Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Adults Still Don't Get It: Dateline Does MySpace

This past weekend on NBC's dateline, more MySpace hysteria.

The worst part about this hysteria is the utter cluelessness of the adults who are so concerned. The Dateline piece featured interviews with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. They may or may not understand the technical details of MySpace, but it was blatantly obvious they had no comprehension of the culture behind MySpace, or of youth internet culture to begin with. Not that this lack of understanding is such a terrible thing, but that lack of understanding would seem to preclude the sorts of legislative and legal solutions they're proposing.

This is not to gloss over the problem of child predators on the internet, merely to point out that the solutions urged by politicians, parents, teachers, and the media all lack any sort of basis in reality. The focus of the Dateline piece seemed to be the revealing of confidential information- full names, addresses, phone numbers, even specific future plans. Of course, as MSNBC reports, "Experts interviewed for this article could not cite a single case of a child predator hunting for and finding a child through a blog. But there are cases of children being lured through other Internet services, such as chat rooms."

The real issue isn't MySpace, the social networks created via the internet, or teenagers revealing confidential information. The real issues are parenting, and teaching children what is and what isn't appropriate. People, including young teenagers, meet via the internet all the time. Rather than scaring them with stories of predators, adults should be teaching their kids the safe ways to go about it. If your concern relates to sexual content, well, once again, your concerns go beyond MySpace. As a society, we seem to have a problem with the sexualization of our kids at younger and younger ages, but this is hardly unique to MySpace. If your daughter is posting provocative photographs of herself on MySpace, my guess would be that the website and the internet are the least of your concerns.

This was the latest MySpace news here in Connecticut. I'm not concerned about MySpace. I'm worried that 12-year old girls are meeting a 22-year old guy in the first place, regardless of how the rendezvous was arranged.

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