MySpace is certainly in the news lately. I’ve talked about it for some time; “warned” parents about it (admonished them to keep tabs on what their kids are posting). But I want to make it clear that I don’t think it should be banned or legislatively barred. As I have posted before I think it serves a purpose ‘posters” may be helped by knowing that they are not alone and being able to discuss issues more anonymously and with less stigma or as I read a high school freshman put it: “Social networking isn’t evil, it’s just friends. Growing up, you have to have friends and social ties. Otherwise you feel alone.”
MySpace and other similar sites are indeed “social networking”, although not necessarily truthful. They are places where individuals can make themselves intelligent, funny, interesting, and beautiful, because they control what pictures and “words” are posted. There are no “bad hair days”. There is no verbal tripping, faux pas. They can present a very filtered façade. Posters can also try things out. How will people react to me if I am a bit older? How will people react if I say this or “talk” like this? (Often safer and less threatening to try it online then elsewhere)
Can this sort of activity go bad? Can a post attract a “predator”? Sure (do recall, too, that only 0.1% of youth abductions are by strangers), but just as most teens know not to talk to strangers “live”, most know not to talk with them online (or met with them offline). The same cautions/precautions and skill sets work in real-life and in cyber-life. Teach those skills, emphasize those skills, develop those skills. Banned and blocked sites can be gotten to (I read there are instructions on how to do just that available on the web, wow!). But parents must be parents (and the ‘authorities, too), kids need nurturing, not to be turned loose; by nurturing I mean tending to their needs and watching out and protecting them. It is OK to monitor their MySpace space. It’s OK to ask them questions and challenge them. You are the parent.