Today’s local newspaper had a front-page article entitled “Parents warned of popular Web site” with a sub-title “Schools call MySpace.com questionable, even terrible.” The topic is a site called Myspace.com, one of the more popular online community sites. Anyone can register as a member, and then post profile information, photos, and blog entries. This one also has a feature that allows members to connect to each other, sort of like the networking site LinkedIn. The “terrible” part that the article was warning parents about is that teenagers often post inappropriate material (sex and drugs and rock and–well, you know.) The article includes instructions for parents to get to the site, register, and look up their kid’s postings.
My own teenager (who does not have a profile on MySpace) was “creeped out” to think that I would be looking at her friend’s sites, and wanted me to promise not to look at them any more. I refused, explaining that asking me not to look was like writing an article in the newspaper and asking me not to read it, or putting a poster up on a wall and asking me not to look at it.
If anything, the problem here is that the teenagers who are posting here think of it as such a “cool” site that their parents wouldn’t ever see it. As a parent of course I want to see what the kids are up to! So I went to check it out. It isn’t nearly as terrible as the article makes it sound. Myspace.com is like many other sites that let people post whatever they want. The local (underage) teens who are posting pictures of themselves with alcohol and pot and talking about “hooking up” simply don’t understand that once they post something, ANYONE can look at it! That includes law enforcement, stalkers, parents, pedophiles, neighbors, and thousands of others.
Though I think the article will generate an awful lot of over-reacting by the local parents, it may open up some eyes. The parents will see what their kids are up to, and the kids will learn a lesson about information security (or lack of it).