Monday, June 27, 2011

US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Parents Rights in Video Game Sales to Minors

The US Supreme Court ruled today in Brown vs Entertainment Merchant Assoc. against the State of California and in favor of parental rights to decide which video games their teens or preteens can purchase. In a well-meaning law, the California legislature attmpted to regulate the sale of violent video games to minors. In a 90+ page decision, the Court voted 7 - 2 to overturn the California law. In other jurisdictions, laws that require the retailers to post ratings prominently, have not been challenged. But the right of parents to decide what content their children can consume and what entertainment they can enjoy is very carefully protected. Unless the content is illegal, parents are given broad discretion.

The Entertainment Merchant Association represented the interest of parents and the entertainment software industry in the appeal. They issued a statement praising the decision. But parents should praise it more. Parents can and should be reviewing ratings on box games they purchase or their children purchase. They should be discussing the ratings and rules with their children and enforcing those rules with spot checks form time to time. (The best rule in parenting is "trust, but verify!")Have a discussion with the parents of their friends and come to a common understanding about which games are okay for them to play and which aren't. (There is power in parental numbers :-))

Violent video games are controversial. Some studies have shown that young people are hurt by playing violent games. Others have shown that they are not. That's why parents should choose for themselves what they want and will allow.

If you own an XBox or other gaming device, parental control give you the ability to set the ratings level and amount of time your children can play games. Nintendo DSi only offers safer games, and also contains built-in parental controls. If in doubt, ask their teachers, other parents and trusted retailers, such as ToysRUs and GameStop.

Using ratings and talking to other parents, teachers and professionals can help parents figure out their own comfortzone. Those decisions should be made by the family, not the government. Luckily, the US Supreme Court agreed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

YouTube - Vint Cerf sends a video message to Parry Aftab

YouTube - Vint Cerf sends a video message to Parry AftabPary has long admired and worked with Vint Cerf in policy and safety, awareness and digital literacy issues. This meant so much to her. (If you don't know, Vint is considered the father fo the Internet.)

Summit, NJ schools ask parents not to post pictures of others' children online

When we look at good manners and what is considered right online, we have always said that asking before posting someone's pic or the pic of any minor not your own is not just good manners, it's safer.
The Summit, NJ public schools have asked parents to not post pics of other people's children they may take while at a school event.
The school administrators stated that they knew they didn't have the legal authority to madate this, but were hoping that parents would understand the merit of this position, and comply.
When I commented on the proposal, I applauded it. It makes sense, isn't about the schools trying to chill free speech of parents or students. It was about them warning parents of the need to ask first.
This promotes the kind of awareness more school districts should be promoting.
Good work!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"I'm going to tell your Mama!"

Today, while shooting a piece on Rep Weiner's cyberantics for Inside Edition, I learned something. Several things, in fact. (All from this amazing man, Kevin Harry, Inside Edition's Managing Editor and philosopher.)
When he mentors young men, he warns them to follow Bill Cosby's advice -never allow a picture to be taken with a drink in your hand or someone else;s hand. No one knows if it is alcohol or a soft drink, but assumes the worse. He says they talk too much! (Don't we all.) Not dangerous things, but too many personal, none of your business things. There is no mystery, nothing left untold. Beware of allowing people who don't need to have a copy of your pic to take it.
But my favorite is "I'm gonna tell your Mama!"
When the boys act out, Kevin gives their moms a heads up, shares access ot their Facebook profiles and calls them out - with the one person they don't want to face with whatever they are doing.
I am building an entire new campaign around his tips, with his help.
Just don't tell my mom! Please!

Bloomberg Signs Anti-Cyberbullying Bill Into Law | | Queens Gazette

Bloomberg Signs Anti-Cyberbullying Bill Into Law | | Queens GazetteGreat news! Parry and two of her Teenangels testified in support of this law.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teacher, 25 Others Arrested for Trading Child Sex Videos: DA - WNYC

Teacher, 25 Others Arrested for Trading Child Sex Videos: DA - WNYC

26 Charged With Using P2P to Swap Child-Sex Videos | Threat Level |

26 Charged With Using P2P to Swap Child-Sex Videos | Threat Level |

NYC DA: Teacher, 25 others traded child sex videos -

NYC DA: Teacher, 25 others traded child sex videos - WSJ.comManhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, Jr., announced the bust of 26 pedophiles with a combined collection of tens of thousands of children, as young as 1 year. In what Parry Aftab believes is the largest child pornography bust by a local or regional prosecutor anywhere. The DA joined forces with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), leading investigators in child sexual exploitation cases, to use their new technologies to track the defendants. NCMEC will receive copies of the images to try and locate the children in the videos and images.
It's a good day for New Yorkers (unless you are a pedophile).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Combating Cyberbullying |

Combating Cyberbullying | I addressed a question form a Parade reader about cyberbullying in the June 12th Parade Magazine. A commentator at the Parade website indicated that the solution is easy, "just keep the teens off of Facebook," But it isn't that easy. I wish it were.

1. Many cases of cyberbullying occur when the preteen or teen are attacked online or on digital or mobile devices by other young people who use the networks as a weapon to target the reputation of their victims. The other students who see the nasty posts, embarassing images or fake rumors then help by tormenting the victim offline, in school or at the mall.
2. Some directly cyberbully their victims, sending threats or extorting them.
3. Others get third parties who have no idea they are being manipulated to do their dirty work, as they pose as the victim and do things to get them into trouble or send them thousands of text bombs so their cell phone bills go through the roof and parents do their ditry work.
4. And some spy on their victims, share their secrets or use digital surveillance tools to violate their privacy.

It's a complicated and many-faceted issue, that involves digital and information literacy skills, digital hygiene (passwords that are easy to remember, but hard to guess) and not sharing passwords with others.

It also involves contempt for others in some cases. Students looking for entertainment when they are bored. Students looking for their 15 megabytes of fame or for attention form their peers. It may be over a boy, a girl or a gripe, or being in the wrong network at the wrong time.
But, it is growing at an alarming rate and we all need to tackle it whenever we can.

Two readers wrote me today (I was the expert in the article).

One, a technology educator, thought I was adding one more thing to an already overworked and over-burdened school system. While he may misunderstand the lay of the current law and where the law appears to be going, he is right about schools being over-burdened and how parents need to play a more decisive role. On the legal issue, the suggestion I gave in the article was for school administrators to make a call to the parents. The legal lack of clarity covers suspensions or expulsions, not conversations. That suggestion had actually come from a teacher who said she used this tactic to avoid having the student re-targeted by those other students who accused them of "taatling." Few can object to being called, if the teacher witnesses the attacks.

The other emailer thought I was saying that students who report cyberbullying are "tattletales." That couldn't be further from the truth. I hope that impression was not left with anyone else. When a big topic is covered in a couple quick paragraphs in a popular magazine with a broad general audience it can never do full justice to the subtleties of these kinds of issues. (The writer did an amazing job fitting in as much information in as small a space as she did!) All you can hope for is to let the readers know where to get more information and teach them one or two things to help. The rest is left to another article, websites like, books, longer articles and TV specials. The purpose of this article was to help one mother understand whether she should call the other parents. I think she now has enough information to be more comfortable about what to do and where to go for more information.

Students who report cyberbullying are brave and when they report the cyberbullying of others, can be heroic. Our new Don't Stand By, Stand Up campaign on Facebook encourages bystanders to report it, not support it. And our "Stop, Block and Tell!" theme at and, instructs young people to "stop" and not answer back, "block" the person or message and "tell" a trusted adult.

The great thing about this article is that people are reading it, looking for answers and are passionate about the issue. People read Parade. Lots of them do (including me!) Hopefully, this article will help parents grappling with the same issues.

And if you need more information, don't worry. It wasn't their first article on cyberbullying, nor, hopefully, their last. And in the meantime, check out our site and the other great resources recommended in the Parade article.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Cyber Bullying Growing More Malicious, Experts Say - High School Notes (

Cyber Bullying Growing More Malicious, Experts Say - High School Notes (, creeps, radical hate groups - the growing weapon of inner city cyberbullies. I am calling this "drive-by bullying". Expect to see murders, sexual attacks and assaults.

We know white kids cyberbully more than minorities; we don’t know why

We know white kids cyberbully more than minorities; we don’t know whyI read this story with interest. Especially since I have been working more with inner city schools than ever to address this fiction. Years ago this was true. We could all ignore the cybersafety risks in inner city urban and poor schools. Why? Kids were not connected in those homes or even in those schools.
But inner city, urban, ethnic kids use the Internet as often as their more affluent white suburban counterparts, just through their cell phones and gaming devices, not home computers. And we are seeing a trending of physical violence and gang provocation with these kids that will result in murders, not suicides. Don't discount the issue, just understand it.