Friday, June 22, 2012

Bad Apples

A third grader was forced to undress and school officials scrubbed his body in the shower because he "smelled badly, was dirty and … had bad hygiene." His parents have sued the Peaster School District outside Fort Worth, Texas, alleging that their son now is in therapy, distraught about being dirty or smelling badly, and showers compulsively.

Meanwhile, in a kindergarten class near San Antonio, Texas, the teacher lined up the classmates and instructed them to hit six-year-old Aiden to "teach him why bullying is bad." Some students didn't want to hit Aiden but were afraid to disobey their teacher. Then one student hit Aiden hard in his upper back and the teacher intervened. Apparently, Aiden's teacher was following the advice of a more experienced colleague and both are now on paid administrative leave. Aiden's mother has filed a police report against the teachers for bullying her son.

No one from either school contacted the children's parents first to try and resolve these issues before crossing the line from teachable moment to criminal and civil liability.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flirting With Disaster

Skout is an app designed for flirting between adults. Users exchange photos, messages, and virtual gifts. It has GPS that allows people to connect with strangers that are nearby, and its popularity is growing with millions of new users each month.

Its growth also attracted $22 million in financing from one of Silicon Valley's leading venture capital firms which cited Skout's safety and security protocols as a major reason for the investment. For example, the GPS location feature is an opt-in and approximates a user's location within half a mile. Skout also monitors the app for illicit and violent behavior, nude photos, inappropriate sexual messages, profanity, spamming, and copyright infringement.

After learning that children were using its adult app, the company started a separate service with parental controls for 13- to 17-year-olds. 

However, the minors’ app and "creepinator" technology were not enough to keep out child predators who have been accused of sex crimes against children they met using Skout:  a 15-year-old Ohio girl, a 12-year-old California girl, and a 13-year-old Wisconsin boy were sexually assaulted by adult men posing as teenagers on Skout.

Skout's founder calls these cases "a five-alarm fire" and says, "The entire company is re-evaluating everything it's doing."