Saturday, January 31, 2009

Utah Child Protection Registry

If you live in Utah, and have children, you need to visit this site. You simply enter your email adresses, and anyone who sends adult-oriented spam is required to remove your email adress from their list. Those that fail to do so will face felony charges and "substantial civil and criminal fines".

For those who don't live in Utah, check with your state governement - if they don't have a similar registry, then contact your legislators and ask them to create one! It may not end the onslaught of adult-oriented spam, but it certainly will have a positive impact.

Thank you State of Utah! I, for one, sincerely appreciate this initiative.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cell phone porn - accident?

This is a really disturbing story. The very short synopsis is this: a Utah man recently took a pornographic picture of himself with his cell phone and attempted to send it to his girlfriend. He allegedly mistyped the number, however, and ended up sending the image to a teenage girl.

Now, one can argue the merits here - for instance, why was he typing in his girlfriends phone number - wouldn't she be in his address book already? However, that is not the point of this blog post. There have been several incidents in recent months where teens are sharing innappropriate images via their cell phones - I even blogged about that problem on this page last year. In those cases, the kids themselves were inappropriatly using the technology they had been entrusted with. This is different, however - distribution of pornographic images to a minor who in no way requested or showed any interest in the image in the first place.

At issue in the news story is whether this should be considered a crime, or whether it should be treated a an "honest mistake". Reading through the comments to that story show very clearly how this is not a cut-and-dried situation for many people. For me, however, it seems pretty black and white: whether it was a mistake or not, the individual distributed pornography to a minor, and should be punished for it. If you want to distribute that sort of content, be more careful about how you do it.

There are many corollaries in our legal system already: you cannot distribute alchohol to a minor, you cannot sell them cigarettes, and you cannot sell them pornographic magazines. Whether you do it intentionally, or just "forget" to check their ID, it doesn't matter - you are still guilty of a crime.

Similarly, if one hits someone with their car and kills the individual, there are consequences. Intent determines whether that person is charged with murder or manslaughter, but either way there are consequences.

In the case of the cell phone porn, if intent cannot be proven, there should still be some legal recourse, and the individual should have some sort of punishment.

For me, there are two lessons to be learned here:

1. For those who want to use their cell phone to share innappropriate photos with others - take extra care to ensure you are only sending it to your intended recipient. If you don't you will be punished via the law (I hope).

2. For parents who give their minor children cell phones (I am one of those, by the way), don't assume that because your children won't put themselves in a situation to recieve innapropriate images, that it won't happen. Stay very close to their usage of technology, and maintain an open dialog with them so they will tell you when this happens.

Whether it is on the cell phone, Internet, television or any other technology - our children will see things that we wish they wouldn't. As parents, we need to ensure that they will tell us when they do, so we can limit the undesirable affects of exposure to this content, and help them avoid it in the future.

The mom in the above story summed it up when she said: "This type of stuff didn't happen when I was a kid." You are right. Our children are growing up in a very different world than we did. It requires different parenting than we recieved.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Adult Industry Bailout? You've got to be kidding...

Fox Business reported this week that the Adult Entertainment industry (which is really just a politically correct way to say the Porn industry) wants to ask congress for some bailout money. This is obviously nothing more than a marketing stunt, and is not a serious request in any way. As was reported by Fox News 5 in Las Vegas the next day, the Adult Entertainment industry is actually booming, and doesn't appear to be affected by the slowing economy at all. They report that "The porn industry generated $12 billion in 2007, and it is not showing any real signs of slowing down."

Of greatest concern to me, however, are the following comments from the two articles:

"our Internet sales are up"

" sales have been falling by 15 percent a year since 2005, but the producers and filmmakers said that market segment is being replaced by Video On Demand and online streaming."

"The press release noted that DVD sales and rentals for the adult industry have decreased by 22% in the past year, partially because people are turning more and more to the Internet for adult content."

The bottom line is this: the Internet is indeed fueling the growth of the porn industry. Much of the content is free, with the express purpose of getting people to pay to be able to view more of the content - much like drug dealers who give drugs away for free in the hopes of getting a new paying customer.

And remember - anything that is available to adults is also available to our children - the Internet has extremely poor age-identification mechanisms.

If you are a parent whose children are online, do not let your guard down. The porn industry is growing, and our children are smack in the middle of that growth curve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How Many Social Network pages do we need?

I have had a LinkedIn profile for many years now, and I consider this to be my preferred method of "social networking". It was through LinkedIn that I ended up in my current job, and it has provided me with several professional opportunities over the years. I keep it updated, and have used it to reconnect with people I otherwise might have lost touch with.

I also created a Naymz page at the request of a friend, but I don't use it much - except when I recieve notifications that someone has visited my profile (which has happend surprisingly often). It is kind of fun to see how people come across my name - Naymz has a feature where they will show the google search that brought people to my page. Usually, they are searching for someone that I am connected to, and end up looking at my profile.

For many years my kids have had Facebook and MySpace pages, and because of my interest in Family Safety, I took my own advice and created pages on those sites just so I could "connect" with my children and keep an eye on what they are posting - I never actually intended to make use of those networks.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I recieved a "friend request" from a professional acquiantance on Facebook. As I started looking into it, I realized that there are plenty of adults using Facebook to connect professionally. Color me surprised. I actually started receiving friend requests from people I have worked with in the past, and whom I respect professionally. Most of these people are already connected to me on LinkedIn, but it appears as though they are much more actively participating in Facebook - updating their "wall", posting comments about what they are working on, etc.

This has me thinking - how many social networking pages does one need in order to be plugged in today? There are features of each site that I like - but in the end, it isn't really about what I like - it is about how people can find me and connect with me, how they can share professional opportunities with me, and how those with similar interests can get in touch with me. I used to think that a LinkedIn account was enough - but I am now reconsidering that.

Maybe it is time for me to start looking at twitter...