Are social networks child friendly? [, by Garreth Murphy, 31/1/2011].

LIKE more than 500 million people around the world, I have a Facebook account.

My son, who is eight years of age, would like one too. Aside from the fact that his mother and I don’t think it’s wise for a child of his age to be surfing the internet, Facebook doesn’t allow it. Most popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, restrict the minimum age of their users to 13. But that doesn’t stop pre-teens from setting up accounts by entering a false age.


A large part of the appeal of Facebook is its accessibility. It’s ridiculously easy to set up an account. Just to prove it, I set up a page in my son’s name. All I needed was an email address (which his mother and I have the password for) and when it came to entering his age, I simply wrote that he was five years older than he actually is. Simple. It takes less than five minutes.

“It’s up to parents themselves,” says Catherine Bolger, registered psychologist with DIT. “They have a responsibility to strictly supervise their children’s and young teens’ access to any internet sites — not just social networking sites. It sounds obvious but parents need to know what their children are doing.”

But pre-teens are resourceful and have embraced technology with an ease that their parents can sometimes find difficult to comprehend. And it’s not just a question of monitoring the family’s computer any more — most mobile phones now have internet capabilities.

More children can now use a smart-phone than can tie their own shoelaces or make breakfast, according to a January 2011 survey by software company AVG. In the poll of 2,200 mothers with internet access and children aged between two and five, more children knew how to play with a smart-phone app (19pc) than tie their own shoelaces.

While there are no statistics available to indicate how many pre-teens have social networking accounts, Facebook themselves say that they take a zero-tolerance line with those who give a false age when signing up.

“Facebook has systems in place to prevent people who identify themselves as under the age of 13 from creating accounts,” says a Facebook spokesperson when asked about their age verification process. “It’s a violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities ( to provide false birth-date information, and we have community verification systems after sign-up to help identify people who are doing this so we can take action.”


Facebook admits that age verification is a difficult area to police. “There is no ‘perfect’ solution when it comes to age verification — on Facebook or anywhere else on the web. A child of any age can head to a search engine and look for whatever they want, from perfectly acceptable material to the highly unsavoury. What the Facebook environment offers in contrast to the wider internet is, in effect, a walled garden that enables teens to share the best of the web and consume it in a safe place where unacceptable content is quickly removed.”

If Facebook itself doesn’t have the answer, what hope do parents have? When it comes to social networking, they can either use software to block the websites or can give in to their pre-teens’ requests and allow them to set up accounts online.

Neither is a real solution, say experts. Linda Criddle, author of Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet says parents should respect the guidelines of any website that their child wants to join. “Doing otherwise teaches children that it’s okay to disregard the terms and conditions of the service,” she says.

Blocking social networking websites is not the answer, says Simon Grehan of, a Government, sponsored safety initiative, providing internet safety information, advice and tools for parents and teachers.

“Parents have to take a common-sense approach. Parents have to open the lines of communication rather than just looking for filtering options to block social networking sites.”

Although Facebook has self-imposed the 13-year-old restriction, Grehan says that parents should judge for themselves when a child is ready for these types of websites. “Parents know their children better than anyone else. Some kids of 11 are very mature, while some kids of 15 are very immature. So parents themselves are best placed to make the decision of when their children are ready.”

Cyber-bullying remains a big concern of many parents. Last year the case of Irish teen Phoebe Prince made international headlines. The 15-year-old girl, who moved with her family to Massachusetts, was allegedly subjected to a sustained campaign of online abuse, which prosecutors have said led to her suicide in January 2010. And it’s not an isolated incident. Newspapers and the internet are littered with stories about cyber bullying and worse on networking sites.

But parents should take heart. Irish kids are among the most responsible users of social networking websites, according to a Europe-wide study conducted late in 2010.

The EU Kids Online research found that Irish children are the least likely to publish their address or phone number on their profile (just 7pc in Ireland compared to 14pc in Europe) and most likely to have a private profile (11pc). Irish children are less likely to encounter key risk factors — pornography, bullying, sending/receiving sexual messages, going to meetings with contacts first met online– than most of their European peers. Children here ranked 21 out of 23 for having seen sexual images online in the past 12 months.

But the more children use the internet, the more they are likely to encounter risk. Next Tuesday, February 8, is Safer Internet Day, and to mark the occasion, a new online resource is to be launched to help parents get involved in what their children are doing online, ( webwise). Communication is the key when it comes to the internet, says Aine Lynch, CEO of the National Parents Council Primary, which is involved in the Internet Safer Day: “One of the reasons children say that they don’t tell parents about things they come across on the internet that they feel uncomfortable with, is they feel that their parent may take away access to the computer. So it is important that you reassure your child that they can come to you about anything they may have seen on the internet.”

Aine advises that parents establish ground rules with their children: “It is important to talk to your child about the areas of personal information and meeting with online friends. For rules and boundaries to be really effective they are best developed between you and your child. If your child has had an input in developing the agreement in relation to their internet usage they are more likely to see the rules and sanctions as fair and are therefore more likely to abide by them.

“Rules should be very clear that your child does not give out personal information.”

For more see webwise or

Bullying: A Growing Trend? [The Quad News, by Christine Keener, 30/1/2011].

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Bullying seems to be a rite of passage for the youth of this country, but until recently it hasn’t come to the forefront in the media. Why is this?

Has traditional bullying (which does not include cyber bullying) actually increased or does it just seem that way because of how lawmakers and the media are portraying the situation?

Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist, author of “A Psychological Solution to Bullying” and creator of the anti-bullying website Bullies2Buddies, said bullying is a growing problem because of society’s increased desire to target the problem.

“But the harder you try to make the problem disappear, the worse it gets, and the more time and resources you end up spending to fight it,” Kalman said. “It becomes a never-ending problem that spirals out of control.”

Now though, the government has stepped in. Various state legislatures have proposed new laws which require schools to provide anti-bullying programs, as well as policies to address the growing concern for school safety.

Jane Gross, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Hamden, Conn., added that bullying has always been evident.

“When you call attention to something, it increases,” Gross said. “The energy of the media is now being pulled in that direction. People are now just really talking about it.”

She also said the media is negatively affecting bullying and only increases public fear on the issue.

According to Kalman, bullying experts, anti-bullying organizations and psychological researchers are collaborating to promote public awareness, adding that a parent’s fear of bullying has surpassed their fear of drugs.

But even with new laws put in place and the media hysteria surrounding bullying, knowing the ways to stop yourself from being a victim are the key to getting out of this vicious cycle.

Gross said students should know it is not their fault if they are being bullied. She advises students to not talk back to the bully, show little emotion, and not add fuel to the fire.

“Students should report the person to whoever is in authority and reach out to friends,” Gross said. “Students should gather forces to stop this serious problem.”

Kalman said one of the best ways to handle bullying is to adopt intervention plans. Schools can teach “assertiveness training and provide good social skills lessons.”

But will the school’s intervention truly help?

“We could only hope these programs are positive,” Gross said.

Protect your child from cyber bullying [The Daily Telegraph, 27/1/2011]

. Source: The Advertiser

CYBER bullying is intentional, repeated behaviour by individuals or organisations using online technology to cause distress or humiliation to another individual or to attempt to humiliate, intimidate, control or to otherwise put that person down.

– Cyber bullying takes place by email, internet chat rooms, internet discussion groups or forums, instant messaging, sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Bebo, and mobile phone messaging, video clips and phone calls.4From the moment a child starts using a computer, parents should talk to them about online safety by reminding them that stranger danger is more prolific online than in the real world and that they have no way of knowing the age, gender or motives of people they are talking to online.

– Install anti-virus, spy ware, firewall and filters in the family computer and your child’s laptop. Free filters are available from

– Ensure the family computer stays in an area accessible and visible to all and monitor the sites visited and take an interest in what children are doing online.

– Be alert to any changes in your child’s behaviour ie: spending more time online, a spike in mobile phone usage and bills. Encourage them to talk to you if anybody says or does anything to make them feel uncomfortable.8Regularly visit these websites:, and

– If you are aware of school-related bullying, encourage your child to notify a trusted adult at school or notify the school yourself. 10If you are concerned about offensive websites, contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority ( Report cyber harassment to your local police and your internet service provider or phone service provider, which can block messages or calls from certain senders. For confidential support, call the Net Alert helpline on 1800 880 176. Confidential counselling is available for children and young people from the Kids Help Line on 1800 551 800.

– Kids today spend hours online and technology has taken schoolyard bulling into the stratosphere with the added, sinister element of relative anonymity.

Internet crime on the rise in the UAE: police [, by Sara Janahi, 27/1/2011]

Dubai: Police statistics reveal a 17 per cent increase in crimes involving internet bullying and verbal abuse, police sources said.

“These crimes usually take place on websites such as Facebook and Twitter and can lead to blackmail and extortion,” said Captain Rashid Ahmad Lootah, director of the General Department of electronic crimes at Dubai Police.

Police statistics showed that in 2009 there were 62 reported crimes involving internet bullying and verbal abuse. The number increased to 73 cases in the year 2010.

Police statistics also revealed a 100 per cent increase in the number of electronic crimes involving illegally providing telecommunication services or VoIP services to conduct international calls.

Parents Are Key to Ending Cyberbullying; Monitoring Internet Activity and Interactions, Essential [ PR Web, by James Leasure, 26/1/2011]

Statistics show and experts agree cyberbullying has reached epidemic proportions. In 2010, several stories surfaced of teenagers being arrested and charged with threatening others online, and in some tragic cases, victims of cyberbullying committed suicide. And it keeps happening – last week, a New York teenager took his life after months of cyberbullying on Facebook.

According to a report compiled on, 44 of the 50 states currently have anti-bullying laws in place; 32 of those include specific sanctions against cyberbullying or electronic harassment. Forty-three states require schools to have clear policies that address bullying, and many states are in the process of updating existing or adding new legislation. Jamie Leasure, co-found of Pandora Corporation, says the changing culture and new laws are going to result in severe penalties for bullies that are caught.

“Now more than ever, parents absolutely must be aware of what their child is doing online and what is happening in their digital lives,” he states. “Just as much as parents should be concerned when their child is a victim, they should take steps to make certain their child is not an aggressor in any way. Schools and law enforcement are pushing no-tolerance policies that can make something your child thinks is ‘just a joke’ into an incident that can remain with them for years. It is fast becoming in every parent’s best interest to make sure their child is not a bully.”

Pandora Corporation is the maker of PC Pandora computer monitoring software, a program that records everything that happens on the PC. Parents can see everything their children do online through screenshots of all activity. They can also review text-based logs of all emails sent and received, instant messenger conversations, social network chats and posts, websites visited and much more. Whatever a child does on the computer, good or bad, PC Pandora will show their parents everything.

Computer monitoring software can help end the cyberbullying epidemic by showing parents exactly what their kids are doing online and how they are interacting with others. Leasure says PC Pandora will alert parents when they have a bully in the house.

Cyberbullying thrives on anonymity,” explains Leasure. “Not only are the bullies anonymous online, but they are working in secret in their own homes. PC Pandora takes that away from them and exposes their activity. It gives parents the opportunity to resolve the situation at home, quietly, before schools or law enforcement get involved.”

In the past year, several stories have appeared in the media of teenagers getting arrested and being charged with cyberbullying or a similar crime.

  •     January 2011 – A 17-year-old male and 16-year-old female are arrested in Lafayette, Louisiana, charged with cyber-stalking and bullying a classmate online.
  •     January 2011 – A 15-year-old and 16-year-old female from Florida are arrested after they create a fake Facebook profile in the name of a classmate, with the intent of embarrassing and terrorizing the victim. ABC News
  •     January 2011 – Six girls in Nevada are arrested for coordinating “Attack a Teacher Day” at two different middle schools via Facebook. ABC News
  •     December 2010 – Two female middle school students in Illinois are charged with harassment after they set up a Facebook page to slander and harass a classmate; they will soon face a Peer Jury. Chicago Sun-Times
  •     November 2010 – Six teenage boys are arrested and charged with bullying a fellow student in Texas.
  •     September 2010 – Three teenage girls have been charged with cyberbullying that resulted in the suicide of Phoebe Prince.

As government continues to amend and adapt laws and schools wrestle with boundaries of involvement and education techniques, Leasure says the real key to ending cyberbullying is zero tolerance from parents.

Says Leasure: “Cyberbullying will not stop until the parents of the bullies know what their children are doing online, and care enough to step in and stop it. While talking to your children about civility and teaching them to be nice to others is and always has been essential, monitoring Internet activity is the best way to make sure they are not bullying others online.”

About PC Pandora: Pandora Corporation was formed with one goal – to help our customers monitor, control and protect their families and themselves online. First released in mid 2005, PC Pandora has been constantly upgraded to industry-leading specifications and has received accolades from users, reviewers and even school districts and law enforcement agencies, who use the program to help in the day-to-day supervision of the children and citizens they are charged with protecting. The company website devotes space to helping parents by providing them with 18 Tips to Safe Surfing and Pandora’s Blog, where current news in the world of online safety is discussed regularly.  In addition, the Pandora Corp. has made the PD Pandora Internet Safety Symposium available to schools and law enforcement as a free resource for spreading internet safety awareness to parents. Over the past few years, PC Pandora has vaulted into a leadership position for parental control software by boasting a combination of features that are unparalleled in the monitoring industry. In 2010, Version 6.0 was released, again widening the spectrum of coverage and protection offered by the program.  Concurrently released with 6.0, the web-based PC Pandora LIVE! service affords parents the ability to keep their kids safe from anywhere at anytime. PC Pandora is also now available through the Pandora Corp. store at

Reporters and Producers: Are you covering this topic? We are your technology solution component. Software is available to journalists for review and testing. Staff members are available for interviews. Let us help you show your audience how easy it can be to keep their kids safe.

Christie Signs Tougher Law on Bullying in Schools [The New York Times, by Richard Perez-Pena, 6/1/2011]

New Jersey on Thursday enacted the nation’s toughest law against bullying and harassment in schools, three and a half months after the suicide of a Rutgers University student drew national attention to the issue.

The law spells out a long list of requirements, including the appointment of specific people in each school and district to run antibullying programs; the investigation of any episodes starting within a day after they occur; and training for teachers, administrators and school board members. Superintendents must make public reports twice a year detailing any episodes in each school, and each school will receive a letter grade to be posted on its Web site.

The law, which goes into effect at the start of the next school year, lists harassment, intimidation or bullying as grounds for suspension or even expulsion from school. It applies to public schools, and portions of it apply to public colleges.

A bill had been in the works since 2009, but it gained momentum last fall. It passed both houses of the Legislature on Nov. 22, with just one dissenting vote, and Gov. Chris Christie signed it into law on Thursday. The New Jersey School Boards Association endorsed the law, concluding that schools could largely carry it out with existing resources.

“This is one of the great civil rights laws in New Jersey history, and to have a fairly conservative Republican governor sign it sends a resounding signal to other states,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman and chief executive of Garden State Equality, a gay rights group, who was involved in drafting the law. “It’s also a major achievement for bipartisan governance in New Jersey.”

On Sept. 22, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge; three days earlier, officials have said, his roommate surreptitiously streamed video of him in an intimate encounter with another man. While it remains unclear what role the video may have played in Mr. Clementi’s suicide, news coverage of the episode gave added impetus to efforts to enact laws against bullying and harassment.

“No question, that tragedy and a string of other suicides in the fall by school kids gave it momentum,” said State Senator Barbara Buono, Democrat of Middlesex County, a prime sponsor of the bill. “The idea is just to make the climate of school one of tolerance and respect.”

Forty-five states have laws against bullying, and New Jersey has had one since 2002, including a 2007 amendment covering cyberbullying. New Jersey becomes the fifth state to adopt a new law in the past year; New York was among the others.

“Other states have bits and pieces of what this New Jersey law has, but none of them is as broad, getting to this level of detail, and requiring them, step by step, to do the right thing for students,” said Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group. Many states, she said, do not even offer the protections of the 2002 New Jersey law, which made it a crime to bully or harass on the basis of race, sex, sexual and gender identity or disability.