Moderating comments in

While layering services do not technically modify the content as originally generated by a web author, some have complained that annotations are not approved by the authors and may be problematic. For example, comments may be inappropriate and offensive. A comparison to blogs is used by some in explaining this objection. Blogs typically allow the author to control comments. The author may prevent any comments or moderate comments before the comments are released to the public. is one of the first services I am aware of that offers a partial way to address this issue. I say partial because the technique is under the control of the individual who creates a group for annotating web content and not the author(s) of the content annotated. So, for example, a teacher could moderate annotations generated by students the teacher has formed into a group.

The system is straightforward. Annotations made by members of an group appear with a flag when viewed by members of a group. Clicking this flag by a member of the group sends an email to the group moderator who can then decide if the annotation is reasonable or not and delete the annotation should this be necessary.


COPPA Update

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was originally passed in 1998 with the intent of protecting the youngest Internet users (those less than 13 years of age). The core expectation of the law is that parents should make all decisions regarding what information children covered by this legislation provide as a consequence of their access. The expectations established by this law have been updated several times in order to address the greater variety of devices children might use online and to be more specific regarding the types of information that parents should approve.

Earliest implementations restricted the sharing of such obvious personal data as name, address, and means of contacting children without approval. The most recent expectations are far more restrictive and go beyond the types of data that would have to be actively input. The newest restrictions include IP numbers and device IDs, photographs and video, and geolocation data.

So, for example, photos I collect with my phone automatically include the GPS locations where the image was taken (previous post describing this capability). If a child uploaded an image from such a phone, the child could be providing a device ID, possibly an image of another child, and a GPS location. A site encouraging the sharing of such input could be in violation of the new guidelines.

The clear target of this legislation would be those who offer web sites to those under 12. Why might companies providing content for young users want to collect data on these users? A likely reason would be the same reason companies offer the rest of us content and collect information in the process. The companies may want to target ads based on browsing histories.

In my opinion which certainly has no legal value, teachers and librarians should be aware of these expectations should they encourage students to use specific web sites for educational reasons. Are students signing up to use such sites? Have parents been involved in the process of registering their children?

Also, in my opinion, the law is still too vague at this point. Any content offered from a server may collect IP addresses as part of the standard log file. It seems unlikely this could be a concern. I would think we would also want to encourage the development of educational content for users of all ages. What would be the motivation to do so? One might charge for such content and parents would have to give permission when they sign their children up for such services. We also have accepted ad supported content. What makes Internet based content different than content offered to children via other means is the interactive nature (I would describe as active or passive) of accessing this content. Once you include IP numbers and device IDs among the data that cannot be collected, the situation becomes complicated. These data are sent automatically. It would be sad if companies simply put a 13 year old age restriction on their site to avoid any concern they might be collecting IP numbers OR if such companies went to a paid subscription model if even to cover the cost of collecting parental consent data.

Every time I find myself attempting to understanding legal issues I am frustrated by the vagueness with which such expectations are written. I understand that case law (working out the vagueness in court) is part of the process, but when I read what is written I immediately come up with scenarios that for me have not been clearly explained (e.g., the potential of every server to college IP data).

If interested in this issue, you might want to review some of the following sources:

FTC announcement

Text of law (pdf)

Corporate Counsel analysis

ISU Researcher Claims Video Games Experience Allows Causal Link to Violence

I read several stories on violence and video games today (CNN, Washington Post). Comments to these stories note that the link between violence and video game activity is not causal, but these folks probably did not read study cited because the logic of this study cannot be dismissed with the traditional position that pre-existing characterstics were not considered. Media interest in video game violence has re-emerged in response to a study published by Craig Anderson and associates. Anderson is from the Psychology Department at Iowa State. I was trained in this department many years ago so I pay some attention when my alma mater pops up in the news.

ISU Center For The Study of Violence announcement offers some insight into the argument for causality. Researchers assess pre-exposure level of violence and use as a covariate still demonstrating that exposure to violent video games among 9-12 year-olds still differentiate later evidence of violent tendencies.

I was able to locate the study online (from Pediatrics) through our library. The key finding and the statistical method is explained in the following quote from the study.

.. the finding that across 2 very different cultures HVGV predicts physical aggression 3 to 6 months later, even after controlling for previous aggressiveness and gender.

It is important to note the method used in this study does not manipulate access to aggressive content as would be the case in a true experiment. The method attempts to discount for nonrandom assignment by accounting for a measure of the pre-existing level of aggressiveness. Pre-existing agression predicts interest in violent video, but accounting for this correlation still leaves significant group differences.

As far as the quality of the research method goes, it is difficult to offer a better example than Bandura’s bobo doll studies from the 1960’s.


Yes the narration is not in English. Watch the behavior of the children after they view the models.

BBC on Social Networking

The BBC news site has an interesting article on UK children (8-17) involvement in social networking sites. 50% claim to have an online profile. A claim that 25% of those in the 8-11 range claim to have a page is made at one point. The article references a more detailed report (available via a link) and also includes tips for those concerned about safety issues.

In an attempt to generate comment, the site asked readers to comment on the role of parents. Some suggestions encouraged schools to take a more active role.

One solution to this problem would be for schools to set up sites of their own that could be grouped by age

Online Predators and Their Victims

The Feb-March issue of the American Psychologist has an article concerning “Online Predators and Their Victims”. The American Psychologist typically offers articles from their “general journal” to the public, but it appears this service runs one issue behind the release of the paper copy to members.

The article is written by researchers I have mentioned before (Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell & Ybarra). A couple of sentences from the abstract offer a perspective on the tone of the article.

“The publicity about online “predators” who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate. Internet sex crimes involving adults and juveniles more often fit a model of statutory rape …””This is a serious problem, but one that requires approaches different from those emphasizing prevention messages emphasizing parental control and the dangers of divulging personal information.”

I would add school based Internet filtering to this list.

The authors go on to to discuss interventions involving “awareness and avoidance” skills and a focus by counselors on “high risk youth”.

The article identifies a long list of resources for mental health professionals. The article also lists issues that have implications for prevention and public policy. No item on this list involves filtering and the list begins with the admonition to “Avoid descriptions of the problem that characterize victims as young children or emphasize violence and deception.”

This article offers what some may find an uncomfortable conclusion – some adolescents are prone to risky online behavior. The authors cite a yet to be published paper indicating that up to 15% of Internet users age 10 to 17 are “high-risk interactors”.

Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K.J. & Ybarra, M.L. (2008). Online predators and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 63, 111-128.

pdf from APA

I see Andy Carvin has also commented on this article. His summary is more detailed than the one I offer here.

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Kaiser Parents, Children and Media Report

I encountered a reference to the 2007 Kaiser report “Parents, Children and Media” in reading I was doing and investigated. Kaiser has been sponsoring annual studies of media for several years and the organizations funding allows them to secure a large sample size. I keep taps on the statistical data they make available.

The content in this report I found most useful described parental strategies for assuring their children use the Internet safely. It has been my opinion that school measures are too severe and home measures are too lax. The data from some 1000+ parents reported here imply parents are reasonably aware of Internet dangers.

A few sample statistics (children 9 and older):
13% of children have a computer in their bedroom (not as high as I would have expected – 78% have access)
76% of parents sometimes check on the web sites their children (not details examine histories?)
41% filter
61% have read child’s email
87% have checked child’s buddy list
82% have looked a child’s social network profile (38% of children have a social network site)

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Growing Up Online – Dateline Program

Frontline (PBS) had an hour program entitled “Growing Up Online” that aired this evening. The program explores a wide variety of topics (cheating, social networking dangers, generational differences). You can view the program and related material at the PBS site. These resources would be quite useful in a pre-service teacher ed tech class.

I learned of this program from other blogs and it appeared some felt the program would play up negative issues and this would result in an overly negative public reaction to services that have value. While the focus was probably more on “concerns” than opportunities, in areas in which I have read some of the research (e.g., danger from online predators), I thought the program raised the issues I felt were necessary to present an accurate picture (e.g., level of solicitation from strangers is rare, adolescents are aware of dangers, risky behavior has multiple causes). I did not feel the program focused on fear mongering.

(NYTimes follow-up, Washington Post follow-up)