Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Parents Guide to Video Games

This guide from CNN may be handy if you are trying to buy video games with little guidance from the intended recipient, or are trying to double check the list that was provided to you by a child or teen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Does your Tween need a cellphone?

If your 8-12 year old is bugging you for a mobile phone this Christmas, it might be because his friends all have one. A recent survey reports that 35% of US ‘Tweens” owned a mobile phone.

Where exactly are these 10 year olds going that they need a phone? I can see the occasional need to give a 9 year old a phone if they are at a school event or somewhere where they might need to call home for a ride. I can’t see any reason why somebody that would need a ride from mom or dad to get anywhere beyond bicycle range would need to have a phone with them 24 x 7. Is there a real need here, or is this just silly parents giving the kids what they want?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Are social networks a great thing for our kids?

Noted web guru and City University of New York Associate Professor Jeff Jarvis believes our kids benefit greatly from growing up online.

Young people today need never lose track of their friends, as I have with most of mine. That’s not only because they leave bits of themselves online that are findable via Google, but also because they will remain linked in ever-expanding social networks, such as Facebook.

How many of your high school friends could you contact today? For me, the answer is three, plus one junior high friend. Jarvis sees that number being 3 dozen for our kids. I wonder if that is really a good thing. Are we supposed to maintain those close ties forever? It sounds sort of like growing up and then staying in a really small town. It seems like history, in the US at least, has been driven by people getting the heck out of those small towns.

According to the marketing firm Alloy, 96% of teens and tweens use social networks; they are now universal. And I think this means that they will maintain friendships longer in life. Which, in turn, could lead to richer friendships. No longer can you escape relationships when you move on; you will be tied to your past - and to the consequences of your actions. I hope this could make us better friends.

I’m not sure I buy this one. That kind of maturity about dealing with people comes with age. I don’t think 16 year olds will start acting nicer towards each other just because they are all on Facebook. Thinking about the longer term consequences of behavior simply does not come naturally to teens. In fact, I think the opposite is more likely and Facebook becomes just another place to engage in the bullying and the cliquishness that defines growing up in the US.

But because you can’t escape your past, this also means that you could do one stupid thing in life, forever memorialised in Google, and you are embarrassed in perpetuity.

The Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, jokes that we all should be able to change our names and start fresh at age 21. But I think we’ll be protected by mutually assured humiliation: we will all have our moments of youthful indiscretion and so we will have to forgive others’ if we want them to ignore ours. So you inhaled - so did I, what of it? That will be the golden rule of the social internet. And I say that could make us more tolerant.

That sounds great in theory, but human nature is much more hypocritical than that. People today have no problem condemning behavior in others that they in turn engage in. Is one generation of openness really going to change that?

As much as I’d like to believe that the social web will lead to this great awakening in social behavior for the next generation, I just don’t see it happening that quickly, if at all.

What do you think?

Written by COD
brought to you by 4TraitWriting.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is stealing pretend goods a crime?

A Dutch teenager has been arrested, and several others are under investigation, for stealing virtual furniture from the “rooms” of social networking site Habbo Hotel

On one hand, somebody actually spent $5800 to populate their room with these objects, and they no longer have “use” of the furniture. So the basic concept of theft seems to fit. Also, online fraud in the form of phishing may have been part of the crime. That is a separate issue though. On the other hand, we are talking about pretend stuff on a web site. If Dutch teenagers commit a virtual crime on a web site hosted in the US, against a party living in some third country, who has jurisdiction?

I think we are barely entering the wild west days of online law. There is simply so much about life online that doesn’t neatly fit into our existing legal framework. This should be an interesting case to watch.

written by Chris O'Donnell