Nov 4, 2011

The Facebook Revolt

We talk a lot about the impact of social media on commerce and human connections.  The social media platform has the ability to transfer news and ideas faster than news and ideas can even be generated.  Since the start of what the media is calling the ‘Arab Spring’, social media has literally become something quite revolutionary.

Last spring, the conflicts in Bahrain and Egypt showcased the true power of the Internet, particularly of Facebook.  Before the proliferation of the Internet, protestors spread the word of an upcoming rally or demonstration through posters on city center walls and word of mouth.  Sitting governments would try to quell these movements by forbidding posters, declaring curfews, and outright banning demonstrations.

And then, along came the Internet and along came social media sites like Facebook.  Against all odds, Facebook has become one of the most powerful tools for the promotion of freedom.  It has made spreading the word to organize for a cause easier to do, faster to execute, and more far-reaching.  And yet, the best solution to stopping such an upheaval in today’s times is the same as it has been for hundreds of years – silence the protestor’s ability to speak and organize.  For a government, this means removing the newest weapon from the hands of the people, and that weapon is the Internet.

For many of the protests we’ve seen in the last year, the ultimate goal has been to overthrow the oppressive policies and actions of a government through massive civilian uprisings.  Historically, anti-government citizens achieved their goal by various means – organizing peaceful protests, seeking help from international organizations, taking up arms, and sometimes engaging in violent attacks against the government and military.  All of this remains true today, with the added power of the Internet.  For the protestor, the Internet is a powerful tool for increasing strength, gaining greater and broader support, and reaching out to family and friends.

It’s shocking to a great number of people that Facebook would become instrumental in the overthrow of long standing dictatorships or brutal regimes. People of Egypt used it. People of Tunisia used it. People of Bahrain used it.  When the war ‘ended’ and the NATO participation in Libya finally came, it was announced on Facebook.  It seems as if there is no end to the reach of the Internet, social media, and the concomitant power of Facebook.

The importance of the Internet in a revolution goes beyond the individual.  Foreign nation-states play significant roles during an uprising, and the Internet is one of many tools at their disposal. In many cases, providing Internet support and continued access to the Internet has become much like providing artillery support.

At end of the day, the Internet has become one of the most powerful tools for promoting freedom.  Amazingly, a platform that started as a means by which people share photos has evolved to help topple brutal dictators. There’s no telling where all of this could lead civilization.

Nov 2, 2011

The Amazing Race: The Irony of Halloween

I decided to watch the most recent episode of The Amazing Race after a night of walking the neighborhood streets with my six-year-old in search of the house with the best candy.  The more I watched the show in hopes of finding an online safety, security, or privacy lesson, the more I was distracted by my son sitting on the carpet, still in full Halloween gear, sorting through his loot.  As I watched him, watched the show, and watched him again, it occurred to me the dramatic irony of Halloween.

Every day we try to teach our kids to navigate life safely, securely, conscious of how we impact others, and aware of the reputation that will precede us wherever we go.  We remind our kids not to take candy from strangers, to be truthful to who we are, to respect those around us, and to be honest about who we are.  I’ve written many articles in which I have tried to highlight what we must teach our kids about staying safe online.  We hope that our kids will understand that the Internet is like the real world – full of the good and the bad – and we hope they will live in the good, avoid the bad, and stay away from the scary.

Then comes Halloween.  We tell our kids to dress up like someone else and do it really well so no one can figure out who is behind the mask.  We then take them out into the world and ask them to ring the bell on houses filled with strangers and ask for candy.  And when they are too scared to go up to a house that is particularly scary, we tell them to suck it up and get up there, that it’s no big deal.  In fact, we feel as though we must push them forward into the scary situation that lies before them, despite what we might have learned about in articles like mine from last week.

And herein lies an opportunity to think about how similar what we do on Halloween is to what many parents will do or not do online.  It is easy to feel a sense of comfort when your child sits at home in front of a computer exploring the world.  They are at home after all.  The reality is that they are exploring the world and need all the guidance we can give them and that we provide to them daily in their offline lives…well, except on Halloween.

So next time your child goes online, ask yourself, “Are they going out trick or treating?”

Oct 29, 2011

Halloween Help: Gadgets, Apps to Keep Your Kids Safer

We’re all gearing up for Halloween treats. As kids travel around the neighborhoods for Halloween this year, dressed in costumes and grabbing candy, parents are left wondering about their safety.   Thanks to valuable gadgets, new and old, and a few home-grown safety tips, you can spend time passing out candy instead of worrying this Halloween

Devices and applications that can track our children and help to keep them safe are multiplying by the year.  We took the guesswork out of the search and have compiled a list of some helpful, and easy, gadgets to help keep your child safe.

Free FBI app  The FBI app is free app that’s supposed to provide a convenient location to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s immediately available if you need it.

Google Latitude   Parents can type in their children’s cell number into Google Latitude to find out where they are.

Temporary tattoos   Tattoos for children that has their parents’ contact information.

Backpacks  Backpacks that have alarms built into them can be used for trick or treating, school, sleep overs, hiking, camping, etc.

Amber Alert and My Child ID offer Child ID Kit

Smart Phone GPS  Different GPS locators offered by different service providers and different smart phone platforms give families a way to keep each other safe by turning their cell phones into safety devices.

•  Life360  Life360 enables families to see where their loved ones are located, when they need help and what the threats might be around them.

•  Verizon Wireless Offers family locator service.

•  Blackberry e-mobile family locator

•  AT&T – FamilyMap service.

•  Android Market – Family Locator.

Have a great Halloween.  Trick or Treat safely.