On Jan. 18, the lawyers for four families announced their decision to file lawsuits against MySpace.com over claims their underage daughters were sexually assaulted by men they met on the site.
While I agree MySpace has made it easier for sexual predators to find their victims, I think the lawsuits are another example of parents trying to blame someone else for failing to do their job.
The Internet is not a new tool. It has been in popular use for more than a decade now and many teenagers today don’t remember life without it. It is also no secret that, while the Internet is a great place to do research and even meet new people, it’s not fully safe.
We are talking about four teenaged girls ages 14 and 15, who went online and chatted with what they were thought were teenaged boys, and even arranged to meet them. And, at no point during the time they started talking to the boys and made the arrangements did the parents make an attempt to monitor what their daughters were doing online.
My question to the parents is this, if you knew your kids were online, why didn’t you check up on them? Forget about their right to privacy, your responsibility to keep them safe is much more important than that. And, with all the media attention given about the dangers of the Internet, you can’t plead ignorance.
If they created a MySpace site and you didn’t know about it, that’s your fault, not there’s. And, it is also your fault for not knowing what your daughters were doing every waking moment of every waking day. It might be hard to do that, but it’s your job. And, if you weren’t ready for that responsibility, you shouldn’t have kids. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to make mistakes. But, when you do make the mistakes, you shouldn’t be blaming someone else for them.
For it’s part, MySpace has admitted there is a problem and is doing more to safeguard kids, including requiring parental consent for minors. They are doing that on their own, there’s no law requiring that and, short of doing a detailed background check on every single person who signs up with them, they really can’t do much more than that.
What happened to those four girls and others like them is a tragedy. But, rather than suing MySpace, these parents should be doing something much more constructive, such as talking to other parents about what their daughters went through and reminding them that it is important to know what their kids are doing when they are online.
That will get a much better result than an obvious attempt to pass the buck.