Nov 24 2008

Father of Abraham Biggs Comments on His Son’s Online Suicide

Category: Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 6:45 am

The story of Abraham Biggs and his online suicide continues to make waves in the press and online. Yesterday, Biggs’ death was confirmed to be suicide and many on the Internet are wondering if they had a hand in the death of this young man:

Biggs’ father, Abraham Biggs Sr., said those who watched, and the website operators, share some blame in his son’s death. “I think they are all equally wrong,” he said. “As a human being, you don’t watch someone in trouble and sit back and just watch.”

Some viewers contacted the website to notify police, but the police did not arrive in time.

Whitworth said the anonymity of the Internet may cause some users to behave in ways they wouldn’t in person.

“Those individuals who were egging Mr. Biggs on in essence were able to depersonalize,” he said. “They would not do it face to face, but in the computer medium they were able to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility for their actions.”

They are “absolutely not” absolved, he said, but they also cannot be held accountable.

Anonymity does provide the opportunity to act in a way that would never occur face-to-face. We’ve all done things while driving that we would never do in person. I bet most people have sent emails that would never be discussed in public. So, are the online viewers partially responsible for Biggs’ death?

The video and blog postings have since been removed from the sites, but Crane, who has seen both, said that at first viewers thought the suicide was a hoax.

“The bloggers said that Biggs had threatened to kill himself before and had faked it, so at first they didn’t believe him,” said Crane. “Gradually, as you read the blog further into the day the bloggers start commenting on how Biggs isn’t moving.”

Crane said comments on the thread included an exchange about whether the image of Biggs’ motionless body was a still photograph or a video, and eventually resulted in one of the site’s visitors calling the police, who tracked down the teen through his computer IP address.

According to Wired magazine, online viewers watching the video ranged from “OMG” — Internet slang for oh my god — and LOL — an abbreviation for laughing out loud.

OK, many thought it was not real, but still… LOL and OMG? Why are we finding ourselves in a place where a young man can commit suicide while thousands look on and even encourage the act?

Montana Miller, an assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said Biggs’ very public suicide was not shocking, given the way teenagers chronicle every facet of their lives on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

“If it’s not recorded or documented then it doesn’t even seem worthwhile,” she said. “For today’s generation it might seem, `What’s the point of doing it if everyone isn’t going to see it?'”

She likened Biggs’ death to other public ways of committing suicide, like jumping off a bridge.

The story of Abraham Biggs, in my perspective, is one of a troubled young man who wanted attention and fame. He tried various means to gather that attention ultimately reaching-out to the Internet in a way that could be recorded for history. Online, he engaged in a peer-group that ultimately did not kill him, but did not prevent his death either. The death of Biggs will leave a scar on many and reminds us all how fragile the human psyche can be.

For those of you who did not take him seriously and encouraged what you thought was a joke, you will have your own conscious to deal with. For the rest, especially the parents in the crowd, please talk to your kids and make sure they have options in the face-to-face world to help them deal with problems.


Nov 22 2008

Florida Teen Abraham Biggs Commits Suicide Live Online with Webcam

Category: Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 4:57 pm

Very disturbing news out of Florida this week:

A Florida teenager who used a webcam to live-stream his suicide Wednesday was reportedly encouraged by other people on the Web site, authorities told

“People were egging him on and saying things like ‘go ahead and do it, faggot,’ said Wendy Crane, an investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office.

Abraham Biggs, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., had been blogging on an online body-building message board and had linked to his page on, a live video streaming Web site, where the camera rolled as he overdosed on prescription pills, according to Crane

And there’s more

”He would say things weren’t going well in life,” said Natasha Mazzolino, who met Biggs, 19, about a year ago in the computer lab where he worked at Broward College. “He was having problems with his girlfriend and problems at home.”

Mazzolino said Biggs Jr. spent a lot of time on the Internet and while his suicide was shocking, his decision to broadcast his death was not. Internet users who claimed to have interacted with Biggs online referred to him as a ”troll” — someone who spends many hours online — and said he had threatened to kill himself before.

”He was very much into the Internet. If this is something he was going to do this is how he was going to do it,” Mazzolino said.

Biggs ingested a lethal mixture of three different drugs early Wednesday, then continued to blog about it while others watched online and egged him on, the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office said.

The end of the video — which shows Pembroke Pines police busting into his bedroom and discovering his body — remained up on as of Friday morning.

I know we live in a voyeuristic society, but this is going way too far. This kid was obviously troubled and I suspect the majority of “viewers” did not believe the events were real, but they were. What has been interesting is the reaction to this event. One of the advantages of social networking is, there is a felling of family out there and people tend to help others out.

Take this video from TomWiki for example:

A good sentiment for an awful situation. People will often find a way to cry out for help, we just have to make sure we are listening.


Nov 22 2008

New Misunderestimation Blogger – My Son Matt

Category: Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 7:50 am

I’m happy to say that my son, Matt, has decided to join this blog and contribute to the general misunderestimations found here. Matt is a 17-year-old with a unique perspective on life and I look forward to seeing him become a regular contributor to the content on this blog. I tend to bring the parent’s perspective to the site and it will be nice to read about things from the teenager side of life. While we were all there once, it’s hard to remember exactly what that was like.

Join me in welcoming Matt to the site and be sure to drop a comment or two on his first post:
Nickelback’s New Release “Dark Horse”- Where’s the Inspiration?” Not a bad first post if I do say so myself.



Nov 04 2008

Heidi Klum Guitar Hero World Tour Risky Business Commercial

Category: Entertainment,Kids & Technology,VideoTim @ 8:27 pm

Last week, we saw Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps, Tony Hawk, and Alex Rodriguez doing Tom Cruise in Risky Business to promote the release of Guitar Hero World Tour. This week, we get another version of this commercial with Heidi Klum.

Clearly a step-up in quality!

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Oct 31 2008

The Beatles are Coming to Rock Band

Category: Entertainment,Kids & TechnologyTim @ 6:00 am

Exciting news for Beatles fans:

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple Corps Ltd (the Beatles’ recording company) and MTV Networks are expected to announce today that the Beatles have licensed songs to the popular video game Rockband, a 4-person game which allows you to emulate your favorite bands with 2 guitars, drums and a microphone.

There are a lot of missing details, but it sounds interesting:

“This game is not just a Rock Band expansion pack. It is a new, full game title production built from the ground up,” Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos said during a Thursday morning conference call.

Giles Martin, son of Beatles’ record producer Sir George Martin and co-producer of the Beatles Love project, will serve as music producer.

The songs will be based on the U.K. versions, Giles said. “The thing we’re trying to keep to is for people to play the songs as if they’re playing the originals [and] preserve the sound quality as much as possible.”

I love the fact that they are planning to stay “true” to the original versions of these songs. I hate the ones that are butchered in some games systems. Even the two surviving Beatles are getting into the mix:

Starr and McCartney, the two surviving Beatles, talked up the game in a press release. “The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of The Beatles and their music. I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out,” said McCartney. “The Beatles continue to evolve with the passing of time and how wonderful that The Beatles’ legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in,” said the fan-averse Ringo Starr.

You have to admire a band whose music remains relevant even after 4 decades. I know from experience what Guitar Hero has done for reviving old songs; this Rock Band Beatles version will undoubtedly extend The Beatles’ music for generations to come.


Oct 31 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour Ad with Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps, Tony Hawk, and A-Rod

Category: Entertainment,Kids & Technology,Sports,VideoTim @ 5:21 am

Guitar Hero World Tour has been released and they have hired some big name stars to promote the game. Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps, Tony Hawk, and Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez all do their best Tom Cruise:

Can’t say this makes we want to buy the game more, but I’m sure it will be a hit with others!


Oct 24 2008

Twitter is the New Fast-Growing Champ

Category: Kids & Technology,Sci/TechTim @ 3:55 am

Twitter fans unite! While social networking sites continue to grow at a rapid pace, Twitter is growing the fastest

Twitter’s audience has shot up 343 percent since September 2007, making it the fastest growing social network in the U.S., according to the latest report from Neilsen Online.

343% is impressive. The report indicates Twitter grew from 500,000 users to over 2.3 million in one year. Why? What is the attraction? Twitter is like text messaging, but you can share your messages with a group. Still not sure what Twitter is? Try the “In Plain English” series of videos for a very good explanation:

I’ve seen the benefit of Twitter from a personal perspective during Hurricane Ike. Twitter kept Houstonians connected and allowed us to share information in the midst of the storm and during the weeks of clean-up. Twitter is also playing a key role in the presidential election with the addition of a dedicated Election 08 round-up section. This tool allows you to view tweets on candidate-related information at a glance and helps to break news items with amazing speed.

Twitter also keeps you in touch with friends by allowing you to see what is going on in their lives. You only share what you want or what  you are comfortable with and you can select whom you follow. You can even protect your updates and make the available by invitation only. However, that approach defeats the fun of the site, meeting new people.

If you don’t yet have a Twitter account, you should get one today and see what all the fuss is about. When you do, be sure to folllow the misunderestimation Twitter account and see what is new on this blog!

Oct 21 2008

New Study: Cell Phones and the Internet Bringing Families Closer

Category: Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 9:25 am

Just when you were sure that all the time spent texting, emailing, surfing, blogging, chatting, and generally being plugged in was a bad thing, a new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project has produced some interesting results:

A national survey has found that households with a married couple and minor children are more likely than other household types — such as single adults, homes with unrelated adults, or couples without children to have cell phones and use the internet.

The survey shows that these high rates of technology ownership affect family life. In particular, cell phones allow family members to stay more regularly in touch even when they are not physically together. Moreover, many members of married-with-children households view material online together.

So, technology is connecting families to each other and improving the quality of the family unit. Interesting. Wait, it gets better.

Technology was found to be beneficial for family life, according to the study, since families using the most technology are also more likely to share more moments with family members when they are online.

On the other hand, technology can also kill family time in some cases, as dual-income households have reported less family time, and more work, partly due to the use of internet. They are also less likely to participate in family leisure time or eat family dinner, a percentage that rises with the rate of technology ownership.

However, we can’t ignore the fact that technology enables new ways of communication: 70 percent of couples who both own a cell phone contact each other at least once a day, to say hello or chat, compared to just 54 percent of couples who own just one or no cell phone.

OK. So you have to be careful with too much tech time and put the phone down when you are eating or having leisure time. I’ll buy that. My son will back me up on this one, “Put that phone down at the dinner table!”

If the increased technology time is not coming at the expense of family time, where is it coming from?

The survey also found that the Internet has affected family television viewing habits — one-fourth of respondents reported that they are watching less TV.

Another blow to the networks. We have heard about the evils of watching too much TV forever. Now, it looks like we may be listening. Of course, we are texting while driving, or fumbling with a cell phone in traffic, or stepping off a busy curb while reading email, or being awoken at all hours by an incoming text message, or …

Oct 17 2008

iPod Hit by Train

Category: Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 7:32 am

I know this is not a new story, but it illustrates another sure sign of the impending apocalypse .

Train Approaching

WOODFIN – A 23-year-old man who police said was listening to an iPod suffered severe injuries after being struck from behind by a freight train on Tuesday.

Aaron James Parker V, of Asheville, was walking on a stretch of track between Flynn Branch and Farm Roads, authorities said.

“The engineer blew the air horn several, several times, and then the boy turned around right before the train hit him, and he tried to jump out of the way,” Woodfin police officer Charles Robinson said.

Parker landed about 20 feet from the tracks, Robinson said. He was in Mission Hospitals’ intensive care unit late Tuesday and in stable condition. Parker suffered several injuries, including broken bones, broken ribs, shoulder injuries and head injuries, West Buncombe Fire Department deputy chief Randy Ratcliff said.

Hit by a train! How loud is your iPod if you can’t hear a train? That level of volume can’t be good for the ears. I found an interesting article on the FDA site:

“One of the things that bothers me is that [young people] are aging their ears before their chronological time,” says audiologist David Lipscomb, who has researched hearing loss in students at the University of Tennessee.

In the fall of 1969, he tested the hearing of entering freshmen and found about 60 percent of them had hearing loss. Fourteen percent of the young men tested had hearing similar to the average 65-year-old. By comparison, only 3.8 percent of sixth-graders had hearing loss, suggesting that something–probably noise–was damaging hearing during the teen years.

“We know that the average 70-year-old will have some impairment from aging,” says Lipscomb. “But for young people [exposed to loud noises], the aging process is speeded up. They’re blowing their spare tires.”

Well, how do you know if you have it too loud? The article suggests this:

The rule of thumb for listening to music is to keep it low enough so that you can hear other sounds above the tunes. If you’re listening to a Walkman portable radio or similar headset, no one else should be able to hear your music.

I like the sound of that. At the risk of ridicule and scorn from my teenage son, I think iPods have become a bit of a nuisance. I love listening to mine when I want tune out the outside world. I use it on the bus, when I’m working on a deadline, or just vegging. What drives me nuts are people who wear them constently and expect to have conversations with you by removing one ear phone. What’s even worse are those who have the volume so loud that all around can hear. Let’s face it, when you are in your late 30s, jamming Michael Bolten on the bus does not make you cool. Seriously.

Oct 14 2008

Obama Campaign Ads on Xbox 360

Category: 2008 Election,Entertainment,Kids & TechnologyTim @ 1:25 pm

You knew it was only a matter of time before your little escape from the world was invaded by politics. While driving in Burnout Paradise, gamers get hit with a political ad from the Obama camp

Obama Campaign Invades Burnout Paradise

“I can confirm that the Obama campaign has paid for in-game advertising in Burnout,” Holly Rockwood, director of corporate communications at Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, told me via email, noting that EA regularly allows ad placements in their online games. “Like most television, radio and print outlets, we accept advertising from credible political candidates,” she continued. “Like political spots on the television networks, these ads do not reflect the political policies of EA or the opinions of its development teams.”

Great idea, but this seems to be a little bit over the top. Most gamers buy games to escape from every-day pressures and now those games are being invaded by politics. Seems to be bitting the hand that is feeding Obama and not a very wise strategy.

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