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Untrackable teens talk tech

Danah Boyd and several teens at the recent Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle confirm what I’ve always said about teens and RFID surveillance technologies: they don’t want it and they can get around it. From the transcript of the panel discussion in Wired:

Kevin Bankston: Several schools have been implementing RFID tracking where they place a trackable chip on a badge (that kids wear). How would you and your friends react to that?

Steve: I know quite a few people who would probably, you know, stick the tag on the lavatory and skip school so the school thought they were still in the bathroom for a very long time.

Morgan: I think that there’d be a type of black market for trafficking tags. I’ll give you $5 if you take my tag to English for me. (Audience laughs)

Boyd and EFF lawyer Kevin Bankston Q&A’d the teens about their use of blogs, mobile tech and the privacy issues raised when surveillance technology meets parental concern. The result is a peek at a wired generation that encourages adults to get knowledgeable about technology and talk to their kids about privacy.

Steve: Every kid at whatever age gets “the talk” from their parents about sex. So why don’t they have a one-on-one mature conversation with their kids about privacy on the internet as well?

Morgan: Parents really need to talk to their kids more. A lot of times (my parents) don’t really talk to me about anything, they just expect me to know it. If parents want their kids to act mature, if they want their kids to care about certain things, they need to explain to their kids why they should care.

Elisabeth: I think it’s hard for parents and educators, though, because we’re moving at a different pace than they are. It feels like we’re done and on to the next thing by the time people are trying to block it or are really aware of it. I think it’s really hard for parents and educators to talk to us like they understand (technology) because it doesn’t seem like adults are using these things in the same way that we are.

Morgan: I think that if the parents did talk to their kids about it they would get a better idea about what we’re doing with technology. They don’t really (as) make much of an effort as they could to get to know us.

It’s clear, once again, that censorship and control of information being absorbed by young minds breeds resentment. Media education empowers and protects all who use technology, both old and young.


Author visits and me

Children’s writers clearly don’t receive the celebrity we deserve. We have to buy our own groceries, dress ourselves, chew our own food and even fight end of level bosses alone. It’s a tragedy.

But it’s a tragedy that is corrected by the hallowed author school visit. This is a time when a kids writer is truly treated like a celebrity, even if it’s only for a few hours.

Being a kids writer terrible at self-promotion (as my four month delay in announcing my last batch of books clearly proves), I haven’t focused on getting out there and I have yet to do a *real* school visit.

I say *real* because there was one time before I was published when my little sister (then in grade 4) convinced her teacher to read my manuscript to the class over the course of a few weeks and then invite me in to talk to them. The manuscript was awful and is now buried in a drawer somewhere in my office, where it will remain. I don’t remember planning anything for the visit but I think it was a success. My sister said so anyway.

These memories have bubbled up in my mind and spilled out here because I have just finished reading a great article by fellow CANSCAIP member and school visit pro, Magriet Ruurs. The article, Optimizing Author Visits is aimed at teachers planning to have an author come to their school. It’s a fantastic resource for authors too, who may think about pointing it out to prospective host schools.

Among the great tips for teachers, is this final piece of advice definitely sets the bar of success for authors:

Have students write thank you notes. I have received wonderful letters from students that I treasure and often share in teacher presentations:

“Your presentation wasn?t even boring.”
“I like your books. You?re my third favorite author.”
“My name is Stephen. When I grow up I want to be an Arthur.”

With praise like that who wouldn’t want to hit the author visit circuit?


Who’s watching the kids?

I’ve posted earlier about RFID tags in kids clothes and cell phones providing a handy way for parents to strip kids of all sense of privacy and personal responsibility, while exposing their developing organs (like that useful thing called a brain) to potentially harmful levels of radiation. Chipping your kids may give parents more time to spend on the golf course or at the office, it doesn’t solve every niggling concern.

You see, the annoying thing about kids is even when you hide tracking devices on them, someone still has to take the time to actually watch them. What a complete pain! Who knew that breeding would be such a big responsibility?

Thankfully, parents now have another level of high tech wizardry to remove them from contact with their icky children and save them the hassle of actually watching their little darlings: robots!

Via we make money not art:

“Japanese company Secom has released the “SECOM School Security,” a system which monitors kids using RFID tags while they are commuting to and from school but also uses robots (the good old “smoking robots”) that move around and monitor school properties. The robots can also “scare” suspicious people by fast movements, light and smoke.”

I want to know who is watching the robots watch the children? Oh wait, I know: robots watch robots watch children.

Tell me where the parents are again?


BuddyBeads connect teens by emotion

[via textually.org] With 44% of US teens owning a cell phone staying in touch with your best friend is only a SMS message away. BuddyBeads are bringing that teen connection even closer.

Designed and built by Ruth Kikin-Gil, a masters student at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, BuddyBeads combines two things close the heart of a modern teenage girl: peergroups and cell phones:

BuddyBeads are techno-jewelry items that facilitate non-verbal and emotional communication among group members, through codes and signals which the group decided upon together.

Each group member has a matching jewelry piece and can use it to communicate her emotional state to the other group members. Messages are decided by the group in advance and construct a secret private code among its members.

Basically a group of teens each wear a bracelet. On each bracelet is a bead that represents one of the teens’ friends. When the teen wants to communicate to her friend, she simply presses a pre-arranged morse-code of dot-dot-dash messages into the bead representing her friend. The message is beamed to her friends cell phone and then relayed to her friends’ BuddyBead bracelet, which flashes and vibrates her friends’ coded message. As Kikin-Gil points out, subtlety is the key:

The ability to send a message without looking at the bracelet is important in situations where other people are involved and the sender wants to comment about the situation but doesn?t want the others to notice that she is engaged in another communication. This can be the case when a girl is talking to a boy she likes and want her friend to know, or when few group members are talking with someone who is not part of their group and they want to comment about the situation.

Still in early prototype stage, BuddyBeads have huge potential in many areas beyond teenage girl gossip. From the analytical approach that Kukin-Gil is taking with the ways that this new technology will shape mobile non-verbal communication, it is clear that this is more than a new fad in development (although the idea of high tech, collectible beads will have teen marketers no doubt wetting themselves – get your covert buzz machines started, marketing weenies.)

Let’s hope that a new language of flashes and vibrations replaces those annoying one-sided cell phone conversations (from adults and teens) currently clogging up our public spaces.