The June 30th article “Can this man make MySpace safe for kids?” in Fortune magazine details some of the recent changes at MySpace.com since the company owning it hired Hemanshu Nigam to promote safety and stem a potential tide of lawsuits resulting from LMIRL DSN exchanges (LMIRL = let’s meet in real life, DSN = digital social networking.). According to the article:

MySpace has for some time had basic safety policies in place to protect children: No one under the age of 14 can have a profile on the site. And those aged 14 and 15 have their pages automatically set as private – viewable only by friends they designate.

Another safeguard was announced in June, when MySpace began requiring that users over 18 must know the full name or e-mail of a 14- or 15-year-old before contacting them.

Of course these “safeguards” are easily circumvented by a young person who lies about their age when they register for a MySpace account. As Kevin and Dale Farnham note in their book “Myspace Safety: 51 Tips for Teens and Parents,” there is no substitute for frequent and in-depth face to face communication.

Is MySpace safer today or more “appropriate” and less offensive than it was several months ago? I don’t think so, personally. The fact that more adults are aware of MySpace and other DSN websites is a step forward, however. Now the conversation needs to shift to not only discuss the dangers, but also discuss the opportunities. When I was in San Antonio last week working with a group of about 40 high school age students from low SES neighborhoods, about 3/4 of the students all reported having MySpace accounts and regularly using them along with instant messaging. This came as no surprise: these are digital natives. The question we should be asking is not just “do you have and use a MySpace account,” it is “how are your teachers and parents working with you to learn about DSN sites like MySpace, and how to safely use them?” That’s a question I don’t think many communities are exploring yet, but we all need to.

Technology solutions, like creating an RSS feed to monitor your child’s MySpace activity, is a good idea as well. (Thanks Miguel.) But I maintain F2F conversations are still the only real answer to the problems raised by DSN use.

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One Response to MySpace getting safer?

  1. Vicki Davis says:

    I agree totally. Parents should never circumvent a face to face relationship with a big brother type over the shoulder monitoring. However, I also agree, that as the world monitors our children’s page that we have a responsibility to monitor it ourselves.

    In the above post you referenced from my blog (creating an RSS feed to monitor your child’s myspace), I have some parents who just say they “trust” their child. When it goes into the world stage, it is not as much a matter of trust as a matter of protection.

    As I struggled with figuring out how to monitor myspace accounts, I want to point out that this only monitors the child’s blog. A parent will still need to go to the actual page every so often to monitor the things that are being posted on the page in the bottom right corner. This is often where the profanity and problems arise.

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of this important issue.

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