There are a lot of teens who are using MySpace. Individuals over the age of 14 are eligible to use MySpace so as a result there are many teenagers who are members of the online MySpace community. These young members may appreciate the opportunity to express their creativity, express their feelings, meet new friends or stay in touch with their old friends but they should also be aware that there is the potential for danger on any Internet community. Making kids aware of this is helpful but there is also a certain degree of parental involvement which is necessary to keep kids safe when they are online.
Enforcing Household Internet Rules
Kids who use MySpace, or the Internet in general, should be restricted to a few household rules regarding Internet usage. Putting these rules in place can be very helpful in reducing the potential for danger. Some of the general Internet rules parents might consider are:
* Do not post full name and address online or even school location. This will help to prevent stalking which could become a problem if online predators know where your child lives or go to school.
* Restrict Internet usage to specific hours during the day. This can prevent overuse of the Internet.
* Do not agree to meet online friends in person without consent. Ideally the parents should also accompany their children on these meetings and should ensure the meetings take place in a well lit, public location such as a coffee shop as opposed to a secluded spot such as an individual’s home.
* Do not respond to threats or harassment. Kids should be taught to ignore this type of behavior and report these instances to parents or the Internet service provider instead of responding to the threats. Responding to threats or harassing messages can exacerbate a potentially harmful situation.
* Internet usage should be restricted to high traffic locations in the house. For example kids should only be allowed to use the Internet in computers which are in locations such as the family room or kitchen as opposed to allowing kids Internet access in their bedrooms.
Monitoring Online Interactions
Parents whose children have a MySpace account should monitor their child’s online interactions on a regular basis to ensure these interactions are not potentially harmful. Parents should be particularly concerned when children are interacting with older individuals who engage in activities which are not appropriate for the child’s age or when the children are interacting with those who might be a negative influence on the child.
Parents should also be aware that those their child is interacting with may not be honest about their identity. For example a parent may think it is harmless for their 15 year old daughter to engage in flirtatious banter with a 16 year old boy but there is the possibility that her online friend is really a much older individual. Parents should monitor these activities for suspicious behavior or suggestions of meeting in person.
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