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’)

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Google Family Center Launched – Tools & Advice About Keeping Kids Safe Online

October 12, 2010

Google has launched an excellent new site focused specifically on increasing consumer safety online. I strongly recommend you check out their Family Safety Center site for it’s advice, but perhaps more importantly to get a clear understanding of the tools they provide consumers for managing their own, and their children’s online experience.

Well done Google.

Linda


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


Childrens Identity Theft for KKZZ radio

September 15, 2010

Safe Internet Alliance CEO, Linda Criddle, discusses a growing crime against children on the Internet, Child Identity Theft. Organized crime groups target children to steal their identities for financial gain. Children have, what Linda calls, “virgin credit.” Stealing their Social Security Numbers is ideal because the crime may not be detected for years. Children’s identity can be stolen at any time, but the sweet spot for identity theft is aged 17-25 years old.

Linda offers these tips on protecting your child’s identity against identity theft: 1) Check your child’s credit report annually. You can check your child’s credit report for free once a year at each of the three major credit reporting agencies: ExperianEquifax and TransUnion. 2) Put a freeze on your child’s credit. This process costs approximately $10. You can go to any one agency and freeze credit.

The Safe Internet Alliance is pushing legislators and credit agencies to make one small change that will reduce child identity theft. Requiring the credit issuing companies to take one additional step to look for red flags is all it takes. If credit issuing agencies would check teh date of birth of the person seeking credit and match it against the Social Security Number, that would reduce identity theft. How likely is it that a Social Security Number that has been issued two years ago (indicating a child of two years old) would need a credit card or mortgage? Of course, this would be a guideline. There are legitimate cases where an adult would have a Social Security number that is new, such as immigrants to this country that are issued a Social Security Card or people who had to have their Social Security Card reissued because of Identity Theft.

We also discussed cyberbullying in this interivew.

Listen to this chilling and thought provoking interview below:


Readeo – a Cool Grandparent Tool Online

September 11, 2010

Sunday is Grandparents day. As you know, I rarely recommend a product or service, so something has to really dazzle me, and show the power for good that the internet represents, for it to happen.


Readeo exceeded that bar. The service’s ability to connect parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc through reading books together and face to face interaction over the internet is just phenomenal. I wish it was there when my kids were small.

This cool service allows you to stay in touch with kids in such a positive and connected way it’s a must for anyone who struggles to maintain a relationship with a child from a distance.

And I’m far from the only person to feel this way about the service; read what others are saying.

When I told Readeo’s Founder and CEO, Coby Neuenschwander, that I wanted to blog about the service, he made YOU an offer you can’t refuse:

Use the checkout code ilookbothways and Readeo will give any new user one month FREE

If you still aren’t sure, consider this: Readeo is running a grandparent challenge – any grandparent who tries their service with a grandchild and doesn’t like it (technology errors notwithstanding since we can’t control their internet speed or hardware) will receive $100.

In their own words, here’s the philosophy and functionality behind Readeo:

Many of us spend a lot of time away from children we love. As a result…, we set out to create a special experience that you can have with a special child from anywhere.

Through our patent-pending product, you can share story time with a child from anywhere as long as you both have high speed Internet and a webcam. We call it BookChatting and it has made the distance seem much shorter when we’re away. You might still miss… [your child/grandchild].. but you will hear “can we read another one dad, mom, or grandma, or grandpa, or uncle, or friend, or whoever you are?” and it will be the best thing you do all day—maybe all week.

While people use BookChat to connect with children from a distance, many people also use our site to discover books and read with children when they’re together as well. We have been lucky to have some of the best children’s book publishers believe in us and in our vision of keeping families connected. We add books to our site frequently and Jenny Brown, our editor and former children’s book reviews editor for Publisher’s Weekly, hand picks each book on the site.

Their selection of books to share is strong and growing, and the way Readeo works makes it far better than trying to accomplish the same, or even similar interaction over Skype

Do yourself, your child, or your parents a favor, try it. Give it to celebrate Grandparents Day.

[Note: I do not accept funding from this, or any company, for this website. My views and recommendations are entirely my own.]

Linda