Is MySpace Stealing Your Child’s Future?

It is in MySpace.com and at many other virtual hangouts, that those teens find a home for their self-expression and a way to meet other teens online. They will ordinarily post images and videos, showcase their accomplishments, blog their thoughts and feelings, ‘hook-up” and hang out with other teens, rate each other’s space, watch music videos, and download pictures, video, music, ring tones and games.

This is also a place for teens to pretend they are someone else, create nasty rumors about others, discuss their drug use and sexual escapades (real or imagined), post sexually explicit videos and images, actively promote their sexual prowess, find sexual partners of all persuasions, and post and trade copyright-protected videos, music, and images.

Well there must be an age limit’ – And yes there is, sort of. According to MySpace, users must be at the minimum 14 to join. According to the Terms of Service, if a user is under 18 and misrepresenting their age, the account may be deleted. Although MySpace tries to enforce their rules, they are hard pressed to monitor over 20 million users.

If your child is under 16 and says so, then only basic information (Name, picture, age, gender, interests, city and state) is obtainable for anyone online to see. You cannot see anything else.

But if your child’s profile says they are over 16, then their complete “space” is open to the public. in spite of of their age, most teens say they are “16” or older. Open to the public method that anyone, anywhere online can view your child’s profile, image, posts, friends, etc. It also method that anyone with a MySpace account can post to your teen’s blogging space (unless they are specifically confined by the teen).

There must be limits to what a teen can post there. You would think so’ – Although, MySpace.com says your child’s profile “may not include the following items: telephone numbers, street addresses, last names, and any photographs posted by you may not contain nudity, violence, or offensive subject matter. Information provided by other MySpace.com Members may contain inaccurate, inappropriate or offensive material, products or sets,” it happens anyway.

Teens don’t think twice about posting their names, addresses, the school they attend, and personal information in their “space.” They post: images of themselves (with and without clothing) in sexual poses with members of the same and opposite sex; images of their drug and alcohol use; violent images and videos, and post rumors or lies targeted at other teens. There are already teens that will post scanned images of their school id or driver’s licenses! Don’t believe me? Go to Google.com and search for driver’s licenses in the Images search area. This freely-obtainable cornucopia of information is a sex offender/pedophiles dream!

In a recent survey of teens at a Southern California High School, the students responded to the following question:

Which of the following have you put online? Do not include obtain sites.

83.2% Your first name

61.1% Images of yourself

6.5% Images containing drug use

71.3% Your city

6.5% Images containing sexual content

31.0% Your complete address

6.0% Images containing tobacco use

49.1% Your school name

9.3% Images containing alcohol use

16.8% Your school’s location

3.8% Videos containing sexual content

20.7% Your parent’s name

4.9% Videos containing drug or alcohol use

23.4% Your brother or sister’s names

15.2% Copyright-protected images or videos

2.7% Your driver license number

21.2% Copyright-protected music

6.0% Your student id

Nearly 70% of these high school students have a MySpace account.

No problem. My child doesn’t have a MySpace account. Don’t be so sure’ . The dangers inherent in MySpace are there for both MySpace users and non-MySpace users. How can that be, you ask? It happens when someone else signs your daughter or son up for a MySpace account. When my 13 year-old granddaughter’s friend signed her up for an account, she started to receive requests for dates, relationships and sex, quizzes to find out whether she preferred boys or girls, and sexually-explicit images and videos. The friend only needed my granddaughter’s email address to do it.

In the same survey, 19% of online high school students discovered that someone signed them up for something online (forums, quizzes, virtual communities, etc.) without them knowing it and 24% received at the minimum one or two solicitations per week by email for a date, sex or relationship by someone they did not know.

I nevertheless don’t see how MySpace can affect my child’s future. What if I told you that anything put on the World Wide Web stays on the World Wide Web? That method that what your child is posting on MySpace or anywhere else on the Internet may be dug up later and used against your child by co-workers, divorce attorneys, government agencies, etc. What your child posts today, can come back to haunt him/her tomorrow. Think back to your wild high school days, was there anything you did or said that you would not want your spouse, child or employer to know? Fortunately for you, those memories belong to you. Unfortunately, children today will end up sharing those memories with the world.

Take a look at some of the memories that have come back to haunt others:

  • FEMA Director Mike Browne emails discarded the real light on the Katrina Hurricane mess. He probably wishes he didn’t send those emails.
  • Michael A. Mullen (aka Agent Life) was charged with murder after writing about it in his blog.
  • Carl Edward Johnson was convicted of sending threatening emails. Although he used fake email addresses and forged email addresses, law enforcement found him.
  • A Florida teenager pleaded guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge after prosecutors discovered a confession on his online blog.
  • Internet bloggers were jailed on charges for allegedly posting material basic of a estimate online.
  • Gerald Velardi by a rock over an overpass causing damage to a tractor-trailer. His weblog post helped convict him.

If I ask MySpace to cancel my child’s account, then everything is fine . Think again: Did you know that if you hit the delete meaningful on your computer, the file is not truly deleted until another file is saved over it on the hard excursion? already if you ask MySpace to remove information from their servers, it nevertheless lives in other places: backup files and drives; people who downloaded the information to their computers, search engine caches, etc.

The only real way to protect your child is to be proactive.

Children should:

  • block people from posting to their space ‘” yes any registered user can post to any space.
  • modify their images to distort their features or replace them with something else.
  • not participate in rating other’s spaces ‘” your words will never leave.
  • not post personal information.
  • say they are under 16 if they are. ‘” this provides additional MySpace safeguards.
  • cancel their account if they are under 14

Parents should:

  • become computer literate take an online course on Protecting Your Child’s Future at Parent Smartz
  • actively monitor your child’s computer use.
  • teach your child about online risks and the danger of posting personal information.
  • tell your child not to respond to moment messages or emails from strangers.
  • find out whether your child has a MySpace or other virtual hangout site and view that site
  • if necessary contact MySpace to have your child’s site removed.
  • insure that your child chooses gender-neutral screen names that are not sexually suggestive or contain personal information.
  • make sure your child never uses their login name in a chat room or forum.
  • most importantly be vigilant and act on your suspicions

Be wise, be proactive. Protect your child from him/herself!

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