Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Moon Girls-- A Wonderful Resource for Tweens

My daughter, now 13, has been receiving New Moon Girls magazine since she was 9, and absolutely loves it! When the newest issue arrives in the mail, she drops everything and reads it cover to cover, and then reads it again.

New Moon Girls "provides innovative, safe, respectful, and advertising-free spaces online and in the magazine where girls develop their full potential through self-discovery, creativity, and community" (from the magazine's inside cover). Overseen by the Girls Editorial Board, New Moon Girls has articles written about, by, and for girls from around the world. The goal is to empower girls with positive self-esteem, a healthy body image, and a strong voice. You won't find any dating advice, popularity contests, or dieting advice within the pages of New Moon. Instead you'll find poetry, short stories, articles on topics from world politics to the differently-able to sleep disorders, interviews, art, and projects.

The Web space offers everything the magazine does and chat, video, and articles in a moderated, educational environment. My daughter has been participating online for several years and has made some excellent friends. She has posted information and has been published in the magazine. During a developmental period that can be very confusing for girls and fraught with pitfalls and traps, New Moon Girls has helped to sustain her, build her self-confidence, and open her eyes to an exciting world of possibility.

To learn more about New Moon visit their website: http://www.newmoon.com/
Read an interview of New Moon founder, Nancy Gruver at http://www.ypulse.com/ypulse-interview-nancy-gruver-founder-ceo-new-moon
Read/join Gruver's blog for parents about raising strong, healthy girls: Daughters.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway

Recently, I picked up Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway by Wendelin Van Drannen for my 5th grade son. The cover looked interesting (yes, I sometimes judge a book by its cover), it looked about the right length, and it was at the right reading level. About half-way through the book, my son said he wasn't really interested. Turns out Sammy is a girl, and although she really rocks, my son just wasn't interested in Sammy's date for the middle school dance.

So I read the book, AND I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN!! In fact, my husband went up to bed saying "Don't stay up too late reading." Several hours later, way past my usual bedtime, much to my regret, I finished the book. It was that good! And the whole time I was reading, I kept thinking "I know this style. Have I read this author before?". Turns out, Van Draanen is the author of the infamous Shredderman series and their spin-off, The Gecko and Sticky, books my son absolutely loved (and so did I)!

There are currently 12 Sammy Keyes books, the most recent entitled Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash. Sammy is a forthright, outspoken seventh grader, is willing to stand up for herself. She faces life, and its mysteries (she seems to find many) with her own indomitable style. Her character is one of the best developed I've encountered in quite some time. The books are fast-paced, engaging, funny, and real. I recommend these books for middle schoolers, and not just girls: Sammy might just challenge some guys' preconceived notions about girls.

Shredderman, about a elementary school kid who stands up to the school bully by becoming a superhero and creating his own website, is a must for kids grades 3-5.

Be sure to visit Van Draanen's website (http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/vandraanen/).

Learn more about Sammy, solve a mystery, and download a song from Sammy's page

Visit Shredderman's page at http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/vandraanen/shredderman/

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Protecting Your Privacy Online

Over the past several days, the Wall Street Journal has run a series of articles "What They Know" about how Web sites and service providers collect information about users. This information is sold to advertisers so they can target advertising to you, based on the sites you visit. Below I summarize some of the key information from "The Web's new goldmine: Your secrets" byJulia Angwin, and "How to avoid the prying eyes" by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries. Both articles were published in the Weekend Journal July 31, 2010. You can see this information at WSJ.com

According to the study by the Wall Street Journal,
  • the top 50 Websites installed, on average, 64 pieces of tracking technology on users' computers
  • tracking technologies include cookies, flash cookies, beacons, and third party tracking files
  • individual's profiles, constantly updated each time you use the computer, are bought and sold on stock-market like exchanges, mostly for advertising.
The vocabulary:
Cookies: text file put on your computer by websites and marketing firms, usually to remember your preferences and log-in information (passwords); however, they can track you across sites.
Flash Cookies: files placed on your computer by Adobe's Flash software. Flash is the most common way to show videos online (think about how many times you've been to Youtube!). They are also used to remember preferences, but can also track you online, and can reinstall cookies you have previously deleted.
Beacons: software that can track your web surfing and online activities, including mouse clicks and keystrokes.
Third-Party Tracking: A cookie or beacon installed on your computer by an ad network or research firm that can track your activities across websites.

The worst offenders? Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com, Comcast.net, Careerbuilder.com, Photobucket.com, MSN.com, Answers.com, Yellowpages.com, MSNBC.com, and Yahoo.com (how many yahoo groups do you belong to?).

How to protect yourself:
  1. Check and delete cookies: all major browsers let users view and delete cookies. On Firefox, go to tools, click on clear recent history, in the drop-down box choose time range, click on details, and check the boxes to delete. Click "clear now". You can view the cookies by going to tools, clicking on options, and clicking on the privacy tab. Click on the "show cookies" buttons. You have the option of deleting the cookies on in the cookies window. On Internet Explorer, go to tools, pull down to "Internet Options", and choose an option under the "general" tab. Caution: you may have to renter passwords or other login information the next time you go to a site.
  2. Adjust your browser settings: Allows you to surf the web without saving any information on which websites and pages you have visited. Firefox private browsing does not save information like visited pages, form and search bar entries, passwords, and download lists. Cookies and cache (temporary files) are deleted when you turn off private browsing. You can also go to tools, click on options, click on privacy, and set-up your privacy preferences including browsing history, download list, searches and forms, cookies and third-party cookies, and set up clear history. Internet Explorer allows similar options. Look under Tools/Internet Options/Privacy.
  3. Monitor Flash cookies. Go to the Adobe website: www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager.html. Identify flash cookies on your computer and adjust settings.
  4. The Better Privacy plug-in for Firefox (addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6623 allows you to set rules for deleting third party-flash cookies.
  5. Ghostery (ghostery.com) helps you control beacons by alerting you when there is a beacon on a page you are viewing. With Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can then block the beacon from capturing information.
For more information, visit the Wall Street Journal Online.