Here’s a tech risk: TVs falling on children

Campaign urges parents to secure their TVs to prevent injuries to children. (Credit: Safe Kids Worldwide)

Campaign urges parents to secure their TVs to prevent injuries to children.
(Credit: Safe Kids Worldwide)

When we think of the “dangers” of TV and children, we’re reminded of studies about kids watching too much TV or TV shows that encourage violence, overeating, or bad habits. And while there is some controversy about those issues, there is little doubt that TV becomes a real danger to kids if a set falls on them.

study published in July by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “more than 17,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year for a TV-related injury, equaling one child every 30 minutes.”

Flat-screen TVs may be lighter than the old cathode ray tubes but, says Ryan Hagberg of Sanus (a company that makes mounting brackets and furniture to secure TVs), “they’ve become much bigger and more top heavy so they’re more susceptible to being tipped over.” He said that one danger is when parents put the remote on top of the TV “and a curious child wants to get to that remote to turn the TV on so they end up climbing up the stand that holds the TV and grabbing the top of the TV and pulling it over on themselves.” A colleague of mine suggested another possibility: could kids be poking at TVs, thinking that they are touch screens?

The study also found:

  • There was a 125 percent increase from the number of injuries in 1990.
  • Almost half — 46 percent — occurred from a TV falling off a dresser or armoire.
  • Another 31 percent falling from an entertainment center or TV stand.
  • Children under age 5 represented 64.3 percent of all injured patients, and boys accounted for 60.8 percent of cases.
  • The head/neck was the most common body region injured (63.3 percent), followed by the legs (21.5 percent).
  • There have been 215 child deaths due to TV tip overs in the last 10 years.


SafeKids World Wide (whose Web site is not related to my site recommends:

  • Assess the stability of the TVs in your home.
  • Mount flat-screen TVs to the wall to prevent them from toppling off stands
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you have a secure fit.
  • If you have a large, heavy, old-style cathode ray tube (CRT) TV, place it on a low, stable piece of furniture.
  • Use brackets, braces, or wall straps to secure unstable or top-heavy furniture to the wall.

Sanus’ Ryan Hagberg said that if wall-mounting is not an option, families should consider strapping the TV to the stand or look for stands that enable you to secure the TV.

(This post first appeared on CNET

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Researchers at Black Hat show how to hack an iPhone with rogue charger

Security researcher Yeongjin Jang shows off rogue iOS charger (Photo: Larry Magid)

Security researcher Yeongjin Jang shows off rogue iOS charger (Photo: Larry Magid)

Have you ever been tempted to use a public charging station for your phone? Chances are it’s OK, but three Georgia Tech security researchers at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas showed how easy it is for a rogue “charger” to transfer malware to an iPhone or other iOS device.

The “Mactans charger” is actually a small computer masquerading as a charger. When a user plugs an iOS device’s into its USB port, the device can transfer malware to the phone in under a minute. Once infected, the attacker can swap out your legitimate apps with malicious ones that can take control of your device.

At a press conference ahead of their Black Hat presentation, Billy Lau, Yeongjin Jang and Chengyu Song showed reporters how quickly the device could connect to the phone and replace the phone’s legitimate Facebook app with a rogue app. The user does have to enter the password if the phone is protected and not active but the phone doesn’t have to be jail broken. It works on current generation iOS devices.

The researchers pointed out their Mactans rogue charger “was built with limited amount of time and a small budget,” but that its worth considering what ” more motivated, well-funded adversaries could accomplish.”

The Black Hat conference, which runs Wednesday and Thursday in Las Vegas, is where security researchers (some call the “hackers”) demonstrate flaws so that companies can fix any holes, hopefully, before they are exploited by criminals.

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Twitter improves abuse reporting


Twitter adds report button to iPhone app

In a Blog post entitled “We hear you,” Twitter’s Senior Director of Trust & Safety, Del Harvey, announced on Monday that the company has introduced the ability to file reports from an individual tweet on its iPhone app and the mobile version of the site with plans to add the feature to its desktop and Android versions.

“While manually reviewing every Tweet is not possible due to Twitter’s global reach and level of activity,” wrote Harvey, “we use both automated and manual systems to evaluate reports of users potentially violating our Twitter Rules.” Harvey said that the changes were made “three weeks ago.”

The post said that there are more than 400 million Tweets sent every day worldwide that appear on their site, on apps and embedded in other sites.

The announcement follows an online petition campaign on demanding that Twitter “Add a report button to Tweets.”  The campaign was reacting to the case of  Caroline Criado-Perez, a British activist who, according to the petition drive ” has been targeted repeatedly with rape threats on Twitter,” as a result of her efforts to get the British government to keep women (other than the Queen) on banknotes.  Those efforts, according to the Guardian, resulted in Jane Austin’s picture on a £10 note.

Twitter maintains a “safety tips for parents” page and has advice on how to block abusive users.

Disclosure: Twitter has made a small grant to, a non-profit internet safety organization where Larry serves as co-director.

This article first appeared on

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Are you being stalked via cell phone?

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At the National Network to End Domestic Violence Technology Summit 2013 in San Jose, Erica Olsen, senior technology safety specialist for the organization talked about what to look for if you’re concerned that someone has planted software on your mobile device to track, spy or stalk you.

Of course, some of these can be associated with other issues so they’re not necessarily an indicator you’re being stalked or tracked and there are ways to track and stalk you without any of these symptoms.  Still, this is a useful list.

  • Unusual battery drain or warm when not in use
  • Spikes in data use
  • Takes longer to shut down
  • Screen lights up when not using
  • Clicks or sounds on calls
  • The perpetrator knows things they shouldn’t know
  • Perpetrator has or had physical access

If you suspect that someone may be tracking you, examine all the apps on your device to see if there any that you didn’t install.  On an iPhone you can see which apps are running by clicking twice on the home button. Click here for Android instructions.

For more visit The Safety Net Project.

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Agreement Calls For Mobile App Privacy Disclosures

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Sample screens disclose what is collected and how it is shared (Source: NTIA)

A new voluntary code has been tentatively established to assure greater transparency in the types of information apps collect and how the information is used, but it’s not entirely clear whether the code will be implemented and, if so, who will abide by it. Yet, according to Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, it can serve as a road map for app developers “who want to do the right thing but don’t have a budget for lawyers.” While the new code is not binding, it represents a “compromise effort that could be called a consensus,” according to Polonetsky who said that it was supported by a divese group of companies, trade associations and advocacy groups.

This  “voluntary Code of Conduct for mobile applications” resulted from a series of meetings convened by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Over the course of seeral meetings, a large number of stakeholders participated including major Internet companies, small app developers and advocacy groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology, the ACLU and others.

The NTIA convened the process in response to White House pressure to get stakeholders from industry and consumer groups to help develop guidelines. Polonetsky expects that the Obama administration will eventually propose legislation but that it will be “high level,” in that it won’t mandate specific steps. This code does provide specifics on how app developers can comply.

The Draft Code of Conduct (it’s still a draft because not all parties have signed on) would require app developers who agree to abide by it to display information about application practices in a consistent way, to help consumers “compare and contrast data practices of apps.” The idea is to present consumers with “short notices” to “enhance consumer trust” without “discouraging innovation in mobile app notice or interfering with or undermining the consumer’s experience. ”

If implemented, the notices will state which, if any, of the following categories of information is being collected:

  • Biometrics (information about your body, including fingerprints, facial recognition, signatures and/or voice print)
  • Browser History (a list of websites visited)
  • Phone or Text Log (a list of the calls or texts made or received)
  • Contacts (including list of contacts, social networking connections or their phone numbers, postal, email and text addresses)
  • Financial Info (includes credit, bank and consumer-specific financial information such as transaction data)
  • Health, Medical or Therapy Info (including health claims and other information used to measure health or wellness)
  • Location (precise past or current location of where a user has gone)
  • User Files (files stored on the device that contain your content, such as calendar, photos, text, or video)

And it will also indicate who the data is being shared with:

  • Ad Networks (Companies that display ads to you through apps.)
  • Carriers (Companies that provide mobile connections.)
  • Consumer Data Resellers (Companies that sell consumer information to other companies for multiple purposes including offering products and services that may interest you.)
  • Data Analytics Providers (Companies that collect and analyze your data.)
  • Government Entities (Any sharing with the government except where required by law or expressly permitted in an emergency.)
  • Operating Systems and Platforms (Software companies that power your device, app stores, and companies that provide common tools and information for apps about app consumers.)
  • Other Apps (Other apps of companies that the consumer may not have a relationship with.)
  • Social Networks (Companies that connect individuals around common interests and facilitate sharing.)

In a statement, NTIA Administrator Lawrence Sticking said that his agency “is pleased that today a diverse group of stakeholders reached a seminal milestone in the efforts to enhance consumer privacy on mobile devices” He said that he encourages companies who participated “to move forward to test the code with their consumers.”

The operative word in Strickling’s comment is “test.” This is not yet a true code of conduct. It hasn’t been officially adopted and it isn’t even clear that companies that say they support it will ultimately implement it.

Future of Privacy Forum director Jules Polonetsky supports the agreement

Future of Privacy Forum director Jules Polonetsky supports the agreement

Polonetsky characterized the tentative agreement as “an emerging a consumer friendly but practical center where a number of groups, in the interest of getting something done for consumers worked hard to come up with efforts that moved the ball forward but could be acceptable to industry and a number of trade groups.”

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese said his organization “supports this code as a modest but important step forward for consumer privacy,”‘ adding that “it allows applications to compete on privacy and gives consumers a tool to pick the most privacy friendly applications.” However, the ACLU continues to support comprehensive privacy legislation”in order to gain meaningful privacy protections for consumers.”

Not everyone involved with the process supported the outcome.  Consumer Watchdog privacy director John Simpson pointed out that guideline supporters aren’t saying that they will actually adopt or abide by the code.  Simpson said that  his group doesn’t support the proposed guidelines, arguing that “ the multi-stakeholder process that they are trying to  use doesn’t didn’t get us anywhere. It’s a mess.”  Consumer Watchdog is calling for privacy legislation.

Who are the signers?

I noticed that there was no list of companies on any of the materials distributed by NTIA nor is it clear from the documents how each stakeholder voted.  ”During the meeting they polled the stakeholders as to whether to record the names of the voters,” said Simpson “and there was no consensus to do that.  AdWeek’s Katy Bachman wrote that “20 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the World Privacy Forum and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, supported it, but the vote carried no obligation for recommending or adopting the code. Seventeen participants voted for more consideration, and one objected.”

Enforceable if a company agrees to follow it

While Simpson is correct that supporting the code isn’t a commitment to abide it, any company that publicly does say it’s implementing the code can be held legally responsible by the Federal Trade Commission and other enforcement agencies for adhering to its commitment.

This post first appeared on

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Korean students aren’t the only ones “addicted” to smartphones

The Wall Street Journal, reports that roughly 1 in 5 Korean students are addicted to their smartphones. But the problem isn’t limited to Korea. Last year Time magazine reported the results of a survey that found that “1 in 4 people check (their phone) every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes,” while “a third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious.”

An article in WebMD said that “70% said they check their smartphone within an hour of getting up” while “56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.” The post, by Dr. Laura J. Martin, MD, suggested three steps to “control usage:”

  • Be conscious of the situations and emotions that make you want to check your phone. Is it boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Maybe something else would soothe you.
  • Be strong when your phone beeps or rings. You don’t always have to answer it. In fact, you can avoid temptation by turning off the alert signals.
  • Be disciplined about not using your device in certain situations (such as when you’re with children, driving, or in a meeting) or at certain hours ( for instance, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.).

Source: Addicted to Your Smartphone? Here’s What to Do

For more:

10 Rules for Safe Family Cell Phone Use

Cell phone safety tips (from ConnectSafely)

For families: Connecting mindfully vs ‘digital detox (by my co-director, Anne Collier)

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President Obama: “Kids have more sense than we did”

If you didn’t hear the President’s remarks about the emotions stirred up as  a result of the Trayvon Martin case and the George Zimmerman verdict, click on the video below.  He preempted the first 18 minutes of the usual White House press briefing on Friday to speak  about the reaction to the verdict, especially as it affects African Americans and African American males. It was a reflective and sobering talk, not designed to comment on the verdict itself or to rally people’s anger, but to encourage soul searching and dialog.

But if you scroll to near the end (minute 15:45) you’ll hear a remarkable comment that’s consistent with that we’ve been saying at and The President was talking mostly about attitudes about race but, reading between the lines, I think he was speaking more broadly about a generation that is kinder, more socially conscious and more tolerant than previous generations. That applies — for the most part — to how young people treat each other, including people who are different from them whether that be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, body type, political beliefs and so many other ways that people can be special.

Speaking about his own children, the President said:

When I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they are better than we were. … And that’s true with every community I’ve visited across the country.

We should also have confidence that kids have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents and our grandparent did along this long difficult journey.  We’re becoming a more perfect union. Not a perform union, but  a more perfect union.”

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Safe Searching with Google & YouTube

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Google allows you to lock in filtered search on a browser by browser basis

Google engineer Matthias Heiler blogged about , to remind parents about tools to lock in “safe” (i.e. filtered) searches on Google and YouTube.

He reminds parents that they can go to Google search settings page to filter out sexually explicit content from search results and then lock in that setting  for your browser by entering your Google account name and password (that same info is needed to return to unfiltered search).

Another option is to use the filtered search option at that you can also find in the site’s navigation bar.  It works with any browser.

Heiller also recommends parents consider using YouTube’s Safety Mode that “helps you and your family avoid videos that might be OK with our Community Guidelines, but you might not want popping up on your family computer.”  Like Safe Search, you have the option of locking in YouTube Safety mode.

He also points out that you can enable SafeSearch on YouTube’s mobile app by opening your settings, pressing “Search” and then selecting “SafeSearch Filtering” and then select moderate or strict filtering.

As I point on on’s safe search page, As Google states on its own site, “no filter is 100% accurate, but SafeSearch should eliminate most inappropriate material.” If something does slip through, please contact Google so that they can investigate and let us at SafeKids know as well.

For more, see Safety tools for summer video viewing & search by Anne Collier.

Disclosure: I’m co-director of, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Google.






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Maker movement in schools taps into rich tradition of educational reform

By Larry Magid

A 3D printer being used in schools to make objects (Photo: Larry Magid)

A 3D printer being used in schools to make objects (Photo: Larry Magid)

At SafeKids and ConnectSafely we see a connection between safety and engagement. Kids who are vested in their educational projects — especially collaborative ones — are more likely to respect themselves and others and less likely to act out.

And there is a lot to be said about encouraging kids to be creators, not just consumers. I don’t expect everyone to be designing the next electric vehicle, killer tablet or even smartphone app or Web page, but I do like it when people — especially children and teens — are actively engaged in creating their own innovations.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as creating your own blog or posting impressive graphics on Pinterest or using some of your digital photographs to create a calendar or picture book. Even posting cool comments on Twitter or Facebook is an act of creation, if you put some thought into it.

One of the more encouraging signs is the “Maker Movement,” which seems to be growing exponentially. Taking advantage of 3D printers, inexpensive microcontrollers, robotics, computer aided design and the ability to control machines with computers, tablets and smartphones, more and more people are using technology to build things.

In May, I spent a fascinating day at the annual Maker Faire at the San Mateo Event Center, where I got to see hundreds people creating their own things. Some — like 3D printing and DIY drones (as in “do it yourself”) — were very high-tech. Others, like crafts, crochet and food, involved technologies invented hundreds or even thousands of years ago. But what every exhibit had in common was the notion that people can “make” their own things.

Child generates power to make his own smoothie (Photo: Rock the Bike)

Child generates power to make his own smoothie (Photo: Rock the Bike)

Actually, it wasn’t just things. I helped “make” the electricity to power my son’s Will Magid Trio concert at the Rock the Bike stage at the Faire by peddling one of several stationary bikes connected to a generator. I also enjoyed a smoothie that was made using a converted Vitamix blender powered by a stationary bicycle called the “Fender Blender Pro.” In an age where people associate smoothies with Jamba Juice and other chains, it was great to see kids not just mixing their own drinks, but actually making the power to blend it.

School and youth projects

What I liked most about the Faire were all the school and youth projects on display. Working with the UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, the Tech Museum of Innovation and the Bay School, the organizers of the Faire this year showed off their “Young Makers” projects that included student-made microscopes, toys, balloon projects, solar vehicles and much more.

The Maker Faire is associated with Make magazine, a quarterly guide to all things do it yourself. Make’s website,, is a worth a visit for anyone who wants to learn more about how to become a “maker.”

A manual for teachers and parents

There is now a book aimed at educators wanting to inspire students to become makers called “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom,” by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.

The Maker Movement in schools now has a bible

The Maker Movement in schools now has a bible

Part philosophical treatise, part hands-on recipes and part inspirational, the book helps teachers and parents come up with projects to engage kids. They range from creating customized projects to programming computers and mobile devices to creating your own wearable computers such as a sweatshirt with turn signals that flash while you peddle your bike. There is advice on how to use Legos to make your own robots or how to incorporate Arduino, an open source single-board microcontroller that’s being used increasingly to create or control objects or environments that can interact with sensors.

There are Arduino-controlled devices that can display text, turn on appliances, make robots move or even allow a cat to send a tweet when it plays with an Arduino-controlled toy.

The book’s page on “The eight elements of a good project” is worth the price of admission because it helps the reader understand what can work in a classroom. Martinez and Stager don’t want teachers to dumb down projects but encourage ones that “prompt intrigue in the learner enough to have him or her invest time, effort and creativity in the development of the project.” There is also advice on how to plan a project and how to find the necessary materials.

Historical context

Leonardo would have fit right in at the Maker Faire

Leonardo would have fit right in at the Maker Faire

I was also glad to see the authors put the maker movement into an historical context with a chapter devoted to the history of how educators, artists and inventors — beginning with Leonard da Vinci — have been encouraging DYI projects. I was pleased to see them pay homage to John Dewey, who, they write, “advocated for students to be actively engaged in authentic interdisciplinary projects connected to the real word.” And I was personally gratified that they mentioned the resurgence in “open education, classroom centers, and project-based learning” during the 60s and 70s, because I was deeply involved in that during my UC Berkeley days, when I helped run the Center for Participant Education. Later, I ran the Center for Educational Reform, in Washington DC.

But, of course, all us — even Leonardo da Vinci — were late comers as far as the maker movement is concerned. Our prehistoric ancestors figured out how to turn stones into tools so that they could make things. Only they didn’t have fairs, books and websites to document the process.

This post adapted from a column that first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

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Microsoft Offers Ad-Free Bing Search For Schools

Microsoft launches Bing for Schools

Microsoft is launching a “Bing for Schools” program that is tailored for K-12 students by “removing all advertisements from search results, enhancing privacy protections and the filtering of adult content,” according to Matt Wallaert, a former teacher is now “Bing Behavioral Scientist.”

The service, which is voluntary for K-12 schools, will off the ad-free experience across all searches from within the school’s network. No special software will be needed, according to Wallaert’s blog post.  Schools have the option of sticking with the regular experience if they don’t enter the program.

Digital literacy skills

The service will offer short lesson plans “that teach digital literacy skills” that are related to search and tied to the Common Core, which are the standards that provide “a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn,” according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  As an example, Microsoft showed a link to a Bing image of a sloth, which “might be coupled with the question “How many sloths could live in one square mile of jungle?” and a lesson helping students use search tools and critical thinking to find potential answers.”

Microsoft will tie search results (including images) with common core curriculum

Microsoft will tie search results (including images) with common core curriculum

Major competitors also in education

Google, too, offers resources for education

Microsoft, of course, is not the only major tech company to cater to schools.  Google has a very large education initiative to to encourage schools to use its apps. The Google in Education site promotes the use of  Google’s devices and platforms including Chromebooks, Google apps and YouTube EDU, which is YouTube’s  portal for videos suitable for use in K through college classrooms.

Apple doesn’t have a web service for schools, but it has always had a strong program to get its gear adapted by schools, starting in the early 80′s with its Apple II.  Apple recently signed a $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District that will result in iPads initially being rolled out to each student in 47 schools with the possibility of  hundreds of million of dollars more being spent on iPad by LA Schools in the next two years, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Apple offers discounts not just to schools but to students, teachers and other school staff as part of its Apple in Education program.

How to sign-up your school

Parents, teachers and others affiliated with schools can sign-up to get more information as Microsoft rolls out the registration process. Microsoft asks people to “Please understand that this program is a major undertaking and will take time to get to all the schools that express interest.

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