July 21st, 2006

A few weeks back, I was shocked to open up the paper and find, in the New York Times no less, mention of my own beloved ex-summer camp… as part of an article about safety and MySpace.  The piece talks about camp directors and their fear that info given on the social network could lead “online predators” (le sigh) to the camps’ remote locations, where they could then swoop down on unsuspecting, internet-saavy campers still sporting their grass-stained uniforms and bathing caps.

Which is, in some ways, understandable.  And in others, horribly paranoid.  Not to mention that the piece goes on to discuss other–not safety but image driven–examples of internet censorship by summer camps: staff members pictured online with beer cans, or even champagne glasses, in-hand told to delete the photos or get out.  Moreover, campers caught saying negative things about the camp on their pages: unacceptable!  What that has to do with protecting kids, who knows.  And then of course there’s the lawsuit against MySpace for one girl’s sexual assault.  Where to begin?

In general, it seems that the popularity of MySpace (or at least the public and media attention surrounding it) has sky-rocketing in the last month or two.  At my brother’s high school, the administration held a special parent meeting to discuss the dangers of the internet: Never let your child have a computer in his room; never let him have a web cam; anyone and everyone he speaks to online is a pervert in disguise.  The other night, my mother saw a TV show where small children got to talk to their distant father through a monitor.  She was horrified.  She said, “They’ll be porn stars.”

Tags: Blog

4 Responses to “Your Space? Not Anymore”

  1. Patrick Says:

    Jason is a registered MySpace user. I’m sure you could look up his page.

    Seriously, its a tricky line to walk, between privacy and information wanting to be free and moralists taking advantage of the discrepancy. At my former school, a private catholic highschool, the administrators used the kids MySpace pages as collateral for informing their parents. Sick isn’t it?

  2. Bonnie Says:

    At my former school, a private catholic highschool, the administrators used the kids MySpace pages as collateral for informing their parents.
    I have a friend whose brother that happened to: He was at a fancy boarding school, bought acid from some other kid, and before trying it posted about it on his MySpace account. Got caught by the administration. No good. Then again, I’m all for a little discretion in what you post about yourself online. At least when it comes to illegal substancse ;-).

  3. FerrousBuller Says:

    “He was at a fancy boarding school, bought acid from some other kid, and before trying it posted about it on his MySpace account. Got caught by the administration. No good.”

    News flash, kids: the Internet ain’t private. Once it’s online in a public venue under your own name, it’s become a matter of public record – period. Anyone stupid enough to post online about procuring illegal drugs under (presumably) their own name deserves to be culled from the herd. :-)

    As to the more general question, it’s a tricky path to navigate. On the one hand, online predators do exist, even if the extent of the threat they pose is sometimes exaggerated, and reasonable measures need to be taken to protect minors. You’re unlikely to make a 14-year-old who’s just been raped by an Internet stalker feel any better by telling them they’re in a statistical minority; or comfort their parents by talking about the importance off self-expression online. And while I generally favor granting minors a fair measure of personal autonomy, young people frequently do very stupid things; “protecting them from themselves” sounds patronizing, but it is occasionally necessary.

    Put another way, it isn’t all the times your kids are perfectly safe by themselves that you worry about; it’s the rare times when it isn’t safe – who will be around to protect them then?

    And there’s a general Internet legal issue at work here too: are online social venues responsible for policing and protecting their members? If you run a bar or a restaurant, you bear some legal responsibility for what goes on within your walls; should similar obligations be placed on the proprietors of virtual spaces?

    OTOH, fears can be exaggerated into paranoia and sometimes schools et al come up with far too broad or draconian a policy, or use it as a smokescreen for controlling other forms of free speech (e.g., banning criticism), or are more concerned with covering their own asses than protecting minors.

    Oh well, silver lining: least it’s taking the heat off video games for a little while.

  4. Bonnie Says:

    And there's a general Internet legal issue at work here too: are online social venues responsible for policing and protecting their members?
    IMO, no. They’re responsible, perhaps, for setting up certain initial safety procedures, or at least safety nets, but beyond that… If I were to go to a bar, meet a rapist, and go home with him, no one would think to point a finger at the bar. MySpace and places like it are social meeting points, not social regulators.

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