With the growing popularity of blogs among young adolescents, it's no wonder that MySpace has gained a reputation for being one of the hottest places to post personal information and meet new people. However, the reputation of MySpace is also tainted for being saturated by online child predators, as described in this news story: "MySpace faces call to crackdown on predators."
According to this story, "Massachusetts on Tuesday [May 2, 2006] called on popular teen social networking Web site MySpace.com to strengthen protection of children against sexual predators, including raising the minimum age for users to 18 from 14." Attorney General Tom Reilly claims "a three-month investigation found that potential child predators were surfing MySpace seeking chats with potential victims and violent images or content were being posted to bully children."
Despite MySpace's rules that prohibit children under the age of 14 from setting up a profile on the site and restricts the access of 14- and 15-year-olds' profiles (only users who they've added to their buddy lists can view them), there continues to be high-profile investigations and subsequent arrests made because MySpace's supposed "safeguards" have miserably failed.
I'm pretty sure that most people have heard about one (or fifty) incidents about child molesters prowling MySpace and other youth-friendly Web spaces. I watched a television special about a month ago that showed video footage where adults showed up at a residential meeting place that they thought they had made with a 14 year old kid. I wasn't prepared for the number of people who actually showed up and were arrested. I really didn't think child molestation was as big an epidemic as it is, believing instead that the world was populated with just a sick "few"....
Here's MyTake - if investigations continue to reveal child molestation as a result of communication on MySpace, the age limit for having an account should be increased to 18 at the very least. Sure, that's not going to miraculously cure all the pedophiles and child molesters out there, but you can certainly reduce the number of kids in their current playground.
If you're interested in creating a popular AND safe place for children on the Internet, check out one of my previous blogs: "Are popular and safe synonymous?"
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.