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Tech firms focus on cyberbullying
Published: 2008-06-04

Technology companies, including such giants as Microsoft and Verizon, met this week at a two-day conference to discuss ways of making social networking and the Internet in general safer for children.

The International Stop Cyberbullying Conference, hosted by Internet safety organization WiredSafety, brought together various groups working on the issue of online harassment, including parents, teachers, kids, mental health experts, and technology firms. With greater interactivity and personalization coming to the Web, children are using the Internet in ways that their parents never did, Parry Aftab, founder and executive director of WiredSafety, stated in an interview posted to Microsoft's Web site.

"The challenges parents face today are light-years more complex than just a few years ago when the Internet was a one-way street," Aftab said "The standard advice of telling kids not to post personal information online is less and less realistic, as connecting with others is now a major reason kids are using the Internet in the first place."

On Tuesday as part of the conference, Verizon Communications announced that the company would provide free parental controls for customers of its online services. Microsoft touted the ability of its Windows Vista operating system to track children's online usage, limit the games they play by maturity level and prevent certain applications from loading.

The conference comes a month after federal prosecutors brought charges against 47-year-old Missouri-resident Lori Drew for allegedly bullying a 13-year-old neighbor, who later committed suicide. In a novel application of computer crime statutes, federal prosecutors are pursuing charges of unauthorized access to a computer system, commonly referred to as hacking. Social networks, especially MySpace, have been placed on the front lines of the war against online social ills such as cyberbullying and sexual predation.

WiredSafety has kicked off an online petition seeking a million people to pledge to stop cyberbullying.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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