A lot of teens enjoy using the MySpace community to communicate with their friends, meet new friends or just to express themselves. Individuals who are over the age of 14 are eligible to use MySpace so there is a large congregation of young people who are creating and maintaining MySpace pages. However, teens that use the Internet to meet friends are possibly more at risk than adults who use the Internet for socializing and networking. This is due to a number of factors including teens being more trusting of others and unaware of the potential of harmful consequences and predators specifically looking for teenagers on the MySpace community.
Parents Need to Stay Involved
One of the best ways parents can help to protect their teens on MySpace is by staying involved in the child’s life. Parents should be aware of whether or not their teen has a MySpace profile and if the teen has created a profile the parent should let the child know they will be reviewing the profile frequently.
Then parents should follow up on their vow to check the profile periodically to ensure the teen is not engaging in questionable activities or interactions. Teens who know their parents will be viewing their MySpace website are less likely to make poor choices when designing their website. Also, parents who view their child’s MySpace website regularly will see the friends the teen is making and can put a stop to any potentially harmful relationships such as budding romance with an adult member.
Teens Should be Taught Internet Safety
Although the Internet is a great resource for teens and they can learn a great deal through socializing with others online, teens should understand the Internet can also be full of predators. The Internet allows users to disguise their identity if they wish to do so and as a result those who use the Internet might be putting themselves at risk when they befriend these predators.
Providing teens with basic Internet safety rules can help to protect them. Some of the rules parents should enforce for teens include the following:
- Do not give out personal information such as full name and address.
- Do not send photos of yourself without your parents’ approval.
- Do not agree to meet someone in person without your parents’ approval.
- Do not respond to threats or other forms of harassment. Instead report these occurrences to your parents or Internet service provider.
- Do not enter online areas which require additional fees without your parents’ approval and do not give out credit card information without your parents’ approval.
Offline Meetings Should be Chaperoned by a Trusted Adult
Teens who meet friends online may want to meet with their online friends in person. Meeting online friends in person can be a wonderful experience but it can also be dangerous especially in situations where the online friend has deliberately concealed his true identity.
The previous section mentioned offline meetings should not occur without the approval of the parents. Parents should not only approve all such meetings but should also accompany their teen on these meetings. Personal meetings should be arranged to take place in a busy, public location during daylight hours and parents should accompany their teen to these meetings to ensure their online friend was honest about his identity.