Parents to be educated about the Interweb

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There’s a well-balanced piece from Patrick Wintourin the Guardian today about parents being shown how to protect their children online.

It reports of a government initiative based on a review by Dr Tanya Byron (she works as a consultant in child and adolescent mental health and also presented quite a few programmes for the BBC on the subject).

I’ve only skim-read the main points of the report (which is available for download in full), but it makes interesting reading. The most important aspect is that she goes quite thoroughly through the pros and cons of the use of technologies – from social networks and general internet use to online videogames. It also draws upon a lot of evidence from children themselves.

It’s nice to see Byron is not pedalling the old ‘it rots young minds and they’re all being groomed by pedophiles’ line, by rather she looks at the complexities of the interactions between parents, children, society and technology:

“Ironically parents’ concerns about risk and safety of their children in the streets and outside has driven a generation of children indoors, where it could be argued they are being exposed to a whole new set of risks.”

It’s good to see some of the onus being put back on parents too. The use of these technologies is not inherently better or worse than what children used in previous generations and I’ve lost count of the amount of conversations I’ve had about videogames.

Arguably the use of these technologies are mostly beneficial, especially in the future that children will be growing into. The real problem is that many parents have no idea about how the internet functions, about social spaces online or the culture of videogames and that really needs to change.

It’s good to see this kind of research and well worth a read – it’s well-written too. (There are also quite a few annexed documents about the methodology and brain development research that background the report).

Photo: uncleboatshoes on Flickr

[tags]Tanya Byron, child development, videogames, parenting[/tags]

Photographer’s Rights

Photography Prohibited

I’ve long been uncomfortable and unclear about the law when it comes to taking photos in public places and have read of several situations when ‘security’ or police have prevented or questioned photographers or downright threatened them or made them delete images (the old film cliché of opening the camera back and spooling out the film is no more).

Fortunately, Photojojo have published a guide to photographer’s rights and a link to a handy PDF version. Also links to similar PDFs for the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

During the six and a half years I lived in Sydney I noticed a considerable shift from the happy-go-lucky mythology of Australia to an increasingly controlled environment due to ‘security concerns’. Like many governments, fear was used as a control mechanism and one of the casualties of this was photography.

Sydney councils tried to ban photography on the beaches after a couple of incidents of people photography topless women with cameraphones. It all fed into the moral panic about phones with cameras (most of it completely illogical) and started to clash with the right to take photographs. (In the topless women-on-the-beach incident, the counter argument was that if you went topless on the beach, you could expect to be stared at, but in the case of the guy who took the photos, they were basically voyeuristic close-ups). Sydney beaches – and the people on them – are very photogenic and it’s a classic place to take photos, banning them is absurd and probably illegal.

But there are other odd cases too. Iain wrote about being banned from snapping a sandwich, Southgate just outside Melbourne (every bit as dull as Southgate in the UK) tried to ban tourists taking snaps on the grounds of ‘terrorist threats’. There’s also a blog called Strictly No Photography with photos of places where you’re not allowed to take photos.

For photographers like my friend Ray Lewis, whose particular eye on everyday life I wouldn’t want to see banned, it can be a problem. As it can also be for interactive installations in public places that use cameras.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that photographer’s rights are surprisingly wide-ranging – no wonder paparazzi rarely get arrested. Not that it would happen not being a celeb, but although I wouldn’t want people sticking a lens in my face all the time, I’d put up with it to preserve my right for a security goon not to be able to stick a fist in my face.

(The photo is one I took at Mumbai airport – I wasn’t really sure what I wasn’t allowed to photograph – outside, inside, the gardens, the sign?)

[tags]photography, rights, law, security[/tags]

Creative Play helps children’s self-control

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There’s an interesting piece about Creative Play on NPR at the moment that looks at a school running the Tools of the Mind programme.

One of the findings of the research is that creative play helps regulate executive function:

Executive function has a number of elements, such as working memory and cognitive flexibility. But perhaps the most important is self-regulation — the ability for kids to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline. Executive function — and its self-regulation element — is important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ.

The Tools of the Mind approach helps children move along a continuum “from being regulated by others to engaging in “shared” regulation to eventually becoming “masters of their own behavior.”” A large part of it is about not just going out to play, but rather writing out the plan and presenting what they’re going to do before then acting out the play part.

It’s one more pointer towards the importance and value of play, although it still gets tangled up in issues about media and videogames being ‘obviously bad’ and falls into the “play as progress” rhetoric that Brian Sutton-Smith cast so much doubt upon.

There’s also a related NPR story on play building serious skills that’s worth reading.

(Photo credit: wwworks on Flickr)

iSmoke – How wrong? Very.

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I walked past this ‘iSmoke’ ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes the other day. How wrong? Let me count the ways…

  • It’s lazy creative. This is a one-minute lame idea that borrows everything from someone else’s campaign, badly.

  • The type is wrong. Apple use Myriad for the iPod campaigns (and most other marketing) now. It’s also badly set.

  • iSmoke – what kind of message is that? I think it’s a response to the partial smoking ban here in Germany. The right to kill yourself and others around you is highly regarded by many.

  • The equation of the Lucky Strike packet to the iPod? That’s part of the one-minute lame idea. Bored creative sitting in the pub with iPod and cigarette packet on the table sees easy idea.

  • The deliberate youth targeting.

  • The possible attempt to obfuscate the health warning.

Any more that I have overlooked?

Not that I really want to see more cigarette advertising, but I haven’t seen anything that’s remotely clever for about 20 years. It’s as if the ad industry has just given up on it being a lost cause.

[tags]germany, ipod, ismoke, lucky strike[/tags]

Film Friends Forever Oscar & Bafta Screening

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I don’t normally do straight plugs for things that aren’t interactive and that I’ve never heard of, but this screening at Film Friends Forever looks pretty good. £2 at the Truman Brewery. You can’t complain about that.

From the blurb:

Film Friends Forever is returning on the 18th March 2008 with a killer line up of Oscar, Bafta & other award nominations and winners. We are also being joined by the lovely people at Audio Aubergine who will take care of the musical entertainment.

If anyone goes, let me know what it was like.

[tags]events, film[/tags]

Social Profile – I’m interesting and boring

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Disraeli’s quip, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” could do with “and Facebook” tagged onto it, although it wouldn’t roll off the tongue so well, I have to admit.

I just received a spam mail notification from Facebook’s Social Profile app, where friends can rate you. Here are my results:

… your strengths:

best travel companion
kindest
best scientist

… your weaknesses:

best companion on a desert island

Apart from the fact that I’m far from being a scientist – maybe the egghead and specs give that impression – how can I be the “best travel companion” and then worst “companion on a desert island”? Aren’t they the same thing?

In the words of Pauline Hanson, please explain…

[tags]facebook, socialnetworks, statistics[/tags]

LED Toilet Door Mix-Up Signs, Denmark

Those crazy Danes.

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(Image stolen from djaphrael)

Amusing project over at Halfmachine which involved making toilet door signs from LEDs in a club.

Of course, they can be programmed, so they switched them around based on how many times the door was opened in order to facilitate a bit of social connection. It works too, judging by the video.

Playful, social, simple. I like it. I suspect people spent some time trying to work out the system too, which all adds to it.

[tags]LED, halfmachine, Denmark, toilets, signage, interactive[/tags]

The Seven Stages of Falling in Love with Web Applications

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Photo: eek the cat

The other day I was trying to explain the emotional relationships people have social utilities and other read/write web applications (I’m trying so hard not to say Web 2.0 – Doh!). As I was explaining I realised that they are just like any other relationship in that we’re self-centred even it we pretend we’re not and that we go through the same kind of cycles.

Here are the seven stages I came up with:

1. Searching for The One

You know they’re out there. The perfect partner who will satisfy all your needs. Your current one is okay, but maybe you don’t like their friends. Or perhaps they’re just a bit immature and messy. Something is missing, you feel like you deserve more. You feel like The One for you is out there, somewhere.

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