Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.
There's been a lot of noise in mainstream media lately about myspace.com - particularly with respect to it being use by adults attempting illicit activities with underage children.
Why myspace? Why now?
Myspace is certainly popular among the kids, and that may be the biggest reason. I get several questions every day relating to myspace passwords, hacking, and the apparently popular "how do I put a picture in a comment on myspace." (I don't know, but I'll work on it.) There's no way to tell whether the poster is 8 or 80, but quite often from the tone and wording it's obvious that the majority aren't necessarily from adults.
And therein lies the other problem: there's no real way to have a service that's free and open, without making it possible for children, both preteen and teenagers, to participate. Put up barriers, such as requiring but not charging a valid credit card, and you'll exclude much of your adult market as well. In a competitive climate, that's essentially business suicide.
And it is a competitive market. In reality, other than its current popularity, there's nothing revolutionary about myspace. There have been community sites for years, and the type of problems we hear about today are also nothing new.
What is new is simply the number of people, and by extension the number of children on the internet. Pure statistics will tell us that more people will mean more instances of various types of problems.
What's so special about myspace? Nothing. People tend to blame myspace, but fail to realize that should something happen to it, or should it simply fall out of favor, the kids will move on to the next cool thing, and the adults who are so inclined will simply follow.
So if this type of problem is not new, and if there'll always be a myspace or myspace equivalent, what do we do?
In my opinion, this isn't a problem technology can prevent. Technology can only help after the fact - once there's been a problem. Prevention requires education - and that means both parents and children. Children need to be educated in the very basics of privacy and trust, and how that applies directly to everything they might choose to do on line. Parents need to be keenly aware of what their children are doing on line. A horribly difficult job, I know, but parents need to be involved. Sadly many, perhaps most, are not.