Millions of kids throughout the world are using MySpace, a social networking website that allows people to make their own colorful webpages and communicate with their friends. In most cases, this is a fun and harmless activity that, at worst, leads to an awful lot of procrastination. However, parents need to be aware of potential dangers such as stalkers, pedophiles, identity thieves, and scammers. Any kid who uses the Internet needs to know about Internet safety.
Here are some common sense MySpace safety guidelines that parents should keep in mind:
Your child’s page should be private. On MySpace, there are public pages and private pages. Public pages can be viewed by anyone. Private pages can only be viewed by people the user invites personally. If you’re a parent, it’s a fair guess that choice #2 sounds more appealing.
Your child needs to know better than to accept add requests from strangers. An “add request” is when a MySpace user asks another user if they can be their “friend.” Friends have access to each other’s pages, even if those pages are private. Add requests can be accepted or denied.
Your child should block add requests from strangers. Here’s a cool MySpace privacy feature: you can set your account to reject all add requests from anyone who isn’t able to enter your last name. This makes it much more likely that add requests are from people you actually know.
Your child needs to keep private information off of MySpace. Information to keep off the page: last name, address, phone number, email address, financial information, and anything else of this nature. Chances are, no harm will come by publishing this information. However, the potential is there for someone to use this information to stalk or steal from your child.
Your child should never meet someone in public who they met on MySpace. Make sure your child knows that there are scary creeps out there who will say anything to lure children into a meeting.
Consider making your own MySpace account. This way, you can keep track of what’s on your kid’s page. Is this eavesdropping? Not really, since after all, a MySpace page isn’t a personal diary- it’s a public website. Your kid might resent this, but then again, it might be a chance for you to share an experience. You can pimp your pages together (i.e. make your pages look cool). Besides, lots of “older” people have MySpace accounts, so you can meet up with friends..
Warn your kids about scams and spamming. Chances are that your child won’t encounter a dangerous stalker, but they will encounter people who are trying to sell them stuff and scam them. If your child wants to buy something off the Internet, they should ask you first so you can check out the situation.
Warn your kids about phishing. “Phishing” is when someone intercepts someone else’s login information and uses their account illegally. One thing phishers do is send spam to everyone on the stolen account’s friend list, pretending to be the user recommending a product to their friends. This creepy problem can be fixed by changing your password.
Talk to your kids about using MySpace. Explain to them about Internet stalking and child predators. No, you don’t need to get graphic, but make sure they get the idea that watching out for strangers is important! Make it clear that they are not to give personal information out on their MySpace page. Let them know that using MySpace is a privilege, and if they use it irresponsibly, their privileges will be suspended or revoked.
There’s no need to fear MySpace. It’s a fun way for kids to socialize and to express themselves by making creative pages. But use caution, and teach your kids how to protect themselves online.