MySpace is a website that teens and young adults frequently visit and post information about themselves and their friends on. Most teens say that they use MySpace only to keep in touch with their group of friends. However, when pressured, many teens admit to communicating with complete strangers through their MySpace page. On the website, users can upload pictures and audio, as well as any Journaling or other personal information that they wish to share with others.
The reasons why it is so important for parents to know about MySpace are ever growing. Internet predators are a new breed of criminals who would take advantage of your children if you or your children give them the opportunity to do so. As a parent it is your job to safeguard your children from these dangerous people and influences. You need to know about MySpace so that you can be aware of the things that your child is posting on their site and so that you can make sure that the influences present when your child is online are influences that you approve of.
Name and photo are standard
Putting at least your first name and your picture on your MySpace page are standard practices. Some users of MySpace add more personal information such as a last name, school that they are attending, after school activities. Some even go as far as to put and address and telephone number. Studies have found that the opinion of these MySpace users is that if someone were to be motivated enough to find more personal information simply based on their MySpace page, it would be possible. As parents you need to know what kind of information your child has posted on their site as well as the kind of information that may have been posted by other children (most likely close friends of your own child) on other sites that may also contain personal information about your child.
Children exercise caution as danger is perceived
It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children, at whatever age they find appropriate, about the possible dangers of MySpace or any other Internet site where personal information is available. Online predators are not generally something that parents these days were confronted with. Nevertheless, these dangers are real and you need to make sure that you educate yourself on what you need to do to protect your children.
As teens get older they tend to share more information
Older teens do not feel as threatened by the possibility of having their personal information fall into the wrong hands. Research shows that older teens and your adults are more likely to have contact (through the Internet) with individuals that they have never before met. Conversing and even sharing personal information with someone who you have never actually seen before is becoming more and more of a problem with young people. Make sure that as your children are young, that you set boundaries for them. Hopefully, knowing these expected boundaries will prevent the possibility of acting recklessly at an older age.
Boys and girls have different perceptions of privacy
Girls generally will exercise more caution when on MySpace and tend to be more likely to interact online with mainly those who they know personally. Boys are more likely to step outside of their regular group of friends and talk or chat with those that they do not know.
A motivated individual could seek to harm a child with the information provided
Even a first name and a picture provides the right person with the ability to harm your child. Ultimately, not even having this information available is the ideal situation. Encourage your child to find social interaction in a safe environment. Discourage long periods of time spent on the Internet, and make sure that your children know your expectations.