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Australian Govt. Proposes Internet "Panic Button" For Kids 434

Posted by timothy
from the panic-panic-panic dept.
CuteSteveJobs writes "Children who feel they are being bullied, harassed or groomed online could call for help instantly using a 'panic button' on their PCs under a plan by the Australian Government's cyber-safety working group. The button shall look like a 'friendly dolphin,' who will connect the child victim instantly to police or child protection groups. Australian Internet Censorship Advocate Hetty 'Save the Children' Johnson says the Internet needs something like 000 or 911. Will this be another scheme wasting taxpayer dollars in lieu of parental supervison, or could it actually work? Are 1 in 4 children really sexually abused by the Internet? Can flaming and trolling be classified as bullying?"
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Australian Govt. Proposes Internet "Panic Button" For Kids

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  • That's... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pudding7 (584715) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:24PM (#30228502)
    ...the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Calling 911 because someone is making you feel bad? Calling 911 because some guy 1000 miles away wrote some words that made you feel bad?
  • by eln (21727) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:29PM (#30228574) Homepage
    Your access to the Internet is limited basically to the box on your desk, or the phone in your hand, or other devices that are similarly entirely under your control. It's not like normal harassment or bullying in that you can easily get away from it simply by turning off the device you're using to access it. If you're getting bullied in real life, you have to try to run away and get help immediately before your attackers catch up with you and continue the beating. Online, you can simply get off the computer and tell the proper authorities (be that the police or your parents or whoever) at your leisure. There is not the same need for immediacy.

    Also, the whole idea of grooming children (or more often FBI agents posing as children) is that the pedophile gets the child to believe they're safe, and so they would have no motivation to push the little dolphin button. The kids that go off to meet pedophiles do so because they don't perceive that they're in any danger. If they don't perceive the danger, why would they alert the police to anything?
  • by reginaldo (1412879) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:32PM (#30228624)
    What exactly are the police going to do? It's not like the kid is in imminent danger, the perpetrator is not physically there.
    If the police don't need to respond instantly, wouldn't it be better for the kid to tell his parents what happened, as opposed to wasting police resources on a non-emergency situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:32PM (#30228638)

    My younger brothers know not to call 911 unless it is a real emergency. But I can't say they'd have the same discipline with something like this.

    Also, it seems that this would encourage people to use the panic button for stupid reasons. If there really enough of a problem to justify these extreme measures, then children shouldn't be allowed to use an internet connected computer without supervision. I don't routinely let my brothers play with the stove, but if they want to eat something I help them cook it. I don't see why use of the internet should be any different, other than parents not wanting to participate with their kids or not having the time to supervise them fully. A few of the kids I babysit have told me before that they are allowed to use the computer whenever they want. My usual response is 'That's your parent's decision, but my computer doesn't get touched unless I'm there.' Parents should be made more aware of the dangers and responsibilities of having open access on computers in their home for the younger kids.

    Instead of a police button, get some parental material out to inform the responsible adults about the issue. I think that would do much more good.

    And since most of the cyber-bullying that I've encountered was perpetrated by early teens, and not malicious adults, I'd say that parental supervision would prevent a lot of that from happening in the first place. Parents need to be more responsible. --End of rant.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:39PM (#30228756)

    There's already a panic button on every desktop, laptop and netbook. It's called the Power Button. It will automatically disconnect you from whatever you were doing and turn off your computer. Combine this with a talk with whatever parental figure(s) the child has (both before and after online access is granted) and kids should be covered. Not every "think of the children" problem needs a government mandated solution.

  • by Shagg (99693) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:41PM (#30228780)

    There's a big difference between talking to your parents if you're bullied at school versus calling 911.

  • Re:That's... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:44PM (#30228830) Journal

    I'm thinking that we as a society are becoming (or are already) a bit too fetishised over coddling their children.

    (warning: impending 'get off my lawn' rant/moment...)

    When our grandparents were kids, if they got bullied, their own parents would respond by teaching them how to fight. Hell, even when I was a kid, my parents' reaction to bullying was usually along the lines of "...well kick his ass then - as long as you didn't start it, you won't be in trouble from us for finishing it".

    Nowadays, the Internet is easier to deal with - if someone is acting the fool, teach your kid to block 'em and inform the webmaster/etc. Teach 'em to toughen up and to ignore the idiots of this world - it'll better prepare them for adulthood.

    Leaving your kid alone online is the perfect equivalent of letting them wander around alone on Times Square - if you're dumb enough to do it, then at least prepare them for the inevitable bumps and bruises... or perhaps maybe not let your kid surf the thing unsupervised, eh?

    At least this way there's no scrambling around on the cops' part over false positives (because those are almost guaranteed with this system), and nobody has to waste taxpayer money over something that parents should already know how to do, FFS...

  • by visualight (468005) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:45PM (#30228838) Homepage

    Can we go a few months without an article on slashdot describing yet another moronic idea from someone in Australia?

    Seriously, there's something wrong in that place and I'm very curious to know what. Or maybe, these stories are coming from the Australian equivalent of WeeklyWorldNews?

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:48PM (#30228872) Journal

    Dude - if your kid gets bullied at school, do you:

    a) take care of it w/ the kid (e.g. teaching him how to fight back) and/or the school administrators if necessary, or...

    b) call 911?

    This isn't a hard question, I promise you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:53PM (#30228966)

    I was hoping the dolphin would be the power button...

  • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:08PM (#30229144) Homepage

    That's kind of the reaction I had.

    Serious question here - Is cyber-bullying even illegal? TFS asks whether or not flaming/trolling qualify, but what difference does it make? I realize that there could be libel (or slander?) problems if I make offensive false allegations. And possible issues if I encourage violence or rioting or some-such. But if I just call Anonymous Coward an ass-hole and say that his hair looks funny, surely that's legal cyber-bullying, right? And I don't have to worry about a visit from the cyber-dolphin or my tax $$ being spent on law enforcement reviewing whether or not AC actually IS an ass-hole or whether his hair actually DOES look funny?

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:10PM (#30229170)

    If you're getting bullied in real life, you have to try to run away and get help immediately before your attackers catch up with you and continue the beating.

    You haven't been bullied, have you? You don't run -- it only encourages them. You turn into any attack -- 95% of the time, that's the right answer. Bullies, muggers, rapists, etc., all have one thing in common: They go for the low hanging fruit.

    Online, you can simply get off the computer and tell the proper authorities (be that the police or your parents or whoever) at your leisure. There is not the same need for immediacy.

    Or, you know, you could ignore them. Or be a responsible parent to your child, instead of wasting taxpayer dollars chasing down every bad word someone else's kid says about yours.

    Also, the whole idea of grooming children (or more often FBI agents posing as children) is that the pedophile gets the child to believe they're safe, and so they would have no motivation to push the little dolphin button. The kids that go off to meet pedophiles do so because they don't perceive that they're in any danger. If they don't perceive the danger, why would they alert the police to anything?

    Grooming takes time. It doesn't just happen one evening while your child is propped up on the bed and you're having dinner, and the next day they're on a bus. A lack of parental supervision is the problem here -- if we were actually spending time parenting instead of working two jobs and leaving the child rearing to the schools, televisions, and computers, this wouldn't be possible.

    This government solution isn't: That friendly dolphin isn't there for the children, it's there for the parents. So they can feel less guilty about not watching their kid. It's the same reason we have padded foam and rubber all over playgrounds, and the swing sets have been removed, along with all the other interesting things to do. Meanwhile, I used guns, went hunting, rode motorcycles, ATVs, and played hide and seek in a five acre field. Bullies didn't give me much trouble growing up -- rural girls scare the ever-living crap out of city boys.

    Take a hint, parents: Raise your kids to be self-reliant and strong, and you'll never have to worry about their safety. But keep them as your precious snowflakes, and you'll raise a bunch of fragile weaklings that will spend their lives suckling the tit of the government and crumpling at every hardship. I don't say this to be mean -- I say this because the other thing a rural upbringing gave me was a lack of tact. ;)

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:10PM (#30229176) Journal

    Your attitude is exactly why people don't ask for help when they're in a bad place. The result is school shootings, suicides, and other depressing events.

    He wasn't mocking people who ask for help. He was mocking the notion of calling 911 over bullying. The last time I checked 911 is for emergencies. Having your feelings hurt != emergency.

    I don't buy your apologism either. School shootings don't happen because people can't get help. Help is readily available in school. You've got teachers, guidance counselors, administrative staff, etc, etc. It seems to me that the student who is debating shooting up the place could have sought help from one of those people if he was inclined to do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:13PM (#30229218)

    Dude - if your kid gets bullied at school, do you:

    a) take care of it w/ the kid (e.g. teaching him how to fight back) and/or the school administrators if necessary, or...

    b) call 911?

    This isn't a hard question, I promise you.

    Good luck with getting the school administrators on board. Where I went to high school, they had a rather unjust policy that seems designed to encourage you to be a doormat. Someone could physically and violently attack you with absolutely no provocation, and there could be a multitude of witnesses verifying that it was totally unprovoked, and if you defended yourself you were punished just as much as your aggressor. Usually this meant a three-day suspension. Not only was this unjust, it also fails to reflect how the justice system handles similar real-world scenarios.

    I was quite fortunate that my parents saw what was wrong with this policy and supported me. They were unable to modify the school's policy or to prevent the suspension, but they were not upset at me for defending myself against an aggressor. If I had started the fight, then naturally that wouldn't have been the case, but I respected them enough not to put them into that position. I was only ever attacked once or twice and I successfully defended myself both times. One of those times I knocked someone out. I am not proud of that because I don't like violence, but I acknowledge that sometimes it's necessary when you are dealing with an aggressor who cannot be reasoned with. If you roll over and let the aggressor walk all over you, you are only encouraging more of the same. I believe this understanding is why it only happened twice during the entire four years of high school. Others who tried to obey the school policy were not so fortunate and tended to get picked on or attacked quite a bit more than that. This is a natural predictable outcome and I think the school is aware of that.

    Nowhere did it ever occur to me to call 911 or to get the police involved for a fistfight during which no one was seriously hurt. You want fewer bullies, don't turn schools into even more of a police state than they already are. If you want fewer bullies, teach people not to be such easy targets. If you really want to do this well, teach them martial arts and be sure to instill in them a great respect for their art, that self-defense or the defense of an innocent is its only legitimate use and that all other uses of it are abuse. This is the fistfight equivalent of why states that allow conceal-carry permits see dramatic drops in violent crime. It's simple, really: both bullies and criminals have a strong preference for helpless victims who either cannot or will not fight back.

    When people talk about how the "liberals" dominate the schools and are turning them into institutions of undesirable social conditioning, this is an example of what they're talking about. I don't mean "liberal" in the sense of politics, but rather, those people who don't understand the folly of trying to appease a would-be dictator or a would-be aggressor. It's like they want a perfect fluffy-bunny world where we all just get along. I'd like to have that world too, and we're not going to get it by rolling over and submitting to those who would rob us of basic rights such as personal safety. That's what these people just don't seem to understand, or worse, they understand it perfectly well and consider the psychological damage that such broken policies cause to be desirable. Children who grow up in an environment which teaches them that legitimate self-defense is wrong are quite likely, as adults, to look to government to take care of them because they have been discouraged from taking care of themselves. Again when I say "liberal" I mean it in a way that is perhaps better described as "statist".

  • by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:15PM (#30229238)

    It is not clear from the article that the button will work EXACTLY like 911 and compete with emergency response resources. On the other hand, police departments have non-emergency numbers that people are encouraged to call with any potential concerns which do not constitute immediate danger.

    A reasonable functionality of this button would be to replace an existing screen with a splash screen that allows a child to interact with the responder while the later gets a remote desktop to the original session (presumably either with child's permission or if conversation seems to indicate a crime taking place). 99% of use would be a child scared by something which is not actually illegal or dangerous and the responder simply explaining what happened and closing the problematic content.

    As for asking parents, they may not be physically nearby at the moment or little Jonny may not be comfortable with showing mommy an IM window with discussion of his penis. What exactly is wrong with providing an additional option that may be less embarrassing and available at all times?

  • Re:How long until (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) * on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:15PM (#30229242) Homepage Journal

    What would be the motivator for such a malicious act?

    4chan would do it for lulz in a heartbeat. And people who honestly believe in personal responsibility (those of us who believe in being a responsible parent to our own children) probably wouldn't care if they did.

    As far as I'm concerned, the only malicious act takes place when the government starts trying to parent my kids for me. Anything that destroys that infrastructure is pretty much deserved. While I won't actively help the channers, I'll certainly applaud whatever they do to disrupt this bullcrap.

    I also expect rule 34 will kick in regarding friendly dolphins before the end of the day, if it hasn't already. I'd check Encylopedia Dramatica right now, but that site is about as NSFW as you can get.

  • Re:How long until (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WCguru42 (1268530) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:17PM (#30229278)

    What would be the motivator for such a malicious act?

    What, you haven't heard? The internet is full of assholes.

  • by virg_mattes (230616) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:25PM (#30229390)
    > You say it's easy to just turn off your computer to "escape" from the internet, but that's like saying that you can easily escape from physical bullying by staying locked up in your house.

    But that's not the point of the parent post. The point is that there's no need for a "911 equivalent" on the computer. Cyber-bullying is a real problem, but it's not a moment-critical problem like getting beaten up. If you have to switch it off for five minutes or an hour until you can call for help it's not going to result in physical harm to you. That's why the button is a dumb idea.

    Virg
  • by Thinboy00 (1190815) <thinboy00@gmail . c om> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:26PM (#30229402) Journal

    A reasonable functionality of this button would be to replace an existing screen with a splash screen that allows a child to interact with the responder while the later gets a remote desktop to the original session (presumably either with child's permission or if conversation seems to indicate a crime taking place). 99% of use would be a child scared by something which is not actually illegal or dangerous and the responder simply explaining what happened and closing the problematic content.

    Wait, the police are allowed to decide whether a crime is/might be taking place? Don't they have a worldwide bad track record for making those decisions?

  • by kawabago (551139) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:50PM (#30229696)
    Giving a panic button to an ideal child might work, but I have yet to come across an ideal child. All the children I've met would think, push button - get attention!
  • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:54PM (#30229742) Journal

    "Are 1 in 4 children really sexually abused by the Internet?"

    If you ask organisations such as the NCMEC - who know that their funding depends on misinformed hysteria over children's safety - one in five children are sexually abused online. The reality is that the NCMEC and similar organisations use bizarre definitions of child abuse, so if a 13 year boy asks a 13 year old girl to show her breasts, the girl is reported to be a "victim of sexual abuse".

    Most studies on this topic are remarkably biased (for financial reasons, or because they have been commissioned by governments) and based upon grossly inappropriate methodologies, so that question will probably never be answered. Consider Bennett Haselton's article article [slashdot.org] about NCMEC "research" as an example of how such data is biased.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:03PM (#30229850) Homepage

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the main attraction for children is that the weirdo in the bushes is actually paying attention to them. Someone is talking to them, actually holding a conversation rather than just telling them to do stuff or to go somewhere else. You aren't going to counter that very easily because in today's society parenting is equal parts of pushing the kids away and trying to convince yourself that you should really say NO when everyone else on the planet seems to be saying YES.

    So when they encounter someone that is interested in their life, their thoughts and just talking with them they are going to gravitate to it. In the background are the busy parents and the teachers trying to meet all the requirements of both parents and administration. No time to actually talk with the kids. So the pedophiles have an advantage over just about everyone else in the kids lives.

    And until people understand that, all the dolphin buttons in the world aren't going to make a difference.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:20PM (#30230058) Homepage

    "99% of use would be a child scared by something which is not actually illegal or dangerous and the responder simply explaining what happened and closing the problematic content."

    And who exactly is going to provide this handholding/babysitting service? And take the liability for when (not if) they brush something off that turns out to be serious?

    This would be the electronic equivalent of a kid yelling "mom!" every time something happens they don't like. What's the penalty going to be for kids who "push the dolphin" because the printer doesn't work, or a web site is asking them to upgrade their PDF plug-in, or some other kid posted a message saying that [insert child pop star here] is a poopyhead?

    For the 13,674th time, people: Please stop asking the government to parent our children. It's not their job.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NoSPam.barbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:24PM (#30230092) Journal

    Internet community proposes "Stupid" button for Australia.

    A remote desktop for the police to the computer ? Are you absolutely nuts ? What's to stop someone else on trying to get the child to aknowledge and take complete control of your computer, on which daddy and mommy probably have confidential information stored ? This idea is insane.

    If parents are worried about what their kids are going to see on the Internet, maybe they should, you know, spend some time with them? Teach them? Oh, wait - that won't work. They're to busy replying to the latest email hoping to make money from the latest scam.

    I hope they do this. 50,000,000 fake alerts a day triggered by malware/viruses/whatever should be interesting ...

  • Re:That's... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RajivSLK (398494) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:38PM (#30230262)

    it'll better prepare them for adulthood.

    I'm not sure about this at all... When I was a child I remember all sorts of bullying, name calling and violence throughout the years that no adult I know of has ever had to deal with. A lot of bullying would be a felony if perpetrated by adults.
     
      I remember one kid who would routinely get picked up and thrown in the garbage can in boys locker room. If someone people picked me up today and stuffed me in a garbage can I would call the cops. If I was verbally abused, the way some kids are abused at school, I would never talk to or see the perpetrator socially or professionally again. If it happened at work they would surely be fired. A child in the same situation would have to see the abuser everyday for at least the remainder of the school year.

    As an adult, if someone damages my property, physically hurts me or verbally threatens me it constitutes a crime that I can go to the police with. That is an option available to Adults. How is denying this option to children "preparing them for adulthood"?

  • by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:56PM (#30230468) Homepage

    "1 in 4 children are sexually abused by the internet."

    Is that physically possible? And remember, getting your dick stuck in the CD drive because someone on the internet said it was a good idea doesn't count.

    Even if that read "1 in 4 children have suffered sexual abuse directly or indirectly from the internet being used as a means of communication" that sounds absurdly high. The internet being involved in 25% of the cases of child sexual abuse, sure, but that's not what it said. And obviously to deal with the other 75%, we need to ban being in the same room as a minor, since the rest of sexual abuse cases involve someone being in the same room.

    Obviously the problem here is the children. We need to ban them, that way they can't be abused. And in time, we'll eventually run out of people that can become retarded politicians.

  • by moozh84 (919301) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:48PM (#30230938)
    The only true danger for kids on the Internet is if they get tricked by child predators into meeting in real life. A "panic button" does nothing in that case, since the child does not think he/she is in danger. Here's a better way to spend tax money to protection children on the Internet: Pay a software company to develop a good, free "Net Nanny"-style software program and make it available for everyone to use. The market for software like that has always been weak, since most parents don't care enough about protecting their kids from the Internet to actually want to spend money and time buying and configuring the software. Part of the reason is because the software is not known to be very good. Government spending could keep software like that universally compatible with all major OSes, browsers, etc., with a very good matching algorithm or a database on which sites are safe and which aren't. And it could be a free download from your government's website.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:49PM (#30230954) Homepage Journal

    "A reasonable functionality of this button would be to replace an existing screen with a splash screen that allows a child to interact with the responder while the later gets a remote desktop to the original session"

    Alright, I'm not Australian - but if I were, I would be required to leave a backdoor into my machine, so that the police (or whatever government agency) could RDP in if my kid pushes this panic button? Aren't we going a long way backward? We need to re-start stoppoliceware.org? Good grief. Oh yeah - what if the police software doesn't work with Linux? All parents will be required to go backward to Windows?

    Come on.....

    As for the kids, they need to talk to mom and dad about anything that concerns them. Or, do we really WANT go groom them to live in a police state?

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @06:25PM (#30231234)
    Are 1 in 4 children really sexually abused by the Internet? Only if you count reading the "fuck you!" that somebody typed at you as sexual abuse. Seriously, one can only do emotional, not physical harm over the net, and chances are anything some stranger tells my daughter over the 'net isn't going to effect her more anywhere near as much as something I myself say when I'm pissed off at her. Yes, parents should monitor their children's internet use, and children should be instructed to never, never provide personally identifiable information over the internet. But if you are doing that, then who cares what some immature asshole says in a chat room? And how is pushing the panic button on the typed input some anonymous coward really going to help anything? You know, at some point you've got to let your kids fall and skin their knees so they learn it is not the end of the world and they can just get up and go about there life even after something "bad" happens. Trying to protect them from everything harmful in the real world just trains them to not be able to handle the real world when you're not there, and since I plan on dieing before my kids, that's probably not a good idea.
  • by fostware (551290) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:46PM (#30233586) Homepage

    They pick a dolphin? the pack-rapist of the sea?

  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @02:35AM (#30234358) Homepage Journal

    There are people in this world who dream of lording themselves over others. This is just another scheme that they have cooked up using the tried and tested method of presenting that which they wish to control as a threat to children, with the remedy being that they are given more power.

    This is horseshit and the people who are proposing it should be beaten to death with a tire iron.

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