March 31, 2014 

Internet Pornography: The Largest Unregulated Social Experiment In History

By: Donna Rice Hughes

 A recent New York Times article by  David Segal “Does Porn Hurt Children” concludes that the jury is still out with respect to the “hazardous mix of teenagers and pornography”. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

 Abe Lincoln said it best, “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” The home, historically considered a safe haven, is now the very place where the sex industry is grooming our youth.  The invasion of graphic, hard-core online pornography  has been called the “largest unregulated social experiment in human history”  and one of the “greatest current threats to children, families and nations “; no one is immune. 

To make matters worse, extreme Internet pornography has become mainstream. The explosion of users and pornography sites has challenged the profit-making model of mainstream pornographers, and as author Gail Dines explains in her most recent book “Pornland”, “to differentiate their products in a glutted market, producers have created niche products-like teen sex, torture porn and gonzo-in order to entice a generation of desensitized users… images today have become so extreme that what used to be considered hard-core is now mainstream pornography and acts that are now commonplace in much of online pornography were almost nonexistent a decade ago.” To illustrate this point I recently did a simple Google search on the word “bestiality” which generated 3.4 million returns!

 The key culprit is the inexcusable fact that the federal obscenity statutes have not been aggressively enforced since the advent of the Internet in the mid nineties. And due to the mainstreaming of  hard-core material, the majority of Americans don’t even know that it is prosecutable. Hence, the 13 billion dollar Internet porn industry continues to thrive, remaining virtually unchecked. In fact, under the Obama administration, the division of the Department of Justice that prosecutes the federal obscenity laws has been effectively dismantled.  Additionally, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA)  passed by a  bi-partisan Congress in 1998 which required commercial pornographers to implement adult verification methods as a “brown cyber-wrapper” to keep minor kids from viewing pornography, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

 As a result,  every child with unrestricted Internet access is just one click away from viewing this material and children are getting exposed at younger ages.  The negative impact on youth drinking from the firehose of all types of pornography freely, easily and anonymously accessible through an unfiltered Internet connection  is staggering. And with pornography’s ties to child sexual abuse, violence against women and human trafficking as reported in the  Witherspoon report, “The Social Cost of Pornography” , this is a hidden public health hazard we cannot ignore.  

Numerous peer-reviewed research studies have been conducted and disseminated showing the indisputable harm of pornography on children and teens. (We have aggregated studies and research at the following link.  Click Here.) Consider the following from recent studies and surveys:

  • 36% of the Internet industry is hard-core pornography. (businessinsider.com)
  • The online porn industry makes over $3,000 per second (businessinsider.com)
  • Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon And Twitter Combined
  • American children begin consuming hardcore pornography at an average age of 11.
  • When a child is exposed to pornography, their underdeveloped brain becomes psycho-pharmacologically altered. (The Psychopharmacology of Pictorial Pornography Restructuring Brain, Mind & Memory & Subverting Freedom of Speech; Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D. The Institute for Media Education.)  
  • 97% of boys and 80 percent of girls who responded to the survey said they had viewed porn. Nearly a quarter of boys and eight percent of girls said they have tried to stop watching pornography but could not kick the habit. The study involved a survey of 177 young people between the ages of 16 and 20(LifeSiteNews.com
  • A study in the southeastern U.S. found that 53% of boys and 28 percent of girls (ages 12-15) reported use of sexually explicit pornography. The Internet was the most popular forum for viewing. (Brown, J. & L’Engle, K. 2009, Communications Research, X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media.)
  • Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. (Ana Bridges, et al., Violence Against Women, October 2010 vol. 16 no. 10, 1065-1085)
  • Youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus youth not exposed to x-rated material. (Internet Solutions for Kids, Center for Disease & Control, November, 2010)
  • According to UK statistics released earlier this year, pornography and depictions of sexuality turned more than 4,500 British children – some of them as young as five into sexual offenders between 2009-2012. (LifeSiteNews.com )
  • Total searches for teen-related porn reached an estimated 500,000 daily in March 2013, – one-third of total daily searches for pornographic web sites
  • the UN reports that at least 1.8 million children are used in commercial sex each year and estimate that at least 100,000 American kids are the victims of sex trafficking each year. 

Kids themselves are engaging in risky behaviors and perpetuating the cycle of child sexual abuse. And in a hyper-sexualized world, it should be no surprise that kids are feeling pressured to post and send provocative pictures and videos (“sext” messages), and to engage in sexual acts that they are often not emotionally, physically or psychologically ready to handle. For instance, one study found a strong association between pornography consumption and engaging in oral and anal sexual intercourse among adolescents. 

I interviewed 12 teenage girls and boys as we were making our Internet Safety 101 DVD series. The kids that we  worked with have told us: “even if you are not looking for it, it will find you”.  They told me stories about how they were lured into viewing pornography, their addictions to Internet pornography and the devastating impact pornography had on their relationships, body image and sexual health.  One beautiful, all-American girl named Courtney shared: “It does make them curious, just like a little girl when she watched Cinderella, you know, she wants to be just like her, and kids that watch porn, they want to be just like them.  But it destroyed our lives, our respect for ourselves and our relationships.” As Jason shared, “I just wanted to do what they did in the porn.  I didn’t even care about the relationship anymore.  I just wanted to have sex with as many girls as I could.”  

Fortunately, these kids were able to stop using the drug, break the addiction and turn their lives around. Unfortunately, not all are able to escape the porn trap. The Seattle Times reported that an 18-year-old registered sex offender, J. Reyes, was charged with third-degree rape for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old developmentally delayed freshman he had been dating, despite her insistence that he stop.  “Reyes…began acting out sexually as early as age 13, when Seattle Public Library patrons saw him using pornography and masturbating, according to charging documents.” 

Protecting our children online and offline from sexual exploitation should be at the top of our list of national priorities.  Implementing preventative safety measures should be as automatic to every parent, guardian and educator as using a car safety seat. Unfortunately, since parents are often overwhelmed, ill-informed or ill-equipped about the nature of online dangers and the safety resources available, it often takes a tragedy to wake up a family or a community. What will it take to wake up a nation?

When foreign terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, our nation sprang to action. We declared a war on terrorism.  In the face of economic and environmental devastation in the Gulf, our nation engaged financially, and through creative entrepreneurialism and with volunteers from across the country. 

Just as threatening to our homeland security is the victimization our children face everyday when unscrupulous pornographers and predators prey on their innocence. Aren’t our children our most precious and valuable national resource and the future of our nation?  Aren’t our own children worth fighting for? Isn’t protecting their innocence as important as engaging in freedom efforts abroad?  

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that Congress has a compelling interest to protect our children, so why aren’t we fighting to preserve our children’s innocence with the vigor and dollars we use to fight oppression, environmental havoc and terrorist threats?  It’s morally wrong not to do so. It’s time for our nation to wake up and say No more! Enough Is Enough!

 Donna Rice Hughes is CEO and President of Enough Is Enough (EIE) and served on the Child Online Protection Commission. EIE is  a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national pioneer on the front lines of efforts to make the Internet safer for children and families. She is the Executive Producer and host  of the Emmy-award winning Internet Safety 101 PBS TV Series, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults to keep kids safe online.  You can find our more about this program at www.internetsafety101.org or order the program for yourself here. To schedule a media interview, email Lillian Schoeppler at lillians@enough.org

 

About Enough Is Enough®  

(EIE) is a 501(c)3 national, non-partisan non-profit with a mission to make the Internet safer for children and families by advancing solutions that promote equality, fairness and respect for human dignity with shared responsibility between the public, technology and the law. 

 About Internet Safety 101® 

The Internet Safety 101® multimedia program was created to prevent Internet-initiated crimes against children through educating, equipping and empowering parents, educators and caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to protect children from online p*rnography, sexual predators and cyberbullies , as well as cyber security risks and dangers related to social networking, online gaming and mobile devices. The proven evidence-based curriculum motivates and equips adults to implement both safety rules (non-technical measures) and software tools (technical measures) on youth’s Internet enabled devices. 

 Making the Internet Safer for Children and Families

 

 

Filters in UK – by John Carr

Friends,

My friend and Internet safety comrade, John Carr is involved in the UK effort and has allowed me to share with you his recent January 29th blog which gives a terrific summary of the big things happening in the UK.

 

For the sake of the children,

Donna Rice Hughes

President & CEO, Enough Is Enough

 

Filters in the UK

Posted on January 29, 2014 by

 

No one I know argues filters are a silver bullet that solves all of the problems modern parents have to think about when trying to decide what to do for the best with regards to their children’s online lives.

Yet there is no doubt filters can play a part in the home as an aid to parenting, particularly if there are younger children around. In this context typically filters help parents keep age inappropriate content off their children’s screens. Hard core pornography is often mentioned as a key concern but it is by no means the only sort of content parents care about. However, behavioural challenges such as bullying, ripping off copyright protected material and so on generally are not within the ambit of most filters.

Outside of the home filters can be deployed by a range of organizations to help prevent certain types of materials being visible in places where they would not be appropriate. In addition filtering techniques can be used to limit access to illegal material across the piece, specifically child abuse images, sometimes referred to as child pornography.

In the UK filters are used in each of these ways.

This blog is an update on the current state of play in relation to:

  1. What large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do for the family market
  2. What WiFi providers do in public spaces
  3. What mobile phone network operators do for all their customers

Special provisions apply to child abuse images.

Taking them in reverse order, because it is easier

Dealing with child abuse images

All ISPs, mobile phone networks and WiFi providers block access to all urls known to contain child abuse images. The filter cannot be lifted or modified by the end user. The list of relevant urls is provided by the IWF. This policy started in 2004.

Mobile phone networks’ approach to filtering

All of the UK’s mobile phone networks apply an adult content filter by default. What is “adult content” is determined by a framework provided by the British Board of Film Classification.  It covers pornography, violence as well as one or two other categories.

This filter can be removed by the user completing a robust age verification check. The filter is either all on or all off. No one ever has to specify what type of adult content they are interested in accessing. This policy began in 2005.

WiFi providers

Last year all of the major WiFi providers in the UK agreed to introduce filters to block access to pornography web sites in any public places where children and young people are likely to be found on a regular basis. There are a range of venues, therefore, where such filters will not be routinely applied e.g. casinos, nightclubs and military bases.

Some of the WiFi providers also block access to other types of adult sites, rather like the mobile networks do. McDonald’s was an early adopter of “porn free” WiFi. Starbucks and many other well known High Street chains do likewise.

WiFi filters deployed in this way in public spaces cannot be lifted or modified by end users.

Internet Service Providers

No cost or low cost filters have been around for parents to use practically since the day the worldwide web first appeared. The UK’s four largest ISPs –BT, Virgin, Sky, and TalkTalk- have provided free filters to their customers for several years. Recently the Big Four announced they would introduce a new system to make it easier for families to use them if they so wanted. Between them the Big Four ISPs have in the region of 90%-95% of the UK’s home broadband market.

Their measures do not touch or concern business users.

The only thing you have to do is decide

The filters the ISPs provide are not turned on by default. What there is is an unavoidable requirement to indicate whether or not you want to use them. The yes option is “pre-ticked”. The whole thing can be completed in a couple of clicks of a mouse.

The ISPs are doing it their own way but there are similarities: each offers options going from no filtering at all through to strict filtering of a broad range of adult content, with different points in between depending on the company.

All Big Four ISPs have chosen a Whole Home solution. The filters work on the network so all devices in the home are caught. This avoids parents having to configure every device that connects through the WiFi router.

Customization 

The ISPs’ offering provides parents with the possibility of customizing the filters to suit the family’s cultural or religious background. At least one ISP – BT – has whitelisted a number of children’s help sites so even if they wanted to parents could not block access to them using the filters they have provided.

Parents kept informed

The details of all decisions about the initial set up of the filters and any subsequent changes made to them are put in an email which goes to the principal account holder.

No legal or regulatory compulsion

There are no laws or regulations requiring anybody to block access to child abuse images, or obliging WiFi providers or the mobile phone networks to do what they do as set out above. It’s the same with the ISPs. Their initiative is entirely voluntary although there is no doubt that in relation to the way in which their free filters are now presented, the ISPs were greatly encouraged to move in this direction by the government and a range of civil society organizations.

For three of the four ISPs their new way of presenting the filters is already operational. The fourth (Virgin) is a little way behind but not far.

At the moment the ISPs’ offering applies to new customers. Existing customers will be asked to make a choice about using the filters before the end of this calendar year but no one has to wait to be asked. They can move over as soon as they want.

Not all ISPs will follow suit

There is no doubt some other ISPs will choose not to join in with or copy the actions of their larger counterparts. As a result there will always be scope for anyone who disagrees with one of the Big Four’s approach to go elsewhere.

Major promotional and information campaign

On top of their individual communications with their own customers, the Big Four ISPs are jointly funding a £25million public awareness campaign. Parents are a major target group. The aim will be to raise their awareness of the importance of internet safety and encourage them to engage actively with their children’s online lives. The campaign will provide signposts to advice, guidance and best practice. Importantly it will also include information about how filters can help, what they can do and, just as vital, what they can’t.

Every new system has glitches

As with every major roll out there have been a few initial glitches. Some of the filters had incorrectly classified and therefore blocked good sites which children should be able to access. A special working party has been established to ensure such over-blocking is kept to an absolute minimum although it is undeniable there will always be a risk of some.

The ISPs have systems to allow anyone to appeal against a classification decision to get it swiftly remedied and, as already mentioned, the customization facility in any event also allows for individual sites to be added.

Research evidence

A few weeks ago Ofcom, the UK’s independent telecoms regulator, published the results of research into parental attitudes towards online safety.

Ofcom found parents saying (section 8) the whole business of setting up filters was too daunting. This group in particular will benefit from the new approach.

Worryingly between 1 in 6 and 1 in 7 parents (15%, para 1.12) acknowledged they did nothing to help their children stay safe online.

To be clear about that: doing nothing meant the parents concerned did not talk to their children about online safety, they did not check their browsing history or use safe search tools in the browser, neither did they use filters.

15% is too high a proportion to ignore. Whatever we have been doing up to now has not been working well enough. In that context what the UK’s ISPs are attempting with the new filtering initiative is innovative. We’ll see how the experiment pans out.

Defeating the filters

Can any and all of these measures be defeated by super smart kids who want to find a way around? This is often said but what evidence we have here is not many do. In the Ofcom survey (see para 5.37) only 18% of 12-15 year olds said they knew how to beat filters and just 6% said they actually had done so in the past 12 months.

3 and 4 year olds online

Bear in mind also that on the last reckoning 37% of 3-4 year olds were going online. 28% of children in that age range now have their own tablet (Ofcom survey para 5.5). When dealing with children of that age the idea that media literacy is the only or sole answer rapidly breaks down.

This is also about setting, then reinforcing rules and standards

Parents set rules and standards for their children in all areas of their lives. When it comes to the internet filters are simply a way of helping to reinforce or underpin those rules and standards in an environment where parents cannot always be physically or virtually present. In homes with younger children this may be particularly helpful. As children get older parents have to start loosening the reins as their trust and confidence in their ability to deal with a wide range of things begins to grow.

Posted in Age verification, Child abuse images, Default settings, Mobile phones, Pornography, Regulation, Self-regulation

Great Advancements on Protecting Children Online in the UK.

 Friends,

We are watching with great anticipation the unfolding events taking place in the UK regarding the ever growing challenge of protecting children online led by UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

My friend and Internet safety comrade, John Carr is involved in the UK effort and has allowed me to share with you his November 18th blog which gives a terrific summary of the big things happening in the UK.

For the Sake of the Children,

Donna Rice Hughes 

 

Online child safety – big things happening

by John Carr, Secretary, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety

Here in the UK it has been a busy week and a good week for child safety on the internet. Later today the Prime Minister is holding an industry summit in Downing Street to review progress on the calls he made in his landmark speech on 22nd July, 2013. We have already had a glimpse of what’s in store

On Saturday we saw announcements reconfirming the intention of the UK’s biggest ISPs to require every domestic account holder to decide how or indeed whether they want to use filters to restrict access to online adult content in their home.

The filters will be provided to customers at no extra cost. They will work at the level of the household’s WiFi router or higher up on the network itself. This means every device that connects to the internet through the common access point will be governed by these choices. For families with maybe twenty or more different smartphones, tablets, games consoles, laptops or what have you this is going to simplify things hugely.

For new customers these arrangements will be in place by the end of the year. Existing customers will be put in a similar position by the end of next year. It’s not practical to move everyone over at once.

On by default

During the sign up process if a new customer simply clicks yes, next, yes, next, yes the filters will be turned on by default. They will cover a broad range of categories, not just pornography. In theory the account holder – who will have been verified as being over 18 – will make the decisions about whether or not to use the proffered filters. At the end of the set-up, or following any subsequent changes, an email will be despatched to that person’s given address summarising the choices or alterations that were made. The point to note, though, is once the decision on filters has been taken it will apply in the same way to everyone. 5 year old Jenny gets the same access as 17 year old Johnnie and Granddad.

Major public awareness campaign – reaching the “unlulled”

A £25 million public awareness campaign funded by the ISPs aims to make sure everyone understands what the filters will do as well as what their limitations are.

Nobody wants parents to be lulled into a false sense security about the effectiveness of filtering. However, we have been living with a generation of “unlulled” parents pretty much since the internet began and it hasn’t worked out too well in many families.  ISPs are now going to have a go at it the other way around. We call this innovation. It’s one of the things for which the internet is said to be famous.

Historically the choice was presented rather starkly: do you try to reach out to explain how filters can help kids stay safer before or after they have been allowed to venture into cyberspace? In my book they are not alternatives. You do both but absent a positive contra-indication you apply the filters at the kick off. Parents should not have to jump through hoops to make the internet safer for their kids. Any hoop-jumping should go in the opposite direction. 

Mobile phones have been doing this since 2005

The mobile phone networks have been doing something similar since 2005. The key difference is that whereas the ISPs’ offering assumes it is the age-verified adult account holder making the decisions about filters in the home the mobile networks require real time proof of age at the exact point where the decision is taken. Until that proof is received the filters are applied to every phone, or rather to every SIM card because it is the phone number that constitutes the account.

Of course a household account used by many is not the same as a mobile phone number used by one person but the parallels are there. In the long run I think all ISPs in the home market will end up closer to the position which currently exists with mobile phones.

At work and at school we are all used to having our own log ins with appropriate access rights linked to our accounts. The proliferation of individually owned portable devices plays into the same space. Eventually I think we will all have unique age-verified log ins that we will carry with us across platforms and devices.  Every account will therefore be configured in an age appropriate way according to the needs or interests of each family member.

Having said that there is no question that what the ISPs are proposing to do now is an important step forward. We’ll see how it works out. Maybe  we won’t need to go in the direction I am suggesting is inevitable. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

Public WiFi providers are joining in

Britain’s largest WiFi providers are also joining in on the drive for a safer and better internet for children. Family Friendly WiFi is coming down the tracks. In many places it is already here.

At the time of writing the detail of the final package on WiFi is not completely tied down so check against delivery with what the Prime Minister actually says on the subject. The overall commitment, however, is now clear and irrevocable.

In public spaces where children and young people are likely to be found on a regular basis urls containing child abuse images (drawn from the IWF list) and legal porn will not be accessible. Other categories of adult content will be blocked by some WiFi providers but it is not clear if all of them will do that. I expect in time a consistent and common standard will emerge although there is no doubt that restricting access to porn is number one on most parents’ list.

A new logo will promote awareness of Family Friendly WiFi facilities in retail outlets, coffee bars, on buses and trains, in parks and so on. I imagine major retail chains, municipalities and other big brands will be quick to ensure they are offering a Family Friendly service. The value of a distinctive logo is that it will encourage smaller enterprises to join in.

A very large experiment

The internet is still relatively new. One way of thinking about the collection of measures outlined above is as one very large experiment. Through it we should all learn a lot, for example about how effective filters are as aids to good parenting in the digital age. The world will be watching. The only alternative model people could point to up to now for anything like this came out of Australia but there the politicians messed it up so comprehensively it should stand as a text book example of how not to do it.

Now the really radical stuff

Some of the most dramatic new steps to make the internet safer and better for children are being taken by Google and Bing.

The core point is Google and Bing are adjusting their search engines to make it harder for paedophiles or individuals looking for child abuse images to do their worst.

Blocking retained and extended

Google and Bing already block access to urls known to contain child abuse images. The urls are drawn from the IWF’s and similar lists. This will continue.

In relation to detecting actual images, as opposed to urls, Microsoft’s image fingerprinting technology, PhotoDNA, has held centre stage for many years. They give it away so really any internet-based business providing free or paid for online storage facilities should deploy it or something similar. Those that don’t are, in effect, saying they don’t care what people do on their systems or put on their machines. They are turning a blind eye.

A video version of PhotoDNA

Google has also announced a new type of fingerprinting technology – essentially a video version of PhotoDNA – so that known child abuse videos can be detected and removed at scale. The new programme is currently being tested on YouTube but will soon be made available to the entire industry. As paedophiles increasingly move from still images to video this is a most welcome development.

Action on Peer2Peer

Progress has also been made around Peer2Peer networks. A pilot project has been announced which will allow for the blocking of torrent urls that initiate sharing illegal child abuse images. Google and Bing will be working a lot more closely with the police, helping to construct new and larger databases of known illegal images, making them easier to detect and remove. Progress in this area is essential as without a doubt it is in the realm of Peer2Peer networks that the largest growth in the distribution of child abuse images has taken place.

Paedophilic searching gets harder

If a person types in a known paedophile term or something that suggests they are looking for child abuse images a clear warning message will now be displayed from Google, Bing and child safety organisations telling the searcher they may be on edge of breaking the law and this could have severe consequences for them. It will also point towards sources of advice and help if they seriously want to break with their criminal and abusive behaviour.

These messages may not deflect determined or already committed child sex offenders but there is little doubt they will cause some to stop and think. If that means fewer children are abused it has to be worth giving it a shot.

Bing and Google will be collaborating with the police and other agencies to ensure they stay as up to date as possible in relation to how the paedophile community and image collectors are trying to use the internet for their evil ends to make sure they can’t.

No censorship

While it is obvious why one might want to block access to known illegal content or sources known to supply illegal images, when it comes to words describing illegal or unsavoury acts it is a different matter. Very few countries have laws which make words illegal, however revoltingly they are used.

However, the search engines are now relegating the possibly legal but unsavoury content, that was previously being returned on some child abuse related queries, to the cyber equivalent of Siberia and replacing it with positive content.

To give a hypothetical example if someone was looking for information about child rape they will be helped to find articles in the academic press or to locate sources of help for victims. The stuff paedophiles have been publishing will be on the outer edges offindability. In this way neither search engine can be accused of censoring the internet or of refusing to provide access to otherwise legal if distasteful material but they have gone a long way in that direction. Again we will see how this is going to work out in practice.

Pulling out the stops

Google and Microsoft have really pulled out the stops. This is a very impressive initiative. It is narrowing the spaces in which paedophiles and collectors of child abuse images can operate. The challenge now is to work out how to gauge the effectiveness of and learn from the various measures that are being put in place but I am sure there is a will so we can find a way.

The beginning of a new phase

This is unlikely to be the end of the story but there is no question we have reached an important milestone. There are still anxieties about the Darknet and the true extent to which it and the use of encryption may continue to frustrate law enforcement’s and everybody’s efforts. But we don’t always have to do the really hard stuff first. Dealing with the more open parts of the internet has to be a key priority precisely because it is so accessible and therefore has the greater potential to draw in new offenders.

All the companies involved deserve a great deal of credit for their willingness to sail into these uncharted waters and so does Claire Perry MP and the Government as a whole for sticking with the issue in the way that they have. I await with interest to see how what is happening in the UK starts to roll out or impact other jurisdictions.

 

Parenting for Online Safety: How Do I Know if My Kid is Telling the Truth?

Friend and former staffer with Enough Is Enough, Cris Clapp Logan, had a thought-provoking blog about learning when to trust your kids.

Far too often, the parents that I talk with are worried about upsetting their kids and invading their privacy, but it’s up to you as their parents to do everything in your power to protect them-from dangers inside the home, outside the home and those they can access in the palm of their hand.  This doesn’t mean you should always suspect the worst or act like the secret police around your children, but it does mean watching out for warning signs, teachable moments, using parental controls and digging a little deeper in conversation when appropriate.

To continue reading Cris’ full article on how to build a more trustworthy relationship with your kids please click here.

Our national sponser, Google, has “A Few Easy Tools the Whole Family Will Love”

Google, one of our valued national sponsors has released the following blog, “A Few Easy Tools the Whole Family will Love.” EIE was instrumental in working with Google to get their safe  search features implemented and providing parents the important password  protected  “Lock Safe Search” feature. Check it out.
Excerpted from Google Blog Post
“Summer  is here, and with kids out of school it is a great time for families to explore  the web together—from learning what makes fireflies glow to playing online games  together. But while there is a lot of entertaining, educational content online,  there are also materials I’d rather not see when I’m surfing the web with my  family. Google has built a number of tools that parents can use to help keep  content they would rather not see from popping up on the family computer. It  takes less than five minutes to turn them on, so follow the steps below to help  make your search results more family-friendly this summer.” Click the link here to Google’s complete Blog Post for important details on the below safety steps.
1. Turn on SafeSearch in Google  Search
2. Save and lock your preferences
3. Turn on YouTube Safety Mode 

The Digitally Aware Parent-Bringing the Kids Back Home – April 2013

In my last article we discussed all the ways that our kids have segmented themselves from the family and yes, even their friends. Texting and “group texting” – where kids get on their phones and talk in a huge text-efficient conference room – are great ways to not only say and offer up one line responses to things they’d never ever say in person, but ruin their reputation in the process. There’s nothing worse than leaving a line of text out there you can’t get back.

To better arm parents with some ways to get control once again in the household, I’m offering the following tips. Of course every child is different and I’m not recommending you use all of these, but I’m sure you’ll find something here you can apply.

1) Charging Stations

Whether it be a tablet or phone, make sure your child doesn’t assume that charging the device is better done in their room at night when they go to bed.  If you want to see bleary eyed kids come downstairs for breakfast in the morning, let them take their communications to the bedroom. There are two obvious reasons not to allow this. The first, is just the practical side that if you’re viewing the internet and chatting with your friends at all hours of the night (and they will, if they take it to bed), they will suffer in school. The second is that late at night, people (adults too) with their defenses down, tend to do some irreperable harm when talking while tired.  Simple solution – make them charge it in the kitchen or living room.

2) Check their Apps

Once thing the various app stores don’t really monitor is age appropriate and negative consequence tools that can be downloaded on your phone or tablet. There are plenty of apps that are inappropriate for your child. One to particularly look for is SnapChat. It’s one of those apps that looks harmless from the outside, but when you realize that it’s wholly designed to share photos and immediately erase them from view – you have to ask the question – “what’s the purpose of this?” The answer? Nothing good.  I told my son it’s like MTV. If I ask you what you’re watching and you say “some show on MTV” I’m going to tell you to change the channel. It doesn’t matter what show.  Why? Because I know that nothing socially redeeming has EVER been produced by MTV. That’s not their purpose. Neither is that the purpose of SnapChat. If you find it on your son’s or daughter’s phone, delete it or like me, tell them if you see it appear again they’ll lose their phone.

One solution that will take the day to day burden off of parents is to use Norton’s great new line of mobile family safety filters and tools which you can find here.

While this column mainly skirts the issues of safety and oversight for parents – the Enough is Enough Internet Safety 101 site has a great full-bodied checklist of many of the tools and procedures you can use as a parent. You can find that list here.

3) Set an Example

When we’re sitting in the living room at night as a family, I can’t possibly tell my child to stop ignoring the family by texting all night, if we’re doing the same thing. I look around the room some evenings and it’s amazing how we can all be in the same room but virtually somewhere else. I found that I was just as bad as my kids. When I took my phone and/or tablet to the other room and left it there – that gave me license to tell my kids to do the same. By the way, the same goes for texting and driving and that’s another topic for another day.

One of the best way to set an example for the whole family is to employ an open dialogue of your expectations. You certainly can’t get your family to abide by rules that are “assumed” but not stated. We parents are very good at expecting our children to abide by standards we rarely exhibit or express ourselves.

4) Get their Passwords

If I’m paying for the phone and/or the phone service (don’t let them get away with saying it’s their phone because they bought the device but don’t pay the monthly bill) then it’s my right to occasionally check out what’s going on with the phone. To do this I need their password and my kids know that they have to give it to me to use one. It’s amazing what you can learn about your kids and more importantly their friends, when you check out the texting history. I’m not saying you do it every night, but do it every once in a while and find a way to talk to them about their behavior (or their friend’s) without specifically going line by line through the phone. If anything, it’s a good way to determine how deep they are into bad conversations and whether they are leading or being led by a stream of inappropriate talk. If, by the way, your child is not involved in anything untoward, it will also help you sleep better. 

Mark Gilman is a married father of five, from 29-12 and a member of the Enough Is Enough Advisory Council. He also owns a marketing and communications company based in the Detroit area (www.decusstrategy.com). He can be reached at mark@decusllc.com.

Cybertraps for the Young: Desktops, Laptops, and Tablets

It is my pleasure to welcome Frederick Lane to the EIE Blog. Fred is an author, attorney  educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has written seven books, including most recently “Cybertraps for the Young” (NTI Uppstream, 2011). All of his books are available on amazon.com or through his website. Fred has been our guest blogger on the EIE blog sharing excerpts from his book “Cybertraps for the Young.”

A decade into the 21st century, it’s impossible to overestimate just how important computer

skills will be to our children and grandchildren throughout their lifetimes. Consider the fact

that people born when the first personal computer was released in 1978 are already in their

early 30s, many with children of their own. Computers are an integral part of our education,

our work, and our leisure, so much so that the research firm NPD Group estimates that 97

percent of American households own a computer—a level of ownership that rivals

televisions and stereos.

The importance of personal computers was underscored for me when, while writing this

book, I spent a day in the reading room of the Widener Library at Harvard University. The

long wooden tables were filled with undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers, and

nearly all of them had laptop computers open on the table in front of them. Assuming an

average value of $1,000 per computer (the numerous Macs in the room bumped up the

average a bit), those library tables were covered with at least $100,000 in portable computing

equipment. As a society, we’ve invested a staggering amount of money in hardware and

software, and it would be unrealistic to think that kids can succeed in school and in the

workplace without at least some familiarity with and exposure to this technology.

For parents, however, there’s a tension between the obvious benefits of computer

ownership—homework, research, entertainment, socialization—and the distractions and

dangers that come with it. Thanks to the development of the World Wide Web in the mid-

1990s, every computer is now a portal to an infinite array of information, entertainment, and

enticements, not all of which are salutary.

As we’ll see throughout this book, many kids need nothing more than a keyboard and an

Internet connection to get themselves into a world of electronic trouble. Computer hacking,

for instance, has a long, albeit disreputable history, and enterprising teens have often been at

the forefront of the mischief. But even less computer-savvy teens now have at their

fingertips all the tools they need to violate a host of laws. With any type of Internetconnected

device—laptop, mobile phone, gaming console—children can harass or bully

other children, libel their teachers, commit fraud on eBay, violate U.S. copyright laws, or

commit a felony by downloading or distributing obscene materials. Given the prevalence of

computer web cams—either clip-ons for desktops or pre-installed in laptops—kids have the

ability to broadcast themselves and others from the privacy of their bedrooms to a global

audience, and that behavior has the potential to violate any number of federal and state laws.

We don’t normally think of desktop or laptop computers as phones, but thanks to web cams

and online conferencing software like Skype, they certainly can be used that way. Actually,

the line between computers and handheld devices is blurring in both directions. Kids can use

computers like phones (albeit bulky ones) through the use of software like Skype and

Google Talk, while mobile smartphones allow them to perform a number of computing

functions—e-mail, Web browsing, photo sharing—on the go.

In fact, it is only a matter of time before such handheld devices match traditional computers

in both power and convenience. A vision of that future could be seen in April 2010, when

Apple announced the release of its tablet computer, the iPad. There have been numerous

previous attempts at creating and marketing a tablet computer, but with its inimitable

attention to detail, design aesthetic, and sheer coolness, Apple succeeded where so many

others have failed. During the 2010 holiday season, online retailers and tech journalists

reported that the iPad was squarely at the top of the teen wish list, despite its impressive

price tag.

Right now, the iPad is an imperfect bridge between laptops and the iPhone. Out of the box,

it lacks a physical keyboard, has no camera, and has relatively limited onboard storage. Both

Apple and various third-party vendors, however, sell keyboards that dock onto the iPad;

future versions of the iPad are likely to include both a rear- and front-facing camera (for

“Face Time” chat, among other uses), along with more memory and faster processors.

The iPad’s enormous success—more than 25 million sold in fiscal year 2010, with another

32 million projected for FY 2011—has attracted numerous competitors, including the

Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HP Slate 500, the Dell Streak, and the Motorola Xoom. How

those tablets will fare in the marketplace remains to be seen, particularly with Apple’s iPad 2

waiting in the wings, but one thing is clear: computing’s own Olympic motto—smaller,

faster, cheaper—will continue to drive developments in the tech world.

With relatively few exceptions, these new electronic devices and the ones that inevitably

follow will offer more options, more capabilities, and more ways for kids to get into trouble.

And kids will continue to love them. This book aims to level the playing field a bit, to give

parents and teachers a solid introduction to the ways in which kids can accidentally or

intentionally misuse electronic gadgets. I’ll begin with a general overview of the

communication revolution, describe the potentially life-altering cybertraps that can snare

kids, and then offer some suggestions on how to protect your child.

Cybertraps for the Young: Digital Cameras

It is my pleasure to welcome Frederick Lane to the EIE Blog. Fred is an author, attorney  educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has written seven books, including most recently “Cybertraps for the Young” (NTI Uppstream, 2011). All of his books are available on amazon.com or through his website. Fred will be joining us for the next 2 weeks as a guest blogger on the EIE blog sharing excerpts from his book “Cybertraps for the Young.”

Many industries have legitimate reasons to bemoan the rise of digital technology, and photo

processors are near the front of that line. Not so long ago, it seemed as if every shopping

mall was equipped with a drive-up Fotomat kiosk offering one-day film processing. But

Fotomat didn’t survive the rise of one-hour developers in malls and box stores; in turn,

those one-hour shops have largely been replaced by drug-store kiosks—or even inexpensive

home printers—that can produce prints directly from CDs, USB sticks, or memory chips.

The culprit for all this retail change is the digital camera, a device that first became

commercially available only about twenty years ago. As prices have steadily fallen into the

low double digits, digital cameras have become ubiquitous—106 million were shipped in

2009 alone, and that figure was actually down about 12 percent from the 119 million units

sold the previous year (a drop attributed in large part to the growing popularity of mobile

phones equipped with cameras). The attractions of digital cameras are obvious: the ability to

see photos as soon as they’re taken, limited costs for film development, and software that

makes it easy to save images to a computer, digitally manipulate them, and instantly

distribute them via e-mail, a blog, a website, or a social network.

As the Amazon.com catalog illustrates, digital cameras are often the first electronic devices

to be put into small hands. There are a number of benefits to doing so: photography can be

a terrifically rewarding hobby, and, by eliminating the costs of film and film processing,

digital cameras have helped thousands of children discover a new artistic medium, a new way

of looking at the world around them. It’s the very simplicity and ease of digital cameras,

however, that have turned them into increasingly insidious cybertraps. To paraphrase the old

saying: just because a photograph can be taken doesn’t mean it should be taken.

As kids get older and start exploring their sexuality, they all too often employ digital cameras

or mobile-phone cameras as part of that exploration. Few fully understand, however, that

taking nude or semi-nude photographs or video of someone under the age of eighteen (even

a self-portrait) can have serious, even life-altering, consequences. As I’ll discuss in more

detail in Chapter 11, children who have circulated these types of photographs have been

subjected to cyberharassment and cyberbullying laws, have been suspended and/or expelled

from school, have been prosecuted under state and federal law for producing and

distributing child pornography, and, in a few extreme cases, have committed suicide.

To make matters worse, digital cameras are steadily shrinking in size, making it dangerously

easy to take photos or video of someone without their knowledge or consent. In fact, there

are entire websites devoted to illicit candids conspicuously labeled as “upskirt” or

“downblouse.”

Even if the subject of a photo is aware he or she is being photographed, the speed and

simplicity of digital technology reduces inhibitions and makes it less likely that either the

photographer or the subject will consider issues like privacy or propriety. And the younger

the kids on either side of the camera, the less likely it is they’ll think about the long-term

consequences of what they’re doing. After all, there’s no longer any risk for your child that

he or she will feel embarrassed when you pick up that packet of racy photos at the

developer; there’s the illusion that what’s taken with the camera will stay in the camera.

But that sense of privacy truly is an illusion. The whole point of a digital camera, after all, is

that the images can easily be transferred to a computer, thus freeing them for distribution to

the rest of the world. More recent digital cameras skip the transfer process altogether—

they’re equipped with wireless transmitters that allow photographs to be sent directly to email

or social networking sites. In fact, there’s even a memory card, the Eye-Fi, that will

enable older digital cameras to transmit photos wirelessly. Not to mention that any

smartphone equipped with a camera (and most are) is specifically designed to transmit

photos in a variety of ways—as e-mail attachments, as MMS messages, or as direct uploads

to any of hundreds of websites and social networking services.

Cybertrap for the Young: Videogame Consoles

It is my pleasure to welcome Frederick Lane to the EIE Blog. Fred is an author, attorney  educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has written seven books, including most recently “Cybertraps for the Young” (NTI Uppstream, 2011). All of his books are available on amazon.com or through his website. Fred will be joining us for the next 3 weeks as a guest blogger on the EIE blog sharing excerpts from his book “Cybertraps for the Young.”

It would be difficult to imagine someone less likely to be a video game fan than my

grandfather, a serious and well-respected real estate lawyer who spent more than fifty years

at the forefront of his legal specialty. I remember debating him when I was in law school

about the merits of computer-aided legal research, a development he disdained. But even

Grum could feel the lure of electronic gadgetry: in 1975, he was one of the early purchasers

of Pong, Atari Inc.’s groundbreaking video paddle game. I was ecstatic: I’d never seen

anything like it, and happily spent hours playing the game on my uncle’s ancient, black-andwhite

TV.

Regardless of how long I played Pong, my parents had little reason to worry about what I

was doing—the Pong console played Pong and only Pong. But video game consoles have

gone through a few changes since then. Today, the capabilities of those consoles rival or

exceed the capabilities of most desktop and laptop computers (in fact, law enforcement

agencies use the latest game consoles to help crack passwords). Recent models have

incorporated Blu-Ray disc players, motion-sensing and wireless controllers, and high-end

video processors for increasingly lifelike and immersive game-playing experiences (which

helps explain why 10 percent of teens log more than twenty hours a week playing video

games).

In part because of those new features, the devices are incredibly popular with children (and,

no doubt, with their parents as well). In early 2010, the Pew Internet and American Life

Project reported that 81 percent of children between the ages of twelve and seventeen own

at least one gaming console, while 51 percent own a portable gaming device—a figure that’s

almost certainly risen over the past year, thanks to the popularity of game-capable devices

like the iPhone and other late-generation smartphones. The combined sale of video game

software and hardware generates over $20 billion per year in the United States alone.

The most significant development, however, is the growing connectivity of these gaming

devices. All three major consoles—Sony Corporation’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360,

and the Nintendo Co., Ltd.’s Wii—are designed to connect directly to the Internet. Gaming

companies added connectivity to video consoles to encourage gamers to buy new games

online and to compete with opponents playing the same games around the world. Most

contemporary games also have built-in messaging capability, so gamers can communicate

with each other in real time.

Keep in mind that the same connectivity, combined with the rapidly expanding features of

gaming console software, allows gamers to do everything online that they have traditionally

done using a computer—send e-mail, use Internet chat and instant-messaging services, surf

the Web, and send and view photographs. The potential dark side of gaming consoles was

unveiled last year, when a Kentucky man was arrested for using the communication

capabilities of his Sony Playstation 3 to strike up a relationship with an eleven-year-old girl

and solicit nude photos from her online.

Not long ago, a portable gaming device would have been a safer alternative—the only thing

handheld consoles were designed to do was play games. Like so many other types of

technology, however, recent models of handheld consoles—the Nintendo DS, the Sony

PlayStation Portable (PSP), and the Apple iPhone and iPad—are designed to connect to the

Internet for game downloads, interactive play, and messaging. In addition, both the

Nintendo DS and iPhone are equipped with built-in cameras.

Cybertrap for the Young: Mobile Phones and Smartphones

It is my pleasure to welcome Frederick Lane to the EIE Blog. Fred is an author, attorney  educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has written seven books, including most recently “Cybertraps for the Young” (NTI Uppstream, 2011). All of his books are available on amazon.com or through his website. Fred will be joining us for the next 4 weeks as a guest blogger on the EIE blog sharing excerpts from his book “Cybertraps for the Young.”

In terms of capability and communications, no category of consumer device has changed as

dramatically as the mobile phone. First introduced in the United States in 1983, early

handheld phones were widely referred to as “bricks,” and did nothing more than allow

people to free themselves from fixed phone locations (though that seemed amazing enough

at the time). Around the turn of the twenty-first century, the development of faster cellular

networks (first 2G, then 3G) allowed for the transmission and downloading of multimedia

content. Ringtones were the first media content to be widely distributed, followed quickly by

games, photos, and eventually even streaming video.

The idea of the mobile phone as a connectivity tool began to creep into mainstream

consciousness in 2003, when Motorola Inc. released its hugely popular Razr phone in the

U.S. The sleek, slim, clamshell phone was equipped with a low-resolution camera, a 2.2-inch

LCD screen, and various communication options, including text messaging and a simple

Web browser that could be used to send e-mail. In many ways, it was the first device that

was as much a portable tool for surfing the Web as it was a phone (in fact, during the height

of the phone’s popularity, the Web browser Opera released a Razr-specific version of its

software, which offered more features than the phone’s own browser).

In the seven years since the Razr was released, the percentage of kids using mobile phones

has risen from twenty to approximately ninety-five. Part of that growth was the result of a

conscious effort on the part of mobile-phone companies, beginning in 2004, to target

advertisements at the teen market, a move that was obviously highly successful. Another

factor was Motorola’s success in making the mobile phone a fashion item—the Razr not

only looked cool, but came in a variety of attractive colors. But it was SMS messaging, or

“texting,” which did the most to bring teens and mobile phones together. More recent billing

data is still being analyzed, but between the first quarter of 2006 and the second quarter of

2008, the number of text messages sent in the U.S. skyrocketed from 65 million to 357

million. It’s not surprising, then, that in October 2010, 43 percent of teen mobile-phone

users reported that their primary reason for having a phone was to send texts to friends. The

SMS feature was the most frequently cited benefit of phone ownership, with “safety” and

“keeping in touch with friends” a distant second and third, respectively.

Games and Web surfing didn’t even make the list of top reasons for owning a mobile phone,

but it’s likely that will soon change. Apple Inc. ushered in the real era of handheld

computing and surfing with its release of the iPhone on January 9, 2007. What makes the

iPhone so remarkable—and so potentially troublesome for parents—is its seductive

combination of well-designed and powerful hardware, flexible software, and wireless

connectivity. It has been a tremendous hit.

In early 2008, Apple announced the creation of the iTunes Store, which allowed

programmers to sell their own applications (“apps”) for use on the iPhone. There are now

hundreds of thousands of apps for sale, and iPhone users have logged well over a billion

downloads in the three years since. Although Apple has aggressively policed the iTunes Store

to prevent the sale of obscene, indecent, and even politically provocative apps, there are still

hundreds, even thousands, of iPhone (or Android or Blackberry) applications that can land

kids in trouble. For instance, every major social network site—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,

etc.—has its own app for posting photos or comments, and dozens of third-party apps offer

additional tools for interacting with those sites. There are also hundreds of apps—Pixelpipe,

Instagram, and so on—that are specifically designed to make it easier to take and upload

photos to social networking sites.

The enormous popularity of the iPhone has fueled a mobile computing arms race. Hardly a

month goes by without a new phone or mobile operating system hitting the streets. A year

after the iPhone debuted, for instance, a consortium of companies (including Google)

announced the release of Android, an open-source mobile operating system. Other

manufacturers, including Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), Nokia Corporation, and Microsoft

Corporation, have announced the release of updated versions of their mobile operating

systems, along with their own platform-specific app stores. Not to be outdone, Apple has

released an upgraded version of its iPhone on a yearly basis; the most recent model, the

iPhone 4, allows users to conduct face-to-face video conversations using “FaceTime” (a

feature which the adult entertainment industry is already exploiting for pornographic

purposes).

Right now, only 23 percent of U.S. teens have a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android,

but that percentage will no doubt climb quickly.

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