Friday, February 29, 2008

I Just Got Beat Up!

IMVU is an avatar world/3D Chat/Social Network. I wrote about it a little after it was out of beta and had some serious concerns. I hadn't been back there since those early days and after reading an article about it, I decided to go back and check it out. There have been some changes for the better, but if my first trip back is any indication not a lot has changed.

If you click on Chat Now, you are randomly paired with another avatar. I found myself in the room with someone who opened with, "hey". I clicked on his home page and saw that he was a 20 year-old for TX.

I said, "hi, this is my first chat." Not exactly true, but I had forgotten so much about the interface since I was last there, it was like my first chat. His response was to walk up to me and begin beating me up! I said, "ouch?" and he said nothing. I followed with, "beating up on an old man?" (I'm assuming he visited my homepage and saw my age.) Still no reply, but he did walk up to me and tweak my ear. Again I tried to talk to him and asked, "what's with the bullying?" He left.

Actually, for me it was pretty funny to watch. I had absolutely NO idea how he got his avatar to do what it did and had no way of responding in kind, not that I would have. I can imagine what happens when two like minded immature individuals end up in the same room. Can you say, trouble?

My original concern has been answered by a change in their policy. Back then, you could search for anyone of any age. Now you can't search under for anyone under 18, but it wasn't the ability to search for teens that concerned me.

I sat down one day and searched state by state for anyone between 14 and 17 who was online at the time. Two things concerned me. First I was alarmed at the number of teens who were online during a time that they clearly should have been in school, (and probably were in school). But even that wasn't my real concern.

When you register, you have the word Guest tacked in front of your avatar's name. If you supplied credit card information and purchased your avatar, the Guest designation was removed. If I was gullible, I would have been shocked at the number of 13-17 year-olds that had given credit card information. Of course, some gave the information with the blessing of parents, some probably gave daddy's card information without permission, but my skepticism led me to believe that a significant number of the 13-17 year-olds were considerably older. The predator potential was significant.

When I first signed up, I thought the technology and concept was cool and kids would gravitate to it. I had concerns and I still have concerns. I'm not exactly a big fan of IMVU at this point, but I'll reserve further judgment until I spend more time there.

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posted by Art @ 3:36 PM   1 comments

Harvard, tech firms seek to create safety Net

It's a big step in the right direction, but regardless of what this task force accomplishes, it will only be a part of the solution. Without education and increased parental involvement, children will remain at risk.

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posted by Art @ 9:03 AM   0 comments

Thursday, February 28, 2008

3DWriting WiredSafety is Moving

Well I'm not actually moving, but I am going to have it do double duty and merge it with my other blog, Truth, Lies, Rumors and Rumbles. If you are subscribed here and all you want is Internet Safety related posts, you don't have to do anything. I'll still be posting those kind of stories in both places, but if you are also interested in education related posts and musings on the human condition with great latitude on the definition of human, then maybe you should talk a look at TLRR. I hope to see you there.


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posted by Art @ 8:40 AM   0 comments

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Wired Kids Summit Behind the Scenes

On Feb. 6, held the 8th Annual Wired Kids Summit at the Cannon Office complex in Washington, D.C. From 9:00-2:00 panels of Teenangels and Tweenangels participated in discussions in front of congressional and industry leaders, but that’s not the subject of this blog.

Today I want to give you a peak behind the scenes so that you have a better understanding of WiredSafety and the amazing people who volunteer their time and effort to keep people safe online. You'll have to excuse the picture quality because they were taken with a cell phone. Better pictures will be coming in later blogs.

WiredSafety is the world’s largest Internet help organization with more than 5000 volunteers world wide. Aside from their regular duties as volunteers, a dedicated core of individuals led by Parry Aftab, pull together to plan and execute this summit. Meeting places are secured, invitations and RSVPs are processed, hotel and travel arrangement are made for staff, teens, chapter leaders, and chaperones.

All of this brings us to one day before the summit when everyone converges on D.C. and heads to the Marriott where teen, staff, and chapter leaders will be briefed on the coming day’s activities and final preparations will be made for the event.

Aside from the briefings, there are two other activities lined up for the kids. They are given an opportunity to meet and network with their counterparts from around the country while munching of a never ending supply of fruits, snacks, drinks, and pizza, but it isn’t all fun and games. Things get serious was the focus is placed on one of the majore announcements to be made at the summit.

The Assumption School Tweenangels have started an anti-cyberbullying campaign that was just presented on the Tyra Banks Show. Reacting to the suicide of 13 year-old Megan Meier, the tweens have started the Megan’s Pledge Campaign. After explaining the program to the rest of the group, all of the kids had the opportunity to hear from Tina Meier, Megan’s mother, who will be acting as the Deputy Director of Megan’s Pledge.

I’ll cover the pledge in more detail as I write about the summit in a coming blog, but for now, let’s get back to the behind the scenes action. At 5:00 PM the teens headed back to their hotels for some relaxation and a core of about a half-dozen volunteers stayed behind to take care of the food, printed material, and other supplies needed for following day.

That groups broke up at about 12:30 AM, but with the adrenalin flowing, there probably wasn’t a lot of sleeping done that night. I know I was blogging a 4:30 AM and met Parry in the coffee shop at 6:00 AM. By 7:00 we were all piling into cars and taxis to begin setting up.

The teens piled out onto the sidewalk just in time to help unload two SUV’s and a pick-up truck full of food and equipment. A rather stern D.C. policeman didn’t like where we were parked and told us we had exactly 2 minutes to unload. Well it took a little more than two minutes but two dozen teen and a half-dozen adults managed to pile everything on the sidewalk. All that was left was to get everything to the entrance a half block away and three flights up. Everyone grabbed packages and lined up single file to go through security.

What a sight that must have been to Representatives and staffers who had priority and were ushered to the front of the line as they arrived. The security guards were efficient, friendly, and helpful and I was really amazed at how smoothly things went.

Once everything was upstairs, signs were hung, tables were set, and all the necessary preparations were made. There was not a single idle hand and we were ready to go.

This blog hardly does justice to the people and the amount of work that went into the summit. The hard work and dedication of the WiredSafety volunteers is impossible to quantify. I’m proud to be a part of the organization and to be able to contribute what I can.

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posted by Art @ 2:05 PM   0 comments

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Decent Proposal

WiredSafety will be holding their 8th Annual WiredKids Summit in D.C. tomorrow. Members of the Jacksonville chapter of the Teenangels, make this tongue-in-cheek video about the research project that each chapter has to do as part of their training.

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posted by Art @ 5:31 PM   0 comments