Not All MySpace Teens Privacy Dimwits

from the where-is-Doctor-Spock dept

Many of the stories discussing social networking sites and sexual predators paint the sites in a negative light, portraying teenagers as doe-eyed automatons without a whit of common sense. A new study shows that teenagers are actually pretty wise about what kind of information they're sharing online. The study shows that the vast majority of teenagers don't show their full name, and 40% keep their profiles private unless you're on their friends list. Of the remaining public profiles, just 1% offered an e-mail address. What's more, researchers found that kids gain confidence as well as valuable writing, networking and HTML skills while using the sites. As it stands, it's not clear if the warnings and scary reports are to thank for careful kids, or whether they were being careful all along, and nobody bothered to study them. Many parents have been eager to focus on the negative aspects of social networking sites -- even going so far as to blame MySpace for sexual predators. In the end of course it comes down to quality parenting -- informed kids not only reduce their risk of problems online regardless of the technology used, they know what to do when problems do occur. While there are kids who still stick forks in electrical sockets, we don't blame the electrical sockets -- we ask why the parents weren't paying attention to what their kids were doing.

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  1. identicon
    Mary, 7 Jan 2007 @ 5:40am

    My thoughts

    I have four boys--two of whom are teenagers. My second born has little or no interest in chatting online. My oldest is his mother's child--very social, loves computers. His interest ranges from building them to writing html, to writing in general.

    Mixing kids and computers is a matter of street sense. In fact many of the same rules apply.

    1) Know who your kids are talking to. Ask questions, look over their shoulders from time to time, let the people they are chatting with know that you are on the scene. This is akin to inviting your kids' friends over to your house.

    2) TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Be direct about what happens to people (and I don't just mean kids--adults are just as prone to be trusting) who give out too much information over the internet. My oldest son is a typical teen; he's bulletproof. Because of my own personal interests, I've visited parenting watchdog sites and have run across snippets of conversations between sex-offenders and teens. Typically, the conversation starts out innocently enough and it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between the sex offender and the average teen until it's almost too late. I copied, pasted and printed it and gave it to my son. He was silent for a long time. Later on, he was hanging over his younger brothers' shoulders as they played on the computer investigating who was in their e-mail inboxes. It gave me chills.

    3) Set extremely clear boundaries and stick to the consequences of violating them. We're tough about this and I believe it pays.

    4) Become computer smart--if you don't know about computers, learn about them. If you aren't a frequent user of internet software, at least familiarize yourself with it. This will make the internet less of a "great unknown" and also make it less likely that teens will dance around you.

    5) Literacy is important in our house as is are good writing skills. My mother used to say that everyone in the world has at least useful purpose: they can either be a good example or a bad one. She did not hesitate to use people as a bad example. I am more cautious, but I do it too. When I get an e-mail using internet short hand, I point it out and chuckle over it.

    6) If nothing else I said here means anything to you--file this away: We really are the most powerful forces in our children's lives, but we have to claim the power and use it or we lose it.

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