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Sites like Myspace.com and Xanga.com are primarily diaries and gossip sites. They are valuable because they help kids (and young adults) learn about creating an online community. This is a necessary tool for modern socialization. Restricting access to this community is analogous to restricting playground time.
A better answer to the exposure of children to predators in an online environment is to teach them to look for some of the warning signs that a “cyber friend” may have harmful intentions. Children should be taught which information to disclose to the world on the internet and which information is not appropriate for public dissemination. You can call it the modern day version of teaching the kids “don’t talk to strangers”.
- Created scarcity. The kids will want to go to these sites even more. They will want to do it because it’s restricted. The forbidden often becomes the most popular activity with teens. Some kids may push the envelope and even look for trouble on the internet to prove that they can handle themselves.
- Given kids yet another reason to distrust adults. Technological Paranoia on the part of adults creates a rift between the teens and their adult role models (parents, teachers, coaches, clergy etc.). If the adults took the time to work with the kids on exploring the technological environment and discussing some of the dangers they would be creating a foundation of trust. Instead, this knee-jerk reaction comes across to the high school students as ignorance or a power play on the part of the adult.
- Missed an opportunity to teach. Kids today face danger and predators in all aspects of their lives. The opportunity to educate a teen about the good and the bad on the web is as important as educating them on the dangers of riding public transportation in a big city.
My point: Restricting access creates more problems than it solves. This was a lazy way out by a group of educators who do not understand the value of technology in society.
To read more about this issue visit the Asbury Park Press.