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Entries in Internet (23)

Thursday
Aug022012

Study: Google Search Results for Infant Sleep Safety Mostly Wrong

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Feeling lucky?  A new study shows you might need it if you're "googling" medical advice instead of asking your doctor.

In a study of 1,300 Google search results related to infant sleep safety, researchers found that only 43.5 percent of websites provided accurate information.  The rest were either inaccurate or irrelevant.

"It is important for health care providers to realize the extent to which parents may turn to the Internet for information about infant sleep safety and then act on that advice, regardless of the reliability of the source," said Dr. Rachel Moon, the pediatrician who led the research effort published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Moon, a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome researcher at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., used 13 search phrases related to infant sleep safety, including "infant sleep position," and "pacifier infant" to conduct her study.  Moon and her team analyzed the first 100 Google results for each phrase, and deemed them accurate if they matched up-to-date recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Moon's colleague, Brandi Joyner, told ABC News she regularly tells patients to double-check their online sources' validity before acting on the advice.  Joyner is a clinical research coordinator at Children's National Medical Center and health educator at the Children's National WIC clinic in Washington, D.C., where she tells women how to keep their children safe even at naptime and bedtime.

"If you want to turn to the Internet, make sure the website is ending in .gov or .org or .state," Joyner said.

The most accurate sites were from government organizations, which were accurate 80.1 percent of the time, according to the study.  Researchers found that the least accurate websites were blogs, which were only accurate 30.9 percent of the time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May082012

Is the Internet Driving Porn Addiction Among School-Aged Kids?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nathan Haug is an upstanding high school student, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.  He has a high GPA, serves on the student council and swims competitively.  But Haug had a secret he kept hidden from his family and friends during his early teen years -- he suffered from an addiction to online pornography.

This 17-year-old from Alpine, Utah, is one of eight children, and one of the oldest still living at home.  He said his habit of looking at pornography on the Internet started when he was around 12 or 13 years old.

"It was kind of there, uninterrupted," he said.  "I became almost numb to it.  It became such a part of, pretty much my daily routine.  It was automatic."

And Haug is far from alone.  There is still little research on how many U.S. kids are addicted to online pornography, but a University of New Hampshire study reports exposure begins young -- for some, as young as 8 years old.

Of course, pornography isn't new.  But it's a quantum leap from a world where pornography came in magazines and on tape, to where it's available on our smartphones and tablets -- or at the click of a mouse.

The warning signs for those who become addicted may include depression, poor school performance, self-isolation and lying.

While the American Psychological Association has not yet classified pornography as a listed addiction, some professionals working in the field are treating it as such.  Psychotherapist Matt Bulkley in Saint George, Utah, treats teenagers exclusively, some of whom have committed sexual offenses and some who are just hooked.

"A lot of times the pornography becomes a coping style," Bulkley said.  "It becomes a way that they deal with negative emotions in their life, pornography provides a euphoria.  It provides a high, of sorts."

Bulkley estimated that in the next five to 10 years, as the next generation moves into adolescence, online pornography addiction will become an epidemic.

Some studies show that seven out of 10 teens have been accidentally exposed to pornography online.  Boys are more likely to view it, but more girls are getting hooked too.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Internet Crackdown on Pro-Anorexia Sites

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two years ago, when Madeleine Bowman began treatment for anorexia, she stopped looking at a pro-anorexia website that for years had served as her community and her source for ideas to nurture her secret illness.

But on Tuesday, she was curious and decided to take a look.  Fortunately, her login had expired.

Bowman 26, of New York, is in recovery from a decade-long battle with anorexia, she said.

She'd stumbled upon the website in eighth grade, after googling "eating disorders."  Bowman had been skipping meals to lose weight and she wanted to find out if she was anorexic.  She then visited the site often to find new ways to hide her condition from friends and family.

Given the many social aggregators that spread information to wider and wider audiences, Bowman says that today it would be even easier for someone to find their way to a pro-anorexia site.

However, that might not be the case for much longer.  In March, social sites like Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest announced they will remove posts and website information that could promote eating disorders.

This move is one of many efforts that signal a shift in how the public views eating disorders, according to Claire Mysko, project manager of Proud2BMe.org, a website that promotes awareness of eating disorders.

Mysko, who has worked in the field of eating disorders for more than a decade, said the stigma surrounding the disorder is decreasing.  More people are willing to talk about their problem, and more are willing to speak up against the unhealthy behavior, she said.

"There aren't as many who are feeling that ashamed," said Mysko.  "We're making progress in that area."

The shift in how eating disorders are viewed suggests that prevention and treatment efforts may be working.  Hospitalizations for people with eating disorders dropped 23 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to the latest findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  This decline was the first ever noted by the federal agency since it began tracking hospitalizations in 1999.

The drop, though, some experts say, may largely be due to the lack of insurance coverage on designated treatments for eating disorders, particularly hospitalizations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar292012

Facebook Taking Proactive Stance Against Suicides

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of the suicide of a 31-year-old Taiwanese woman who told friends on Facebook she was planning to kill herself, Facebook's managers tell ABC News they have plans to work with other leading websites to provide more robust suicide prevention resources to Web users.

"We're working with other Internet companies at formulating a list of best practices, so that there's an understanding and a consensus, along with experts in the suicide prevention community, for online properties dealing with this issue," Frederic Wolens, a spokesman for Facebook, told ABC News.

Wolens said the suicide of Claire Lin, who killed herself on her 31st birthday on March 18, highlighted a problem that social networks have been trying to grapple with for years: how individuals who are suicidal often let their despair reflect on their social networking profiles, by chatting to friends about it or leaving other signs.

"More and more, as Facebook becomes more widespread and pervasive, it's becoming a better and better mirror for what's going on in the real world," Wolens said. "With suicides going on in the real world, the suicide touches some part of Facebook, whether it's the signs leading up to it, or people who wrote things on their Facebook."

The parents of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man, are speaking out.

In the case of Lin, the connection to Facebook was particularly gruesome. Lin chatted with nine Facebook friends on the website while she slowly killed herself by asphyxiation, inhaling the fumes from a charcoal barbecue in a closed room and typing messages about her slow death.

The friends begged her to open a window and put the fire out, but did not call police.

In other instances, individuals have written Facebook "status updates" confessing they wanted to kill themselves, or written messages to friends expressing suicidal thoughts. Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi brought widespread media and public attention to the issue after he killed himself in 2010. Moments before, he had posted a Facebook message saying, "Jumping off the george washington bridge. Sorry."

Currently, Facebook offers resources to users in the U.S. who ask for them. If a person planning suicide mentions it on Facebook, and friends report it to administrators, they will send messages to the person and his or her friends, offering help.

A private, one-on-one Facebook chat with a suicide prevention counselor would pop open on the person's Facebook page, offering counseling free of charge. The person would also be offered local resources that could be found offline, Wolens said.

For a user who reports suicidal postings by a friend, Facebook offers resources on how to help a friend through that crisis or whom they could recommend the friend contact for help.

"So in the U.S. specifically, we already have a system where when we receive a report of a user that's in distress, that goes into our safety team, which reviews the report to make sure it's an authentic report, and after we've verified it, we reach out to person who has reported it and the distressed user," Wolens said. Facebook then offers the specific chat and local resources, a model the company plans to duplicate abroad.

Facebook also already houses helpline phone numbers and other resources in its Help Center.

What the company won't do is scan users' online activity for warning signs or mentions of suicidal thoughts, Wolens said. The ability to crunch data from billions of users' messages each day -- coupled with the nuance and context of messages that might contain words like "kill myself" -- would make sorting through the data impractical.

For Facebook and other social websites, including Twitter, the opportunity potentially to help suicidal users is great, while the challenge of implementing a practical system has been enormous, Wolens said.

Wolens declined to name the other companies Facebook is working with on the issue, though he said they are leading Internet and tech companies. The group first met in January 2011 to begin talking about the problem and possible solutions, and met again in January 2012, he said.

The group's goals are to standardize the best ways a website or Internet company can deal with suicidal users, primarily by offering resources and one-on-one help to those who ask for it. They have consulted with suicide prevention specialists and organizations whose members are at greater risk for suicide, such as the LGBT community and veterans, Wolens said.

"Eventually we'll be able to have best practices that we can go out and distribute to other Internet companies and work with the online community on adoption," he said.

While the loose coalition works to formalize its plans, Wolens said Facebook will continue to work with suicide prevention groups to implement resources and raise awareness through its own site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar212012

Study Links Narcissism and Facebook Activity

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MACOMB, Ill.) -- For the average narcissist, Facebook is a tool that may promote anti-social behavior.

Facebook “offers a gateway for hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication,” according to study by Western Illinois University professor Christopher Carpenter.

The study was published this month in Personality and Individual Differences, the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences.

In the study, Carpenter defined narcissism as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance,” according to a press release from the university.

Using a Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Carpenter and his students surveyed 292 people -- most of whom were college students -- to measure “self-promoting” Facebook behavior, such as people posting status updates, their photos, updating profile information; as well as “anti-social behaviors,” including seeking social support more than providing it, getting angry when others do not comment on status updates and retaliating against negative comments.

People who score higher on the inventory promoted themselves more on Facebook -- by tagging themselves and updating their newsfeeds more frequently, and by having more friends on Facebook, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.

The study concluded that grandiose exhibitionism correlated with anti-social behavior on Facebook. Self-esteem was negatively related to self-promotion and anti-social behaviors on the site.

“In general, the ‘dark side’ of Facebook requires more research in order to better understand Facebook’s socially beneficial and harmful aspects in order to enhance the former and curtail the latter,” Carpenter said.

Social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have long been criticized for being vehicles for meaningless relationships, and have recently been mentioned in connection with making bullying easier and more pervasive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar202012

Online Grieving: Support a Keyboard Away

Zach Whiteman via Reddit(KOKOMO, Ind.) -- On March 8, a young man marking a painful anniversary went to Reddit.com and posted three short sentences and a photograph depicting a heartbreaking story of young love nipped in the bud by cancer.

"A year ago today, I proposed to the love of my life. She passed away 5 days later due to ovarian cancer. She was only 17," he wrote in words that moved more than 1,800 members of Reddit's online community to respond.

When strangers asked why he proposed to a dying woman, the young man, identified only as koolaidman2011, explained: "We found out she wasn't responding to her treatment two days after I proposed, and she only got worse after that. The doctor hadn't told us the severity of her situation at that point in time. So yes, I proposed to her just as any person would. I never could have imagined she wouldn't be here today."

By choosing to share such raw emotion in an open forum, koolaidman2011 might have been seeking an outlet for his grief, empathy for a searing loss and perhaps a chance to connect with others who'd endured similar pain. New to the site, he said he'd only been registered a couple of days when he posted his story of lost love.

The vast majority of responders to his online grieving offered kindness and compassion. Several shared losses of parents, siblings, and lovers, and how they'd gotten through them.

And yet, for what might only be explained as the darker side of human nature, some people, shielded by their online names, posted nasty comments.

Their anonymity is "part of the danger," of posting to a general audience, said Gary M. Laderman, an Emory University religion professor who specializes in death and dying. "More often than not you have aliases, different avatars, different ways to identify yourself where you can shield your true identity."

That emboldens some people to "be really rude, whether it's some kind of story on the politics of the day, or really personal issues," Laderman said. Even though most people would assume that common rules of decency would prevail, "online and on the web, those things are out the window."

Despite the veil of anonymity, little is truly private in the digital age. When one user apparently recognized the woman in the photograph as Morgan Brantley, some quick online searches turned up several stories about Morgan Alizabeth Brantley, a Kokomo, Ind., high school senior and varsity swimmer whose illness and death united her community. The Kokomo Tribune also covered how Zach Whiteman, a fellow senior and varsity basketball player, put a ring on her hand during a bedside marriage proposal.

From Brantley's diagnosis on Dec. 17, 2010, through her death on March 13, 2011, friends and loved ones posted thoughts and prayers on three Facebook pages, raised money for medical expenses and sported "Team Morgan" T-shirts designed by Whiteman. The "Pray for Morgan Brantley," page featured the same photograph Whiteman posted on Reddit.

Whiteman, now a college freshman, didn't respond to attempts to reach him through Reddit and Facebook to learn whether the online posting provided any solace.

"If it's only been a year since his fiancée died, his grief is still very fresh," said bereavement counselor Pamela Gabbay, program director of the Mourning Star Center for Grieving Children in Palm Desert, Calif. "I think that he was focusing on the positive, his memories and his love for her, and never thought that people would be negative, mean and cruel."

Many younger people reared in the online age "are more comfortable expressing their most intimate feelings in a virtual fashion," Gabbay said. However, she said that dedicated sites for the bereaved tend to protect them from the stinging comments of critical outsiders in more open forums like Reddit. "Typically, grieving people tend to be kind to each other because they know what it feels like to be hurting."

Whiteman's posting illustrates how the Internet has made grieving a much more public ritual, Laderman said. "There's a whole plethora of online grieving support networks and memorialization pages that are very much focused on people struggling with grief. The online virtual world has really become important."

Cyberposts can provide comfort to the grief-stricken, which is "why we're seeing more of the kinds of sites or posts where people are putting their little testimonial or memorial," Laderman said. "This is part and parcel of larger trends around death and dying in our culture that are breaking it out from purely religious institutions and authority and from the controlling hand of the funeral industry."

Ultimately, Gabbay said, online forums and discussion boards can provide healing and comfort, but virtual interactions "cannot replace face-to-face support. The Internet can't give you a hug."

Some online sites and interactive forums dedicated to grieving and loss:


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar152012

Facebook Shuts Down ‘Most Beautiful Teen’ Page

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Facebook page that solicited sexy pictures from teenagers hoping to be named the “The Most Beautiful Teen in the World” has been taken down after it sparked outrage from concerned parents and security experts.

The page violated Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities, Facebook said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not tolerate bullying and take action on content reported to us which we categorize as such,” the statement read.

Teens began uploading pictures on the “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page as soon as it was created. The often-provocative photos, many showing boys with their shirts off and girls in bikinis, posing in their bedrooms and bathrooms were then judged by other Facebook users in comments for all to see.

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“I would not touch with a ten-foot pole,” one comment read.

“Her nose is too big,” another read.

The harsh language and the concept of such a competition were too much for Marcy Kemp-Rank, whose 15-year-old daughter, Amy, introduced her to the site after submitting her own photos to be judged.

“She read them [the comments] to me, several of them, and I couldn’t handle hearing them because it just made me very upset and angry,” Kemp-Rank told ABC News.  “I think that was a good thing they took it down.  I think it was a way of bullying.”

The “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page, and the many like it still available to teens on other websites, also raised red flags, security experts say, about online predators.

The page shut down by Facebook was open to anyone, meaning it did not require users to “friend” the publisher, or “like” the page in order to log on and see the thousands of pictures of young boys and girls.

“It is an absolute pool for people that like this sort of thing for the absolute wrong reason,” John Abell, New York bureau chief for Wired.com, told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Internet Addiction Linked to Drug Abuse, Study Finds

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(THESSALONIKI, Greece) -- Parents already panicky about the amount of time their teenage children spend online may now have something new to worry about: all those hours spent Web surfing, chatting, gaming, texting and posting to Facebook could be a warning sign of substance abuse, according to a new study in the March issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Greek researchers found that teenagers with “pathologic” Internet use were more likely to admit to drug abuse, and as excessive Internet use increased, so did the likelihood of substance abuse.  The study also linked substance abuse and excessive Internet use to such personality traits as nonconformity, aggressiveness, recklessness and impulsiveness.

“Not only did we find that specific personality attributes were important in both substance abuse and Internet addiction, but that Internet addiction remained an important predictor of substance abuse,” study co-author Georgios Floros, at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said in an email to ABC News.

Floros and colleagues surveyed 1,271 students between the ages of 14 and 19 on the Aegean island of Kos about their Internet use, substance use and personality.  To determine who was “Internet addicted,” the researchers administered a 20-question “Internet addiction test” that asked how often the students stayed online longer than they’d intended, how often their grades or studies slipped because of the amount of time spent online, and how often they’d “yell, snap or act annoyed” if someone bothered them while they were online.

When they compared the mean values of “illicit substance abuse” among the teenage participants, the researchers found that those who reported substance abuse had “significantly” higher mean scores on the Internet addiction test, and that those scores were important predictors for substance use, either past or present.

“The predictive element showed an interesting new finding,” said Floros.

“It’s not a shocking result to me,” David Greenfield, a Connecticut psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, told ABC News.  “The study offers another set of variables to look at when doing a workup.”

Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist at UW Health in Madison, Wis., said, “I’ve definitely seen kids who showed signs of problematic Internet use.  Some of them do go on to have other problem behaviors.  Sometimes that’s substance abuse, sometimes it’s other addictive behaviors, like excess exercise or excess shopping.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb242012

Women More 'Unfriendly' Than Men, Study Says

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Women and young adults are more unfriendly than men -- on social networks, that is.  At least that’s what a new study released on Friday by the Pew Research Center reveals.

According to the report, two-thirds of Internet users are on social networking sites and a good chunk of them -- 63 percent -- have deleted “friends.”

And not only is de-friending up from 2009 by 19 percent, but women and young adults are the ones hitting the “unfriend” button the most.

“Some 67 percent of women who maintain a profile say they have deleted people from their network, compared with 58 percent of men,” the Privacy Management on Social Media Sites report states.

Young adults -- those between 18 and 29 -- are more apt to delete contacts than users between 30 and 49.

While women are more aggressive in pruning their friends lists, they are also more stringent when it comes to protecting their information on social networking sites, says Pew.

More than half of social network site users -- 58 percent -- say their main profile is set to “private” so only their friends can see it, and women more often choose the “highest restriction" -- 67 percent of women versus 48 percent of men.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb162012

Singles Dating Site Lets You Ask: Why Didn’t You Call Me?

Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Chad Zanca was devastated when his girlfriend of six months just vanished from sight while visiting him for a vacation in Costa Rica. "She straight up gave me the cold shoulder. It was pretty brutal," said Zanca, a 25-year-old from Denver who works in strategic sales for Agility, a disaster-recovery service.

"When we came back to the States, we did our own thing for a few days," he said. "I called her and she didn't want to hang out with me. It was real cold, no explanation at all."

Zanca is happily playing the field today, but he'd still like to know what went wrong.

Singles like Zanca can now get the feedback on a free website, WotWentWrong, which was launched this year. They say it can give jilted lovers closure, and new insight into their dating missteps for future romances.

Site users can send a customized and secure feedback request to that date who never called back. The ex can reply by selecting various reasons for the silent treatment. There is room for either party to add additional text or questions.

To encourage a response, the site provides survey ratings on the long-lost ex or questions about attractiveness, kissing skills and dress. The emphasis is on "being nice," according to site developers.

Zanca said the idea is appealing and so did his co-worker, 25-year-old Lizzy Holmgren. "I would totally want to know why someone was not interested in me," she said.

The site will aggregate its statistics in March so users can see the top breakup reasons and other dating trivia.

"WotWentWrong is the breakup app for couples who never really broke up," founder Audrey Melnik of Melbourne, Australia, said. "Instead, someone just faded away, and the lack of explanation makes it difficult for the other party to move on. We're providing a socially acceptable way to tie up the loose ends, learn from what happened and improve your dating Zen for the next relationship, no stalking required."

The site targets both men and women in the 18-to-45 age group.

Users can select from different templates and styles of communication -- "philosophical, sincere or cool" -- and customize them to individual needs. They get a feedback report when an ex responds.

About 25 percent of the requests have been answered so far, Melnik said. So far, the site has drawn about 50,000 unique visitors and sent out 500 feedback requests. Half of its users live in the United States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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