We’ve all heard the news stories and all the complaints about social networking sites like MySpace. “These sites open a gateway for online predators. My child isn’t safe.” I actually just got into a heated discussion a few days ago with one of my classmates, who happens to be a mother of two, about this very same topic.
The question I pose here is this: How can you blame a social networking website, like MySpace, for the actions of the people that use it? MySpace has had charges and lawsuits brought against them for enabling online predators to more easily find and lure children into their traps. Unless MySpace employees are the online predators, there is no way they can be held accountable for what their users do. MySpace has put in place some protective measures for children, such as profiles automatically being set to private if you are under 18 years of age, but parents and other detractors are screaming that these measures aren’t enough.
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear these complaints about MySpace, especially from parents, is that they want someone else to do the parenting for them. It doesn’t seem like a social networking site’s job is to baby sit the people that use them. This day and age, it’s highly common to see single parents, or even two parent households, where the parents work all the time. With the high cost of living and fluctuating economy in America, this is just the way it has to be, and that’s understood. But there are so many different ways to protect and watch what your children do online, that asking MySpace to keep track of your children just seems a little absurd. There is also the old-school tactic of just watching what children do when they’re online. Get their passwords to all sites that they visit. Monitor the history and recently viewed web pages to track where your children have been surfing.
The other side of this MySpace coin is what is being considered wrong. I have a MySpace blog that I used to write in fairly regularly. These ‘rants’, as I called them, wouldn’t be family-friendly, puppy dog and rainbows type of blogs. I would go off about whatever got my goat at the time, and rarely held anything back. Thanks to the ‘cleaning up’ of MySpace by News Corp., parent company of FOX and owners of MySpace for the last few years, my account was deleted due to the opinions that were stated in my blog. So in order to keep children safe on social networking sites, we should teach them that opinions are not to be allowed unless everybody agrees with them?
The thing I am asking all of you, especially parents, to realize and at least think about is the good that can come out of the new web-era we are living in. If there were no child abductions or predators before the internet, then I would totally jump on the anti MySpace wagon, but the hard fact is that there have always been predators. If MySpace and other social networking sites can be held accountable for the actions of only a handful of users, then so can Bill Gates and Microsoft; it was Windows that made computers accessible to everybody, after all. Or maybe we can blame the military since they created the internet thirty years ago.