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Online/Social Communities...good or bad?

By geekchic ·
MySpace, Facebook and other online communities have become very popular over the last year. They are the newest way for young people (and others) to meet others with similar interests but they are also very scary (at least to me).

Recently, a 21 year old "mentally slow" young lady that I know was drugged, missing for over a week and was finally found by the police dazed and confused 500 miles away from home. She met someone on MySpace, arranged to met them and that is all she remembers. Needless to say there was evidence that she had been "assaulted".

MySpace advises users to be careful what they post and has all kinds of rules, but how many of the users between the ages of 10 and 25 even bother to look at those rules? Young people are very computer savvy nowadays but still do not realize that posting the tiniest bit of information can expose who they are and where they live/work or play! Even if the user doesn't post any personal information, sometimes their friends post things that could led to disaster. Then there is also "friend hopping" where you find someone that you know and look at their friends pictures, which leads to finding other friends by simply clicking on their pictures. (That is how I found my daughter and son's site, when they didn't think that I would be able to!) My 20 year old daughter recently had one of her friends post a message that said something like "Hey so you are back working at "so and so" (not going to say it here)saw you leaving "blah blah shopping center" the other night. My daughter was really ticked off and blocked her from posting on her space anymore and a bonus is that she watches more closely now what friends post to her and has as many things as she can, now set to private.

There have been a huge number of sexual predators arrested lately who have used places like Facebook and MySpace as a sort of "online catalog" for finding young victims. And if you spend even a few minutes browsing though MySpace you will find many, many sexually explicit or half naked pictures posted of both young males and females...some holding guns, liquor and even drugs!

Right now, I do have one but I have it to monitor my friends children's sites...is that unethical? Probably but if I can keep just one of them from being harmed (again) I think it is worth being called unethical. Because of what I have been doing, several of the young people that I know have been made more aware of what they post (because I gathered info from their site and posted a private message to them letting them know that I had tracked them down). Freaked them out just a little because they thought they could not be physically located.

So, now that I have rambled on about this, what do you think? Do believe that online communites should be monitored more closely? Are they good/bad or do you care at all? Do your children have them and have you been able to find them or have you looked at them without them knowing? Do you have one? Do you allow people to access them at work? If you work at a school/college, are students allowed to access these types of sites?

Your opinions will be greatly appreciated.

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First off

by jdclyde In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

Looking out for yours or your friend children is the most ethical thing you can do. Do not give that another thought.

My boys have a myspace account, but it HAS to be set to private.

I have going through it, but have not seen the half-naked pics you have talked about. The only thing I see are stupid kids that think it is cool somehow to be "gangsta". Really funny out of middle to upperclass white kids. They have no idea what gangsta is about, and would be horrified to find out. They also have no idea how stupid they look trying to be tough. I see it more in the girls than the guys.

Besides that, I have not seen what you are talking about. But then again, my boys are in seventh grade and would be talking to people in the same range. I guess if I went into the high school ones? got another year before the boys enter that.

If monitored, I don't see this being a bad thing. Just have to have the ground rules laid out for the kids before hand. no personal information. for names, use a nickname. not phone number or address. No going out and meeting people from on-line without BOTH sets of adults being aware of it.

My one boy went roller skating with a girl from a different school, that he met through this. was introduced by a mutual real life friend. I dropped him off, I picked him up.

Where the problem is, the parents that don't know or can't be bothered to know what their kids are doing. keeping the computer out of bedrooms is a good start.

Your doing good. Don't let anyone else tell you something you KNOW to be right, is wrong.

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Dead on, JD

by TonytheTiger In reply to First off

There is no substitute for parents knowing absolutely what their children are doing, where they are doing it, and who they're doing it with.

Every one of those horror stories we've heard had a negligent adult involved!

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Right, JD!

by Jellimonsta In reply to First off

I agree completely. I have a MySpace account for my band, and I have seen some of the half naked pics from girls who had friend requests.
I did grant their request though, don't let it be said that I discriminate!
I have a few years until I have to worry about my 3 1/2 yr old with this, but I still keep up on what is going on even now. I have family members in that age range too.

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I ran across one picture recently that I reported

by geekchic In reply to First off

as a violation and the last time I checked, it was still there. It was a young lady laying on her right side completely "unclothed" with her right arm across her chest blocking the view of the obvious and her left arm lying down her body and in her right hand she was holding a revolver....she reported her age as 21 but it was very obvious that she was nowhere near 21.

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that is considered "art"

by jdclyde In reply to I ran across one picture ...

don'tchaknow?

even if they are "underage", a picture like that is legal. I don't know what the standards are for myspace, but I can bet pics like that bring them a lot of business so if they can let some slid there will be more horndogs out viewing the ads.

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Online Communities....

by Jaqui In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

The communities are neither good or bad in and of themselves.

What is the real issue is that people forget to make sure that children [ literal or only through mental handicap ] need to be taught that just because it is online does not mean that it is not made up of real people, some of whom are not nice people.

The person(s) responsible for the younger person who is online should make sure that they are aware that there are people in these online communities that they need to avoid giving any personal information to.

My wife and I always double check every site our daughter visits, and she knows not to give information out to anyone online without talking to us first. It is very much the parents task to monitor their children(s) online activities.

The site owners for a community site should co-operate with police if a member is being investigated for sex crimes, as long as the police bring the appropriate legal documents with them to get the particular members activity logs, but this is a moral choice, not actually a legal requirement.
I was a moderator at an adult graphics community site, I was actually responsible for ensuring that images in one category met the TOS for the site.
[ no beastiality, child porn, snuff ]
The particular gallery was hard core fantasy images, so was the most controversial in content.
Working there showed me that there are far more people with extreme interests than most people realise.

That site only had a few people who would regularly try to violate the TOS, so we were lucky. Since it was adult only the issue of children viewing was only if members had children at home walk into the room.

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The big bad web is just a small part of the bigger bad world

by BbBucko In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

Your arguments actually support these sites in the sense that give proactive parents the ability to be more aware of what their kids are up to.

Bad people will always find ways to do bad things. At least authorities can use the same technology to track these bad people down.

Was pedophilia invented by the internet? Of course not. Maybe it's more accessible to more indivduals now but again the same technology has allowed law enforcement agencies to bust crime rings that have been operating for decades

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Once upon a time...

by Tig2 In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

I worked for NewsCorp. Do you honestly believe the crap in the privacy staement? Guess again.

I can tell you this. Myspace has become a clearing house for ca-ca. I can give you a different view.

A wonam who walks the Breast Cancer 3 Day wrote a song of encouragement. She posted it to MySpace, thinking it would be a place we could all get to.

My Zone Alarm went nuts when I tried to download the song. I did a sweep afterwards and found malware on my system. I use a variety of safeguards- this crap just showed up. And wasn't there before- I do a daily sweep.

I have now strong-guarded my system. I will NEVER go to a MySpace site again.

You should be runnning grc.com checks if your kids are touching this site. Or the protection of your choice.

Are you unehtical? NO. You are a parent.

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Unethical? Hardly.

by JohnMcGrew In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

Somebody has got to look out for these kids. The government isn't going to do it, and quite often the parents aren't going to either.

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It is important to keep perspective

by mweigel In reply to Online/Social Communities ...

With all of the media attention that internet predators have gotten in the last year or so I keep waiting for some sweeping new reform program to "protect our children". Nothing is as scary to me as media-fueled, fear-driven voters and the politicians all too willing to capitalize on that fear with the mantra that “We have to do SOMETHING”. Whenever I hear those words strung together I know that some really bad ideas are being incubated, hatched and brought to life.
My girlfriends 16yr old daughter has a Myspace account now, but avoided getting one until she learned that you could, if you chose, lock it down to whatever level you are comfortable with. I have tried several times to find her account using her real name, her location, and parts of screen names I know she has used for other things. I have come up dry every time. That is not to say it would be impossible to find it, but I have more information than most and it is difficult for me. As you recommend, she is very careful about information that she posts and allows others to post. The interesting thing though is that she had already taken these precautions before we lectured her about Myspace and what we were seeing on the news. She knew at three years old not to talk to strangers and that there were bad people in the world. As she grew up those messages were repeated and elaborated to include things such as chat rooms and the internet.
There are always going to be kids who either through ignorance (bad parents) or for many other reasons take more risks with their personal safety. These are kids who sneak out and go to parties where no one knows where they are. Some drink, some use drugs, many times surrounded by people they barely know. How can you expect that those people will show more discretion with a Myspace account? What about email? Cell phones? Texting? When I was a teen we got into plenty of trouble with payphones to contact others and our thumbs for transportation.
You mention a “huge number of sexual predators arrested lately…” who used social networks for their hunting. It would be interesting to know what the actual numbers are, especially as a percentage of the total users of these services. I suspect that if you were to access all of the risks in life (I wish we could do this), social networks, being abducted or kidnapped for sexual slavery (another subject to scare the crap out of us in the media a lot lately) would rank pretty far down the list of harms likely to befall our teens.
If parenting made sense, and it hardly ever does, we would spend a LOT of time teaching them to drive. We would spend a LOT of time teaching our kids about gangs and other violent groups. We would spend a LOT of time teaching our kids to eat well and exercise so their bodies stay strong.
I did a quick search online and came up with these stats from the CDC
The leading causes of injury deaths in 02 were
1. Motor vehicle traffic
2. Firearm
3. Poisoning
4. falls
5. Suffocation
These do not include non-fatal assaults and you could argue that some assaults are worse than an accidental death.
One more thing that most people are aware of, but is not talked about very much, is that most sexual assaults and abductions are committed by close family, and secondly by close friends. This would suggest that scrutinizing friends and family deserves more of your child protection time-budget than is devoted to worrying about strangers.
If anything, while I am glad, and proud, that our 16yr old is so cautious and aware of the risks around her, it makes me sad that she has to live in that bubble and I worry that we have made that bubble too small, and too thick. There are many, many more good people in the world than bad and too much caution and protection risks shielding us from interacting with the good as well as the bad.

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