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October 25, 2011

MySpace

by admin
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Contributor: Sara Robillard

With the commercialization of the Internet, various social networking sites sprang up virtually overnight. The most significant, MySpace, shook the parenting world. MySpace represented vastly uncharted territory to concerned adults; it seemed to be a labyrinth of pictures of scantily clothed children who willfully allowed strangers access to their home addresses, phone numbers, and personal lives. Launched in 2003, MySpace peaked in 2006 with more than 100 million registered members worldwide. MySpace, originally sold for $580 million, was the first social networking site to make a dramatic impact on parents and their young children. [1]

During those socially awkward “tween” years of middle school, many trends were quick to be born and even quicker to die out. Throughout my years at Sullivan Norman Middle School, I saw, and contributed to, trends such as the never cute skirts-over-jeans look and the Friday night “date” nights (which in reality meant a few girls and even fewer boys sitting awkwardly next to each other in a movie theater watching some clichéd romantic comedy), without much more than a heavy sigh from my parents. The single biggest fad to grace my middle school, and many others across the nation, also happened to be the one that I was explicitly forbidden from participating in: MySpace. MySpace, established during the pre-Facebook, pre-cellphone era, allowed minors a new way to communicate with their peers. Anyone over the age of fourteen could create an account that acted as a combined diary, yearbook, and social club.[2] Individuals were able to customize and modify their personal profile page by uploading videos, music, photos, and written content. General information about interests, groups, and hobbies could also be posted. Users had the ability to search across the site to find potential new friends. Once friends, individuals could leave comments on a user’s page or send private messages.[3]

 

Oversharing became the new cool. Children posted an array of extremely personal information such as home addresses and phone numbers, afterschool schedules, and compromising pictures.[4]  As proven through history, older generations tend not to keep a finger on the pulse of budding technology, so the true discovery of MySpace by parents took time to build steam. However, as society began to realize the magnitude of  MySpace’s network, parents began to do what they do best: worry. While kids blew off their parents’ concerned warnings, experts in the field of Internet privacy gave credence to the adults’ worries. These experts, such as lawyer Janet Judge, have spoken at various public schools to convey the dangers of the Internet.[5] They support the parental view that the Internet is the home to sexual offenders, cyber bullying, and permanently damaged reputations. In truth, parents couldn’t even begin to fathom the risqué acts that online sites would unintentionally promote. The practice of “whoring,” promoting a specific person to all your friends in order to help him grow his friend list, appalled parents, especially those with young children who might not be clear on the concept of dangerous strangers and online predators. Teens and pre-teens, however, didn’t find this type of behavior offensive, further widening the already deep divide between parents and their young children. [6]

MySpace's "Tom," everybody's first friend

MySpace and its constantly morphing technology consistently undermined traditional parenting.  Young teens now resented spending time with the family, away from the computer and their cyber friends. Whether this is to be blamed on MySpace however can’t be proven. Adolescence is a time period designed for splitting off from the family unit and developing a social group. Many minors, myself included, felt MySpace helped grow friendships and develop new, albeit untraditional, social skills.[7] Parents viewed MySpace as an easy-access website for sexual predators and con artists, while my generation saw it as the perfect tool for maintaining interaction.

Adults loved blaming MySpace for their child’s shady friend or bad reputation, but to what extent should the Internet be held responsible for parenting? MySpace took every legal precaution by requiring an age limit, allowing for a multitude of privacy settings, and limiting contact between alleged minor and adult users. [8]

There are an endless amount of resources available to teach parents and children alike about the dangers of the Internet and how to protect oneself. Even simple procedures go a long way, such as enhancing a password, never giving away birthdate or hometown information, and ignoring dodgy emails. [9]

While MySpace has faded away,[10]social networking and the influence of the internet on children is continuing to grow, forcing families to find a compromise between the worry of security and the never ending need for social interaction.


[1] “MySpace by numbers: how it compares to its rivals – Telegraph”, n.d., http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/myspace/8243403/MySpace-by-numbers-how-it-compares-to-its-rivals.html.

[2] “Why parents must mind MySpace – Dateline NBC – msnbc.com”, n.d., http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11064451/ns/dateline_nbc/t/why-parents-must-mind-myspace/#.TnqkGE-Kw0w.

[3] “Social networking sites and grief: An exploratory investigation of potential benefits – ”, n.d., http://search.proquest.com/docview/305061131/fulltextPDF/131FC88606139BEA6FB/14?accountid=7118.

[4] “Why parents must mind MySpace – Dateline NBC – msnbc.com.”

[5] Anonymous, “Young Must Be Aware Of Online Risks,” The Culvert Chronicles (December 18, 2008),

[6], 7 Catherine Saillant, “COLUMN ONE; Testing the Bounds of MySpace; A writer learns a lot from an experiment with the popular social networking site — especially about her 13-year-old daughter,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2006.

[8] Sam Sparks, “EDITORIALS; MySpace isn’t Mommy; If the Internet is to flourish, websites can only go so far in acting as online surrogate parents to protect children.,” Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2007.

[9] Andy Bloxham, “Ten ways to protect your privacy online – Telegraph,” The Telegraph (n.d.), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7953515/Ten-ways-to-protect-your-privacy-online.html.

[10] “In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year”, n.d., http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/28/AR2006102800803.html.

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