Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's not MySpace's fault

Typically when I receive my Time magazine in the mail each week, it gets relegated to the bottom of the pile since I'm about 5 weeks behind in reading the thing and I must read them in order. Not sure what possessed me (probably sheer boredom) to page thru the issue for the week of July 3rd which arrived this past Monday. But there was an article in there that really pissed me off.

The title is "How Safe is MySpace". There has been a lot of talk about the dangers of MySpace and the other social-networking sites, partly due to Chris Hanson of Dateline doing his "How to Catch a Predator" series; but also due to some highly publicized incidents like the 16 yr old that flew off to Jordan to meet and marry some guy she'd met on MySpace; both of which have brief mentions in the article.

The incident they primarily talked about though was of a 14 yr old girl having sex with a 19 yr old she'd met on MySpace, and how the girl (probably more specifically her parents) are now suing MySpace for $30 million because it turns out the guy lied about his age and said he was still a senior in high school. But it turns out the fucking 14 yr old lied about her age too, so aren't both of these teens to blame for what happened? No one is crying rape, they went on a date and had consensual sex.

My question is why is this the fault of MySpace, why are they being sued? The parents are saying there weren't enough safety regulations in place to protect their daughter. Um hello?!?!?!?! Since when is it the responsibility of any website to parent someone's child???? My 14 yr old has told me all about MySpace and how it works. There are protections in place but when teens and adults alike choose to ignore those protections, to lie about their ages to have more access to the site and its members (which I can assure you is what the 14 yr old did), and do stupid things like be willing to accept a request from a random stranger to be added as a "friend", then I think a person has crossed the line and can no longer hold the website responsible if they end up doing something they later regret or if they become the victim of a sexual predator.

I'm sorry, that's just my opinion. It's up to the parents to police the online activities of their children, not the websites. I regularly have conversations with my daughter about what is appropriate and inappropriate information to put about yourself online, about the dangers of chatting with strangers. But more importantly, I require that if she wants to retain access to the internet and the freedom to be on these sites, then I must know all her names and passwords. I then check to see who the people are she has listed as "friends". I'll even look over her shoulder while she's online and "ask who's that".

I was so ticked off about this article and hearing all this crap about how dangerous MySpace is, I sent the following letter to the editors....

As the mother of a 14 yr old daughter who happens to have a MySpace account, I have to ask, why are the parents not accepting responsibility for the actions of their under-aged daughter, and instead a lawsuit for $30 million is being filed against the website? Since when is it the responsibility of any website to parent someone's child?

I strongly believe it is up to parents to monitor the online activities of our children. MySpace has protective measures in place and can't be held responsible when people lie about their ages and other personal information. MySpace can't be held responsible if a child or even an adult chooses to accept an invitation from a random stranger they know nothing about to be added as a "friend".

Quit pointing the finger at these social-networking sites and point the finger back at the parents. Even if there was a way to do background checks on the millions of account holders (which would parlay into other lawsuits about invasion of privacy), predators always have and always will find ways around the rules. It is up to parents to be aware and quit being naive about the dangers the internet poses in general.

I hope this lawsuit gets thrown out. MySpace is not responsible for someone's child that doesn't have the morality to not lie, doesn't have the common sense to avoid strangers and doesn't have the self confidence to keep from having sex at 14.

::::stepping off my soap box now:::::


Blogger Polar Bear said...

whoa.... I totally agree with you there, Sid. I can't believe people are suing MySpace. Absolutely, the parents should put safe guards in place and talk with their children/teenagers about the dangers of talking to strangers.

It's absurd, really, to sue the website. It's almost like the people that sue tobacco companies for their lung cancer after they have been smoking for 20-30 years. Hello?? Have these people heard of personal responsibility???? I get ticked off about such things too.

Polar B.

2:56 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Sage said...

Until now I felt that MySpace was definitely responsible for these problems such as the Chris Hanson fiasco. However Sid, you put a completely different spin on it and be Damned I agree. I will also send time a e-mail voicing a similar concept. Thank you for a sane voice in this insanity.

8:07 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger sansanity said...

ok when they publish your letter i want my copy autographed!

You are absolutely right!

6:20 PM, June 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree ... but I imagine there's bound to be some legal loopholes to consider in terms of "duty of care" in relation to minors accessing the site. But given the nature of the medium and given that measures implemented can be ignored, I think the reasonable person would decide it's up to the parents to guide and monitor their children.

12:31 PM, July 04, 2006  
Anonymous Zeus said...

You are too completely right. There is so much garbage flying around about that site, and as a member, the 14 y/o from Texas was the straw that broke the camel's back. Good job. People need to learn that they are responsible for themselves, and finger pointing/money won't fix any mistakes they've made.

11:10 AM, July 26, 2006  

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