MySpace is under scruitiny again after a 14-year old was sexually assaulted by a 19-year old she met on the website.
It seems that MySpace is going under the microscope a lot lately, and its easy to see why. The whole idea of an open, easy-to-use community center is attractive for those who’d want to harm someone. Likewise, a website that lets you provide a lot of details about yourself is equally as attractive. MySpace is both. Luckily, they’re being smart and trying to protect kids.
They’ve already introduced the partial profile, meaning that kids under 16 only have part of their profiles shown unless you’re on their friends list. They also started introducing advertisments aimed toward these users, warning them of the danger of associating with unknown adults. This time, they’ve taken the efforts several steps further. Users above eighteen will no longer be able to request to be friended unless they know the person’s email address or full name. I’m a little skeptical on this one…it seems to me, that unless you are tons of miles away from them, finding out this information might not be so difficult.
MySpace also now allows anybody to use the partial profile feature, and they’ll be able to opt only contact from people in their age group. In addition, MySpace is going to change advertising to not show more adult-oriented advertising to kids. Good…maybe it’s because I’m already over 18 and they’re targeted at me, but seeing those “True” ads on a website known for its youthful userbase is a little creepy to me.
In the end, though, no matter what MySpace does, keeping yourself safe comes down to common sense. The website can only do so much – you must be proactive in keeping yourself safe. I don’t want to preach, but it’s true. The dark-side of the Internet is nothing new. It’s happened on other kinds of websites, and in Internet Relay Chatrooms for years. One thing MySpace cannot do is effectively stop a kid under 14 from joining. If there’s anything I know from my time on the Internet (and from personal experience), an age barrier is NOT really a barrier at all. So, nobody can really complain to MySpace about that. So, in the end, a combination of the technical, and the common sense, provides the most effective protection.