Porn Proof Your Child

Porn Proof Your Child

MySpace Gets a Little Safer
© 2007 Brian Housman

  • 65% of teens use social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.*
  • 86% of older girls and 69% of older boys have created an online profile.*
  • 48% of teens visit sites like MySpace daily or more often.
  • 36% of teens say it would be difficult for someone to find out who they are.*

Teen with laptop
"Should I let my eighth grader be on there?" "Is there a way for me to see what my daughter is putting on her site?" "Is there a way to restrict who can see my son's profile?" "How can I know if my kid is talking to strangers on her site?"
These are questions I get concerning MySpace every time I lead the Wired Generation workshop. And all great questions I might add. Of the parents attending our workshops, more than half are still unfamiliar with MySpace or how it works. This is shocking considering it is the number one place teens hang out online. The church we attend did an informal poll among their youth that showed 100% of the high school students spend regular time on MySpace. Nationally, 65% of teens use social networking sites, with 42 percent of those teens sending messages to their friends via these sites every day.*

MySpace is far more than a typical website to find information. It's an online community. It's a place for teens to explore their identity and an outlet for self-expression, allowing them to communicate instantly with one another and create a list of "friends" that is a part of their site. To express their creativity, most teens feature personal items that help express who they are such as photos, music players with favorite songs, diaries, and personal profiles.
All this self-expression can be great but also creates many inherent dangers in an environment that has few boundaries or restrictions. Many teens develop a carelessness with information they share on their profile. What may seem to the teen like silly or innocuous details about their day could be used by a stranger to find a way into the teen's life.
Most teens also fail to realize that anything they post on the web is there forever. Even if the information is removed, it is still recoverable. While not a danger, posting personal information does have potentially serious consequences when it comes to future employment and college enrollment. Presently, more than 25 percent of all Fortune 500 companies use social networking sites to gather information on applicants with many colleges doing the same. (Sixty-six percent of companies responding to a 2009 survey said they have successfully hired a candidate identified or introduced through an online social network.)*
The good news is many teens are acting more responsibly on social networking sites. According to a 2007 survey from Pew Internet Research, 66% of teens who use MySpace have a restricted profile that is not visible to all Internet users. This figure more than doubled over two years as parents took an active role in their teens' online activities. Once parents become aware of the potential dangers, they go to work to make sure their teens are using sites like MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal in a responsible way.

In the past four years there have been several sexual crimes perpetrated against teens on MySpace. This occurred as a direct result of teens communicating with strangers on their personal site (and many times meeting them). Once again, we've seen the power of parents in action as they demanded the makers of MySpace provide stricter policing of their site against predators and better communication with parents. In response, MySpace is creating software parents can download that will allow them to see when their teens visited MySpace, how long they stayed, and if they sent or received messages from other users. It will not allow them to see their messages.
This is a big step in the right direction for MySpace in creating a safer experience for teens and a more trusting relationship with parents.  Social networking is still an area of teen social interaction that requires much discernment from parents. Here are a few helpful resources to check out:
  • provides excellent tips for both parents and kids on setting boundaries for the internet.
  • has a detailed article on the pros and cons of MySpace and other similar social networking sites. This gives a balanced approach and healthy response for parents.
  • MySpace itself has a Parent Tips section that includes how to set a restricted profile, how to delete a profile, how to report online abuses, and much more.
Brian Housman is the author of Engaging Your Teen's World and maintains a parenting/culture blog called Conversations on Napkin.


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