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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Teen Chat Decoder

Thought this was amusing.  You can enter any chat phrase like "LOL" and it will translate it for you.

http://www.teenchatdecoder.com/

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More on our ongoing MySpace saga

In my last post I talked about how one of my daughter's friends entered her e-mail address into their MySpace page to invite her to become a MySpace friend.  Luckily it was captured by Kidmail and never made it to my daughter's inbox.  This morning I went into the Kidmail parents' console and there were 21 spam messages waiting to be approved and sent to my 7th grade daughter including an advertisement for AshleyMadison.com - a website setup to allow married people to cheat on their spouses discretely.  It was just the kind of advertisement I want my almost 13 year old girl to see...a picture of two people, half naked, in bed together and the title "These people are married...but not to each other.  Life is short, have an affair."

I am certain that the addition of my daughter's e-mail to one of her friend's MySpace account was an innocent act.  But look how it's turning out.  I wonder if the parents of this child know that sites like AshleyMadison.com advertise on their child's MySpace page.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My child ended up on MySpace without trying.

Two stories I want to share with you.  First, as some of you know, my children have e-mail accounts through Kidmail.net, one of the services I recommend for parents.  Thanks to Kidmail's filtering system, I get copies of the e-mails my kids get and I get an opportunity to filter out messages from new/unknown addresses when they come in.  In the past week, my soon to be 13 year old daughter's inbox has been flooded with e-mails from MySpace.  She does not have a MySpace account (nor is she even interested in having one) so one might ask, why is she getting e-mails from MySpace if she doesn't have an account?  One of her friends apparently has setup an account and listed my daughter's e-mail address as a friend he/she wants to invite to join MySpace.  Great.  Not only does this open my daughter's e-mail account up to loads of spam, but it also posts her private e-mail address on a public forum for anyone to see.  I am in the process of trying to find out which of my daughter's friends did this and ask the parents to have their child remove my daughter's address from their page.  However, the die is cast...though the e-mail address won't be posted any longer, my daughter will continue to get MySpace spam indefinitely.  Once they get a hold of your address, it's over.  The nice thing is Kidmail allows me to filter that kind of spam out so she will never see it (though it creates more work for me).

As much of a pain as this experience is and will be for me, it's nothing compared to what happened to another child at my kid's school.  This poor young man (a 7th grader) had an account set up on MySpace on his behalf without him knowing.  A group of boys who don't like this poor kid set up a MySpace page, complete with pictures of the boy and his e-mail address, saying horrible, untruthful things.  Just like people slowing down to gawk at a car wreck, the site was so bad that it gained a bit of a local cult following and had many people viewing it.  It wasn't until the site had been up for a month that it was noticed by someone responsible and actions were taken to remove the page.  Kudos to my kids' school for stepping up and intervening, despite the fact that none of the mischief happened on school grounds.  The kids who made the site were punished and the site was taken down.  But the damage was done.

So before you sit back and say "my kid would never," remember that they don't have to.  There are plenty of other people out there to do it for them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Privacy is Dead on Facebook

Interesting article about Facebook privacy.  As much as we would like to think the things we (and our kids) post on Facebook is private or limited to a select group of "friends," nothing is truly private.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34825225/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Something you may not have thought about regarding smart phones

We tend to get caught up with how to filter the content our children view on their smart phones (like the iPhone or Droid...really any phone that can access the internet as well as make calls and text) but this article from CNN reminds us that losing the phone could be the biggest safety risk of all.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/01/05/cnet.smartphones.security/index.html

A lost smart phone can supply a creep with pictures of your child, their address, access to their e-mail, etc.  The article gives good tips on how to keep these devices secure even if they are lost or stolen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What is Anonymizer and do I need to worry about it?

I received an e-mail today from a concerned parent asking me about Anonymizer and Anonymizer.com.  She had heard some rumors about this product/site and was wondering if it were something she needs to look out for.  The short answer is no.

Today, Anonymizer is a software product that you can buy to hide your personal information from the websites you visit.  Whether you know it or not, many websites collect personal information about you and your computer every time you visit them.  They then assign this information to a unique identifier that they store on your machine.  With those two bits of info, they can do stuff like show ads for Nike if they see you visit ESPN a lot.  Get it?  Anyway, Anonymizer prevents them from seeing your personal info (what city you are logging in from, what kind of computer you have, what sites you have visited, etc.).  Actually, it sounds like a good thing right?  Don't rush out and buy it yet.

The rumors that this parent had heard about Anonymizer were that if her kids got online through the Anonymizer.com website, they could go to objectionable sites and her filtering software wouldn't detect it.  This rumor was actually true...10 years ago.  But not today.  Years ago, Anonymizer had a free web app that allowed you to browse the web and visit any site anonymously.  The sites knew nothing about you and most filtering software thought you were just on the Anonymizer website, not the objectionable site that Anonymizer was funneling to you and therefore did nothing to block it.  It was also a way for kids to get around their schools' filtering software and visit whatever site they wanted.  When I taught at Finneytown, we had an issue with this.

But that's all ancient history now.  Anonymizer.com doesn't have this app any longer, probably because it was a maintenance nightmare on their end.  All the website does is try to sell you their software (http://www.anonymizer.com/).  The software itself does not circumvent your (or your school's) filtering software and in fact, it has some parental controls of it's own built in.  But like I said before, don't rush out and buy it.  Internet Explorer 8 has the same functionality for free.  It's called "In Private Browsing" and it's accessible via Tools --> InPrivate Browsing.   And no, there is nothing to worry about with it either.  Your filtering software or parental controls will still filter the sites.

So Susan, thanks for the question but rest easy.  You've got nothing to worry about with anonymous surfing.