The “Real” Dangers:
- Because of the anonymity of the Internet, pedophiles scour MySpace looking for potential victims. These predators use the children’s personal MySpace information to begin conversations with their intended victim. Conversations take place over a period of time to gain their trust. As parents we do not allow our children to chat with strangers – this must be the same rule on the Internet.
- Posting “innocent” information containing hints to: your child’s real name, phone numbers, home address, school name (which yields a location), places they regularly visit (i.e shopping malls, parks) also yielding a location, or their school schedule. This personal information can be used by predators to create a “portfolio” of information on their child victim.
- Children post information about their friends without regard to its consequences. Comments left in anger, or even in jest can lead to a great deal of “real world” problems (especially with girls more prone to express their feelings in words).
- MySpace Background:
- “Social Networking” a technical term for “a method for people to meet and socialize” – however if you use the term “Social Networking” with your children; you’ll sound dreadfully “out-of-touch”
- MySpace is an easy to use social networking website that allows people to meet and socialize. People customize their personal “space” with information about their personal lives and interests. People join MySpace in the hopes of meeting and sharing their “space” with other people with the same interests.
- MySpace allows people to “search” for others based upon various categories – the more categories you complete the easier it is for others to find you – completing fewer categories with more specific answers will limit the number of people that locate you.
- Children under 13 may not join MySpace and your kids know this. When your 14 year old approaches you – be prepared!
- Adults use MySpace for Dating, Serious Relationships, Networking & Friends – children under 18 should ONLY use MySpace for making FRIENDS!A LITTLE PARENTAL PERSPECTIVE:
- Becoming a parent quickly teaches us that we don’t know “everything” – so it’s OK if you don’t know about MySpace.
- Today’s parents need to remember OUR parents or grandparents thought the “World was coming to an end” because of Rock-n-Roll. The music they originally feared is now played in elevators and grocery stores everywhere. MySpace is not going away, so setup your own MySpace account and learn to "love it"
- Before the Internet, we had:
- “School Annuals" to share our school portrait. (Today we have MySpace)
- “School Annuals" to share pictures of school events. (Today we have MySpace)
- “School Annuals” for our friends to sign autographs and leave messages. (Today we have MySpace)
- “Slam Books” for our friends to write in and pass around. (Today we have MySpace)
- Passed notes in class (Today we have MySpace & Text Messaging)
- Handed out invitations to parties (Today we have evites)
- Photocopied maps from the Thomas Brother’s Guide (Today we have online maps)
- Really long telephone calls while watching the same TV show (Today we have Instant Messaging)
- Speaking in “Pig Latin” thinking nobody else understood (Today we have L33T speak)
- Polaroid Instant Cameras (Today we have Digital Cameras)
- Going to the Video Arcade to play against friends (Today we have Online Gaming)
- Read the World Book / Encyclopedia Britannica (Today we have Wikipedia)
- Parties where your friend’s parents were not home (Today some parents don’t read their kids’ MySpace account)
- Most parents feel their kids know MORE about computers than adults – but usually this is NOT the case. You’re confusing your kid’s CONFIDENCE with knowledge. If you asked your child if they think they could drive a car – they’d quickly say “Yep!” Your children simply “click-around” on your computer faster than you – they usually don’t “understand” what they are doing.
- When teaching our children to drive a car – we begin training in an open parking lot. But at some point, our children need to learn how to drive defensively, navigate traffic and avoid accidents. Apply this same philosophy to your children’s use of the Internet.
- Simply saying “Don’t Use MySpace” will undoubtedly fail with many children. Children and especially teenagers need to socialize. The Internet is our new playground and meeting place. As parents we need to learn how to use MySpace safely – and teach our children how to build normal, healthy, online relationships.
- When your child sets up their MySpace account – do it WITH them. Verify the proper safety restrictions (below) – and remember to visit their MySpace often to read what your child is doing! (Even better. Setup your own MySpace account and "subscribe" to your child’s account. This provides automatic monitoring of changes & updates.)
HOW TO SETUP YOUR CHILD’S MySpace ACCOUNT
- Go to MySpace (Click on SignUp to begin)
- Do not enter your child’s real name – use a nickname [Choose a name that is not gender specific (i.e. princess) hints at their age (i.e. Baseball1992) or hints at their location (i.e. NewYork2006)]
- Enter either your own or your child’s email address. [In the future I’ll address how to safely setup your child’s email address]
- If you do not wish your child’s zip code listed – enter a nearby (bogus) zip code. (To avoid confusing MySpace postings, bogus zip codes should be within your own time zone.)
- Do not use your child’s true birthday, but ensure that it still reflects their true year age. Click to NOT share your child’s birthday. NOTE: Be careful when entering the verification code – if you enter it incorrectly it will reset the “share your birthday” field!
- Edit the profile to select a permanent MySpace name [Choose a name that is not gender specific (i.e. princess) hints at their age (i.e. Baseball1992) or hints at their location (i.e. NewYork2006)]
- Select DO NOT allow searching on your real name.HOW TO VERIFY YOUR CHILD’S MySpace SETTINGS
- Go to your child’s MySpace account (created above)
- Click on Edit Profile and verify these settings:
Interests & Personality – Review and approve their writings. You don’t want to allow your children to reveal too much. Name – Ensure it’s an approved nickname
Basic Info – Ensure their birthday is “incorrect” but still reflects their true year age, Occupation = “blank”, Select “No Answer” for Ethnicity, Body Type, and Height (these are not appropriate for children simply wanting to meet other children, and predators can use this information), Select I am here for Friends only. Background & Lifestyle – Ensure that Marital Status = "Single", Sexual Orientation = "No Answer", Hometown = “blank”, Religion = "No Answer", Children = "No Answer", Education = "No Answer", Income = "No Answer" Schools – Should be "blank" Companies – Should be "blank" Networking – Should be "blank" Song & Video – It’s up to you if you wish to allow your kids to share their music and/or video tastes. Pedophiles can indeed use this information, but the group most interested in your child’s musical preferences; adults in marketing departments. Please allow your child to select their own Music Play Skin.
- Click on Account Settings and verify: Account – Verify you know this email address. Pretending you live in a different country or time zone probably doesn’t protect your child, and makes their MySpace confusing – so I think it’s OK to use your legitimate language and time zone for the Account Settings. Password – I personally think you should know your child’s password.
Privacy Settings – Online Now = "Unselected", Birthday = "Unselected", Profile Viewable By = "My friends only", Photos = "Unselected", Block Users By Age = "Unselected", Block Users = Periodically review this list of users that your child has banned/blocked (if any)Spam – Overall Level = Move Slider to “High” (this will preset all the values shown) Notifications – Unselect both Newsletter & Email Notifications
Applications –Allow applications to send me messages and comments = "Unselected", Friend Application Privacy = "Don’t share any data", Applications You Are Using = Remove any applications to avoid potential unknown problems
Linked Sites – Review, approve, and remove any 3rd-party websites linked to your child’s MySpace accountMobile – About Alerts = "Disabled", Mobile Content = Should not be configured Calendar – Default View = "Doesn’t matter", Share Calendar With = "No one" or "Friends" (setup working hours to reflect school if you wish), Reminders = If you do setup reminders, add your own email address. MISCELLANEOUS: Profile – Groups = "Unselected", HTML Comments = "Unselect" all three, Comments Stretching = "Unselected", (Don’t reset your child’s counter – they’ll be rightfully upset)
Music Players – "Unselect" both My Profile & Other Profiles from Auto-start
Away Message – If used, ensure that you approve of the message being sent. If vacationing, do NOT mention “where” you are going, or that your home is unoccupied.
- Click on Upload / Change Photos (approve pictures ,if any)
- Click on Upload / Change Videos (approve videos, if any)
Additional “Road to Know Where” Resources