The Paradigm of the ‘C-L’ Generation:
This blog is Part A of a submission to a Federal Government committee of inquiry. In order to avoid it being classified as confidential, it is being posted here as proof that it was in the Public Domain BEFORE it was posted to the review committe. ( Any big holes in the blog represent pictures that the the blog could not process and display.)
We live in interesting times.
The convergence of technology and the media comes at a unique time, the emergence of the ‘C-L’ generation. Our nation has over 4 million children under the age of 15. By the time they are 15, these children will have been exposed to 10 years of computer assisted learning and consequently they are the leading edge of a new social paradigm, the Computer Literate Generation. The ‘C-L’ generation, learns, communicates, plays, entertains fights, and even steals, using computer technology. The technology that they can access is literally hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than the computer on Apollo 11, the first manned space craft to land men on the Moon.
24/7, millions of ‘C-L’ children can use this in-the-pocket technology as easily as they breathe. In doing so they create a new paradigm for an old problem; how do we protect these children from the evils that are in the world, e.g. the evils of the Internet and the threat posed by a multi-billion media industry that has a track record of putting ‘Commercial Considerations’ and Vested Interest ahead of Public Interest?
I believe that the start of answering that question begins with recognizing that the ‘C-L’ generation will be the generation most immediately impacted by any changes made as a result of the current Media Convergence inquiry, a fact that for some reason is not clearly evident in either the Terms of Reference or the Framework discussion paper. Whatever solutions are implemented, to be effective, they will require a paradigm change in thinking about how we now protect these techno-savvy children from our nation’s profit driven commercial media and the other predators that seek to exploit these children. As the news article on the previous page highlights, perhaps the greatest challenge we face is protecting our children from themselves.
Section B: Convergence: – ‘C-L’ Children, Technology and the Media.
“The quickest way to program a video recorder is to find the nearest 8 year old”.
That may now be an old joke that is well past its Use-By date but it is also a truism. In many homes across the nation, children know more about how to use information and media technology than their parents do.
There are many reasons why children today are so technically literate but the prime reasons are constant access to computer technology both at home and in the school classroom. It is therefore no surprise that there is a keen interest in using the many forms of computer technology that are now available. This is stark contrast to the 1950’s when a home made cricket bat, a tennis ball and a couple of rubbish bins were all that was required for a cricket match played in the backyard or out in the street. Fast forward to today and such activities are much less common. These days it is not unusual to see both primary school aged children and teenagers playing electronic games that communicate using either Wi-Fi or Blue Tooth connection technology. Although far more expensive than the bat, ball and bin ‘technology’ of the 1950s, this technology is extremely common and can be found in most homes where ever there are children. The Nintendo DS is just one of many examples of gaming consoles that are on sale in this highly competitive and lucrative market. However, games consoles are just one of a number of computerized devices, many of which have far more sophisticated communications capabilities, and which cost significantly less to purchase. On the 5th August 2011, the MSi and Acer netbooks shown above were on sale at Office Works stores. In direct competition to this, at the same Harvey Norman’s stores were selling a similar Acer netbook for a highly competitive sub $200 price.
All 3 netbooks share common specifications such as a 1.66GHz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a 10” screen, bgn WI-Fi, an RJ-45 network connection, a VGA out connection, Windows 7 Starter, Office 10 Starter, a 60 day anti-virus subscription and games, many of which require access the Internet in order to function.
Whilst not suitable for tasks requiring processor ‘grunt’ such as video editing or playing the latest real-time computer video games, each of these netbooks is quite capable of accessing the Internet and downloading and playing Internet radio, Internet TV, MP3 music files and 360p You Tube videos.
For families that are financially challenged a more modestly equipped netbook can be purchased for as little as $49. The drop in price of the larger, more powerful and better equipped netbooks has resulted in a sharp drop in the price of these Chinese manaufactured netbooks. Essentially a low cost variation on the original ASUS EEEP700 2G ‘Surf’ network that was released in October 2007, this netbook comes with a 600 MHz ARM processor, 128-256MB of RAM, a 2GB solid state drive (SSD), Wi-Fi, Rj-45 network connection and a 7” WVGA screen. The operating system is Microsoft CE 6.0, a now unsupported mobile phone operating system that is visually similar to Windows XP and which works in a similar manner. Despite the extremely modest specification, upon plugging in an RJ-45 network cable to my ADSL 2+ modem/router, I was able to immediately surf the Internet just by clicking on the Internet Explorer icon. In the same manner, once the Wi-Fi password was entered into the Wi-Fi network connection, I could wireless surf the internet. You Tube videos can be downloaded and viewed if the lowest resolution downloads are selected and its quasi-stereo’ speakers make listening to Internet radio possible.
Using mobile 3G USB modems such as that shown in the ‘dodo’ advertisement on the right hand side of the page, the 3 Atom equipped netbooks can access the Internet from anywhere that the Internet Service Provider’s 3G signal can be located.
At the time of writing this submission, (August 2011), both Optus and Telstra are in competition to sell home Wi-Fi networks that will allow multiple users in a household to simultaneous access the Internet via a high speed 7-21 Mbps wireless connection. Telstra’s Big Pond Liberty costs $9.95 for 400Mb per months to $69.95 for 12GB per month that offers speeds of 1.1 Mbps to 20 Mbps in all capital city CBD and metropolitan areas. Optus 3G Home Zone offers similar plans although the current ‘introductory’ price is $5 per month. All four of the above mentioned netbooks are capable of accessing these in-home wireless networks which opens the door to yet another opportunity for children to have unsupervised access to the Internet. Whilst desktop computers usually access ADSL routers via an RJ-45 network cable connection, setting up a wireless connection is a very low cost option that is far cheaper than installing cables. For example, MSY Technology sells the Edimax 3G-6200N wireless card for $36 whilst a ASUS RT-N10 wireless router retails for $34 from the same store.
Although these wireless networking systems are far slower than network cables at transmitting data between the modem/router and the computer, most users on either wireless or copper wire phone networks usally cannot receive data at anywhere near the theoretical speed of 21Mbps and consequently the slowness of wireless router systems is usually not noticeable. Any delays encountered are usually regarded as being due to the slowness of the landline connection.
A key component required for access to these plans is a mobile phone that uses the Telco’s mobile phone network. However, neither Telstra’s ‘Big Pond’ nor the Optus ‘Home Zone’ are safe places, for the Internet holds many dangers, especially for young children and the computer illiterate. The relatively low cost of mobile phones and/or mobile phone plans means that many school aged children now use these phones to keep in contact with parents, siblings and friends. Whilst such convenient contact capability provides an increased measure of physical safety for children and greater emotional reassurance for parents, problems such as cyber bullying, cyber-stalking, phone hacking and paedophile netsurfing have created a whole new range of risks and problems that parents may be unaware of.
Mobile phones are powerful micro computers that literally fit in a person’s pocket or purse. Whether, equipped with manufacturer specific operating systems such as Apple’s iPhone OS or generic operating systems such as Window 7 Mobile or the hugely popular Android operating systems, mobile phones can, as the picture on the left clearly reveals, access the Internet. Low cost phones such as the Huawei G6600 usually have a lower powered 200 MHz ARM processor whilst the top of the range mobile phones are powered by dual core 1.2 GHz ARM processors, have 1GB of RAM and can use 16-32GB Micro SD cards for on-board storage of downloaded video, music, programs and data files. In effect, these mobile phones are pocket sized netbooks that are almost as capable as the ATOM powered 10” netbooks. Equipped with either a touch sensitive screen and a software keyboard or a micro QWERTY keyboard, these phones can access the Internet from anywhere that the service provider’s 3G network signal can be received. Just like their larger desktop, laptop and netbook counter-parts, these pocket sized computers can access and download data, music, videos as well as Internet radio and television programs.
The review panel will not submit its final recommendations until March 2012. By then, the mobile phone market will be marketing a broad range of Free-To-Air smart phones on plans that will be highly competitive. How many will wind up in children’s pockets is as yet an unknown.
(Source: Tele Choice August 2011 catalogue.)
What is an absolute certainty is that these TV capable mobile phones will be in Children’s pockets long before any research is undertaken as to what programs children are watching once they have access to this technology. The traditional in-home viewing patterns of children are no longer valid for this technology gives children, especially unsupervised children, a new usage paradigm, i.e. they can record and watch Free-to-air TV anywhere, anytime.
The reality of the economic potential of a growing audience of millions of children who may be watching unsupervised Free-to-Air broadcasts 24/7 is going to be a powerful commercial incentive, a veritable monetary magnet, for advertisers and the commercial broadcast industry. Instead of the broadcast media continuing to enjoy its traditional, and currently abused, “substantial freedom and self regulation”, this new reality means that new, tighter measures and tougher penalties will be required is this young audience is to protected from unscrupulous vendors. Attractive cigarette packing is out and plain wrap packaging is in; a reality that will now have to be extended to the marketing of alcohol and other ‘adult’ products.
The level of technical ability by young children was unheard of a 15 years ago, mainly because computing was an extremely expensive proposition, e.g. a 150MHz Gateway 2000 laptop with 24MB of RAM cost $6,999 whilst a 200 MHz Pentium Pro desk top with 32MB of RAM cost $4,499. In 2011, thanks to funding by both the Federal Government and the state/territory governments, many schools are now close to achieving the target of 2 students per computer. The degree to which some students now take computer learning for granted can be highlighted by the following true story.
A couple of years ago I was working as a TRT, i.e. a relief teacher, in a large private school. When taking a Technical Studies relief lesson with a class of Year 8 Woodwork students in the Technology Studies computer room, I told the students that the answers to the questions in their theory assignment could all be found by looking in the Index. Like a platoon of well drilled soldiers on parade, the entire class turned in unison and began to GOOGLE the word “Index”. Using the Internet to access information was second nature to the students; so much so that they were unaware that their text book had an index! By the time they are 15 years old; many students will have had 10 years in the development of these computer skills.
We have reached what I believe is a critical time in our nation’s history. Children now carry in their pockets or have sitting on their desks at home, computer technology that rivals the computational power of the multi million dollar mainframe computers of the 1970s and early 1980s. (The 16 Bit on-board computer that first put mankind on the moon only had 2KB of RAM and 36KB of ROM.) 24/7, Cyber-Space communications technology now enables many of our nation’s 4.3 million children can simply click a mouse button or phone key and access information, or other people, anywhere in the world using computers or mobile phones that can access and store Gigabytes of information.
Parents cannot be all seeing and all knowing when it comes to monitoring what their children are doing with the computer technology that these children literally have at their finger tips. In many cases, even if they were standing over their children watching the computer screen, they may not be aware of ‘background’ tasks that are running in parallel with what is happening on the screen. Having worked with students and Windows OS computers since 1990, the first thing I do when observing student activity is to check the status bar, or if the students have hidden it, I Alt-Tab through the screens to see what is being hidden. Many parents do not know just how easy it is for their children to hide inappropriate background activity and thus are unaware of the material that their children may be downloading off of the Internet.
Programs like Norton’s Anti-Virus are relatively inexpensive and can prevent this background activity; however, this software is usually provided in shrink-wrapped boxes with the software set to default Internet protection levels that are either low or have not even been activated. Protecting children means that parents need to be educated about the security features of protective software. The question is who is responsible for the provision of that information? Properly set up when installed, security software, in conjunction with the Federal Government’s ‘Net Nanny’ measures, can automatically provide children with a high degree of protection by cutting off access to inappropriate web sites, such as porn or gambling web pages, or web radio and web TV links. The problem is, the software is rarely altered from it’s out of the box default settings when it is being installed, especially when the children may be conducting the installation!
However, the best protective security in the world cannot prevent children from accessing free to air programs if the computer, laptop or netbook is equipped with a TV card.
When Windows 95 was released, I upgraded my computer with the intention of converting VHS 8mm video camera tapes to digital video. It was something of a shock to discover that the hardware required for converting this videos cost almost $1,000 and that, without powerful hardware, the video produced would be low grade 320 x 240 in resolution, i.e. QVGA resolution in an MPEG 1 file ‘container’.
As the MSY price list clearly indicates, High Definition USB tuners now cost as little as $31. The primary difference in pricing is due to the cost of the supplied TV ‘antenna’, software and the size of the micro remote control unit.
Sold by Dick Smith Electronics, the computer below is sold a HD TV dongle that runs under Windows 7 and, like most Windows 7 programs, will run as a background task. With the sound muted and the task bar hidden, children can access and background record Free-to-Air television broadcasts whilst appearing to be doing legitimate tasks such as their homework, or even while they are asleep!
Major TV manufacturers have already introduced low cost TV dongles that enable a digital TV set to connect to a Wi-Fi network and thus connect to the Internet. What we now have is a rapidly evolving convergence of extremely powerful, low cost computer technology that is in the hands, or more often, the pockets, of extremely computer literate children who may have far more knowledge and skills in the use of this technology than their parents. Internet radio and television programs are not part of the current review of media convergence and this I believe is a serious mistake that is totally inconsistent with the principle of Care for Kids. It is also inconsistent with the Duty of Care obligations that politicians owe to the nation’s 4 million+ children. Monitoring and preventing children from accessing some of these broadcasts may be difficult; however that is no excuse for stonewalling on the problem or dumping it in the Too Hard basket.
These broadcasts have to be moderated at ‘Point of Source’ and this will require international agreements that many may be extremely offensive to citizens in some countries where freedom of the press is regarded as a basic human right. In the United States, Freedom of the Press is a constitutional right and control of offensive broadcasts from the USA may therefore not be possible. Maintaining blacklists is possible solution even though they are expensive and time consuming to keep up to date. However, that is no excuse for not exploring every possible avenue to block access of inappropriate material being accessed by young children.
I believe that as a matter of urgency the review’s Terms of Reference should be reconsidered, even if this means that the review panel’s timeline requires a substantial extension of time.
Free-to-Air television is already a $31, pocket sized USB addition to netbooks and laptops. With these easily obtained ‘dongles,’ children can have access to both Internet television and Free-to-Air television, without any overt parental supervision. Given the rapidly increasing power of the dual core ARM processors that are now being introduced into new mobile phones and the rapid pace of mobile phone development, it is highly lightly that access to Free-to-Air television broadcasts will be a standard unblocked feature on some, if not all, of the Free-to-Air TV capable phones that are currently available.
The fierce commercial competition that has significantly reduced both mobile phone prices and call tariffs whilst significantly increasing monthly data caps will also be a major factor in ensuring that children will have access to in-the-pocket Free-to-Air television. 7” – 10” ePad devices like the one on the left cost from $100 to almost $1,000. They have the screen size of netbook with many of the functions of a mobile phone. All have Wi-Fi capabilities, the more expensive models have 3G capabilities but none as yet can use a USB TV tuner. However, the huge popularity of these ePad/iPad devices indicates that this feature will soon be available and Murphy’s Law suggests that this will occur sooner rather than later.
With such a wide range of hardware options available and growing in both power and features at a rapid rate, the C-L generation will have unrestricted access the Internet, the 3G mobile spectrum and free-to-air TV far soon that legislators may have contemplated.
With the exception of the $49 netbook, all of this technology comes equipped with a digital camera and this has led to a new phenomenon that is of grave concern to both educators and the police, i.e. Sexting. This involves young teenagers sending pictures or videos of themselves containing sexually compromising footage. In South Australia, teenagers 16 and older involved in this activity can be charged as sexual offenders but the C-L generation, being under 15, cannot be charged. Once a video is posted on the Internet, e.g. Facebook, it is accessible to anyone with access to the Internet, including very young children who may be just surfing family or friends. The more this technology moves into the hand of teenagers and younger children, the greater the need for default ‘lock-out’ protection systems at the point of manufacture or point of sale. Unrestricted access to television content is a ‘today’ reality with unfiltered television from both the Internet and Free-to-Air sources now accessible by techno-savvy children.
Care for Kids means that there are currently at least 4.3 million Duty of Care reasons for ensuring that at least the Free-to-Air broadcasts “remain consistent with (defined) community standards and the (defined) views and expectations of the Australian public”. When it comes to protecting our nation’s children from ‘adult content’, be it commercial exploitation, political bias, or the myriad dangers presented by surfing the Internet, the easiest way to achieve this is at point of source. This requires a range of legislative initiatives such as tighter control and regulation of what constitutes ‘child sensitive’ material during news and current affairs broadcasts and the default setting of childproof ‘lockouts’ on hardware and software at the point of manufacture and/or the point of sale.
- 1. Replace laissez-faire subjective standards with more empirical standards.
- 2. Either empower the ACMA to act as a mediator in disputes with the media or establish a Media Ombudsman with the power to impose ‘minor’ penalties such as ‘name and shame’ or the 24 hour suspension of licence(s) for repeat offenders.
- 3. Negotiate with security software and mobile phone manufacturers to have default security setting set to high levels before a product can be sold on the Australian market.
- 4. Schedule news and views programs to later time slots.
- 5. Most importantly, think about the real world impact of broadcast programs on our nation’s children – they are more than just the next generation of consumers and voters; they are the future. There is absolutely no excuse for not making them, rather than the technology or ‘industry innovation’, the primary focus of the Media Convergence Review.
Ronald Medlicott. GDA, Dip.T, Cert FLM, Cert WPTii.
7” Netbook Specifications:
Weight: <1 Kg
600 MHZ 32 Bit CPU
256 MB RAM
2 GB Solid State Drive (+ 8 GB SDHC Card optional) .
Apollo Guidance Computer.
Weight: 32 Kg
2.048 KHz 16 Bit CPU
2 KB RAM (2048 Bytes)
36 KB ROM
Cost: $US 150,000
We don’t let children play with matches or loaded pistols but parents do place massive computing power in their hands with far too little thought for the implications and the potential consequences.
“The committee believes it is that next step—the consideration of these mechanisms in the new, fast changing, convergent media and communications environment—that will be its major challenge”.
As the following extract highlights, when people loose sight of humanity’s priorities, even under totally different circumstances History still has a nasty habit of repeating itself over and over ad infinitum.
In June 29, 1846, the resignation of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel was announced. Peel’s Conservative government had fallen over political fallout from repeal of the Corn Laws which he had forced through Parliament. His departure paved the way for Charles Trevelyan to take full control of Famine policy under the new Liberal government. The Liberals, known as Whigs in those days, were led by Lord John Russell, and were big believers in the principle of laissez-faire.
Once he had firmly taken control, Trevelyan ordered the closing of the food depots in Ireland that had been selling Peel’s Indian corn. He also rejected another boatload of Indian corn already headed for Ireland. His reasoning, as he explained in a letter, was to prevent the Irish from becoming “habitually dependent” on the British government. His openly stated desire was to make “Irish property support Irish poverty.”
As a devout advocate of laissez-faire, Trevelyan also claimed that aiding the Irish brought “the risk of paralysing all private enterprise.”
With the ideological goal of protecting ‘Private Enterprise’ a Laissez-faire policy that callously and deliberately ignored the humanitarian disaster caused by the Irish Potato Famine, resulted in appalling hardship, suffering and death amongst the starving Irish population.
In the 21st century, vague, highly subjective Laissez-Faire media control policies that protect the ‘rights’ of the media whilst ignoring the risks to our nation’s youngest generation are just as morally bankrupt and despicable as Charles Trevelyan’s handling of the Irish Potato Famine.
The real ‘major challenge’ for the committee is what has always been every society’s major challenge, i.e. the protection of the next generation from the dangers that beset the current generation.
Re: Why must Part 2 be a Confidential submission?
In 1946, the Nuremberg war Crimes Tribunal ruled that it was not lawful to obey an unlawful order.
That ruling will be of direct relevance to the Media Convergence Committee because it will contain information that was the subject of two “Don’t copy, don’t distribute” suppression orders issues by two Senate committees. When challenged, the second suppression order was down-graded to an ‘advisory notice’; however the LEGCON suppression order, issued in November 2005, is still in force.
The problem is that both of these suppression orders may violate criminal laws in each State and Territory and they could eventually be reclassified as A Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice. The ‘major challenge’ for me in writing Part 2 of this submission is legally avoid the Senate’s gag. My solution to that is to use a ploy commonly used by the media, i.e. present truths but definitely not the whole truth. The logic in this action is that if it is wrong for me to do it, then it must also be wrong for the media to do it.
Here are some verifiable Public Domain facts that are all relevant to Part 2 of this submission:
- In FY 2000-01, Centrelink issued 346,078 Breaches, i.e. turned off welfare payments for 13 weeks.
- In FY 2009-10, Centrelink issued just 507 Breaches, i.e. turned off welfare payments for 8 weeks.
- The humanitarian consequences of Breaching activity have never been reported by Centrelink.
- Paragraph 51 (XXiiiA) places a Constitutional Obligation upon the Federal Government to pay a welfare allowance to unemployed persons. (Very few people know this because the media rarely mentions it.)
- Paragraph 75 of the Constitution makes it quite clear that the High Court, not Centrelink, has the legal responsibility for resolving alleged Breach of contract issues that involve either the federal Government or any of its agencies. (Very few know about this because the media also rarely mentions it.)
- In a letter dated 18th May 2010, Assistant Secretary Neil Skill wrote, “Centrelink does not collect Post Breaching Terminal Outcome Statistics and there is unable to assist with your request for this information”. (These humanitarian impact statistics are the only significant statistics not collected by Centrelink.)
- Queen vs. Dr. Jayant Patel, who was tried and convicted in the Queensland Supreme Court in March 2010 with being responsible for three counts of Unlawful Killing.
- Crown vs. Josiah Finch who was tried and convicted in the SA Supreme Court in February 2006 with one count of Felony Murder. The Crown did not allege that Mr. Finch had killed anyone; he just would not divulge details of one Unlawful Killing. He was sentenced to 14 years with an 8 year non-parole period.
- In February 2010, Tony Abbott suggested that Peter Garrett be charged with Industrial Manslaughter for not revealing the deaths of four ceiling insulation installers.
- Tony Abbott was the Employment Minister from 1998 until 2003 and during that time he supported doubling the Breaching penalty from 13 weeks to 26 weeks but during the parliamentary debate on this legislation, he did not inform Parliament during of the lethal impact of Breaching.
- 2,978 are known to have died during the ‘9/11’ attacks but the Breaching fatalities are unknown.
The essence of Truth is Proof. All of the above facts are verifiable as is the fact that national media organizations have also imposed self-censorship on the adverse humanitarian impact of Breaching by not revealing the full impact of this activity. Like the Stolen Generation Disaster, the self imposed media censorship of this politically motivated humanitarian disaster has never been in the Public Interest.
 Office Works catalogue August 2011
 Sam’s Warehouse catalogue. 1st August 2011.
 ARM “Acorn Risc Machine”. The world’s most common class of CPU; it is used in most mobile phones and Apple’s iPad.
 Dick Smith catalogue. 1st August 2011.
 Australian Personal Computer, Page 32 advertising insert. Vol. 17, issue #10, October 1996.
 Apollo 11’s on-board computer had a 2KHz CPU with just 2 KB of RAM. Today, mobile phones may have dual core 1.2GHz CPU’s and a Gigabyte of RAM, i.e. 500,000 times more powerful than the Apollo computer that first put mankind on the Moon.
 Source: Dick Smith catalogue. August 2011
 msy.com.au (6th August 2011.)
 JB Hi-Fi August 2011 catalogue.
 JB Hi-Fi catalogue. August 2011.
 Now called Serious Compliance Failures – another way of say Breach of Contract which is a matter for the High Court.
 The man sometimes referred to in media reports as Queensland’s ‘Doctor Death’.