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Myspace Safety Issues:

Online Predators:

According to Dr. Marcel Chappuis, "Whenever a teenager or child is allowed to communicate with adults (or adults posing as teens/children) during chats, emails, or Instant Messages, a potentially dangerous situation could arise if an online predator pursues them.[1]"  On MySpace's safety page, Hemanshu Nigam, Myspace Safety and Security rep, Hemanshu has posted in his blog a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety, which includes statements about the precautions MySpace has taken to ensure the safety of its users.  On the issue of minor safety, Hemanshu remarks that,"MySpace has implemented technologies and procedures to help prevent children under 14 from using MySpace and to help protect minors age 14 and above from exposure to inappropriate content and unwanted contact by adults.[2]"  Because of the possibility students will encounter preadators online, it is important to talk to them about precautions they must take.  MySpace isn't the only place for young adults to encounter scams and predators, but it is incredibly important for students to be careful who they add and talk to while online.  MySpace, in conjunction with iKeepSafe, an online safety organization designed to help parents keep their children safe online, posted on their safety page, an online PSA about talking to students about the safety issues with meeting people online, linked to below.

Don't Stop the Dialogue Video[3]

According to ComScore.com, 51.6% if MySpace users are registered as 35 years old and older, and 11.9% are ages 12 to 17.  This in an alarming rate for parents concerned that their student's page can be accessed by an online predator.  Fortunately there are steps that can be taken, and have been taken, to lower the risk to our children.  As a teacher planning on using MySpace, be sure to talk to students about the dangers involved with meeting and interacting with people who they do not know on MySpace, even if they have a cute profile picture and seem incredibly friendly.

According to Teens Get Savvy about Online Safety, 66% of teens who have a profile on a social networking site have set their profile to private[4].  Although this number is relatively high, be sure that your students use the safety features available on MySpace and block their profiles to anyone who does not know their personal e-mail address and last name.  This will insure that only classmates and personal friends can find and add your students as friends.

Page Content:

It is important to realize that everyone can view a MySpace page if unrestricted, and that no content on MySpace is intended to be private. This raises an issue in personal privacy regarding photos, blogs, and user opinions.  As students create their pages for the class project,  it is strongly recommended that certain guidelines be set regaurding what content will be allowed.  When accessing MySpace for the first time, students will discover a plethora of information that can be added to their pages.  Here is a list of some items displayed on a personal page, as well as suggestions on how to monitor them.

Name - Students could include their first names, but never their last.  If possible, have your students pick nicknames so that real names need to be exposed.

Display Picture - Although display pictures are a form of personal expression, taking digital photos of each student withing the classroom and only allowing that photo to be posted would ensure  non-explicit photos and uniformity throughout the class.

Status and Mood - This feature allows students to enter a message, such as - Tommy is enjoying his class project! - and also to select a mood from a drop down list.  Some of the terms in this list, although descriptive and could be use for vocabulary expansion, are explicit and innapropriate for class settings.  Perhaps suggest this section of the page be left blank in order to avoid any inapproprate terms.

Page Background Music / Videos - MySpace allows its users to post one song and one video to be displayed on the user page.  Because teachers cannot censure the music and videos posted to MySpace, it would be best to avoid posting all together, unless a study of music is occurring.

Applications - MySpace applications are risky.  Some are games that one would find on MSN.com or innocent crossword puzzles, but others, such as 'Hot A** of the Day", could lead to problems on what students who are underage can or cannot view on their pages.  Limiting applications to zero will keep the page professional and educational.

Personal Information such as:

    • Headline - Students can enter anything here, including graphics.  Perhaps have this be what the project title is.
    • About Me - Strongly urge your students to enter no personal information here.  At most, this section should include information about the class and what the lesson is, but nothing about the student.
    • Who I'd Like to Meet - Have the students pick one historical or current figure that they would love to meet, and explain why.
    • General - Again, a place to enter any information.  Maybe a nice quote from someone they admire.

These next 5 boxes are designed for listing interests in those areas.

    •  Music
    • Movies
    • Books
    • Television
    • Heroes 

Groups - MySpace groups are used to link and meet people who share the same interests.  Unless a group is teacher approved, students should save groups for their own personal, non-class related pages.

Profile Themes - Profile Themes are offered through MySpace and are pre-edited codes to change the background and text boxes of a user page.  All of the provided themes are tasteful, so allowing students to express themselves through these themes would be resonable.  The site also gives users a chance to edit existing theme colors and photos.

Teacher Concerns:

As a teacher on MySpace, it is important to assure students that you will not be accessing their private MySpace pages.  Even though it is public domain, there are trust issues involved that don't need to be breached because of a little curiosity.  Assuring students that they are free to have a private MySpace page where they can express themselves in whatever ways they wish is important to implementing MySpace in the class room.

Links:

Myspace Safety Home Page


References:

[1] Chappuis, Ph.D., Marcel C. (2008). Myspace Safety. Retrieved November 12, 2008, from TeenHelp.com Web site: http://www.teenhelp.com/teen-issues/myspace-safety.html

[2] Nigam, Hemanshu. (2008, April 22). Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety Message posted to http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=140932647&blogID=383588515

[3] ikeepsafeorg, (2008, April 16). YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2008, from Don't Stop the Dialogue Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ejQRcFTFlc

[4] Turner, Niel (2008, September 12). MySpace Safety Tips. Retrieved November 14, 2008, from MySpaceSafetyTips Web site: http://www.myspacesafetytips.com

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