Sexual Predators and MySpace

As a parent, you want to do the best possible job of protecting your kids. You’re probably aware that sexual predators lurk online, grooming their victims carefully. But did you know that your child may be giving these predators a virtual map to their home or school?

Myspace is a social networking site, where members build relationships and interact socially. Each member has a profile page that they can customize, allowing them to add pictures, music, and information about themselves. The pages serve as virtual diaries, contact books, and communication tools, allowing teens to interact with their friends, as well as make new friends online.

“Making new friends” is where things get messy, however. Unless your teen personally knows the user that they’re interacting with, there’s no way to guarantee that they are who they say they are. Your teenager’s hot new 17 year old crush could actually be a 40 year old sexual predator with a fake profile – there’s no way to tell for sure. You can protect your teen by making it a family rule to only interact online with people that you know in person.

Unless your teenager sets their profile to private, anything they post on their page is available for anyone to see. Users can search by age, gender, school, and more, making Myspace a wealth of information for a sexual predator. Seemingly innocuous posts about winning a football game at their school or a Happy Birthday wish can give away personal information, without your child ever being aware that the information is being gathered. The only way to avoid this “information harvesting” is to set their profile page to private.

Predators use Myspace as a tool. They can search out teenagers in their area by age, pose as another teen, and gather a plethora of useful information without ever leaving their home. Eventually they move up to email and personal chats, or make an attempt to meet a teen in person. This is only encouraged when teens use sexual usernames, post provocative pictures, or encourage sexual talk on their profile page.

Be sure that you’re aware of what your teenager is posting on the internet. If your teen has a Myspace page, tell them that you’d like to see it. Give them a day or so to clean up their profile, and then look over it with an eye for safety. Setting some simple rules regarding Myspace can help keep your child safe from sexual predators, so be sure to take appropriate action if you find personal information or objectionable content.

Have a great day!