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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to make MySpace accounts safe for teens

My kids both have MySpace pages. Now pick yourselves up off the floor, dust off your pants, and listen to what I have to say. I allowed them to make their MySpace pages because I not only trust my kids, but I've made their pages safe through a few steps that are easy to follow and create a safe environment on a very non-safe site.

First, both of my kids ONLY use my email addresses for their accounts.
This means that any new requests for friends go through me. Ditto for any comments or other requests. I am the person who decides who can and can't be on their friend's list. For example, the Girl recently got a request from a kid at school that isn't nice to her. She wanted me to ok the request, but when we analyzed it together, we came to the conclusion that this girl only wanted to be her friend so she could write nasty comments about her. So she wasn't approved.

Next, I made the pages with my kids.
We filled out only very non-identifying information about them. They do not have their schools listed, nor their towns, nor their last names, or pretty much anything else that would identify them.

Photos are carefully monitored.

Because they are both under 16, their pictures do not ever go out onto other people's pages, so stalkers aren't going to find their pics unless they find their pages. Not only was I careful on setting up the pages like this, I made sure that the pics they do have (one each) are very non-suggestive. No cute little poses with bellys and boobs hanging out for my Girl. She looks like a kid in her pictures, not like a young ho looking for action.

I check their pages daily.
Even if they change them from school or from a friend's house, I can see the changes almost immediately and I will edit the pages back the way I want them to be. It may seem controlling, but it's the only way I will agree to allow them to have the pages.

The pages have been up for months, and we've only had one weird contact. A woman wanted to party with the Boy. I wrote her back and told her that I was forwarding her email to the local police and that soliciting a minor was illegal and disgusting. I never did forward the mail, but she cleared out and we've never heard from anyone else like that again.

My opinion on MySpace is that it's a piece of crap that kids really like. I have no clue as to why, because it's incredibly stupid as far as I can tell. But they like leaving each other comments and constantly sending each other checklists and other tests. They love collecting friends and going onto their friends pages and leaving all sorts of comments. I know who all their friends are, and so far it's been totally manageable. I've told them clearly that the minute it becomes a hassle, the pages go down.

In our community, having a MySpace page supercedes anything else, even IMing. I think parents got sick of their kids constantly sending filth via IM or something, because all of a sudden most of the kids no longer have IM accounts. I've pulled all the IM softward off the computer long ago. I can IM thru Gmail, but I don't bother. Email works fine for me. My kids both love having their own pages, but neither of them will blog. They say that blogging on their MySpace pages isn't cool. Fine with me. I'm happy not to have to patrol one more part of the whole MySpace trashcan.

So, do you let your teens use MySpace, and how do you make it safe?
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8 Comments:

Anonymous Wendy Wings said...

My teens don't want a Myspace and that makes it pretty easy, um I DO have one however lol.
I had to set it up for promotional stuff when I was working for Creative light Entertainment and never took it down.

7/3/06 3:48 AM  
Blogger Belinda said...

Smart, because your kids are freaking BEAUTIFUL. And The Girl? Looking younger than 16? Um, Nuhn-uh.

Just curious--why not pass the "ima get witchoo" message from The Boy's predator to the authorities?

7/3/06 4:28 AM  
Blogger Eden said...

MySpace isn't inherently bad; it's how it's used that becomes a problem. Too bad more parents aren't conscientious about its use w/ their kids.

7/3/06 9:39 AM  
Blogger California Highway Guy - Daniel said...

I wouldn't let NSS&F use MySpace (because I find it useless). Evenually, I'll probably create her a LiveJournal account. This seems to deemphaize the pictuers. Right now, she spends most of her time on neopets.

7/3/06 10:06 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Belinda,

I didn't forward it on because it wasn't an out and out sexual proposal. It was more a "hey, wanna get together for a drink? I'm new in town..." comeon.

But if I ever DID get something pervy, believe me, it would be in the hands of the police toot sweet.

7/3/06 11:09 AM  
Blogger CameraDawktor said...

Good for you Dad, making sure your kids are safe! I know my brother-in-law doesn't check his daughter's MySpace page so I have decided that every few weeks I will check on it and let him know if anything is "over-the-top".

Some may think that's being nosey but it is a PUBLIC PAGE!!!

It bothers me that all the kids say what school they go to, what grade they are in, what city they live in....and my neice goes to an "open campus". Some perv could walk up and say, "Hey _ _ _ _, how ya doin'? Wanna go for a ride?"

UGH!! It makes me mad...brother-in-law thinks he trusts her, but he is being stupid!!

7/3/06 11:35 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Cameradawktor, thanks for the compliment, but I'm a MOM, not a dad!

7/3/06 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Chloe said...

It depends on the kids. My youngest isn't interested in MySpace but she's had an elftown (a fantasy community) account since she was 12 and she's been blogging since she was 13. We've had a lot of conversations about what to share and what not to share online because we've been on the Internet for her entire life, and she knows which of my real-life friends started out as Usenet buddies. She talks to me about her online acquaintances and I've looked at her pages from time to time, more to read her thoughts than to police what she writes.

I decided years ago against making rules I can't enforce and if I put a bunch of rules on her online activity there's nothing to stop her from setting up a private email address and MySpace or Diaryland or Livejournal account that I know nothing about.

Sometimes she will ask me to not read a particular entry and I honor that request. I'm glad we can trust each other that way. It doesn't hurt that she understands that if I ever find her betraying my trust I will cut off all unmonitored Internet access for as long as she lives at home. Speak softly, carry a big stick, and all that.

7/3/06 4:43 PM  

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