Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

September 18, 2010

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


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


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”.


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, 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.


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.”


Continued in next post…

McAfee Survey Results: The Secret Lives of Teens Online

June 28, 2010

“The Secret Life of Teens,” is a new survey conducted online by Harris Interactive research for McAfee and provides insight into how youth ages 10-17 are using the net today. There’s lots of positive news in these results, but there are some concerning issues as well. Based on the findings, we aren’t doing a good enough job helping youth understand why some information should be private, and helping them learn the skills they need to keep information private. We haven’t done enough to teach kids how to respond to cyberbullying. And we need better dialog between parents and youth about what teens are doing online.

Key findings:

Sharing personal information

  • 69% of 13-17 year olds have updated their status on social networking sites to include their physical location
  • 28% of teens chat with people they don’t know in the offline world — 43 percent shared their first name
  • 24% percent shared their email address
  • 18% percent shared a personal photo of themselves
  • 12 %percent shared their cell phone number
  • Girls are more likely than boys to chat with people online that they don’t know in the offline world, (32% vs. 24%)
  • 13-15 year old girls (16 %) are more likely than boys the same age (7%) to have given a description of what they look like.


  • Nearly 50% of Teens Don’t Know What to Do if Cyberbullied
  • One-in-three teens knows someone who has had mean or hurtful information posted about them online
  • 14% of 13-17 year olds admit to having engaged in some form of cyberbullying behavior in 2010


  • 87% of teens go online somewhere other than at home
  • 54% access from their friends’ or relatives’ houses
  • 30% of teens access the Web through a phone and 21% through a video game system
  • 23% of kids go online anywhere with an open Wi-Fi signal

Teens Hide What They’re Doing Online

  • 42% don’t tell their parents what they do while they are online
  • 38% of teens close or minimize the browser when their parents enter the room
  • 32% of teens clear the browser history when they are done using the computer
  • 55% of 13-17 year olds hide what they do online from parents

Kids to Blame for Infected Family PC?

  • More than a quarter of teens (27%) accidentally allowed a virus, spyware, or other software to infect the family computer
  • Nearly half of teens (46%) of teens admit to downloading music or videos from a free service, which is much more likely to infect the family PC with everything from worms, viruses, ad-ware, spyware, or backdoors that allow people on the Internet to access the computer
  • 16% of 16-17 year old boys have downloaded x-rated content


Videoing Friends Without their Knowledge is Rude; It May Also be Illegal

April 9, 2010

I’ve recently fielded questions from shocked individuals who have been videotaped in friends homes, or out with friends, without being asked or notified. These videos capture conversations and actions they thought were private. While it did not surprise me that some teens behave this way, I was appalled to discover how many adults are facing this issue.

Most of those who contacted me weren’t out in public, they were invited guests to dinner parties, or attending private gatherings in homes or backyards. In some cases, the victims had no idea anything was being captured, in others they knew the host was walking around with a camera taking photos – which they were ok with – but didn’t know the camera was also being used to videotape and record conversations of guests.

When confronted, these hosts said they were just ‘having fun’ or ‘capturing memories’, and insisted they have the right to take pictures, video, or record anyone who comes into their homes, or friends when they are out together. They justified taking stealth videos by saying that informing friends would prevent people from acting naturally.

Gee, if they believe their guests would act differently, could it be because the guests would not want to be videoed or recorded?

I’m not talking about filming drunken brawls, or salacious conversations. You don’t have to have something to hide to want your privacy respected, and to control who hears what you have to say and when they hear it.

No one really wants their life to be ‘an open book’, most of your conversations and actions aren’t things you would want documented or broadcast – about your diet and weight, or finances, or family troubles, or any number of other topics we share with friends.

I have been asked to give an answer about the legality of this behavior. I can’t. I am not a lawyer, but turning to a lawyer for advice, I’m told that these actions are clearly illegal in at least some states. What I will say is, if your privacy and wishes have been disregarded to the point you are asking questions about legality, it’s time to evaluate your choices.

My advice? Reconsider your friendship; this is not how real friends behave.

Friends respect you when they invite you into their homes, and they take care to ensure you can feel at ease. Friends respect the privacy of your conversations even when you’re out in a public place. At a minimum, friends announce, or make it obvious they are taking photos or videos, ideally they ask permission before doing so.

Friends do NOT record conversations that were meant only for the ears of those present at that moment, or videotape behaviors that would not flatter or maintain the privacy of the individual being filmed. Friends do not hold friends hostage by keeping video/recordings that could, should they choose, get posted online, shared out of context – or shared at all.

The digital age brings so many benefits – including the benefits of recording life’s moments, staying closer, and being connected. But it also brings a greater responsibility – to act ethically, to respect the privacy and boundaries of others, and to be very transparent about any actions we take that could have an impact on others.

This should have been a lesson that only youth need help with. Apparently, it’s not.

If you’re an offender, quit trampling your friends privacy and dignity, and show a little respect. If you can’t manage to summon this level of decency, at least hang a surveillance warning by your front door – and set aside funds to cover a lawsuit.


New Ad Council Message – Beware What you Share

February 19, 2010

The ad council and their Internet Safety Coalition have worked for over a year to create researched, meaningful, messaging for youth about online behaviors and safety.

The result is a new campaign with the tag Beware what you share.  The accompanying text is “Every time you write, post, or send anything digitally, it creates the real-life impression people have of you. So, proceed with caution. Your messages and images may get passed around, even if you think they won’t.  Once you hit “send,” it’s out there forever.”

As you talk to youth, this is a great message to convey. It isn’t fear based, it is actionable, and research testing shows that it resonates well with the audience.

Looking for more Public Service Announcements on Internet Safety from the Ad Council? Check out


School accused of spying on kids via school issued laptops with webcams

February 19, 2010

In what appears to be a shocking case, a Philadelphia family has sued their school district for using webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students and their families in their homes.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, the family discovered that webcam images had been taken from inside their home when the vice principal told child that school officials thought he had engaged in improper behavior at home. The vice principal “cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district,” according to the law suit. The vice principal later confirmed to the family that the school had the ability to activate the webcams remotely, according to the suit, which was filed Tuesday and which seeks class-action status.

The Lower Merion School District officials stated that the Apple laptops given to approximately 2,300 students in the districts two high schools “contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops.”

The security feature was intended to only be activated “if there was a report that a computer was stolen. The next time a person opened it up, it would take their picture and give us their IP [Internet protocol] address, the location of where it was coming from” according to Virginia DiMedio, the school district’s technology director until she retired last summer.

She said that feature had been used several times to trace stolen laptops, but there had been no discussion of using that capability to monitor students’ behavior. “I can’t imagine anyone in the district did anything other than track stolen computers,” she said.

The class action lawsuit raises additional concerns about school-issued laptops, according to Kevin Bankston a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation. “I’ve never heard of anything this egregious. Nobody would have imagined that schools would peer into students’ private homes and even bedrooms without any kind of justification.”

School officials said Thursday that the tracking feature was deactivated and would not be reactivated “without express written notification to all students and families.”

This case bears close scrutiny and gives reason for every family with a school laptop to question their school’s policies and remote access capabilities – and perhaps place tape over the webcam.


Recipe for Disaster?

February 19, 2010

A new website making the rounds with teens is – a website forum where users (supposed to be 16 or older) can chat, or talk via webcam (built into most newer laptops, or $15 bucks at a store) with another user selected randomly (that’s the roulette part) by the site.  You don’t get to select who you ‘meet’ by any criteria, it’s just the luck of the draw. If you don’t like the person you can take your chances on another roulette pick.

If that doesn’t sound concerning to you, check out the site – here’s a screen shot. There is no safety messaging, no privacy policy, no validation, nothing that identifies who/what entity is behind the site.

To get started, you click the ‘Play’ button on the top bar, and an Adobe Flash Player message pops up requesting access to your camera and microphone.

That at least seemed logical; the last sentence however went high on my creep-o-meter. Exactly what does it mean to be recorded? Recorded for whom? For What? Where might this conversation show up?

Under the webcam screens you have the option to show the page (and the whole website is only one page) in a different layout.

There’s a link for contacts – which is for the site itself, not your personal contacts. This link provides the message “If you have a question, problem or an idea please do not hesitate to contact us at”.

And there is a link  called “agreement” which shows their ‘full’ terms of service. The only thing to applaud in this is their brevity.

Spend 5 minutes on the site and you’re likely to find yourself ‘chatting’ with someone who is sans more than a few strategic articles of clothing. An article on the Huffington Post site quotes a mother who asked her kids if she could check out the site.

“Her girls immediately told her, “No way–you wouldn’t want to see some of the stuff that’s out there.” Of course, she and her husband took a look right away. “Literally on the third screen, we saw some guy with his pants down,” she told me. “My husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘Oh my God, this is the most disturbing thing.'”

Consider for a moment your kids are reciprocating in a similar fashion, and recal that participating in Given the teen audience use of this site, I also find the ad links along the bottom to be particularly unfortunate as the search results return options that are inappropriate for minors.

I give the site an F for failing to provide even the most rudimentary of safety precautions, while explicitly exposing users to unregistered users in unmoderated ways. Roulette indeed.


Feb 24, 2010 – UPDATE: CBS News has now created a segment about ChatRoulette. See the video here: Chat at Your Own Risk

Note to Motorola, Find Your Social Conscience

February 9, 2010

Motorola’s Super Bowl ad showed Megan Fox sexting fans from her bathtub while wondering about the impact her photo may have on viewers. We were supposed to find it funny that electric wires ignite, fights erupt and a guy falls off a ladder because his buddy is too busy ogling her image on his phone to care.

The ad isn’t funny, it’s reprehensible. It flies in the face of the cell phone safety, privacy, and self-respect concepts taught to teens, and it disregards the devastating consequences some youth have faced because of their sexting an image.

Sexting has turned many teen lives upside-down when their photos took on a life of their own, falling into the possession of people never intended by the sender, or used by the recipient in cruel ways. Sexting has resulted in the arrest of minors in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Utah, and quite possibly additional states. These kids face jail time and a record on sex offender registries.

For some kids, the harassment, bullying and humiliation they face after their photos become public is such a burden they have had to change schools or move. In the most tragic cases, youth may feel they have no other option than to take their own life like Hope Witsell and Jessica Logan.

I strenuously object to the criminalization of kids who have made poor choices and taken, sent or received sexting photos. It is tragic that we struggle to help teens in the aftermath of humiliation and harassment when their images get out of their control.

I am disappointed that Ms. Fox failed to consider the impact of the ad’s underlying message on young women and her role in perpetuating the idea that the way girls should get attention is by being self-exploitive, sexualized objects. It is sad that given her position in the limelight, she failed to make better use of her influence.

Mostly, I am disgusted that a company with the brand recognition and size of Motorola, and who markets their products to teens would show such unconcealed poor judgment.

The real message from Motorola’s Super Bowl ad is that Motorola sorely needs a refresher course in social responsibility.

If you don’t like their actions, vote with your pocketbook. There are plenty of other phone manufacturers with phones for sale.



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