Most parents are aware of the potential dangers of the internet. However one of the main problems is that our children use the internet in ways that we simply don’t know about. There is another issue that young people are less likely to use sites that their parents or adult use for a variety of reasons. What’s more the sites our children use will change frequently as popularity shifts and fashions change.
In January, police arrested a 21-year-old man whom they accused of raping a 14-year-old girl he met on MySpace. Another man was arrested for finding the work address of a 16-year-old girl on MySpace and sexually assaulting her in the parking lot of her work. Clearly, to protect our children online, we must be very aware and very careful about MySpace.
This isn’t about technical awareness although this is obviously important. Many young people are aware of things like VPNs and proxies although not for privacy sake more regarding accessing more sites. The idea of watching Netflix America in UK is obviously appealing too.
So what is MySpace? It is a social networking website which allows members to post information about themselves – blogs, photos, personal profiles, and pretty much anything else they want to post. Users can then browse the database of members and add other people to their list of friends, receiving notification when their friends post new content. For anyone knowledgeable about online safety, this should set off some warning flags. There is nothing stopping children from posting contact information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses which can then be used by child predators to get to those children.
So how do we protect our children? Banning them from MySpace would likely be socially crippling to an early teen, since in many places the site will be used by a majority of a child’s peers. Really, the best protection is to watch their MySpace page and insist that your children remove unacceptable material.
Also, MySpace provides a list of its own advice. The tips include a reminder that information posted is available to the public, a warning not to post things that may embarrass you later, and a warning not to pose as someone older or younger. As parents, we should educate our children on these rules and make sure our children are not violating them on their MySpace pages.
MySpace can be a great way to meet people and keep in contact with friends. If we exercise some common sense and safety techniques, we can get the most out of this technology. What’s more it’s not so important to focus on a specific website or platform as these will change over time, the important point is to stay safe on the internet as a whole. Developing safe and responsible behaviour and protocols for young people online is definitely the way forward and will then ensure their safety in whatever sites they use.
Additional: BBC VPN Not Working