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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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MySpace, No Longer Just For Friends
Friday, March 03, 2006
Ever since MySpace became popular for the masses the sexual predator controversy has been at the forefront of many people’s minds. Any place where someone can know the age of anyone (and yes, if you say that you’re 100 years old but look 15 everyone knows you’re 15), see their pictures and contact them is a potential danger to children. That being said so is your local Chucky Cheese. I’ve been on MySpace since 2004, but only recently have I seen things pop up on the news regarding sexual predators lurking the browse section of the site for kids to make contact with (come to think of it, no one lurked after me when I was a kid, does this mean I wasn’t a good looking child?). With the site becoming the social networking hub of the universe that it has it’s time for both kids and their parents to learn about the site and take the very easy steps to avoid a negative experience.

First off, if you’re fourteen and you have half naked pictures of yourself online, take them down. Not only do you not have "it" to flaunt, all you’re doing is attracting exactly the wrong people. You’re on the fast track to being on the wrong end of a speech given by Maury Povich. And parents, it’s pretty much up to you to make sure your kids aren’t posting up half naked pictures of themselves. What does it say about you if you don’t know what’s on your young child’s internet profile? Oh yes, I know, it’s the new millennium and you don’t want your kids to feel like they don’t have their freedom. Well guess what, this is one instance where you’re going to have to be a parent and adjust their freedoms. There’s nothing wrong with being on the site if you’re a kid as long as your pics and age represent the kid that you are.

Once parents take the reigns in this situation things will be a lot safer. It’s also up to the parents to instill some halfway decent survival skills in their kids. If your 14 year old daughter wants to hook up with a 34 year old man not only should she be seeing a shrink for her obvious daddy issues but she needs to be smacked upside the head a few times to make her realize the 34 year old man has no interest in her vivid conversation skills about how hard algebra class is, or what gross thing they were serving in the cafeteria.

Today an article came out about how Westchester County, New York District Attorney Jeanine Pirro feels MySpace is a threat to it’s young viewers, but I think there are a few really easy ways to solve this problem (I say "really easy" but for all I know the HTML codes to create the ideas I’m about to give may in fact but quite difficult). First off, make all profiles of people under the age of 18 private until given an friend invite. This way all anyone will be able to see of the child is one picture and a notice that the profile is a private one. Can kids get around this by lying about their age? Yes, but again that’s where parental guidance comes into play and knowing what your kids are doing. Second, let it be known that anyone of a certain age who makes initial contact with an underage person will have some sort of a flag put on their profile for the authorities. Take whatever the mean age of is of your average convicted child molester and make that the age. Make enough initial contacts to underage girls and boom, your profile gets shut down. Can you make another? Yes, but unless you do it from another computer at another place it will have the same IP address so as long as MySpace can shut down the IP address it will be able to shut out that particular individual.

Viacom, home to MTV and damn near everything else Disney doesn’t own, has felt more than a little out of the loop when it comes to the MySpace revolution and they plan on starting their own version. Maybe they don’t have the trendsetters they used to have over there because back in the day this would have been the kind of thing they would have invented rather than jumped on the bandwagon of nearly three years after the fact. Regardless, the social networking concept is one that will not go away anytime soon. Would it be easier to have separate sites for of-age and underage people? Not really. I know a lot of people, myself included, who have radio shows and have no problem promoting those shows to the masses, whatever their age may be, and sites like MySpace are a great way to do this. Personally I shout out my MySpace address during every radio show, which nets me a few adds each time. Why would we want to cut our potential audience? The key is to rid the sites of the freaks who think boning a 13 year old something desirable.

Recently a high school student in Michigan produced a broadcast package about the dangers of MySpace. Great, right? A kid taking responsibility and looking to aide his classmates in this new and potentially dangerous world. As a reward for the package the teacher was escorted out of the building and suspended. According to school officials they didn’t like what was aired due to "the selection of photographs, language and music that were included." So what’s the moral of this story? The kids know, or are at least learning about, the potential dangers of social networking and some are even trying to protect themselves. Administrators, however, are more concerned about a news program's soundtrack than the message it brings to the kids. What is this, the no-child-left-unmolested act?

I have a niece who’s going to be old enough to be logging on to sites like MySpace in the near future. I know her parents will monitor her use of social networking sites, but when school administrators are kicking teachers out of schools for trying to give our kids some survival skills one has to wonder how the next generation is going to survive. Oh yeah, good old fashioned quality parenting, that’s how!
posted by Adam Bernard @ 9:54 AM  
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