Talking and Browsing on Phones is Blasé Users Spend More Time on Apps

March 18, 2011

One of the interesting news pieces coming out of last month’s Mobile World Congress was new data from mobile research firm Zokem that shows mobile phone users now spend far more time using applications on their phones than actually talking. When application use is looked at as a whole – combining messaging and other applications – the app usage is now two-and-a-half times greater than voice usage.

Average Minutes of Screen time by type – January 2011
Messaging (email, text, multimedia, and IM) 671 minutes
Apps (maps, gaming, entertainment, productivity, and social networking) 667 minutes
Voice 531 minutes
Browsing the Web 422 minutes

This finding provides further evidence that mobile users – particularly younger users – view of phones has shifted to the point that they now   consider the device in their pocket to be more of a computer than the single-purpose device.

How quickly technology and our expectations change.  It is just over 30 years ago that Bill Gates shared his vision of a computer on every desktop and in every home. My own first PC back in 1980 was a screamingly fast monster with 64K (yes, K) of memory that we didn’t think there would ever be enough data to fill.  I was thrilled with the freedom from typewriters and the new world where you could edit text, shift paragraphs and actually save documents.

And it’s just over 16 years ago that the first commercial phone with paging and voice capabilities were ready for mainstream consumers.  For any of you who had a phone back then, you’ll remember we had to pull out the antennae in order to get a signal, and while those phones were a generation better than the ‘brick’ phones, they were still huge and required a carrying case on your belt.  It wasn’t until 1999 that the mobile web was introduced on phones, and it took until 2000 to get rid of that darn external antenna.  Jump forward to 2003 when the first camera phones really hit the U.S. market (japan had them in 2001), browsing actually began to be interesting, and the U.S. finally realized the handiness of text messaging.  Another hop forward to 2007 brought the first iPhone, and since then applications have been sprouting like mushrooms after a rain.

What new mobile capabilities mean to you and your kids

First and foremost, the new phone functionality means a better mobile experience. It also means more power in your hand, more responsibility to use the device appropriately, and a greater need to protect the phone and the information on the phone.

How do you learn more about teaching kids to use mobile phones safely and in a socially responsible way? I’ve got just the information you need… Check out these blogs:

Linda


C’mon! Match Terms of Use Text to Users’ Comprehension Level

November 4, 2010

When users register on a website, they are obligated to adhere to the site’s Terms of Use [i], but how realistic is this obligation when users can’t understand the Terms? It would see the notion that Terms of Use should be written in language accessible to a site’s target audience is a concept sorely lacking in many company’s considerations.

To show how inaccessible the content in Terms of Use are, I ran several through a readability index – which is designed to gauge how easy a text is to read and calculates an estimate of the  (U.S.) grade level needed to fully comprehend the text. (I chose the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level model for this comparison.)

It doesn’t require a lot of thought to see how far out of end-user comprehension many of these Terms of Use actually are. To fully understand the iPhone App store’s or MTV’s Terms, a user needs a PhD – yet their target audience is teens. And little kids don’t stand a chance – they need to be in college before they’ll be able to grasp the Terms imposed by Club Penguin or NeoPets.

Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common adult sites:
  • Bank of America  – requires a college graduate’s reading comprehension level (Grade17)
  • Amazon – requires a third year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade15)
  • New York Times  – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • Twitter – requires a third year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade15)
Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common teen sites:
  • iPhone App Store – requires a PhD’s reading comprehension level (Grade20)
  • MTV – requires a PhD’s reading comprehension level (Grade21)
  • Facebook  -requires an high school junior’s reading comprehension level (Grade 11)
Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common kids sites:
  • Club Penguin – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • NeoPets – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • Webkinz – requires a high school senior’s reading comprehension level (Grade 12)

If we want users to improve their behavior and be better digital citizens, it wouldn’t hurt to explain their obligations in terms they can grasp.

Linda


 

[i] For more information on consumers’ obligations, see my blog Website’s Rights and Responsibilities – They are Far More Than ‘Fine Print’)


Generation M2 Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 year-olds

October 6, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:

Excerpt

Study by the Kaiser Foundation:

Understanding the role of media in young people’s lives is essential for those concerned about promoting the healthy development of children and adolescents, including parents, pediatricians, policymakers, children’s advocates, educators, and public health groups. It is the purpose of this study to foster that understanding by providing data about young people’s media use: which media they use, which they own, how much time they spend with each medium, which activities they engage in, how often they multitask, and how they differ from one another in the patterns of their media use. Our aim is to provide a more solid base from which to examine media’s effects on children and to help guide those who are proactively using media to inform and educate America’s youth.

The study is one of the largest and most comprehensive publicly available sources of information on the amount and nature of media use among American youth:

  • It includes a large national sample of more than 2,000 young people from across the country;
  • It covers children from ages 8 to18, to track changes from childhood through the transitional “tween” period, and on into the teenage years;
  • It explores a comprehensive array of media, including TV, computers, video games, music, print, cell phones, and movies;
  • It is one of the only studies to measure and account for media multitasking—the time young people spend using more than one medium concurrently; and
  • It gathers highly detailed information about young people’s media behavior, including responses to an extensive written questionnaire completed by the entire sample, plus results from a subsample of approximately 700 respondents who also maintained week-long diaries recording their media use in half-hour increments.

Finally, because this is the third wave of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s studies of children’s media use, it not only provides a detailed look at current media use patterns among young people, but also documents changes in children’s media habits since the first two waves of the study, in 1999 and 2004.

Youth suicide continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States. Even though suicide rates have decreased 28.5 percent among people in recent years, upward trends were identified in the 10‐ to 19‐year‐old age group.  In addition to those who successfully end their life, many other adolescents strongly think about and even attempt suicide.

One Factor that has been linked to suicidal ideation is experience with bullying. That is, youth who are bullied, o bully others, are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.  The reality of these links has been strengthened through research showing how experience with peer harassment (most often as a target but also as a perpetrator) contributes to depression, decreased self‐worth, hopelessness, and loneliness – all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Without question, the nature of adolescent peer aggression has evolved due to the proliferation of information and communications technology. There have been several high‐profile cases involving teenagers taking their own lives in part because of being harassed and mistreated over the Internet,7‐9 a phenomenon we have termed cyberbullicide – suicide indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression.10 While these incidents are isolated and do not represent the norm, their gravity demands deeper inquiry and understanding. Much research has been conducted to determine the relationship between traditional bullying and suicidal ideation, and it can be said with confidence that a strong relationship exists.11, 12 Based on what we found in the extant literature base, we sought to determine if suicidal ideation was also linked to experiences with cyberbullying among offenders and targets.

Highlights from the Research:

  • 20% of respondents reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide
  • All forms of bullying were significantly associated with increases in suicidal ideation
  • Cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying

Click here to learn more: Generation M2 Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 year-olds

Linda


Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

September 18, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:

Excerpt

From the cyberbullying Research Center:

Youth suicide continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States. Even though suicide rates have decreased 28.5 percent among people in recent years, upward trends were identified in the 10‐ to 19‐year‐old age group.  In addition to those who successfully end their life, many other adolescents strongly think about and even attempt suicide.

One Factor that has been linked to suicidal ideation is experience with bullying. That is, youth who are bullied, o bully others, are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.  The reality of these links has been strengthened through research showing how experience with peer harassment (most often as a target but also as a perpetrator) contributes to depression, decreased self‐worth, hopelessness, and loneliness – all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Without question, the nature of adolescent peer aggression has evolved due to the proliferation of information and communications technology. There have been several high‐profile cases involving teenagers taking their own lives in part because of being harassed and mistreated over the Internet,7‐9 a phenomenon we have termed cyberbullicide – suicide indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression.10 While these incidents are isolated and do not represent the norm, their gravity demands deeper inquiry and understanding. Much research has been conducted to determine the relationship between traditional bullying and suicidal ideation, and it can be said with confidence that a strong relationship exists.11, 12 Based on what we found in the extant literature base, we sought to determine if suicidal ideation was also linked to experiences with cyberbullying among offenders and targets.

Highlights from the Research:

  • 20% of respondents reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide
  • All forms of bullying were significantly associated with increases in suicidal ideation
  • Cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying

Click here to learn more: Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

Linda


Facebook Updates While Driving? C’mon!

September 16, 2010

General Motors’ OnStar division has developed a system that provides drivers the ability to record audio updates that could be posted to a user’s Facebook page. The system would also allow drivers to hear their friends’ status updates read to them by a computerized voice. OnStar says the idea reflects society’s growing desire to be connected at all times.
What could possibly be so urgent to post or read on Facebook that it would require a driver’s immediate attention?

Research from the University of Utah found that distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. I’d need to see some hard data to convince me that the distraction level wouldn’t be similar for those listening to posts or adding their own posts on a Facebook page.

As late as last week, OnStar was apparently still deciding whether it will make this service available to drivers or not. “The company will not implement a new service simply because it’s technically feasible, it has to be the right thing to do for the customer,” OnStar said. “All of our technologies are rigorously evaluated prior to launch.”

Company president Chris Preuss says OnStar has data showing there is no correlation between pushing a single button and vehicle crashes, and justifies the service by saying people will continue to send text messages in cars and update Facebook statuses from their phones, so the company decided to let them do it “with safety in mind”. “I don’t think we’re at all engaging in activities that are going to make it worse,” he said. “We’re absolutely engaging in activities that will make things better.”

If we accept the argument of ‘people will do it anyway’, why don’t we apply it to speeding, drinking while driving, and drag racing on residential streets? Why not enable drivers to take these dangerous actions – ‘with safety in mind’?

I get OnStar’s motivation – if nothing else, the deployment of this service should boost their core business of responding to accidents.

GM isn’t alone

GM isn’t the only auto manufacturer going down the distraction path. Ford Motor Co.’s Sync system, available in 2011 Ford and Lincoln models, is very similar. Besides allowing drivers to hear and reply to text messages, Ford’s system also allows drivers to interact with cell phone apps for things like Internet radio and Twitter.

Opponents of these technologies point to the existing body of evidence to say these systems will lead to greater driver distraction, but Ford has a different point of view. They believe that systems like these allow drivers to do things they’re already doing anyway, such as checking text messages, while keeping their eyes on the road.

Ford spokesman Alan Hall said, “Our research has shown that the most dangerous part of having these devices in your car is when they take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel.”

That flies in the face of the information on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. Distracted driving is defined as “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.

The site goes on to say there are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual — taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing

Hmm. Does Facebooking while driving qualify as a distraction under this definition?

Following OnStar and Ford’s assertion, your eyes and hand would only have to be off the road for a tiny moment – and we don’t hear recommendations urging a ban on pushing a button to change your radio station….  But there’s that last pesky cognitive point about taking your mind off driving and focusing attention on Facebook, that’s the deal breaker.

To learn more about distracted driving, see my blog post Distracted Driving? Take the Distractology 101 Learning Challenge.

And that’s not all

GM’s OnStar team is also testing a system which would allow drivers to hear text messages read to them by the “OnStar Virtual Advisor” computerized voice. By pressing a button on the steering wheel, drivers would also be able to reply using one of four pre-written responses.

The only message your car should be sharing with you is “keep your focus on the road”.

Linda


With Sexting, Sexcam sessions, and Indiscretion, Comes Sextortion

August 20, 2010

It was inevitable that the number of sextortion cases reaching the public’s attention would climb as the spread of sexting and sexcam sessions continues unabated.

Sextortion – the combination of the words “sex” and “extortion isn’t a web phenomenon, extortionists and blackmailersi have used their knowledge of other’s infidelities, or possession of compromising images, videos, phone calls, and letters since close to the dawn of man. Perhaps the most recent public example was when a former CBS producer threatened to disclose David Letterman’s history of affairs unless Letterman paid him $2 million.

But the web has certainly increased access to the types of content and communications that many would rather not have exposed, and there is no shortage of slime-balls hoping to leverage that reluctance towards exposure for their benefit.

A few recent internet sextortion cases in the news should give a wake up call to anyone who has been foolish enough to place themselves in a compromising position, or thinks there is little risk in doing so in the future.

Case 1: The paraplegic programmer who, over a two year period, victimized at least 186 women and 44 girls according to the FBI who became involved in the case in 2009. According to the Forbes article More Details Emerge On ‘Sextortion’ Hacker Suspect, 31-year-old Mexican native, and Santa Ana, Calif. resident, Luis Mijangos, gained control of user’s computers by using Trojans disguised as songs on peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Once he took control of the PC, he would search for sexually explicit photographs and financial information, and attempt to use what he found to further extort pornographic videos from his victims.

According to the news story, the creep is also accused of “using keyloggers to gain access to social networking sites, e-mail, credit card numbers, and so forth to gain further information to perpetuate the scheme as well as make purchases. He sent malware via instant messenger to the contacts of his victims to infect more computers, tallying more than 100 infected in all.”

Case 2: The 19-year-old punk from Maryland who captured photos of a 17-year-old girl flashing her breasts on a webcam in an internet chat room and threatened to post the pictures to her MySpace friends unless she posed for more explicit pictures and videos for him. The story, reported by the Associated Press, details how Treavor Shea of Mechanicsville, Maryland began sending threatening e-mails to the young lady and how, under the threat of humiliation in front of her friends on MySpace, she on at least two occasions did pose for more explicit pictures and videos before involving law enforcement.

Case 3: Auburn University graduate and church choir boy Jonathan Vance, of Alabama has received an 18 year sentence for attempting to extort nude photos of at least 50 teenage girls and young women in three states. The story by the Birmingham News reports that the 24 year-old perp admitted to sending threatening e-mails on Facebook and MySpace demanding  nude photos from victims in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Case 4: Boy who poses as a girl. 18-year-old Anthony Stancl of New Berlin Wisconsin, pretended to be a female on Facebook to trick male classmates into sending him photos. He convinced at least 31 boys in his high school to send him naked cell phone pictures. He then blackmailed at least 7 of the boys – ages 15-19 – into performing sex acts by threatening to expose the original nude photos to the rest of the school if they did not meet his demands. The Journal Sentinel reported that more than 300 naked photos and movie clips of New Berlin boys and another 600 professionally made pornographic movies involving children were found on the computer.

This was not the first time that Stancl has been in trouble with the law because of sexual crimes. During his sentencing hearing, prosecutors noted that Stancl had been convicted of having sexual contact with a 3-year-old boy when he was just 13-years-old.

There is no system or entity that tracks this form of crime specifically, and most unfortunately will not get reported. But for every one case of extortion, there are thousands of cases where disgruntled friends, ex’s, and others simply choose to be vicious and publicize sexualized images of others to watch their humiliation.

And with the Increase in Sexting Among Teens AND Their Parents expect to see more of  this type of crime.

Protecting your kids – and yourselves

There are three aspects to any discussion about sexual actions online – whether that discussion is with youth or adults:

A) Why no one should participate in sexual exchanges online. Focus on helping youth see past their naïveté surrounding the implications of sending sexual messages, photos, videos, chats, or describing sexual activities they’ve been doing offline. Any of these actions can be, and likely will be, something they regret at some point in the future, even if they aren’t being extorted. Help youth understand that:

  1. Once an image has been shared, the sender has lost all control of where that will be distributed.
  2. The girl- or boyfriend of today, is highly likely to share it with friends (a main point of having the photo for most youth is to show people you have it).
  3. When breakups occur, the malicious dissemination of an ex’s nude image(s) is an all too common experience.
  4. The humiliation caused by having the victim’s image(s) disseminated can be devastating. Simply knowing their ‘private’ photo is seen and shared by potentially millions of people – possibly including family members, school teachers, their religious leaders, neighbors, and pedophiles – and that the image may haunt them forever can be overwhelming. In several extreme, tragic cases, girls like Jessica Logan, and Hope Witsell have committed suicide.
  5. The photos may be used for blackmail or sextortion as in the cases listed above.
  6. The photos may be classified as child pornography, and the image taker, the image recipient, and any other recipients may be charged and registered as sex offenders – a label that will follow them through life. “Sexting” Leads to Child Porn Charges for Teens, ‘Sexting’ Teens May Face Child Porn Charges
  7. The photos may carry consequences that include getting kicked off of teams, squads, and leadership roles in schools and extracurricular programs. And may result in the loss of scholarships – or cause that the student not be considered for scholarships. Teens may also lose their jobs.
  8. The photos may increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of physical abuse.

B) Getting help if youth (or adults) are the target of sextortion. Unfortunately, not everyone will heed the advice to refrain from sexual exchanges online, and so understanding how to minimize the damage is critical – whether it be for your child, or to give them the information that will help another child.

  1. Extortionists extort. If they have one compromising image, video, or piece of information and they see opportunity in threatening a victim with it, giving them what they ask for is just providing more ammunition, It will not stop the exploitation – in most cases it will simply allow the extortionist to increase their demands.
  2. Call it extortion, sextortion, or blackmail, it’s illegal.
  3. Get help. For minors, no matter how embarrassing the incident, parents will in most cases be the best place to first turn to for help. Depending on the situation, it may be resolved through parents, or with school involvement. Where sexual demands are made, it is a matter for immediate law enforcement involvement.
    1. Parents, this puts a clear responsibility on you to create an environment where your children can be safe coming to you for help. In these kinds of situations some people are tempted to blame the victim, that’s off target. They are the victim of a crime and they need your help with that crime. The question of why they chose to share compromising photos, video, or information is entirely separate and should be handled separately – and calmly.
    2. Youth, if your parents aren’t going to help you through this, get a teacher, your religious leader, or another trusted adult to help you. Few teens – and fewer younger kids are comfortable going to the police themselves.

C) Extorting others is WRONG. Unfortunately, for a segment of the population, wielding power over others is alluring. But it’s never right, and if it becomes extortion, or blackmail,  it is illegal. The penalties for sexual extortion are even more severe.

  1. Help teach that this is unacceptable behavior because it harms others.
  2. If the welfare of others isn’t something your child – or you – care about, get professional help. And consider the following:
    1. Extortion and blackmail are federal crimes.
    2. Anthony Stancl faced 293 years in prison if he had been convicted of the full 12 counts against him. His actual sentence is 15-years in prison and another 13-years of extended supervision for his crimes. He will be 33 before he leaves prison, and 46 before he is no longer under legal supervision. He will always carry the registered sex offender label.
    3. Jonathan Vance was sentenced to 18 years in prison, making him 42 when he is released. He will be a registered sex offender, and will serve the rest of his life on supervised probation. He will be barred from having any contact with minors, and will only have restricted computer access.
    4. The cases of Treavor Shea and Luis Mijangos have yet to go to trial, but Luis Mijangos also faces deportation.





[i] The terms “extortion” and “blackmail” are commonly used interchangeably, even though they are distinct concepts. According to the definition provided by criminal-law.freeadvice.com, extortion means forcing someone to do something, usually give up something valuable under threats of injury, death or other illegal harm. Blackmail means specifically obtaining something of value under the threat to disclose something shameful or disreputable about a person. This can be true even if it would not have been illegal to simply make the reputation-damaging information public.

Linda


Study of Pro Eating-Disorder Websites Highlights Risks – Part 1 of 3

August 10, 2010

A new study by Johns Hopkins and the Stanford University School of Medicine represents the first large-scale analysis of pro eating-disorder websites. It identifies the complex emotions that eating-disorder patients struggle with, and provides key insight into the types of content they discover online when seeking support from their peers.

Pro-eating websites are defined as containing materials that describe, endorse self-abuse through starvation or purging, and support the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia (often referred to in slang as ‘pro-ana’ and ‘pro-mia’). These sites typically list the benefits of being anorexic/bulimic, offer interactive communities where those with eating disorders can encourage and celebrate one another as they strive to attain, and maintain, their thinness goals give diet tips (what to eat to stay under 700 calories a week!) and may provide ‘buddy’ services to pair one anorexic up with another.

Many of these sites have been created by people with eating disorders and who “falsely believe that they are okay [and] falsely believe that anorexia is a lifestyle choice ” according to Toronto-based National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC).

According to the study, about 1 % of young women struggle with anorexia, a disease in which patients maintain dangerously low body weight and fear weight gain. An additional 2% of young women are affected by bulimia, a disorder in which patients continually binge on food, then “purge” themselves by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, or by compulsively exercising. A smaller number of young men, and adults also suffer from these disorders. Both diseases can cause long-term health problems, and may lead to death in severe cases. (See Eating Disorder Statistics in part 2 of this series for more information).

However, it is far more than the 1-2% of youth struggling with these disorders that turn to these internet-facilitated high risk cultures for inspiration. Many more teens and young adults who want to lose weight visit to the sites for inspiration and dieting tips. (See a typical example of this in ‘Bride2be’s posting in the image below).

Pro eating-disorder site content

Researchers involved in this study evaluated 180 websites and evaluated each for  content and design elements including looking for interactive forums or calorie counters; themes (including control, success and perfection); “thinspiration” images, tips and techniques for weight loss; and recovery information. They assigned each site a “perceived harm” score based on their assessment of how harmful the site would be to users.

The research reviewed found using search terms such as “Pro-Ana,” “Pro-Anorexia,” “Pro-Bulimia” and “Thin and Support” and found that:

  • Nearly 80% of the sites had socially interactive features allowing members to communicate.
  • 85% of these websites include ‘thinspiration’ materials.  Thinspiration,” Thinspo”, includes anything that a person with an eating disorder uses to “inspire” herself to lose weight or stay thin, such as photos and videos of very thin celebrities, success stories and encouragement by others struggling with eating disorders, and tips and techniques for weight loss.

  • 83% of the pro-ana, and pro-mia sites offered suggestions on how to engage in extreme dieting behaviors. One such diet is the Ana Boot Camp diet (Also called the ABC Diet).

At the same time, the research found that most of the websites also recognized that these behaviors are eating disorders and more than a third provided recovery information.

  • During their evaluation, researchers found that 24% of these websites had high perceived-harm scores,  (4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5); the rest of the sites received medium or low harm scores.

“These sites are fairly diverse. Some sites have very hard-core information about how to intensify your eating disorder, some have a lot of pro-recovery content and many have a mix of both.” Said Dr. Rebecka Peebles, an instructor in pediatrics at Stanford and an adolescent medicine specialist with the Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

“Although pro-eating-disorder Web sites are often portrayed in a black-and-white manner, most of them exist on a continuum,” Peebles said. This is likely due to the ambivalence eating-disorder patients have about their disease, she added: “Many people with disordered eating behaviors have days when they want to get better, and days they have no interest in getting better. The Web sites reflect the individual characters of the people visiting them.”

Linda

Continued in next post…


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