May 31, 2002
Dear Subscribers:Here's our lineup for this final week of May:
- Family Tech: 'Spy cams'; Net's role at home; Various Net resources for the home
- A subscriber writes: Online-safety policies at her house
- Web News Briefs: CIPA overturned; Elusive 'mousetrapper' shut down; Pedophiles exposed; More time with email than kids; India's young cybercafe society....
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Family Tech: Net 'n' tech resources for families; Net's role at home; Net-based communications
- Various 'n' sundry family tech resources
- 'Spy cams'
As obnoxious as their Web ads are, they have their uses on the home front, writes Larry Magid of SafeKids.com in this week's Family Tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. He's referring to X10.com's cameras (and ads that pop up all over surfers' computer screens). Not only does he not like the pop-up ads themselves but "even worse, many of the ads feature seductively posed women, as if to imply that the technology should be used for voyeurism." Larry cites two good uses for these "spy cams" (which he says are easy to install and configure): as a security camera or for checking in on small children or convalescing adults who want to be monitored. He also mentions other such products.
- Home PC security
If you have any concerns or questions about securing a home PC or network, don't miss ZDNet's very thorough report, "Protect Your Computer Against Internet Attacks". It covers everything from privacy to viruses to malicious users (who steal unprotected computers' processing power or hijack them to mount mass denial-of-service attacks against popular Web sites) and offers advice on what to do about these things!
- Family album morphed
Not many would go to the lengths one dad has gone to recycle old computers. According to the New York Times, he cut holes in walls throughout his house and installed old computer monitors to display slide shows of the family's 15,000-odd digital photos. "The pictures change every three seconds," the Times says, quoting this enterprising dad as saying the dining room one enhances dinner-table conversation.
- Family-friendly UK search engine
We have it on good authority that Australians find US-based search engines less than useful (a friend in the Education Ministry there told us). And now we know that Britons have similar feelings - witness the BBC's new "family-friendly search engine." In fact, according to VNUNET, a recent National Opinion Polls survey found that 64% of British Web surfers "were frustrated by the amount of US sites and advertisers they came across." The BBC's search engine (available on the BBC's home page and this description page) claims to "filter out porn and will be slanted to UK sites." Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this out.
- Wills on the Web
A New York Times writer focuses on wills to survey what's on the Web for preparing legal documents. His favorite, LegalZoom.com, is a service that offers something in between generating a will with a CD-ROM like "WillMaker Deluxe" and hiring a lawyer. LegalZoom doesn't give legal advice (so it can't be sued for practicing law without a license), but it does check your work on a will generated by filling out one of its questionnaires for will-writing. You can also draw up incorporation papers and pre-nuptial agreements - or access Tele-lawyer ($3/min. for legal advice) or an online referral service ("Type in a one-paragraph description of your problem, and the company will forward it to a number of lawyers, who essentially bid on the job").
- Net's role at home
This week we heard a discussion on National Public Radio about how the Internet has changed all our lives (or not). It was on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" show, and the discussion, including people calling in, featured Internet specialists and authors James Gleick ("What Just Happened: A Chronicle of the Information Frontier") and Michael Daisey ("21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com") and Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif. The best parts were callers' stories, including: an active participant of an ongoing, 24/7 discussion (via discussion board) whose members are all over the world; a blind person starting his own Web radio station; and a US State Department employee describing the trials of getting Internet access in various parts of the world and hopes she'll be able to listen to NPR during her next assignment in Jordan.
Zooming in to one family's experience.... Laurence and Martina Hally and their kids took advantage of a competition that their town, Ennis, won in 2000 to get a great deal on PCs and Net connections. The Hallys' computer cost them a little over $300, according to the BBC. In the article, the Hallys describe how being connected in some ways exceeded expectations and in other ways didn't quite live up to them, but definitely "revolutionized" their life. Laurence immediately started studying Web design and nearly as quickly published a site for Ennis boys' hurling and gaelic football club. Martina wanted to shop for groceries online, but found the stores in Ennis weren't yet wired, but she arranged their entirely family holiday online within the first year. Also that year son Joseph, 13, had already decided he wants to be a computer engineer. Kevin, 9, took a little longer to get up to speed, but by now he's probably surpassed them all (the BBC should do a followup!).
How has the Internet changed your lives? We'd love to hear from you - via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Net communications
Professor Keith Hampton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes the Net only increases communication. He's done research showing that - contrary to other researchers' findings that the Net isolates - it only augments phone and face-to-face contacts, the BBC reports. "He argues that the key difference between his research and other studies is that he sees the Internet as part of people's everyday lives... He found that living in a wired community ["built from the ground up with a high-speed computer network" in suburban Toronto] encouraged greater community involvement, strengthened relationships with neighbours and family, and helped maintain ties with friends and relatives living farther away." The BBC's piece looks at Hampton's ensuing research as well as conflicting research.
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A subscriber writes: Online-safety policies at her house
Marianne in New Jersey emailed us this week about online-safety measures that work at her house:
"Hi. I am a mother of a 6-1/2-year-old daughter, and the step-mom of a 10-1/2-year-old daughter. We have a computer in the dining room for games; there is no access to the Internet on that computer. If they want to use the computer in my bedroom, that is where the Internet is, and I'm always present while they are on my computer. The girls play on Nickelodeon and Barbie. But they're not allowed to talk in chatrooms.... End of story."
We love to hear from readers about their families' online-safety solutions - rules, contracts, technologies, and any combination thereof! Because you've been there, yours is some of the best advice out there! So email us your experiences anytime!
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Web News Briefs
- CIPA overturned
A US federal court ruled today (Friday) that the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 violates the First Amendment, reports CNET. But the court urged libraries to adopt other means to protect children from inappropriate material. CIPA would have required libraries to block children's access to offensive Web material or lose federal funds. Referring to "the crudeness of filtering technology," the court's 195-page decision "cited multiple examples of [filtering] products' tendencies to overblock - one of the main arguments by opponents of the bill," CNET reports, adding that the court "noted that Web filters had erroneously labeled as adult or sexually explicit sites including those of orphanages, political candidates and churches." An appeal of the decision would automatically go to the Supreme Court. Here's other coverage by Internet News, Wired News, and the Associated Press (via USAToday.com).
For a very different perspective, an article at NewBreedLibrarian.org does not mince words in describing one library system's difficult experience with free Internet access. Reference librarian Wendy Adamson says the Minneapolis Public Library first got Internet access in 1997. "By 1999 we had approximately 50 Internet terminals scattered around the two public floors of our building. Our commitment to traditional library principles of free access to all information and our optimism about how the Internet would be used by patrons led us to have a hands-off Internet access policy.... We were totally unprepared for reality."
- What surfers are up to
Every spring Leslie Walker, a tech columnist at the Washington Post, surfs "high-traffic, little-known Web sites to "get a feel for where people are hanging out besides big portals like Yahoo." Her findings point to a spectrum of sites from the crassly commercial to the somewhat useful - all of which are popular (pls see her report for URLs). "Sad to say," Leslie reports, "junky direct-marketing sites are the main thing catching on faster than I would have hoped. They show a disturbing ability to pull heavy traffic, judging by data from audience measurement firm Jupiter Media Metrix." Examples she gives (provided to alert you to their biz tactics): "GravityDirect.net, a site set up by Internet ad network DoubleClick to scarf up people's email addresses in exchange for various marketing offers. And it worries me that Media Metrix found 2.3 million people stopped by PayMe2Shop.com, an infomercial type site charging $19.99 for an e-book that supposedly reveals where you can earn '$100 to $400' a week as a 'paid shopper'."
An interesting figure about Web use in general was: "Media Metrix says the number of sites people typically visit in a month jumped 2% last year. The average Internet user went to 71 sites from home in February, vs. 57 a year earlier." A different Post article reports that American surfers are also software pirates, as indicated in new study sponsored by a software industry trade group. According to the Post, the Business Software Alliance found that, while nearly half the US online population has downloaded commercial software, 81% of those users have not always paid for every copy they made (e.g., installing software licensed for a single user on multiple office PCs) and 57% " 'seldom or never' pay anything at all for those applications." Interestingly, only 12% of those surveyed say they've committed "software piracy." Might there be a need for Net-ethics education here?!
- Mousetrapper eludes FTC
He uses scads of misspelled Web addresses to trap kids (plus everybody else), "including 15 variations on the Cartoon Network's Web site," reports the Associated Press (via the New York Times). A US federal court has, at the Federal Trade Commission's request, ordered John Zuccarini to pay "almost $1.9 million back to victims and stop a scheme that used thousands [the FTC puts the number at more than 5,500] of misspelled Web addresses to trick Internet users into seeing adult advertisements, but it's unclear if the money will ever be collected." Zuccarini cannot be found, and he's never shown up in court (or sent a lawyer), though he "has lost 53 state and federal lawsuits and has had about 200 Web addresses taken from him and transferred to copyright holders." The FTC says Zuccarini makes $800,000-$1 million a year by charging advertisers whose ads pop up all over people's computer screens.
Today (Friday) we asked FTC attorney Eileen Harrington what recourse they have if Zuccarini doesn't shut down or pay up. "We're continuing to look for him actively and, yes, we have recourse. If he violates a federal court order, he may be found guilty of criminal contempt" - moving him from civil to criminal court and, quite possibly, the issuance of a bench warrant for his arrest (which would put law enforcement on the job of finding him). We also asked Ms. Harrington if the FTC could go after the advertisers paying Zuccarini for his online mousetraps. "We have to look at that on a case-to-case basis - whether any third party could face liability for involvement with him. We've certainly notified advertisers about the court order," she said. That's a service to them, she explained, but it also "puts them on notice." (Here's the FTC's press release.)
- Pedophiles exposed
A review in The Guardian this week of a BBC TV series on pedophilia - "The hunt for Britain's paedophiles" - makes for uncomfortable reading, but it explains some things that victims feel we should know, says the writer (who himself was a victim of pedophilia, he lets us know). He must mean be that the more we understand about the psychology and behaviors behind this horrific crime (of which Britain alone, by conservative estimates, has 200,000 victims), the better we can protect children. The documentary's producer "believes his series can help to create such an environment and bring the issues to a wide audience: 'Here's the problem, what are you - Britain - going to do about it?' " It's a question that needs to be asked worldwide. The BBC documentary follows "the work of 15 detectives and six civilians at New Scotland Yard [which The Guardian says is "the largest unit of its kind in Europe"] and was compiled from 1,200 hours of unabridged filming over a two-year period." Our thanks to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for pointing this article out.
- More time with email than kids
UK parents who work outside the home spend more time doing email than playing with their children, a new study by the Department of Trade and Industry has found. They "take an average of 49 minutes a day to sort out their inboxes," says the BBC in its report on the study, as opposed to 25 minutes a day with their children. The BBC adds that email is seen as contributing to "what are thought to be the top two causes of stress at work: constant interruptions and deadline pressures."
- India's kids access Net at cybercafes
Nearly half (48%) of India's students use cybercafes as their main point of Net access, according to a NetSense study cited in Nua Internet Surveys. For Indian users under 10, however, home is where the Internet is. As for where young Indians go: Yahoo is the most popular site among school-going children, at 61.3%. Rediff.com (a large site/portal designed for Indians worldwide) is the second favorite, at 45.1%, followed by Microsoft's email service, Hotmail.com (23.1%), IndiaTimes.com (17.5%), and MSN.com (14.4%). "The study indicates that entertainment and sport sites are the most popular sites for young Indian Internet users," Nua adds.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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