I am in a bit of a mood today, and reading that “experts” don’t think MySpace is doing enough to protect kids from online predators really pushed one of my buttons. Does Target do enough to protect kids from predators? Does Disneyland? Does your local grocery store?
You know who should be doing more to protect kids from online predators? Their parents. Depending on technology to keep your kids safe can only go so far. MySpace is attempting to institute age restrictions, but let’s be honest, there is no truer statement that this:
The site prohibits kids 13 and under from setting up accounts. But the Austin teenager was 13 when she set up her profile last year. MySpace has no mechanism for verifying that users submit their true age when registering.
So when a statement like this precedes the above assertion:
The changes come on the heels of a $30 million lawsuit filed by the mother of a Texas teenager who claims she was raped by a man she met through the site. The lawsuit claims MySpace is negligent in protecting teen users despite numerous warnings of the dangers.
I feel really badly for the teenager, but she lied, and her lie had serious, ugly consequences. Her parents should have been monitoring her online activities. It is unclear how MySpace could have stopped this from happening. Millions of people meet online friends in face-to-face environments every day without incident. And just like those instances where you meet someone in the offline world, you never quite know the reality of a person…let’s just use the Kansas’s BTK killer as an example. There are a lot of freaky people out there. I don’t know why.
MySpace is merely moving long-time youth activities to the web. Kids, however, are going to continue to push boundaries in ways parents don’t like (just as those same parents did when they were kids). Online venues can build in protections, but it’s the same old story when it comes to quality child protection: pay attention to what your kids are doing.
I really want the next article I see about MySpace and protecting children from online predators to focus on how parents can do more.