MySpace.com is a social networking site on the Internet that has become a favorite of teens and young adults. It allows any user to easily publish on the web their own pictures, homepages, biographies, likes, dislikes, favorite bands and movies, and all sorts of other personal information for anyone to see.
MySpace allows a user to create a network of friends to chat with, exchange messages, pictures, listen to their favorite music and more. MySpace requires users to be at least 14 years old, however many teens will lie about their age to create a profile.
How popular is MySpace.com you ask? According to Alexa.com, as of August 2011, it’s the 90th most visited site on the Internet. In its prime, it was the 5th most visited site on the planet behind Ebay.com, and ahead of such powerhouses as CNN, ESPN, and AOL. Currently there are over 50 million members on MySpace.com and counting.
Consider that the US population (according to the CIA fact book) is 298,444,215. That means that that nearly 17% of the population is a MySpace member. That number is our entire population, not just young folks. Since MOST MySpace members are young adults and teens, you can see how likely it is that your children will be “users” of MySpace.com.
Why is it So Popular?
On one hand it is a “social phenomena” like iPods and Sony Playstations. No one knows exactly why some things hit young adults as “must have” things, but it happens all the time. Once it happens, word of mouth spreads and millions upon millions of people follow the flock to the next great thing. For better or worse, myspace.com is one of those things.
On the other hand it is popular because it’s an easy site to meet new people and hang out with friends in a virtual world.
Isn’t it Monitored?
Yes it is, but let’s get real here. We are talking 80 million members who can and do change the photos, text, and designs of their pages on a daily basis. There is no way humanly or technically possible to effectively monitor what is happening on 80 million web sites at all times.
To be fair to MySpace.com, they expend a ton of energy on monitoring the site. MySpace uses a majority of their resources to monitor the site and remove inappropriate material, but there is simply only so much they can do.
The 3 Huge Dangers of MySpace
The first big danger comes from the fact that young adults are usually not aware of the consequences of posting seemingly innocuous information about themselves to the entire world. Much of that personal information comes from simply answering the questionnaire that MySpace provides to them.
The second danger is that anyone who has an email address can join for free. The only thing that is required to join MySpace is an email address. Anyone can get dozens of email addresses and create as many profiles as they like. This makes it a “fishing expedition” where someone can use several different types of “bait” . They can easily and cheaply create different identities using sexes and ages to snare kids into starting conversations with them and opening up to them.
The third danger is the scariest. What pedophiles do before they have sex with a victim is called “grooming” and it involves connecting with a child in a very personal way. MySpace pages give them a huge head start in this process. Each page is truly a snapshot into a child’s personality and life. It includes each child’s slang, profanity, and gossip.
Put these 3 dangers together and here is the ugly truth. Sexual predators and pedophiles can create a fake profile, browse for and interact with their victims and ultimately meet potential victims.
Unfortunately recent news stories have confirmed how real these dangers are.
How MySpace is Dealing with these Dangers
MySpace.com has started to run public service ads trying to educate users about personal privacy and teaching them how to be safe online. They have also hired new corporate personnel to monitor the site more closely.
Ultimately however, its up to parents to understand the technology behind MySpace and be able to help their children avoid the dangers of cyberspace. The same privacy issues that apply on MySpace apply everywhere online.
BOTTOM LINE – It is up to you.