MySpace Gets a Little Safer
- 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.
of teens say it would be difficult for someone to find out who they are.*
"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
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
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
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:
tips for both parents and kids on setting boundaries for the internet.
- Greatschools.net 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
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