The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Looking at MySpace

I was over at MSNBC today, reading of the misadventures of teens on the famous, must have web trend known as MySpace. The name of the report was "Predator's Playground" and it started with this:

Jan. 27, 2006 - In League City, Texas, it would be unusual to make one arrest of a suspected online sexual predator in a month. But in the last two weeks, detectives there have tracked down two men whom they've charged with sexual assault of a minor. Both of the accused men found or conversed with their victims via the social-networking Web site, according to League City police.
Faithful readers, and even the occasional browser might recall previous warnings I've given on the dangers of youth on the internet. I know, even now- parents out there are shaking their heads and saying that it's not something that they have to worry about.
You are wrong.
Membership in MySpace has jumped from zero to more than 50 million in just two years. Are we really that willing to bet that our own children aren't in with the 50 million? Are you willing to stake your children's safety on it?
There's a reason I bring this us now, at midnight on a weekend. It's because I was also just at Yahoo! checking on the "latest buzz index" and I found even more disturbing information. Yahoo! is giving some scary figures when it comes to who is searching for MySpace:

Representatives of all ages dip into its slow-loading pages and questionable grammar. Even the unhip 35-44-year-olds are into it. But, most of the searchers for "myspace" turn out to be female (57%), and over a quarter are in the effervescent 13-17 age bracket.
Having one forth of those searching for MySpace be underage children is something that we should be looking closely at. Because, it's not counting the kids who hop on their computers and hit their favorites menu to access it, or those who type in the address without the use of a search engine.

MySpace offers tips for parents on safety issues regarding the social site, and parents should be making every effort to read it. Even the FBI has a parents guide to internet safety page.

Still think it's not something you have to worry about?

We've done surveys of kids ages 12-15 and asked them if they had ever been sexually harassed online, and most of them said they had been, but they never tell their parents. [According to Highlights of the Youth Internet Safety Survey
conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, "One in five children, 10 to 17 years old, receive unwanted sexual solicitations online."] MSNBC
Secrets From Within, a fellow crime blogger does an excellent job of bringing to mind one of the many cases of young girls who had MySpace accounts and whose lives have come to a tragic end. I'm sure that you could easily click over to almost any of the crime bloggers and find a story related to a teen having a MySpace account.
On it's own, MySpace is not some evil invention intended to assist those who wish to prey upon your kids. However we must realize that as popularity with MySpace grows among our children, it also easily becomes hunting grounds for those who would do our children harm.

Yahoo! Buzz Index - Buzz Log

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Steve said...

Thanks for the plug, it took me aback, I was reading your entry and was just finished when I read my name.

Yahoo seems not to know where they stand, their 360° is the same type of myspace group, just not as popular but is targeted at the same age group.

Kayla has seemed to be a wake-up call for a few teens that have left comments about changing their habits on myspace, thats a start, but giving it up all together would be better.

Home Sweet Home said...

The theory for myspace is actually a sound theory. It encourages kids to write, something that most kids are reluctant to do. It allows kids to openly communicate with friends. And it often allows kids to explore their feelings in a way they won't do, face to face. That said, there are also many dangers associated with the way the site is run now. There is no moderator watching to see if kids put identifying info online. Even very young kids are allowed to put their info online, very publicly, and often without any notices to parents. Parents themselves are not totally blameless. Often they don't realize the dangers associated with the public sharing of info, or they forget to keep an eye on their child's page. Or they are totally unaware of the site. Any parent who allows a kid on the internet, should be watching over the kids shoulder. Should check what sites are being accessed, what "friends" are being chatted with, how much info is being given out to the public.
[b]In theory[/b], it could be a wonderful tool for learning and communicating. But it needs constant monitoring by both myspace and by parents.
Do they have an option to keep the pages private and only available to a proscribed list of other buddies?