Griefer hacks baby monitor, terrifies toddler with spooky voices

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Remember how, back in September 2015, researchers revealed that virtually every "smart" baby-monitor they tested was riddled with security vulnerabilities that let strangers seize control over it, spying on you and your family? Read the rest

Help your kids learn to code with "The Official ScratchJr Book"

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ScratchJr is a simple, free, tablet based programming language kids can use to make simple games and animations. The Official ScratchJr Book has been a great guide for my daughter and I.

I first heard about Scratch, when one of our attendees gave a brief show-and-tell on it at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder. It sounded pretty accessible. It came to mind again when recently, in an attempt to get my daughter to use the iPad for more than watching Bratayley, I decided to try and interest her in creating something. She loves art, but Minecraft was far too confusing for her and I was looking for another kid-friendly programming option. ScratchJr is a tablet based, even simpler version of Scratch, installing was as easy as any other app.

The Official ScratchJr Book does a great job, with friendly illustrations, of walking us through the basics. My daughter prefers the painting and drawing of characters, and backgrounds, to the organization of blocks, but the book did a great job of walking us through it all. Having gone through the book together, once, she can now refer to it one her own, if she runs into a problem. Generally, her problem is me grabbing the tablet and adding things.

I am not going to tell you we've made high art, but I think I could throw together a decent 1980's King's Quest parody.

The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code via Amazon Read the rest

Sneak-privatization of public schools: attacking teachers, unions and standards

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A scorching editorial by public education advocate Marion Brady describes the 30 year program of sneak-attacks on public education in America. It starts by whipping up fear that foreign workforces are "eating our lunch" because of education standards in the US (rather than, say, multinationals taking jobs to places with lower wages and fewer labor protections), then blaming "unaccountable" teachers and insisting on charters, de-unionization, standardized testing (which can be used to prove that teachers aren't "accountable") and standardized curriculum (so there's something to test on the standardized test). Read the rest

New US law says kids can walk to school by themselves

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After years of documenting instances in which parents and kids are terrorized by law enforcement and child welfare authorities because the kids were allowed to be on their own in public places, the Free Range Kids movement has gotten some justice: a new Federal law gives its official okey-doke to parents who let their kids get to school on their own. Read the rest

The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon was better than it had any right to be

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The Retroblasting Youtube show -- which covers the 1980s cartoons that were made as 22-minute ads for toys after Reagan removed regulations aimed at protecting children from televised exploitation -- takes an in-depth look at the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, a rare example of a show from the era that didn't have a toy tie-in. Read the rest

NSA says it will take four years to answer questions about its kids' coloring book

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The NSA's Crypto Cat and her friends are a set of trademark-registered kids' characters who have appeared for more than a decade in promotional materials like coloring books that the NSA uses it to encourage kids to grow up to be spies. Read the rest

Gene Luen Yang's inaugural speech as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

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Gene Luen Yang burst on the graphic novel scene in 2006 with the Eisner-award winning American Born Chinese, a brilliant memoir about growing up as an Asian American; and followed up with a diverse oeuvre that spanned video games, Asian representation in superhero comics, and digital literacy.

Portraits of imprisoned Iranian girls awaiting capital punishment

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Though Iran won't actually execute people under 18, their courts will readily sentence children as young a nine to physical punishment, including death, and hold them in inhumane, crowded conditions until they are old enough for their sentences to be carried out. Read the rest

How my daughter and I make Adventure Breakfast

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A hot, filling breakfast is important to get my kid's school day off to a good start! I'm a disorganized mess of a dad who frequently wakes up late. Luckily, we've come up with Adventure Breakfast, a method that leaves us with piping hot oatmeal ready to be eaten anywhere we want.

I learned this method years ago. Bob's Red Mill shares it in a few places but this post is best.

What I am doing is simply this: take a 25oz Stanely Vacuum Bottle and fill it up with a cup or two of boiling hot water. I then wait 5 minutes for the thermos to heat up. I use the hot water from the thermos to clean something in the kitchen sink, and then I put 1 CUP of Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oatmeal in the bottle. I add 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt, close the Stanley, and shake it a bit.

When we wake up in the morning we've got steaming hot oatmeal waiting for us!

We usually take some bowls, brown sugar and raisins (or whatever fixings my kid decides on that day) with us in the car. We stop someplace with a fantastic view along the route to school, and enjoy what has become known as Adventure Breakfast.

This recipe makes enough oatmeal for us to have a friend along too, but we can generally finish it between the two of us. You can use smaller and larger thermos, and adjust the volume of oatmeal/water to match. Read the rest

Watch these tough little kids duke it out in the ring!

This is footage from the 45th annual Junior Boxing Program Championships, held in 1964. From History's Playlist:

The Naval Junior Boxing Program was founded in 1919 by Spike Webb, and was made available to the children of naval Officers and cadets stationed in Annapolis, MD. Children ranging in age from 5 through 11 and weighing 30 to 100 pounds were allowed to enter the ring and fight during these tournaments... This youth boxing club was meant to teach the children sportsmanship and how to have a strong body and mind under pressure.

(via Weird Universe) Read the rest

Merry Christmas podcast, with Poesy

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It’s been a year since I sat down at the mic, but it’s Christmas and we have a tradition to uphold. Now we’re settling in here in Burbank and I’ve got a new computer, I’m hoping to get everything running again and get back to a regular schedule. (MP3, podcast feed) Read the rest

3.3 million Hello Kitty website accounts leaked

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Last week, security researcher Chris Vickery discovered a database containing 3.3 million accounts from Sanriotown, a commercial Hello Kitty fansite operated by Sanrio, Hello Kitty's corporate owners. Read the rest

New EU rules would ban under-16s from social media

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A last-minute change to pending EU data-protection rules will ban under-16s from using social media without explicit parental consent -- the rules are up for a vote on Tuesday. Read the rest

Cop who demanded photo of sexting-accused teen's penis commits suicide

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Detective David Edward Abbott, a member of the Virginia-Washington DC Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force became Internet famous when he obtained a warrant to inject a child with an erection-causing drug so that he could photograph the child's erect penis and compare it to an image sexted to another child. Read the rest

Antidepressant use by moms during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

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Researchers examining a possible link between antidepressants and autism found that women who took the psychiatric medications while pregnant were far more likely to have autistic kids.

Women in the study who took antidepressants during the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Researchers say the link was most prevalent with women on the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are some of the more common SSRI drug brand names.

Does the new study prove antidepressants cause autism? No. Correlation is not causation, and science is complicated. But increasingly, autism research is focusing on factors that may contribute to the disorder before birth.

Read the rest

Three year old Sophie's Princess Chewbacca birthday cake

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Sophie's parents tapped their friend, Megan, to turn a Chewbacca doll into a Princess Chewbacca birthday cake, using the "Barbie cake" method, and making Sophie's third birthday just the bestest. Read the rest

Experts baffled to learn that 2 years olds are being prescribed psychiatric drugs

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In 2014, US doctors wrote ~20,000 prescriptions for risperidone, quetiapine and other antipsychotics for children under the age of two; a cohort on whom these drugs have never been tested and for whom there is no on-label usage. Read the rest

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