Caught in the web

April 23, 2010 1:22:36 PM PDT
When my two teenagers were little, there was a strict house rule: One hour of television a week.

Weird, I know, for a dad who pays the bills by working in television. And news shows were always exempt from the one-hour-per-week rule. But the studies are clear: little kids spending untold hours sitting in front of the tube (now there's an antiquated term) isn't good for their mental or physical development.

We got some grief from them, but they got used to it. And, except for some get-out-jail-free moments like turning on PBS during breakfast to get them to eat before school, they grew up pretty much not watching much television.

Then they discovered the computer, and television watching suddenly seemed so dang tame compared to the addiction to the Internet. Oh we tried to put a limit on computer time - one hour a day, I clearly remember that one. But once their schools required computers - and access to the Web - for homework, then all attempts at parental controls went out the window.

I bring this up because so much of their computer time is spent on social networking sites. It is how most young people seem to communicate these days - although the quality of communications, judging by some of the posts I read, seems debatable.

But there's no question, these social networking sites are growing beyond anyone's expectations. Facebook alone now has 400 million "customers" - up from 100 million two years ago. Try finding that kind of growth rate anywhere else.

I'm one of those 400 million. Actually I'm two of them, having set up two accounts somewhat naively. Now, as Eyewitness News continually increases our web interaction, I've taken the next step, or at least that's how I choose to describe and view it.

They have set up a "fan page" for me, so the viewers who have "friended" me don't have to put up with my personal friends' comments about what I may have eaten the past weekend. It's a fascinating process, getting plugged in to this wave, and I'm a little surprised at how much time people spend keeping up to date through Cyberspace. And I'm pleasantly surprised at the response to my entry into the world.

I'll admit I'm not sure how I can maximize my participation, my I'm having some fun thinking about it! Here's the link: http://www.facebook.com/billritter.wabc.

And I welcome any and all suggestions, tweets, emails, notes, comments, whatever.

Now to our 11 p.m. newscast.

We're taking a look at the issue of hiring a contractor. Most people get estimates and even check references. But if you don't do a proper background check you could be out thousands, without any recourse. Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side have the cautionary tale and the simple steps that could save you big bucks.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest in the Al Qaeda plot to bomb New York City subways. Today, an associate of Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to 3 terrorism charges for his role in the planned attacks.

In a case that at first many people scoffed at as much ado about nothing, Zarein Ahmedzay, a cab driver, admitted that he and Zazi and another American were in contact with senior members of Al Qaeda during a trip to Pakistan in August, 2008. As it happens, two of the Al Qaeda reps have since been killed by American troops and drones.

And we'll take a closer look at Mayor Bloomberg's latest plan to open up parts of Manhattan to pedestrians, and close them to cars. He's already done that for a few-block stretch of Broadway. Now he wants to put in a pedestrian plaza from Herald Square to the Empire State Building along 34th Street. It could be ready in two years.

How do you feel about these pedestrian walkways? CLICK HERE to let us know, and I'll include your comments in this space on Monday.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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