links for 2009-12-22

  • Last year, Northern Virginia entrepreneur Steve Woda experienced an incident that seems all too common in the Internet Age: A young member of his extended family was contacted online by a suspicious adult. While the family member was not harmed, it forced Woda and his family to think about ways to prevent the new technologies their kids use—such as social networking and text messages—from opening doors to sexual predators. But he didn’t just think about what his own family could do. He and his brother Tim started a business to help parents monitor their children’s use of the Internet, text messages, and cellphones.
  • Mike Clark and Geoffrey Arone are preparing to roll out a new startup – SafetyWeb – we’ve confirmed. The company has raised a small angel round from Battery Ventures.
    Clarke was an early executive and SVP of Engineering at Photobucket and was there from the start and for two years following the $300 million acquisition from FIM/MySpace. Arone, a cofounder of Flock, recently sold his startup DanceJam to SportsNet. Both are now full time on SafetyWeb.
    For now the two aren’t saying much about the product. Except for this: SafetyWeb will target parents who want to know what their kids are up to online. This isn’t about filtering and key logging the home computers, but rather a service that will monitor publicly available information on the Internet and report back to parents. The key goals are to understand how to interpret real v. perceived threats to children/teens, and also report back any anomalies that the parents should be aware of.
    (tags: safetyweb)

  • Hope Witsell was just a 13-year-old middle school student when she hung herself in her bedroom. She had taken a topless photo of herself and texted it to a boy she liked to get his attention, but unfortunately everyone at her school — and the nearby high school — had seen the picture within a matter of days. Witsell quickly became the subject of bullying that led to her suicide.
    According to, after the photo made the rounds, Hope was grounded for the summer and suspended from school for a week. She was stripped of her title as student adviser to the Future Farmers of America, and peers called her names like “slut” and “whore.” The pressure began to take a toll on Hope, who wrote in her journal, “I’m done for sure now. I can feel it in my stomach. I’m going to try and strangle myself. I hope it works.”
  • Think your kid is not “sexting”? Think again. Sexting — sharing sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online — is fairly commonplace among young people, despite sometimes grim consequences for those who do it.
    More than a quarter of young people have been involved in sexting in some form, an Associated Press-MTV poll found.
    That includes Sammy, a 16-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area who asked that his last name not be used.
    Sammy said he had shared naked pictures of himself with girlfriends. He also shared naked pictures of someone else that a friend had sent him.
    What he didn’t realize at the time was that young people across the country — in Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have faced charges, in some cases felony charges, for sending nude pictures.
    “That’s why I probably wouldn’t do it again,” Sammy said.
  • MTV announced on Thursday (December 3) the launch of a multi-year initiative called “A Thin Line” aimed at stopping the spread of abuse in the form of sexting, cyberbullying and digital dating abuse. The goal of the initiative is to empower America’s youth to identify, respond to and stop the spread of the various forms of digital harassment.
    According to a new study released on Thursday by MTV and The Associated Press that explores the full scope of digital abuse, 50 percent of 14-to-24-year-olds have been the target of some form of digital abuse, 30 percent have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online and 12 percent of those who have sexted have contemplated suicide, a rate four times higher than those who haven’t.
  • Nearly one-sixth of teens who own cell phones have received nude or nearly nude images via text message from someone they know, according to a new survey on “sexting” from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
    The national telephone survey confirms parent and teacher worries that young people are using cell phones to send out and receive sexually explicit images of themselves and of romantic partners.
    The 800-person survey, released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group, found 15 percent of cell-phone-owning teens ages 12 to 17 had received nude or nearly nude photos by phone. Four percent of the teens said they had sent out sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves.

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