Australia, May 20, 2013: The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is urged all Australian internet users to improve their online security to protect themselves against cybercrime as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Week. Good cyber security is about having the appropriate security measures in place on your system and taking simple steps to ensure your online experience is a safe one. AFP National Manager High Tech Crime Operations Tim Morris said cyber security education is important because the internet has increasingly become part of our daily lives. National Cyber Security Awareness Week (20-24 May) is an Australian Government initiative, held annually in partnership with industry, community and consumer groups, and state and territory governments. As part of the week, the AFP also attended the AusCERT Information Security Conference to talk about cybercrime investigations.
USA, May 21, 2013: Suicide attempts that required treatment were more than three times as likely in teenagers who reported being bullied online, compared with youths who were not bullied, an analysis of federal data on more than 15,000 adolescents found. Girls faced twice as much electronic bullying as boys. Cyberbullying was reported by 22% of girls and 11% of boys, according to the study of data on teens aged 13-18 years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the first of its kind to ask questions about cyberbullying. Among 13 to 17 year olds, an estimated 12% have had suicidal thoughts, 4% plan suicide, and another 4% attempt suicide, rates that are now similar to those in adults, the report noted. The effects of online harassment on suicidal risk may be one reason that suicide is now the third leading cause of death in adolescents, behind accidents and homicides. The study also found that one in six teens reported being electronically bullied, compared with one in five who said they had been bullied on school grounds. Almost 6% of high school students said they had missed school because of fears for their safety. The rate of conventional offline bullying, such as harassment in the schoolyard, was 22% for girls (the same rate as online bullying) and 18% for boys (higher than the 11% rate for cyberbullying), reported Dr Kindrick, a fourth-year resident in psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who was moved to do the study after a young patient killed herself following cyberbullying.
Australia, May 23, 2013: Adults will face jail if they lie about their age on social media or internet chat rooms in order to meet children, under draft legislation before the Australian federal parliament. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon drafted ‘Carly’s Law’ after a 15-year-old Adelaide girl was murdered in 2007 by a 50 year old man who had posed as a young musician. Mr Xenophon said existing laws required prosecutors to prove adults who groomed children online had a sexual purpose: “If you are lying about your age to a child and you want to meet them, that needs to be an offence.” He continued: “Police have one hand tied behind their backs because they need to prove sexual intent. This (law) would mean police can intervene at an earlier stage – that will save kids from abuse.” The federal Attorney-General’s Department agrees, telling a Senate inquiry into the legislation that “…this offence may be easier to investigate and prosecute than existing grooming and procuring offences…allowing law enforcement agencies to intervene…before proof of sexual or other illicit intention is apparent”.
USA, May 23, 2013: A long list of executives, from technology and mobile companies across the nation, met in Washington, DC this week to speak with congressional officials and advocate for privacy protection, job creation and education. One of those executives was Robert Ferrari, a former vice president at Turbine Inc (now WB Games), and founder of Bare Tree Media. Ferrari said he and other executives met with officials in Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to not only offer support for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), but also for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Ferrari, who was joined by Scott Weiner, president of Weiner Family Studios, a founding member of Moms With Apps and Ted Collins, CTO of Playrific, said he participated in the event so that lawmakers and regulators hear the voices of small business owners such as himself. With the help of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), a national advocacy and education organisation in Washington DC representing more than 5,000 small and mid-size app developers and IT firms, Ferrari was able to meet with the FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s staff, and Congressman Joe Kennedy’s staff to discuss COPPA.
USA, May 23, 2013: Legislation was passed by the New York Senate on Wednesday that will now increase the punishment for those who commit sex crimes against children that the individual was trusted with. The bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Coalition Leader Dean G Skelos, and makes sexual assault against a child by a person in a position of trust a new category of crime, which can be classified in the first, second, and third degrees. According to the bill, if an individual in a position of trust sexually assaults a child, they will face up to 15 years in prison. This is a much higher penalty than the penalty for those who commit sexual crimes against children who were not in a position of trust. Positions of trust are considered ones in which a person is “charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, education, welfare or supervision of a child, either independently or through another person.”
UK, May 26, 2013: Charities have demanded urgent action to prevent access to illegal and ‘disgusting’ child pornography via Google and other web browsers. A coalition of organisations is arguing for the introduction of blocking software and on-screen warnings to deny internet users access to the material. The group includes the NSPCC, Barnado’s, Action for Children, BAAF, Beat Bullying, Children England, Children’s Society, ECPAT UK, Kidscape, and Stop It Now. Their call follows revelations in the Daily Mail on Saturday about the ease of finding video and photos of the sexual exploitation of young girls. The investigation by Mail columnist Amanda Platell was prompted by the case of Stuart Hazell, killer of 12-year-old Tia Sharp, whose murderous fantasies were fuelled by online child pornography. But the group, the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, questioned if firms like Google have the will to take action. John Carr, government adviser on internet safety and secretary of the charity coalition, said the Mail was right to highlight the problem. “Google can do more and should do more,” he said. “For example, whenever someone puts in a search that clearly indicates they are looking for child pornographic material, Google could flash up a warning.” The current default is ‘moderate’, which does not block hardcore porn. “It would be very easy for Google and others to have ‘safe search’ as the default,” said Mr Carr. It is illegal to search for child pornography and anyone who finds suspect images is advised to report them to the Internet Watch Foundation so they can be blocked.
Canada, May 27, 2013: LogicHotspot, a WiFi Service Provider and SOLOS, a British Columbia educator of children and parents on internet safety, have combined their specialties to give parents control of their home network and give children and parents up-to-date educational tools to control their online lives. BoundaryBox gives parents the ability to control the access to each device connected to the home network by controlling the network itself – before each device goes online. In addition to allowing the network’s administrator to set time limits for each user, BoundaryBox provides age and audience appropriate educational tips to teach kids how to be safer online. “Rather than monitoring and filtering, which are not effective in defending our children, BoundaryBox provides time limits and informative links tips to educate them to be safer online,” says Merlyn Horton, a former youth worker who founded SOLOS to promote the safe and responsible use of all forms of digital communications and social media through education that is research-based and pro-technology.
USA, May 28, 2013: Twenty years ago I wrote a booklet called Child Safety on the Information Highway for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and I just posted a complete re-write, writes Larry Magid on the Huffington Post website. I know, the title is really dated, but the content is all new. When I wrote the booklet, people really did use the term ‘information highway’. NCMEC distributed millions of copies of the original booklet and it soon became the basis for much of internet safety advice during the 1990s and this decade too. The FBI and other agencies and organisations around the world excerpted the document and it was reposted on countless websites including my own site, SafeKids.com. Over the years I’ve revised the booklet a bit until NCMEC retired it in 2005. But until now it was woefully out of date. When reviewing traffic statistics for SafeKids.com I realised that it’s still one of the site’s most popular pages so, since people are still clicking on it, I decided it was time for a re-write. The guide had good advice for the early to mid-’90s, but the internet has changed dramatically since the booklet was first written. Advice such as “keep the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom” seems almost quaint in the age of mobile devices (though it’s still a good idea to recharge your devices away from the bedroom at night). The guide also suggested that kids should avoid posting pictures or disclosing the name of their school but — in today’s social media world — that advice, too, is a bit unrealistic. The other thing that’s changed is that we now have 20 years’ more experience and a lot of great research from organisations like the Crimes Against Children Research Center, the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the Center for Innovative Public Health Research Center and the Cyberbullying Research Center. With this research, we now have a much better understanding of risks as well as how young people use the internet and how most young people are more savvy than many adults give them credit for. And NCMEC continues to publish great (and up-to-date) internet safety resources including its NetSmartz Workshop with great advice for parents, educators, law enforcement as well videos, games and advice for kids, tweens and teens.
USA, May 28, 2013: It is the number one problem for the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force – free mobile phones apps that kids use to text one another becoming a hotbed for sexual predators. The problem makes up for 50% of the task force’s case load. The apps, Meet24, Kik, Meetz4U, Snapchat, Moco, Meet me, and Topface have caught detectives’ attention. “We’re finding teenagers these days are moving away from Facebook and other websites and moving to these social apps which allows them to communicate in a quicker fashion. They want that instant gratification,” said task force leader, Lt Chris Meteja. Sexual predators usually start up a conversation and then ask for nude pictures or to meet the child. Detectives say they also pose as members of the opposite sex and create profiles saying they are minors as well. Many of these apps are based out of the country. Some of them have a warning when you sign up saying the app contains age restricted material and you have to tape to confirm you are over 17. Other than that, the app does not verify age or content. NewsChannel 5’s Anne Allred was with detectives as they logged onto the Meet24 app posing as a 13 year old O’Fallon girl.
USA, May 28, 2013: Here’s a new app that wants to do for co-workers what Snapchat did for sexting. It’s called OTR, which stands for Off The Record, and it lets you send private photos and messages to your co-workers. The app lets you view the message or picture for a few seconds and then deletes it. One big difference with OTR versus Snapchat is that OTR is not a mobile app. It’s currently available as a browser add-on for Google Chrome, with IE and Firefox extensions coming soon and an app for Yammer. The idea is that most people are still using PCs while at work, not their smartphones. The app was created last year at the TechCrunch Hackathon by the team from Lamplighter Games, a three-person New York start-up best known for the iPad game Trivia Party. The hack won a top prize from Yammer and now the app is available to everyone.
UK, May 29, 2013: School sex education is struggling to keep pace with online porn, suggests a study which found that children are only two clicks away from violent and sadistic pornographic imagery. The report, compiled by University of Middlesex and commissioned by the Office of The Children’s Commissioner, suggests that some children are exposed to pornography while still at primary school, and the proportion increases with age with “a significant proportion of children and young people” viewing pornography. Urgent action is needed to develop children’s resilience to extremely graphic types of porn. The report indicates that porn can affect attitudes and behaviour among children and young people. It can lead to more sexually permissive attitudes, more casual sex, sex at a younger age, and the belief that women are sex objects with males dominant and females submissive. The findings of the report are based on interviews with young people in England, plus analysis of 276 previous academic papers on young people and pornography. The report urges all the Department of Education to ensure that all schools, including private schools, faith schools, colleges and academies, “deliver effective relationship and sex education.” The report also provides evidence that young people are not satisfied with the sex education they are receiving and “increasingly” draw on pornography for education and information on sexual practices. The authors of the report say that the sex education curriculum needs to be more relevant to young people’s lives and needs to include pornography. They also call for more emphasis on relationship education in secondary schools. The UK Council for Child Internet Safety is already working with internet service providers to make it easier for parents to protect their children from harmful material online.
Australia, May 29, 2013: The Victoria Parliament’s law reform committee has recommended new laws to deal with the practice of sexting. The inquiry found sending images, videos or text messages involving nudity or potentially exploitative material was common among teenagers. But in many cases people were unaware they were committing serious child pornography offences. It has recommended new offences for adults and children be established for sexting and that Victoria Police consider education and diversion measures instead of harsher penalties. The inquiry recommendations include more education about the risks of being naked in the digital age and the creation of a new tribunal to deal with complaints about digital communications. The Victoria Government has six months to respond to the recommendations.
USA, May 29, 2013: A new bill could crack down on bullying by making it a crime. House Bill 4746 was introduced this week by Rep Dale Zorn. Under the bill, bullying and cyber bullying would be punishable by up to 93 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. The bill would also let the court call for a mental health evaluation of someone convicted of bullying. As defined by the bill, bullying is engaging in assault or battering of another person or referring to another person while in his or her presence with a derogatory name or label on two or more separate occasions. Bullying is the intent to frighten, intimidate, or harass another person. ‘Cyber bullying’ is to bully through a computer network, program or system.