In the world of the modern teenager, anybody who’s anybody owns a cell phone.  And if you don’t, you’re missing out.  But aside from just a social tool, cell phones have a REAL purpose– safety.

 When teens are given cell phones, they are granted free range to communicate with new people from different areas. Teens may say they’re going to the mall, but realistically travel downtown. Sally may claim to be sleeping at Amy’s, but realistically be at Ryan’s. If these issues sound like your concerns, than Kut off Kids is the app for you.

 Kut off Kids is a new mobile application and safety tool that parents can use to track their child’s whereabouts. For just $2.99 a month, the app allows parents to create safety zones and danger zones for their child’s cell phone. If a child ventures to an unwarranted area, or a “danger zone,” the phone will immediately cease all communication activity aside from contact with their guardian. Your teen will be unable to text, call or utilize social media until returning to a safe zone. It will also provide you with a daily report of your child’s whereabouts, regardless of danger zone breaches.  With Kut off Kids, you’ll become the world’s smartest parent. Your child will have no way of knowing the application is in use, and you won’t need to tell them!

Kut off Kids will initially receive its funding after the K.O.K. official website is unleashed. Here, interested consumers can learn more about the mobile application, its capabilities and the story behind K.O.K.’s development. The site will ask for donations to get the project started and will reach out to organizations associated with teen safety for help. Over the course of six months, while K.O.K is in development, a social media campaign will be conducted for publicity purposes. K.O.K. will join popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach large groups of people.  After the application is developed, 10 cents of every subscription will be donated to the organization that most contributes to K.O.K.’s development. The application will be available for purchase in the mobile application store associated with the user’s cell phone.

 

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One night this week, I caught up with my friend, Kristina.  While chatting, Kristina told me about her decision to join PlentyofFish , a free, online dating service. Based off of her experiences, I perceived the site as rather trustworthy.  She went on a few dates and mingled with some interesting characters, with the help of POF’s services.

But I knew that Kristina’s good experiences aren’t always realistic.

Inspired by her story, I grew curious about social networking and online dating.  I’ve always been interested in joining a dating site, but have refrained from doing so.  I wasn’t sure why until recalling the popular MTV television show, Catfish .

Debuting three years ago, Catfish exposes the lives of Facebook users and dating.  More specifically, the show focuses on couples who have never met or video chatted. Users contacted Nev Schulman, the show’s host, to research whether the love interest was who he/she claimed to be.  Unfortunately, in most cases, they weren’t.

Dreamy, 30-year-old James was, in fact, 54-year-old housewife Amy. Sound bizarre? It is.

Since Catfish became popular, the term itself came to define “a person who creates a false identity in hopes of luring people in romantic relationships.” According to the show, malicious users would trick others for reasons like: social insecurities, lack of friends/family, attention or plain old boredom.  I couldn’t help but question the amount of trust that social media sites require.  In today’s world, we rely so heavily on social media that we expect everyone to “be” their profile.

Kristina’s experience with POF was positive, in that she personally met who she was messaging.  Meeting in person makes the relationship realistic. You’re able to sense the chemistry, communicate with body language and acknowledge real compatibility.  But in the case of Catfish, the computer is used as a tool to quickly grow comfortable with someone.  Users were in love with someone they’d never met. Some were “in love” with a fake profile. How?

I’m concerned with why we trust others faster via the internet and cell phone, when it comes to relationships.  Is it easier for us to reveal information when the recipient is somewhat anonymous? Is this healthy? And, more importantly – what does this mean for the future of relationships?


In light of my classmates’ posts about internet safety, I was inspired to carry over the vibe to cell phones.

A couple years ago, a friend told me to be wary of my cell phone.  She said that a hacker had tapped into a family’s cell phone system, monitoring their habits for months until finally robbing them.  At the time, I hadn’t heard anything about this crime, nor had I read any follow-up information. But recently, I began to wonder – could this be true?

It turns out, it can.

Recently, a crew of researchers at Indiana University, led by Robert Templeman at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana, teamed up to develop “PlaceRaider,” a form of malware.  Designed for Android devices, the program takes over a cell phone’s camera to capture user behavior and download personal information.  Simply put: PlaceRaider can record users’ surroundings, identity and financial information, such as credit cards and PIN numbers. The program can even tap into calendar notes to document when users are away from their homes.

Normally, when Android phones take pictures, a shutter sound plays.  To combat this, PlaceRaider has the power to shut off this sound, taking pictures while “recording the time, location and orientation of the phone”  without user awareness.

According to PlaceRaider’s research document :

“The final objective of PlaceRaider is to siphon images from a user’s surroundings such that reconnaissance and visual theft can occur in an efficient manner.”

To test the program, Templeman and his colleagues provided 20 individuals with PlaceRaider-affected cell phones. The individuals, who were unaware of the program, were asked to use their phones for “various ordinary purposes in an office environment.” The study yielded detailed images of the office collected by the phones, deeming the test a success.

But, the program isn’t entirely foolproof.  At least, not yet.

The PlaceRaider research document also states:

“While providing a very general and powerful surveillance capability, our implementation of PlaceRaider relies solely on human vision for the extraction of detailed valuable information.”

In other words, the device only works if we allow it. If our cell phones are placed face-down while in office, the camera cannot physically photograph documents or surroundings.

The system also isn’t universal.  It only runs on the Android system, but will probably expand to different markets in the future. And even though various articles about PlaceRaider claim that it shouldn’t be of concern [yet], we can never be too sure.

 

PITCH #1: “Kut Off Kids”
When kids are given cell phones, they are invited to act suspiciously.  Communicating with unknown people beyond their guardians’ knowledge, kids can arrange plans with drug dealers or other sketchy characters.  To prevent this from happening, I’m developing a mobile application known as “Kut Off Kids.”  Designed for guardians only, this program eliminates a child’s internet, data and texting service to everyone but their guardians, if a child travels out of range.  Parents customize their child’s data and are notified immediately when he/she travels to unwarranted areas.

PITCH #2: “Phone a Friend”
Summer is great for vacationing, but very lonely for pets.  Families leave for days, weeks at a time, shuffling their pet to relatives’ houses or shelters.  To keep your friend company during those long getaways, I’ve created a product and mobile application known as “Phone-a-Friend.” By connecting a device to your pet’s collar or cage and purchasing the corresponding “Phone-A-Friend” mobile app, owners can speak directly to their pet – at any time!

As a prospective journalist, I have an appreciation for hard news. There is nothing more informative than watching the news to discover what’s going on in the world. However, when it comes to my WordPress, particularly the Wikipedia post, I cover issues pertaining to lifestyles. Online dating profiles are a human interest topic, differing far from breaking news. People read these lighter pieces for entertainment purposes, to break up the monotony or enlighten themselves of social changes.

One of my favorite news sources is the Huffington Post, which covers everything from breaking news to dating, healthy eating and celebrity scandals. The site itself, however, does not accept articles from readers. News tips and article ideas are accepted via e-mail, but the stories are written by reporters. If I were to produce an article for this site, however, it’d be approximately 500 words and include a list of tags and possibly a photo slideshow. I would use a conversational writing style, perhaps intertwining personal experiences into the work. Several reporters for the Huffington Post incorporate themselves into their articles, doing so to connect directly with the reader.

I would also aim to publish this Wikipedia post on Cosmopolitan Magazine’s website. Since Cosmo attracts women ages 18 to 35-years-old, the online dating profile topic would fit perfectly. Cosmo does not provide a submission guideline but it does specify how to format proposed articles. Obviously, the article needs to be structured similarly to typical Cosmo posts. Ehow.com suggests writing “in a style that would suit Cosmopolitan,” as previously stated, “with trendy words, and evidence of knowledge about the world of fashion-minded young women.” This site also suggests including the word count and the column that one wishes to publish under.

I would really enjoy writing for mediums like the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan. Although I like to write hard news pieces, such as crime news, I also enjoy writing lighter pieces. They’re amusing to read and don’t require your undivided attention. These are the sorts of articles I’d read at the gym or on my work break, while trying to unwind. The more serious pieces are reserved for a rainy day and my direct attention. My Wikipedia post would reach the demographics of both the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan, covering similar criterion to previous articles. Human interest is also the subject area covered by these mediums.

These past six weeks have been nothing short of a learning experience. I began ICM 506 expecting to strengthen my skills and attract audiences to my work, via the web. So far, I successfully achieved the two – and perceived web writing in a new light. I believe that every writer continuously develops his/her work, whether it is Hunter Thompson or a college graduate. The learning process never ceases, but every writer needs a starting point. I needed to find mine.

I began writing at a very young age and have desired to become a journalist ever since. Still on this journey, I have practiced writing both creatively and academically. Prior to this class, however, I was unaware of one area in need of improvement: editing. I have a keen eye for grammar and AP style and I cannot help but pick apart written work, looking for mishaps. But I was unaware that editing often requires reconstructing and even rewriting entire passages, something that is meticulous but much-needed.

I suffered from what Zinsser would refer to as “pleasing-the-professor” syndrome. When writing a research paper – or any work in general – rarely did I consider my voice, instead focusing on whether the vocabulary signified intelligence. And, it worked. The essays stuffed with useless nouns, verbs and adjectives were highly scored. Why would I change my style if it proved successful? Even in a creative writing class, not one criticism about wordiness was mentioned. This class, ICM 506, was my first encounter with eliminating superfluous words.

I always felt my writing was wordy, but overlooked this hunch. One of my first lessons learned in this class, however, was to condense sentences from lengthy to short. The first blog post asked students to upload an excerpt of something they were proud of: an essay from a prior class, creative writing, etc. I posted an excerpt from my ICM 501 final paper concerning texting and relationships. Having won first place for a Quinnipiac writing contest, I was confident in the paper’s structure. However, after Professor Kalm’s criticism about eliminating words and phrases, along with critique from students, I was confused. Was I writing too much? I discovered that I was.

An excerpt from the original copy reads:

“Mobile technologies have begun to dominate the American youth culture, particularly in the area of social interaction.  Rather than resort to old-fashioned outreach methods, such as using a land-line phone or sending a handwritten letter, Americans are able to communicate with one another through the convenience of a mobile device, no bigger than the average hand.”

An excerpt from the rewritten version reads:

“Mobile technologies have begun governing how Americans interact. Rather than simply use a land-line phone or send handwritten letters, we communicate using devices no bigger than our hands.”

There is still more work to be done, but the improvement is noteworthy.

As is apparent with the original, I also struggled with my voice. When writing essays, my tone was naturally robotic. In my perspective, sounding robotic meant using a wide vocabulary, citing research and offering explanation. But, writing for the web is different. People busy at work or stressed moms watching children don’t want to read scientific annotations on their lunch breaks. This is the reason why the Huffington Post is successful. Their articles are short, easy-to-read, but informative. This is the sort of writing style I aim to accomplish.

I first learned it was acceptable to sound non-robotic in this class, but that’s the fault of undergraduate writing. As Zinsser so wonderfully explains, students strive to impress their professors and other students, never considering that a personal voice is possible. This class changed my perspective entirely.

A blog post written a week after the rewrite above is titled, “When to Use an Emoticon in Text Messages.” Striving toward developing a light, amusing read, I needed to avoid “the robot.” The first paragraph reads;

“At some point, we’ve all sent or received an awkward with text, which is usually due to miscommunication. A sarcastic joke can easily appear harsh, especially when body language and tone of voice are absent. I can’t even begin to list the number of time I argued via text due to confusion over a text’s meaning.”

I’m not suggesting this post was perfect, but I’m proud of the way it was structured. I sound conversational, I’m addressing a topic and I’m relating to the reader – which is another important lesson learned. When writing, I always tried to avoid attracting attention to myself and my experiences, as I felt readers were uninterested. But now I feel this conversational vibe is what interests the reader in one’s work. I enjoy including tidbits from personal experiences because I’m writing about what I know, rather than something I think I know.

My entire ICM 506 blog experience began with the pseudonym “Escapist Theory,” which will lead my journey through this class. I chose this pseudonym because of my personality, which is constantly philosophizing, daydreaming and envisioning the world as an unraveling story rather than monotonous reality. I’m a dreamer and always have been. Although “Escapist Theory” doesn’t relate directly to my topic, which is the connection between technology and relationships, I don’t wish to change it. I could select something such as “__textingfrenzy” or “textingmakestheworldgoround” but I feel this is too constricting. I also enjoy that my personality is conveyed subtly through the pseudonym. It is not advertising my written work, but it is communicating my persona, which is sufficient for me. My byline, “__Exploring the impact of technology & social media on close relationships” conveys my blog’s focus directly, despite the unfocused pseudonym.

While writing under “Escapist Theory,” I will use the rest of this course to strengthen my work in new ways. Improving my editing skills is a change that will take time and close consideration, but I’m looking forward to it. I also hope to strengthen my voice as a writer. My goal is to communicate as I do in person: knowledgeable but slightly humorous and sarcastic. I also enjoy writing in a non-academic way, relating to the reader conversationally and through “understandable” language. I want to build my online persona as an individual who is well-informed in their area of study, but open to new interpretations from readers. This open-minded perspective is imperative to me as a writer, as I believe we learn most from those surrounding us, rather than ourselves.

*Giving credit to IMNOOB71, one of my classmates, for mentioning sexting in a recent post and inspiring me to create this one.*

 

Random studies will tell us that one in five Americans are chronically late , urinate in the pool or believe in witches. You can easily fact-check these miscellaneous statistics on your mobile phone – of which, one in five  American teens use to “sext” with.

From beepers to BBM, there’s no doubt that mobile technologies have helped teens experiment with social skills. But, has it been for the right reasons?

Defined by Merriam Webster , sexting is “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phones.” Not-so-ironically, the term was first coined in 2007, when the camera application was born.

As flip phones evolved into minicomputers and more teens took ownership, youth sexuality progressed from innocence to scandal in the face of technology. With 78 percent of teens owning a cell phone and using it incessantly [or so it seems], we now know what the fuss may be about.

Not only have 20 percent experimented with sexting, but 20 percent of this number has sent semi-nude or nude photos or video of themselves. To put this into perspective, for every 1,000 teenagers, there are explicit photos/videos of 40 different people, floating around.

And teens are overlooking that these photos don’t disappear, but rather, will wind up online or on mobile applications such as Instagram, and enter cell phone company databases for the duration of history.

Sexting is a moral problem, but it has now become a legal concern as well. Over recent years, sexting has triggered numerous suicides and humiliation by students who were victimized, mostly by a trusted significant other. To crack down on such situations, law enforcement created two categories to classify sexting misconduct.

First, the law questions whether the photo, video or communication itself is legal, which is intended to protect minors or harassment cases. Second, the use of technology to obtain and/or distribute the explicit content is questioned. The FBI provides the example of a school computer as an illegal device used.

Even though the law is taking action, this action simply isn’t enough. The sexting frenzy has brought awareness to schools, parents, the law and merchandise alike. Products allowing parents to monitor their child’s texts are now available. But, is this really the answer or, is there a better method to combat sexting?

As technology progresses, the open avenues to communication will only increase. Awareness and parental monitoring simply aren’t enough anymore.