury News this week, SafeKids.com's Larry Magid notes that "none of the major online toy retailers routinely display such warnings on their sites, so parents are on their own when it comes to knowing whether a toy is appropriate for a given age group." He surfed around some toy e-tailers' sites and found out what they do display. You'll be interested to see which sites are showing some responsibility in this area. His article also provides links to some useful consumer information sites.
- The new new thing: 'Tablet PCs'
They're 3 pounds light, 2 inches thick, and recognize people's handwriting better all the time. But who will really use these devices into which the laptop is said to be morphing? In this article for the Los Angeles Times, Larry offers some perspective.
A subscriber writes: Home-networking
In response to Larry Magid's column on the subject (see "A very local LAN"), subscriber Will in Iowa sent this:
"I do enjoy reading your articles, as I am very much a computer 'geek' (I repair computer networks for car dealerships in Iowa) who likes to see how everyone else is setting up their home systems.
"You talked about one way of setting up a home network so that all computers on the LAN can share a high-speed Internet line (DSL, cable, etc.). A much cheaper way than by using a router (and the way I personally have my 2 computers and 1 laptop sharing my DSL line) is to use cheap but nice software developed for this reason. I personally use WinGate for my network which cost me $39.95 (with a 30-day preview first).
"Another one I have tried and do very much like is All Aboard!. The reason I went with WinGate is that All Aboard! costs $10 more. ;)
"Of course, I do have ZoneAlarm and Jammer protecting each one of my computers. Thanks again."
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CME: Quality digital media for kids
The Washington-based Center for Media Education, a partner of ours in online children's advocacy, has been very busy this fall, and we think parents might like to know what CME's been up to.
First an interesting personal story: CME president Kathryn Montgomery, PhD, was named by Advertising Age to its "i.20 Class of 2000," and the magazine's bio on Kathy is great background on kids' privacy and safety. She's a thoughtful watchdog for kids' rights in cyberspace, as well as an agitator for quality digital media for them. How this media professor and her activist husband, Jeff, came to the decision of moving from California to Washington and focusing on children's consumer interests says something about them, the times, and the field they chose.
Here's a sampler of current CME initiatives:
- DTV: CME believes that digital TV will have even more impact on children's development and learning than any medium before it, and in October testified before the Federal Communications Commission to that effect. This page has the three policy goals they proposed. For background, here's recent DTV coverage from two news outlets: "Clicking Outside the Box" at the New York Times and "What's next in couch-potato tech?" at ZDNet.
- International efforts: CME chairs the kids' e-commerce part of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue's work. The TACD is a forum of US and European Union consumer organizations that develops consumer policy recommendations for the US and EU governments. It has passed two resolutions concerning kids, one about direct sales to them via Web sites and one about Web advertising and personal-data collection.
- Research: Because we all know so little about the impact of digital media on kids, CME long ago saw the need for two things in the knowledge-gathering area: a research agenda that tells researchers what we need to know and a research clearinghouse so anybody - the public as well as the academic community - can see what studies have been done and what's in the works. CME held a conference on the subject two years ago; one result is board member Ellen Wartella's report on publicly available research to date. Ms. Wartella, PhD, is dean of the University of Texas College of Communication. Her report, "Children and Interactive Media: A Compendium of Current Research and Directions for the Future," can be downloaded in full (in PDF format). Here are two other interesting pieces on the subject which CME pointed out to us: "The I-Generation - From Toddlers to Teenagers: A Conversation with [Author & Educator] Jane M. Healy" and "Technology and Young Children," a project described at the Technology & Young Children Web site.
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Web News Briefs
- US Supreme Court: Serious about cyberspace
It's as if the Supreme Court's Web site just woke up. The Court turned down TV coverage of today's arguments of Bush and Gore lawyers, but for the first time all details are available to the public on the Web. According to the New York Times, click on "Florida Election Cases" on the home page, and you'll find "links to all the petitions and legal briefs filed by the parties in the case, Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board." There are also links to the court's orders, the joint appendix, the nine briefs submitted by friends-of-the-court, and press releases. "Perhaps most groundbreaking, in light of its sober and publicity-shy culture," the Times adds, "is the court's decision to post a transcript of today's historic oral argument within a few hours of the completion of the session." Here's the Supreme Court's special page on the Bush-Gore case, but - apparently due to high traffic today (Friday) - we couldn't access it as of this writing.
- Net's growing healthcare clout
The Internet is having more and more impact on Americans' healthcare decisions, a just-released research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project has found. According to TheStandard.com's report on the study, 55% percent of US Internet users use the Web to search for medical information, nearly half of those "health seekers" say the Web has improved the way they take care of themselves, and 47% say the information they got online directly affected their decisions about how to treat an illness and deal with their doctors. Here's the Pew study.
- Safe e-shopping
The Better Business Bureau and Visa USA teamed up this year to offer consumers tips for safe holiday shopping online. CNNfn includes the tips in its report.
- Teens' own cell-phone store
According to an Oakland, Calif.-based wireless phone company, the old-fashioned party line is not only back, it's very hip. The company, called Talking Drum, plans to reinforce that with by opening a cell-phone store just for teenagers, reports Wired News.
Almost simultaneously, over in the UK, that government announced it will require that health warnings be issued with all cell phones, because of growing concerns about radiation emissions. According to UK ebusiness news site Silicon.com, phones are to be packaged with information leaflets that will place special emphasis on the risks to young users." Silicon.com reports that nearly a quarter of the UK's 30 million cell-phone owners are under 18.
- Other UK views on kids & tech safety
Children's use of console games and computers were also in British headlines this past week. The BBC reported on "health experts' warnings" that computers could disable children and on Britons' concerns about console-game "addiction."
- Web's 'red-light district'
When we interviewed him the other week, Internet Content Rating Association chief Stephen Balkam said the online porn industry is beginning to organize. That's good news because it spells better business practices that will help protect children from inappropriate content. Another way to protect children, suggests FamilyPC editor-in-chief Robin Raskin, is for parents to get informed about how the industry works. Here's her thorough report on the history and workings of the online porn industry.
- Porn sites nervous
Adult Web sites fear a US government crackdown on their industry, according to Wired News. They cite recent action by the Federal Trade Commission against adult sites for alleged "unlawful billing practices," Wired reports.
- Tech boot camp for teachers
It'll be a two-week camp (or workshops) at Trinity College next summer for teachers in the Washington, D.C., area. According to the Washington Post, the $1 million program, funded by the AOL and Kimsey Foundations, is designed to be a model for other communities. While we're on the subject, here's a recent New York Times piece on a school - a charter school in San Diego - that has become a model for technology education.
- Charity for free
TheHungerSite.com is probably the most popular charity site on the Web (at 2 million unique visitors a month) for the very fact that it asks for nothing more than a click. It's so popular, according to Wired News, that now it's a trend. The Hunger Site is being cloned in other areas of charitable giving. Last May it was joined by TheRainforestSite.com, where, with one click on its home page, the visitor "buys" about 14 square feet of rainforest (the site's sponsors actually pay for the land). "The Kids AIDS Site debuted in September; the Child Survival Site and the Breast Cancer Site were added in October. The Land Mine Site will launch next month, and more of the click-to-donate sites are in the works," Wired News adds.
- Cheap airfares in cyberspace
Good deals are to be had on the Web, but trying to find them is no easy task, reports the New York Times. Serious flaws continue to afflict the Top 4 travel sites, Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, Lowestfare.com, and Cheaptickets.com. But having said all that, the Times does offer tips on how to find the best deal.
- Gen X: Babies & fantasy sports
That's what Generation Xers are most interested in, based on the Web sites they visit most. Babycenter.com is Gen Xers' No. 1 site, according to a Nielsen/NetRatings report cited by ZDNet. HighSchoolAlumni.com is No. 2 and Yahoo!'s Fantasy Sports site is No. 3. BabyGear.com is also in the Top 10.
- Another teen site shuts down
In yet another sign of the times, teen site iTurf.com - a prominent panelist at this fall's Digital Kids conference (see our report) - is going black. It's not clear in the Internet.com report what will happen to its sister (or brother) sites, including Delias.com, Gurl.com, OnTap.com and TheSpark.com.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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