Education Week resources

I want to thank all the BYU Campus Education Week attendees who dropped into one or more of my classes this week on Internet Safety. I’ve had a great week and have really enjoyed the interactions with you.

Here’s a summary of the eight classes:

  1. What are your kids doing on the Internet? — A look at various technologies such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer applications, etc.
  2. Who’s watching your kids on the Internet? — Understanding the tactics of predators and knowing what you can do to protect your children.
  3. What are your kids finding on the Internet? — Identifying threats and establishing safety guidelines
  4. Why would someone want my identity? — Learning to safeguard your information.
  5. Malicious email — Avoiding spam, phishing attacks, etc.
  6. Malicious software — Avoiding viruses, worms, spyware, etc.
  7. Online gaming — Being aware of the dangers and establishing safety guidelines.
  8. Handheld devices — Understanding the dangers on the new frontier.

As promised, I’ve made PDF files of all the slides I presented. If you click on the following link (, you should see all the slides. Depending on the interface of your browser, you should be able to either open them there or download them. The PDF file format requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is a very standard (and free) program. If you don’t have it, you can download it and install it for free here.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please email me. I’d love to hear from you. Remember that I’m heading into the start of Fall semester in one week, so you may experience a several week lag in response time from me as I try to dig out of the inevitable crunch that happens at the beginning of the school year.

If you have ward or stake leaders who would like more information about the materials from the classes, or who might have questions about any of the things we talked about, please pass my email address to them (, and I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as I can. This issue of Internet safety has significant moral implications for our lives (and the lives of our children), and I wish you the best as you grapple with these challenges. Please let me know if you have ideas or suggestions that might help me broaden the reach of this material.

If you have specific comments that might be of value to other attendees (or other visitors to this blog), feel free to leave a comment below.

Politicians press for antispyware law yet again

Politicians press for antispyware law yet again by Anne Broache

I don’t know the current status of this proposed federal legislation. But the article is relevant and the issue is huge.

Among other things, the proposal would make it unlawful to engage in various means of “taking control” of a user’s computer, to collect personally identifiable information through keystroke loggers, and to modify a user’s Internet settings, such as the browser’s home page.

The bill would also broadly prohibit collection of information about users or their behavior without notice and consent, and it prescribes specific notice requirements. Exemptions from the regulations would go to Web cookies, law enforcement and national security activities, and software intended to prevent fraud.

Previous versions of the bill drew support from a number of high-tech companies, including Yahoo, eBay, AOL Time Warner, Dell, Microsoft and EarthLink.

The FTC has also lamented not having the ability to levy large monetary penalties on spyware purveyors. The Spy Act would put in place such an increase, allowing the FTC to seek fines as hefty as $3 million for the most egregious violations.

Obviously technology laws emerge as inappropriate usage emerges. So effective legislation will always trail intrusive technology. But this one has seemed so obvious for so long. If some guy pulls a pickup truck onto my front lawn and dumps a load of garbage, there are laws to prosecute him. But if he does the same thing to my computer’s hard disk, there’s little or nothing we can do.

MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders

MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders by Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press has found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular social networking Web site – more than four times the number cited by the company two months ago, officials in two states Tuesday.

“I’m absolutely astonished and appalled because the number has grown so exponentially over so short of time with no explanation,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who also had pressed the company earlier for sex offender data.

Let me offer a potential explanation. Broadly speaking, there are two types of social networks on the Internet: 1) Those that offer an online mechanism for interaction between people who already know each other in the real world; 2) Those that offer complete strangers an opportunity to meet other strangers on the Internet.

In the first category are sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn, which are philosophically founded on the principle that relationships must exist before online links can be established. In those environments, it’s considered very bad form to solicit a link with someone you’ve never met in person.

In contrast, the second category includes chat rooms of all shapes and sizes as well as sites like MySpace that actively encourage (or at least fail to discourage) individuals to expand their personal network to include many people that they’ve never met.

If you were an Internet predator, which type of social network would you frequent?!

MySpace declined to comment on the figure, focusing instead on its efforts to clean up its profile rolls.

“We’re pleased that we’ve successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site and hope that other social networking sites follow our lead,” MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a prepared statement.

I would suggest that other networking sites that require (or at least attempt to enforce) that individuals know each other before forging online relationships will have far less cleaning up to do than MySpace.

Students give up social networks for Lent

Students give up social networks for Lent by Katie Hawkins

Lent was over a few months ago. But the story’s so compelling I couldn’t let it go.

For some, it’s chocolate. For others, it’s coffee or cigarettes. But as this Easter approaches, some young and devout Christians are anxious to return to what they gave up for Lent: Internet sites Facebook and MySpace.

“Some of my friends think it’s silly, since people usually give up food,” said 16-year-old Emily Montgomery, who says she’s given up her access to MySpace. “I wanted to give up something that’s really hard for me.”

A definite sign that social networking is here in a big way.

Graham said giving up Facebook has helped her distinguish between her real friends and those of “convenience.” Montgomery says she now plays tennis and focuses on schoolwork more often, and Chiu has been studying, reading the Bible and spending time with friends.

“It’s a nice change,” said Chiu. “The human interaction is so much more personal than anything you could have on the Internet.”

Virtual friends… Real friends… Virtual friends… Real friends… For this generation it’s a non-trivial issue to say the least.

CD: “Internet Safety: A Parent’s Guide”

This two-CD set is produced by Palaestra Training, and it’s the most complete and technically thorough of any of the video materials on this topic that I’ve seen anywhere. You can obtain the CD set from Palaestra Training for $39.95 or on for $39.99. The 10 classes occupy 370 minutes. Yes, you read that right, a little over six hours of training material. Like I said, technically thorough.


Palaestra Training produces training materials for various technical certifications, so it’s not really surprising that they’d be the ones to nail the technical content side of Internet Safety. The instructor is Christopher Rees, who is articulate, energetic, explains things very well, and appears to be extremely knowledgeable about the relevant technical details. I would definitely hire this guy.

A couple things you need to be aware of:

1) The videos are on CD, not DVD. The software on the CDs should auto-launch in Windows and work fine, but they won’t work in an automated way on the Mac. I was able to pull the video files off the discs and play them on my Mac, but it took a modicum of technical savvy to do that. If you’re running Windows, you should be fine.

2) These presentations get technically deep. That’s a very good thing if you want to really understand the technical details of how things work. Rees does a very good job of helping the less-initiated, but I’m confident that there’s a point at which real novices will find their heads swimming in computer-speak. Still, I believe that most determined parents would benefit from simply watching the classes over and over again until the concepts begin to stick.

3) The first course is a video clip of Rees introducing the series. After that, all the videos are a sort of digital whiteboard in which you see a computer screen on which Rees draws, writes, and does live demos. It’s pretty effective, IMO. I was just fine with seeing the computer screen, rather than the instructor’s face. Not exceptionally fancy from a production perspective, but the focus here is on the details, and it delivers quite well.

Here are the classes:
1. Internet Safety
2. Computer Basics Part I
3. Computer Basics Part II
4. Worms and Trojans
5. Peer-to-Peer Networks
6. Predator Mindset
7. Identity Theft
8. Tools to Protect your Family
9. Securing your PC
10. Securing your Home Network

DVD: “Internet Safety: Hot Tips to keep cool kids safer on the Internet”

This DVD is produced by The Safe Side Company, which was founded by Julie Clark (The Baby Einstein Company) and John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted). It is definitely geared toward children. It’s a bit manic for my taste much of the time (think Pee Wee’s Playhouse meets America’s Most Wanted) but I haven’t yet test driven with my kids, so maybe they’ll eat this up. I’ll be sure and post an update when I have more testimonials from the target audience.

The DVD is available from The Safe Side for $12.99, as well as from for $17.99.


The production quality is extremely high, and certainly no dull moments. Chapters include the following:
1. Introduction to the Internet
2. Always ask your Safe Side Adult
3. Hot Tip: Never go into chat rooms …
4. At the cyber post office
5. Hot Tip: Don’t open Emails …
6. Around the camp fire
7. Hot Tip: Never respond to …
8. What’s for lunch?
9. Hot Tip: Don’t post personal info …
10. John Walsh talks with Dizzie
11. Cyber headquarters Hot Tip review
12. Closing credits

You get the basic flavor. At 42 minutes it should hold the kids’ attention without providing much in the way of technical information.

For my money, one of the most valuable features on the DVD is a 9-minute parent’s section, hosted by John Walsh, detailing two specific stories involving real girls who became involved with Internet predators. Of course, this is John’s forte, and it’s extremely well done and appropriately disturbing.

DVD: “The Internet and your Kids: Healthy habits for a safe online home”

This DVD is produced by Healthy Habits Videos and is available on their site, or on I should note that at the time of this writing, the DVD is “currently not available” from, but can be purchased from the producer’s site for $24.95.


The following is from their promotional material:
In this practical DVD, classroom teachers Brian and Julie Dixon empower parents to keep their kids safe online. Packed with screenshot tutorials, student and parent interviews, and straightforward advice, this DVD will guide your family to a safer Internet experience. The only DVD available that actually shows parents step by step how to keep their children safe.

At 60 minutes, it’s long enough to get into a bit of detail, but still glosses over some of the technical details. That’s not a criticism. There’s so much that needs to be said, and only so much you can pack into a single hour. The DVD isn’t as professional or glossy as some of the others available, but the information is good and Brian and Julie are both pleasant (garnering all-important style points for effort and sincerity).

I find the information here to be very helpful and fairly broad in reach, including “myspace, online pornography, gaming and gambling, instant messaging, filtering software, history and cookies, setting passwords, computer location, file sharing.” If that sounds like an eclectic list of topics, it is. If there’s one substantive weakness to the DVD it’s that it tries to cover so many different (albeit important) topics that it can feel a bit scattered at times.

DVD: “Internet Safety: Protecting Our Children Online”

This DVD is a very digestable and well-produced resource for parents and educators. It runs about 30 minutes, so it’s not full of specific technical information. But it provides an excellent overview of the subject matter, focusing particularly on the dangers of Internet pornography and online predators.


The DVD is produced by Citizens for Community Values, an organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that has done a tremendous amount of good in the state of Ohio and across the nation. You can obtain the DVD from their website for a recommended donation of $15.

DVD highlights include:
– Estalishing rules and guidelines
– Installing appropriate technology
– Building honest relationships and open lines of communication

I strongly recommend this DVD as a starting point for parents. I also encourage helping out Citizens for Community Values at whatever level you feel comfortable or able.

Internet Safety resources… Coming soon to this blog

In late August I’m slated to teach a series of classes on Internet Safety at the Campus Education Week program at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Education Week is sponsored by the Church Educational System of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it draws tens of thousands of people every August to the BYU campus. It’s a very cool event, and I’m excited to be able to teach about something that I think is absolutely critical to parents and children everywhere.

While I’m prepping for those presentations, I’m wading through a considerable amount of material. I’m limited in the amount of handouts I’m permitted to distribute in the classes, so I’m beginning to put reviews of materials, books, DVDs, or other resources here on the blog under the category “Internet Safety.” That doesn’t mean I won’t toss in other things of interest as they come up, but I’m hoping to build a sizeable repository of information on the subject. Hope it provides some value.

At some point I will probably organize the material into a wiki when I have a bit more critical mass. That may make things a bit more accessible and structured.

Experts: Video games not an addiction

Experts: Video games not an addiction, Reuters

This is a follow-on to the previous post…

Doctors backed away on Sunday from a controversial proposal to designate video game addiction as a mental disorder akin to alcoholism, saying psychiatrists should study the issue more.

So the headline is a little misleading. The real punch line is that they tabled discussion and agreed to revisit the issue after further study.

Even before debate on the subject began, the committee that made the proposal backed away from its position, and instead recommended that the American Psychiatric Association consider the change when it revises its next diagnostic manual in 5 years.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the $30 billion global video game industry, said more research is needed before video game addiction should be categorized as a mental disorder.

Okay, so the headline is entirely off-base. There were some experts cited who believed that video games were not addictive, but that just reinforces that there’s still debate on the issue, since there are clearly individuals who believe that gaming is addictive and others who believe it is not.

My opinion hasn’t changed (see last post). I suspect there are some complex dynamics at play, not the least of which is lobbying by both the health insurance industry and the Entertainment Software Association. The psychological issues are complex, but I’m sure that the political and financial issues are just as tricky…