"In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of their underage users…Hopefully these lawsuits can spur MySpace into action and prevent this from happening to another child somewhere… The families are seeking monetary damages in the millions of dollars" said Jason A. Itkin, an Arnold & Itkin lawyer.
By chance last Sunday I wrote my editorial on PEW Survey results on social networking and the diffusion of MySpace usage among teenagers, and under this new circumstance I am back on the subject.
MySpace is a web based social network where mostly – but not exclusively - young visitors can keep in touch and augment their entourage of friends using several free communication and sharing tools and personal profile pages. Profile settings and safety are declared of capital importance for MySpace:
“MySpace serves as an industry leader on Internet safety and we take proactive measures to protect our members e provide users with a range of tools to enable a safer online experience" said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security office
Consequent to this lawsuit it occurs to me, we should wonder why the parents believe that a web business company – in addition to envisage some preset control procedures - should be controlling what their children are doing, whereas this is institutionally their main responsibility. And I wonder if this is just an occasion for these families, advised by some aggressive law firms, to get some easy money out of a successful business.
On a wider perspective - that interests me the most - I believe that Internet safety is a major issue as the world wide web has become a literally another virtual world and a sort of parallel reality. I am sure that both parents and children are well aware of this, since the use of PC and of some net tools has nowadays become something as common as a TV remote control, a microwave or a VCR. Moreover I have reason to believe that at least one of the two teenager’s parents is in his mid-40s (if not younger) and much likely an Internet user (if not even an expert), and therefore he/she or both parents ought to know what net-surfing experience is all about. On the other hand it may sound like a common place but kids nowadays are very smart.
The core of the matter instead relies on the following main considerations:
- the huge amount of users enhances the probability of misuse (law of big numbers)
- these online stalkers are really shrewd in taking advantage of weaknesses and occasions
- many teenagers are more lonesome than even themselves may believe
- many parents have no idea what their children do, dream, hope…
Nonetheless I am keener on the social issue that emerges, the loneliness of teenagers and the lack of communication between children and parents. Clearly I am fully aware that the latter is something that has always been and will always be: confrontation between generations is a leitmotiv of human progress, civilisation and growth. However I deem that the Internet and the use of all these new technologies/electronics in general could be a good point of contact between parents and children, who might have more to share and talk about instead of just school scores and plans for future college admission…
I tend to believe instead that parents have no – or worse, find no– time for their children to share their actual interests and aims, and too often confine their conversations to just uninterested, formal and immaterial matters, thus encouraging their children to smoothly drift away and seek elsewhere comprehension or at least consideration.
While personally I believe that technically there is no solution, since any barrier, checkpoint, control can be overridden by insincere profile settings and deceitful net- behaviours from both sides i.e. children/user and predator/user.
The real key is a wider and deeper education on the subject and its implications and especially more parent-children true communication.
Guy Mc Paul
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