I was interviewed on a
radio show last week and I was asked what some of the threats are that face our
children online.  There are many
but the one I discussed on the show was the dangers of Social Networking sites
like MySpace.  Why did I pick this threat?  So many kids are on
MySpace and many parents don’t even know they should be concerned about
it.  For those of you who are not
familiar with what social networking sites, like MySpace, are I’ll give you a
brief overview.  Social Networking
sites allow users to create their own personal webpage that is about them.  It usually includes things like: their
picture, personal information (sex, age, where they live, where they go to
school, contact information, religion, orientation etc.) a diary, a place where
people can leave them messages, a place to post pictures and videos – you get
the idea.  Why is this
dangerous?  Well here’s what NBC’s
Dateline said after doing an investigation: 

“When Dateline surfed
MySpace, we found scenes of binge drinking, apparent drug use, teens posing in
underwear, and other members simulating sex, and in some cases even having it
… Teens listed not only their names, and address, but even cell phone numbers
and after school schedules.”        

Not only are the kids that
are surfing MySpace being exposed to inappropriate content (vulgar
language, porn pictures and videos, links to inappropriate websites) but a lot
of kids are exposing all kinds of personal information about themselves to anyone with
an Internet connection. That includes child predators and the stats say that
50,000 of them are online at any given time.  In my opinion MySpace is like a menu for child predators.
The predator can search on MySpace by age, race, body type, height, religion,
zip code to find the exact kids who meet their criteria. Then the predator can
make contact with them depending on the information posted on the kids MySpace
page (cell phone number, email address, school name etc.). I don’t know about
you but I don’t want my kids on the menu.

So what’s the
solution?  If your kids have a MySpace
page (or a page on another social networking site) get them off the menu by
having them take down their page.  You’ll probably get a lot of push back and hear things like, “All my
friends are on it” or “You’re ruining my life”.  You may actually be saving it. At my seminars parents often tell me, “My kids say their
MySpace page is private so only their friends can see their page”.  Here’s the problem with that. A local
police officer, that’s on an Internet taskforce, told me that there is no such
thing as a “private” MySpace page because there are many hacks freely available
on the web that can unlock these “private” pages.  You think child predators might use these hacks?  I do.  The next thing you need to do is make you’re your Internet
filtering software is blocking the social networking sites.  There is just too much inappropriate
content that your child can be exposed to while surfing around on them.  Don’t have an Internet filter?  We’ll talk about that and other issues
next time.