MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., has recently announced new steps it will be taking to protect the identities of its users. The move comes in response to widespread abuse of the site for such things as online child sex solicitation. This is a very positive first-step toward making the Internet safer for children and teens.
MySpace and attorneys general from New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York recognized that an ongoing industry effort is required to keep up with the latest technological developments and to find additional ways to protect teens, so they developed what they are calling “A Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety” that will initially be followed by MySpace but is designed for industry-wide adoption. Cooperation from other social-networking sites is sought, namely from Facebook, which in October reached its own agreement with the New York attorney general’s office over sex offender data on their site.
Specifically, The Principles of Social Networking fall into four categories: Site Design and Functionality; Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children; Law Enforcement Cooperation; and an Online Safety Task Force. Each category carries with it several requirements, all geared towards giving legal authorities greater controls for networking sites to prevent predators from using them to contact children. The attorneys general acknowledged that existing standards of law enforcement simply don’t suffice in the rapidly changing climate of the Internet.
“The Internet can be a dangerous place for children and young adults, with sexual predators surfing social networking sites in search of potential victims and cyber bullies sending threatening and anonymous messages,” said New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram.
This is certainly a laudable development in the realm of Internet safety for minors. However, we view this move as what should the first of many steps to make the Internet more safe for children and teens. In the near-term, parents should know that this effort is hardly fail-safe. Young children can still be targeted by predators posing as their peers or other “safe” figures. More importantly, MySpace represents but one of many social networks and Internet websites where predatory individuals can target children and teens can be cyber bullied. To truly protect one’s child and learn with whom your child interacts with on the Internet, services like ReputationDefender’s MyChild remain necessary and invaluable.