Blocking Someone on Facebook is like Blocking Them Out of Your Life

As seen in AM New York, "Some kids definitely have a church/state feeling when it comes to Facebook, and they want to keep their parents out."

During a recent dinner, Daryl Smolens called her daughter Ali and asked her to tell the friend she was dining with to have fun in Boston this weekend.” “I turn to him and say, ‘I didn’t know you were going to Boston,’” recalled Ali. “My mom already knew because she had read it on Facebook, and here I am sitting next to him and I didn’t even know!” The 25-year-old West Villager said it’s “100 percent” annoying when her mom knows more about what her friends are doing on Facebook than she does. And she’s not alone. As Facebook’s popularity spikes among all generations, more parents are getting involved in their kids’ online lives — and it’s not always welcome.

“Without fail, every time I sign on to Facebook, my mom already has commented on one of my friends’ status — even before I’ve had a chance to see it for the first time,” said Ali. “I’ve known Ali’s friends forever,” said Daryl, 63, of the Upper East Side. “They are always at our house hanging out … not always with Ali around. “I did tell Ali I would stop commenting on her friends’ status, but, you know, I’m a mother.”

Wendy Sachs, editor in chief of, a parenting website, said: "Parents want to stay connected to their kids, and Facebook offers an often unedited look into what’s really going on in their lives.” Many parents with younger children insist on having access to their Facebook page to ward off cyberbullying or other inappropriate activity. In an October, 2010 survey, one in three parents of children 12 to 17 years old said they feared their kids being cyberbullied more than kidnapping, suicide, car accidents or terrorism.

Cyberbullying has terrified parents, so monitoring is becoming increasingly important,” said Sachs, who has a 9-year-old son. But even she knows the drawbacks to giving parents permission to view your Facebook page. “As a child of divorced parents, an innocuous post of a piece I wrote followed by a humorous comment by my dad led to a bitter comment from my mother,” Sachs said.

“I ended up deleting the post and almost de-friending my mom on Facebook.” Mark LoCastro knows that Facebook feuds can mushroom into larger family feuds. The 28-year-old Lower East Side resident wanted some privacy, so he limited access to his profile. But when his dad’s girlfriend discovered that she was blocked, things went south. “The following day, she was real upset and contacted my dad,” he said. After a conflict, LoCastro restored her access. “I guess blocking someone important on Facebook, like a family member, is like blocking them out of your life,” he said. “People sometimes take Facebook too seriously.”

Here are some recent Facebook statistics:
Sources: Facebook's Social Ads Platforms;

48% = Percentage of parents who “friend” their kids on Facebook

15,516,780 = Number of active Facebook users age 55 and over as of January, 2011

58.9% = Growth in the 55+ age group on Facebook between January, 2010 and January, 2011

45,406,460 = Number of active Facebook users ages 18 to 24 as of January, 2011 — the biggest user group

4,369,820 = Number of people in New York City who have a Facebook account

55% = Percentage of Facebook users who are women

43.4% = Percentage of Facebook users are men

71.2% = Percentage of people in the U.S. with an Internet connection — 206.2 million — are on Facebook

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NSFW = Not Safe For Work (or School)

Talk about denial, a conservative Indonesian lawmaker in Jakarta resigned last week after he was caught on camera watching online porn on his computer during a parliamentary session. Arifinto, who like most Indonesians goes by one name, is a member of the Prosperous Justice Party, which calls for a central role for Islam in public life. He was the leading force behind Indonesia’s extremely strict anti-porn law, under which a leading pop star was sentenced to jail when his homemade sex tapes were put on the Internet. Arifinto initially tried to argue that he had clicked on a spam link by accident, but then admitted his guilt and resigned. - As seen in The Week

And in other troubling technology news, reports of attempts to sexually exploit children have doubled in just a year. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited children, it's because predators are now using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to contact minors. - As seen in USA Today

Finally, what's the tech health scare of the week? It's something new, known as "Facebook depression." A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that doctors and parents need to wake up to how social media affects children. When pediatricians take a child’s medical history, they need to ask, "Are you on Facebook?" "Kids can be insecure in general," report author Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe tells, "and Facebook can heighten those anxieties to a huge degree." Along with cyberbullying, researchers have identified the problem of "Facebook depression," which arises when children have their "friend requests" rejected and sees photos of classmates having fun without them. Such experiences can lead to "profound psychosocial outcomes," including suicide, the report says. O’Keeffe says parents should help their preschool kids explore the Internet and begin discussing online situations as soon as possible. It’s vital that adults understand the technology kids are using, she adds, "so they can set appropriate limits." - Also seen in The Week

They're Compiling Detailed Profiles of You

To experience a profound violation of your privacy, you need not opt for the "touch my junk" line at the airport. Just go online. There, sophisticated marketing and research companies are giving you the full WikiLeaks treatment through cookies, beacons, and other tracking devices that record your every move, like unseen spies.

Somewhere, someone has made a record of your e-mail address, Facebook ID number, and even your name; they can record your every keystroke on the Web; they can sniff out information about health problems, interests, and attitudes, and sell that information to life-insurance companies, advertisers, or potential employers. Did you Google Viagra? Click on ads for weight-loss products? Someone knows. All of these intrusions are laid bare in an ongoing and superb Wall Street Journal series called "What They Know.'' The series deserves a Pulitzer, for revealing the extent to which companies are secretly compiling detailed profiles of your likes, dislikes, purchases, searches, sexual proclivities, and religious and political beliefs.

There's a curious paradox involved in communicating and gathering information via a keyboard and a computer. It feels so intimate and personal, but is utterly not; it's called the World Wide Web for a reason. Your e-mails can be retrieved and used in lawsuits, and are screened by the government for evidence of violent intent. A hacker on another continent can seize control of your hard drive. An Army private can plunder the government's "private" network, embarrassing diplomats, presidents, and kings. Here’s your Miranda warning: You have a right to remain silent, but whatever you do online can and will be held against you. - by William Falk, as seen in The Week

Oh and by the way, venture capitalists in 2010 invested $1.1 billion in start-ups that track online behavior to send targeted advertising to consumers. Despite concerns of privacy advocates and congressional threats to rein in the practice, "it's a huge market and it's growing," says investor Chris Fralic of First Round Capital. - as seen in The Wall Street Journal

Google’s Scary New App

The app would link an image search engine to a face-recognition program, so that photos could be matched to personal information. The concept of personal privacy just took another hit, said Mark Milian in Google engineers are working on a mobile application “that would allow users to snap pictures of people’s faces in order to access their personal information.” The app would link an image search engine to a face-recognition program, so users could pull up a profile on anyone whose picture they snapped—provided the photographic subjects had given Google permission to match photos with their personal information. Privacy advocates are already crying foul, pointing out that a stalker, for example, could use the app to find out where someone lives. One advocate noted that the company “has a tendency to push boundaries in order to outdo competitors.” Not to worry, says a Google spokesman: “It’s a sensitive area. We are taking a sort of cautious route with this.’’ - As seen in The Week

Time to Start Using Your Earbuds, as in Always

It's official, pressing your cell phone to your ear can at least temporarily alter your brain. That’s the disturbing finding of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, who scanned the brains of 47 volunteers while they had cell phones attached to each side of their heads.

During a 50-minute call, activity in the brain’s neurons closest to the antenna increased by 7 percent—a significant amount. “We have no idea what this means yet or how it works,” study author Nora Volkow tells Wired, “but this is the first reliable study showing that the brain is activated by exposure to cell phone radio frequencies.” Previous studies have found contradictory evidence about whether mobile-phone radiation can lead to a higher incidence of brain cancer; many researchers have insisted there is no way the weak radiation emitted by the phones could affect biological tissue. But the NIH study shows that there is, in fact, an interaction, raising the question: Could the neurological stimulation shown by the scans be causing dangerous inflammation and brain-cell damage over time?

“You don’t have to wait around on us for the answers,” Volkow says. She strongly recommends using earbuds, headsets or a speakerphone to keep cell phones away from your head.

Why Gadgets cause Junk Sleep

It's official: Viewing light-emitting TVs, smartphones, computers, and video-game players less than an hour before bed interferes with sleep. Why do more than 40 percent of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep? One likely culprit: our ever-glowing screens.

A new study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of people polled had used some sort of electronic device less than an hour before bed the previous night. Light-emitting TVs, smartphones, computers, and video-game players “can suppress the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin” and rev us up, making it difficult to nod off at a restorative hour, study author Lauren Hale tells USA Today.

The consequences of the national sleep deficit are both broad and alarming. Out of more than 1,500 people surveyed, 37 percent admitted to having driven while tired in the past month—the cause of 100,000 crashes and 1,550 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young people, the heaviest users of light-emitting gadgets, were the drowsiest, convincing Hale that the trend “could really affect the future of sleep” and “have serious consequences” for physical and mental health. Her advice: Don't rely on junk sleep! Power down before hitting the sack, and read or listen to music instead.

Google +1 takes on Facebook

Google will begin allowing users to personally endorse search results and Web pages, its latest attempt to stave off rival Facebook while trying to jump onboard the social networking boom. The so-called "+1" button started to appear alongside Google search results for some users this week, letting people recommend specific search results to friends and contacts by clicking the button. Eventually, the feature may begin to influence the ranking of search results, although according to sources, that is still under consideration. Results are now ranked by their closely guarded algorithm.

In other Facebook news, it was a good week for F2F human contact after Christian clergy said a large number of people have given up Facebook for Lent. Facebook "is almost compulsive," said one pastor. "That's why it makes sense to give it up for Lent!"

It was also a good week for this +1, Amanda Hocking, who may be publishing's most unlikely self-made millionaire. According to Tad Vezner in the St. Paul, Minn., Pioneer Press, a year ago, the purple-haired college dropout couldn’t find a traditional publisher for any of the eight young-adult paranormal romances she’d written in her bid to keep up with the rent on her small Minnesota home. But then last spring she decided to start self-publishing the whole lot as e-books, which sell at just 99 cents to $2.99 a title. By January, the 26-year-old was moving more than 400,000 “units” a month, and pocketing roughly 70 percent of the gross!