Every parent and educator should visit this community and see what it is all about. We should urge parents to teach their children safe and smart Internet use, certainly including the use of online communities like MySpace and FaceBook. As someone said the other day regarding how to find resources about online safety, two words come to mind: Nancy Willard! Do a search for her name, use her resources, and you will be well on the way to helping yourself, your colleagues, your students, and their parents.
So what about MySpace? First of all, its original intent was to provide a place for artistic types such as musicians, writers, and artists to meet, share their work, and exchange information and ideas. Of course it has grown exponentially, but this is still a very large part of what goes on at MySpace. Now you can find everything from religious groups to zoos with a healthy dose of library sites included in MySpace sites.
As part of a class assignment, I am asking students to find and describe one GOOD/constructive MySpace site, and also offer one "bad" example that is the type of site you would want to steer youngsters away from. In keeping with my pledge to do the same assignment myself, here are my "good" and "bad" sites. There are so many good ones I have trouble picking. As for the bad, I know there are lots but I do not intend to waste my time seeking out a large number.
First the BAD and a disclaimer. I am not going to post a link. I don't even suggest you do this. But I thought to myself, how can I find a really terrible site? I thought of an organization that exists for men who seek to justify their interest in child predation. I don't even want to name the organization but you can probably figure it out. I did the search and came up with some very troubling sites. I just do not want to go further in this blog with a description of what I found, but it was convincing evidence that MySpace has offensive sites.
OK, I thought, how about something more likely to turn up for a kid? I did what I suggest you do. I went to MySpace and did a school search. I searched for my own high school alma mater and for current students. I did find sites tnhat looked to me to belong to kids younger than the age limit. I also found sites where too much information was offered for the safety of the users, regardless of their ages. I found one without looking too hard that I would want to know about as a parent. The page beloned to "Sexy Kitty," who says she is 16 and posts with a lot of profanity and general silliness. She could easily be younger. She does not have security set for her page, so it is out there for all to see. This is the kind of page that is all too common, and with close reading I could no doubt track her down. I already know what she looks like and the small town school she attends. I am betting her parents have no idea that page is out there, but I found it quite easily.
NOW FOR THE GOOD:
Visiting the bad examples is not fun. It is enough to make me question the entire community. What I need now are compelling GOOD examples. They are most definitely there. Here are some constructive types of sites:
- Political sites...think of any current Presidential candidate and visit his/her site. This is an environment that cannot be ignored in an election year. Howard Dean taught a lot of people that back in the previous campaign when he spread his information via the Internet in the early stages of the campaign.
- Libraries. There are some fantastic library MySpace sites out there! Here is one: http://www.myspace.com/libraryloft I just used the first one I came to, because there are so many. This one does offer a blog entry about MySpace safety with a link to Nancy Willard's site.
- Church Youth Groups: You can find a lot of these site, but not browse them because they appropriately are secure sites for their members. Here is one: http://groups.myspace.com/Trinitypresbyterianchurch
- Musicians and artists:
- My daughter booked a coast to coast tour from her MySpace site. She is an independent singer/songwriter, specializing in Americana. Here is the link: http://www.myspace.com/emilyherring
- Don't just go to hers, though. Here is one I really like, because he is an artist as well as musician, with amazing original and creative work in both areas: http://myspace.com/grayart
- Here is a publicist who works works with a lot of musicians, including my daughter: http://myspace.com/americanmediapro
- OK all of those have some connection to my daughter, but there are hundreds of others out there. Try any musician or artist you have ever heard of and see what I mean! If the person does not have his/her own site, there will be a fan site.