Thursday, September 29, 2011

Online and Unprotected: The Need for Child Privacy in a Technological Trap

Online and Unprotected:
The Need for Child Privacy in a Technological Trap
As the United States continues to push forward in technological development and electronic competition, the limitless innovations on the internet are creating controversial legal grounds. Computers, gaming systems, phones, iPads, ipods—all devices are now available to children and in such a demand so that more can ‘log on”. With so many youth surfing and googling, one has to wonder, how safe is the internet, REALLY? The damaging effects that the exploitation of personal information can have on children are endless. With this in mind, online journalists have the responsibility to report stories that do not violate the privacy of children nor promote the violence from the internet.
Privacy Violations
The little crumbs of private information on the internet lead to privacy catastrophe. Take for example, the COPPA vs. W3 Innovations case. COPPA sued W3 Innovations for $50,000 because of COPPA violations within several of their Emily’s World Apps. Through Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress Up app, and Emily’s Runway High Fashion app, W3 Innovations was able to illegally obtain over 30,000 email addresses, most of which belonged to children. (Sabett, 2011)
COPPA violations in the Emily’s World case were the result of  negligence on the behalf of the defendants to “(a) “maintain or link to an online notice of…information collection, user, and disclosure practices,” (b) “provide direct notice to parents of [its] practices regarding the collection, use, and/or disclosure of children’s personal information,” and (c) obtain verifiable consent from parents prior to collecting, using, or disclosing children’s personal information” (Sabett, 2011). These traps have taken advantage of the privacy rights of children.
While the W3 Innovations and COPPA dispute has been settled, more children than ever are continuing to use mobile devices to spending longer hours socializing online and using Web apps with are “designed to gather data in support of selling ads” (Acohido).
Privacy and Violence
Not only has the privacy information of children been exploited by ads, but also by the public media. According to an experiment conducted by Middle East Technical University, Turkey and published in the journal of New Media and Society, “both frequent and risky usage of internet account for a significant variance of cyber bullying” (Erdur-Baker, 2010, p.109). Cyber bullying of children by children has been witnessed all over twenty four hour news networks. Personal information of children has been plastered to their facebook, twitter, and other social networking sites. This information could pertain to relationship status, sexual orientation, religious views, and any other topic which could become controversial. Children have used this information within cyber bullying to intimidate and threaten children outside of school grounds.
Online journalists covering topics on child privacy, exploitation, and social media violence need to be sure to sensor their blogs, articles and videos. The amount of children who are actually the victim of cyber bullying or a violent act is a small percentage compared to what is seen on television and the internet. When the media portrays more violence than good, viewers, children especially in this case, are subject to “resonance” and the “mean world syndrome”. The “mean world syndrome” discussed in Cultivation Theory by George Gerbner, is the cynical mindset of general mistrust of others subscribed to by those who indulge heavily in media (Griffin, 2009, p.353). Gerbner also describes “resonance” as “the process by which congruence of symbolic violence [in the media] and real life experiences of violence amplifies the fear of a mean and scary world. With Gerbner’s studies in mind, online journalists can clearly see how the exploitation of the privacy of children online can have a detrimental effect on the future.

Acohido, B. (2011, September 7). Advocates: Kids often vulnerable online. USA
     Today. Retrieved from
Erdur-Baker, Ö. (2010, February). Cyberbullying and its correlation to
     traditional bullying, gender and frequent and risky usage of
     internet-mediated communication tools. New Media and Society, 12(1),
     109-125. doi:10.1177/1461444809341260
Griffin, E. (2009). A first look at communication theory. Boston, MA:
Sabett, R. (2011, August 17). $50,000: Price tag for COPPA violation by mobile
     app developer. Law Across the Wire and Into the Cloud: Recent Developments
     in Internet Law. Retrieved from

Monday, September 19, 2011

Financial Crisis Brings Christian Universities Subtle Hope

With the financial stability of the United States on a downward spiral, schools for higher education hold a grim future for administrators and indebted students. Christian Universities however seem to have the financial answer.
Many students pursuing college educations don’t know that they are entering into a world of debt where jobs are stagnant and opportunities are few. College universities, faculty, staff and students, are struggling to keep their heads above water with costs of college tuition increasing and the economic crisis of the nation worsening; there are few well-paying jobs to give graduates and administrators financial security. However, a bright side to this downturn has been found in the Golden State.
Theology professor Gary Tyra at Vanguard University of Southern California has found hope in the aftermath of the economic crisis —granted it has taken him much faith and experience to get there. As previous chair of the religion department at Vanguard University, he has witnessed austerity measures that continue still today. Contributions to employee retirement accounts from the school have been curtailed and new faculty hires have been put on hold indefinitely. As if the future couldn’t look grim enough, with frozen salaries, “all departments were forced [to] closely monitor spending on things as prosaic as printing and copying supplies,” said Professor Tyra. Needless to say, the financial instability has taken its toll on the Vanguard staff; yet, amidst the crisis, morale and student enrollment is beginning to increase.
Along with the rest of the nation, California has been tossed into a full-fledged unpredictable financial environment. The University of California system is expecting a possible tuition increase up to “16% in fall 2012;” this change continued over the next three years, if state funding remains flat, will nearly double tuition. With tuition costs increasing, the availability of programs and services continue to decrease. No longer can the state universities guarantee the opportunity to graduate in anything close to four years. One would think this would discourage students from seeking degrees in higher education. On the contrary Professor Tyra, educator at a private Christian University, has witnessed the exact opposite. “Our enrollment is currently as high as it has ever been!” Tyra alleged.
The California higher education system lost $650 million in funding; a drastic change that has actually driven students away from state universities and in the direction of private universities. Tyra and his colleagues hope that with new trend, the Vanguard faculty and staff will slowly see the private Christian University return to normal. Not only do private universities such as Vanguard offer a cheaper financial alternative to higher education, their curriculum promises students a future.
Though Vanguard is a liberal arts university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in many disciplines, the religion department specializes in the scholarly, spiritual and moral training of ministers. Professor Tyra feels secure in his job, stating that “there will always be a need for [ministers]: the local church is not going to go away”.  Tyra acknowledges the difficulties for religion graduates to find full time ministry jobs upon graduating and helps to counteract the uncertainty by aiding ministry-bound students to find internships with hands on experience while they are currently enrolled at the university.
As more and more students graduate with debt and a stagnant job market, private Christian universities such as Vanguard University of Southern California are aiding and equipping the next generation with hope and stability through affordable higher education.
Martinez, M. (2011, September 15). University of California seeks alternatives
     to 16% tuition hikes. CNN U.S. Retrieved from
Tyra, G. (2011, September 14). Thoughts of Professor Gary Tyra. Interview
     presented on Phone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

6.0 Earthquake, Category 2 Hurricane, Eastern Seaboard Braces for Round Three

            On the afternoon of August 24th Mineral, Virginia experienced what it was like to be the center of attention—literally. As the epicenter of a ground shaking 6.0 earthquake, Virginia relentlessly shared “the love” until effects were felt all the way in New York City. Not three days later, the citizens in North Carolina stole the lime light as hurricane Irene, a category two hurricane, made landfall on the pristine outer banks.
            “What’s Next? Zombies?” was the sign I passed yesterday while driving through Annapolis, MD. Though Annapolis wasn’t the center of an earthquake or Irene’s wrath, Maryland has felt the effects from these natural destructive forces—and a little goes a long way.
            Teams surveying the damage on the Washington Monument from the quake wonder if the little cracks at the top are detrimental to the structure. When it comes to destructive winds, little changes in speed make a big difference and a bigger mess. Businesses on the Western shore in Maryland are just now getting their power back after a little storm filled weekend. Needless to say, Maryland’s cup of patience is little, and growing smaller as events continue to overflow.
            With clean-up efforts continuing, easterners wonder “what’s next?” But she’s already on her way--Hurricane Katia. Her predicted path according the National Hurricane Center, is much like Irene’s—meeting the East Coast with a warm, forceful embrace. Of course there will be hopes that Katia will steer to the right and out to sea, but the likelihood of this is slim. There is not much for Marylanders to do, except baton down the hatches. It’s hurricane season, so a bumpy ride is to be expected.
            Predictions from National Weather Centers have helped to ease worries and help citizens prepare for the worst. But with all the rain, everyone seems to have forgotten about the shakes. The unpredicted 6.0 quake was definitely NOT expected and not welcome. The surreal experience of watching my walls move and plates dance in my kitchen cabinets was not what I would call “comforting”.  We all thought earthquakes couldn’t happen on the east coast—but it did! So it is reasonable to wonder if and when it will happen again—because it can!
            What took Marylanders and the whole East Coast by surprise was the duration between these two climactic events. They were witnessed within the same week which made it seem, to some, like the end of the world—hence the “Zombie” street signs. But with the Nation’s Capital still intact and New York City still wide awake, the world is far from over. So this leads me to conclude with a poll. What do YOU think is next? Miss Katia? Or Mr.Quake?


NOAA. (n.d.). National hurricane center [weather service]. Retrieved September
     2, 2011, from NOAA website: